Monday, October 15, 2018

"Winter Eternal" by E. Thomas Joseph

Winter Eternal Book 1:
The River that Flows Two Ways
by E. Thomas Joseph

Winter Eternal Book 1: The River that Flows Two Ways by E. Thomas Joseph

Author E. Thomas Joseph joins me today to share an excerpt from Winter Eternal Book 1: The River that Flows TwoWays.

In 1777, Captain Isaac Pearson joined the British Army when he believed the Colonial Rebellion would be dispatched with effortless haste. Taking a few American lives was an agreeable price for the pampered aristocrat who believed his actions in the conflict would afford him honor and glory. Yet, the path Captain Pearson rode was neither honorable or glorious and the price he would pay was beyond his imaginable fortunes.
Time is the enemy of all, the hunter of the hunters whom no measures of tenacity or weaponry can defeat. Yet, in the early days of America’s war for independence Phantom Regiments, ruthless shadow units, British Redcoats, American militia and crazed men of the occult race to acquire a mysterious Iroquoian artifact which offers the capacity to defeat time. Set in New York’s Hudson Valley, the contest for time will marshal tragic desperation and horrific ends. Winter Eternal, uncovered from layers of dust, deep within the archives of America’s Untold History is the tales of the soldiers and the citizens who sell their souls to pursue the mysterious Native talisman, the Kahontsi Ehnita; the Giver of Life … A revolutionary war has begun.

The northeastern wilderness had already begun its winter rest. A thin layer of wet snow gave way to patches of brown-green grass. Fallen leaves, dull, russet, and drained of all autumnal brilliance wisped about aimlessly. Each of the many rigid, tangled tree limbs reached for the dark gray sky to appear as shattered glass over the backdrop of the colorless heavens. Steadily, tiny flakes of snow were blown sidelong with the passing wind, as it hummed and fought its way through the thicket of branches. A creek lay to the west and flowed gently from the northwest, a shallow tributary of the Mohawk River. Under a thin blanket of mist, its gray water gently cast small ripples on the shore. Along the western horizon, the rolling Catskills were stripped of life and color, white and gray with snow, they bristled with leafless trees watching over the landscape. The creek flowed slowly in a shallow valley; an embankment supported a trail, several yards in width, which ran parallel to the water on the west and a dense forest of evergreens, oaks, elms, and maples, to the east.
A wandering buck lingered casually and approached along the partially frozen, muddied trail for a drink. The handsome beast trotted toward the bank, where he stood amongst the large stones and hardened soil along the river, his antlers tall and proud. He was thinner than he should be, aged to have seen most of his years already passed. His hide was patchy, dull brown and gray, and his eyes were expressionless black pearls. For years he and his kind had roamed the temperate countryside. Never had they laid claim to the land, spoiled nor polluted any of its beauty. For all his magnificence, he was a silent, peaceful creature, a grazer, and wanderer. He looked around as if fondly taking in the natural beauty of his surroundings. He drank from the river, before roaming deeper into darkness.
A faint clap began to draw near. He lifted his head eastward, facing the direction of the rumbling. Without hesitation, he raced into the forest, sprinting along the river way to the west. With each stride, his gallop grew softer, replaced by a rolling, thundering rumble that became louder as it neared.
Three riders, each astride impressive stallions, traveling from the south, revealed themselves and clamored along the same trail with a quickened gallop. Snowflakes melted upon their cheeks, but they remained focused as they moved forward. The warm mist of the horses’ breath billowed alongside as the column hurriedly marched along. All the steeds were clad with forest green blankets adorned with gold and white embroidery, various straps, harnesses, pouches, and canisters that rattled as they galloped forward. Each rider had a haversack draped across the saddle and mounted on the left shoulder, a long “dragon” flintlock musket, and accompanying pistol. The riders sat tall and assured, appearing taller still in part for their signature black Tarleton helmets. A black plume of feathers ran along the top, from front to back, then continued as a tail for some ten to twelve inches behind the soldiers’ backs. The middle horseman had a distinctive peak, ornamented with white goose feathers. They each wore heavy crimson waistcoats with a large, horizontal white striped placket from collar to bottom. Green and gold inlays marked the shoulders, collars, and cufflinks, a white leather belt, clipped with a gold clasp, and coattails behind. The harnesses around their chests met at a gilded plaque with “IV” etched into its surface. Below the inscription, a rare black beryl and ruby gemstone cross sword and crown insignia were embedded. Sturdy white pantaloons were embellished with a forest green stripe running vertically on the leg. Heavy, black leather boots with silver-plated spurs, buttoned and laced, sealed with rugged white canvas sleeves along the calf. Along their left hip was the polished brass handles atop long sabers, which rested in their scabbards. Tassels hung from the mouth of each scabbard, the middle rider’s being braided white rope, the flanking riders’ black. These were the unmistakable and unique markings of the enigmatic Fourth Order of Aquitaine Light Horse Guards of the Royal Dragoons.
The Fourth Dragoons had earned a reputation for tenacity and ruthlessness through several conflicts for the King and Country. As such, they enjoyed preferred status amongst the Ministry and were never wasted on open combat or trivial operations. Equally formidable on a horse, dismounted as a musketeer, or as a piquet warrior, the Fourth Royal Order was not often seen entering or leaving a battlefield, yet their paths could be traced along wakes of desolation. Rumors of their nature and origins had spread like wildfire within the Empire’s army. The most sensible gossip suggested each of these dragoons was nothing short of the most skilled and disciplined soldier, personally selected by the king himself. Reasonable men had insisted their existence to be nothing more than myth, legend, or some manner of exaggeration intent to inspire terror and submission before His Majesty’s enemies. And credence could be rightfully granted to such speculations, given the unusually ambiguous accounts of their formal obligations and whereabouts in wartime operations. Others called the Dragoons the “specters,” shadowy, supernatural archangels of the Almighty—the deadly protectors of the faith. Their mystery and intrigue had only grown as haunting tales of ghosts and demons amongst the king’s men. The Ministry did nothing to disclaim such myths, nor did it discourage their propagation.
The three horsemen proceeded some two hundred yards along the trail as it climbed a small knoll through a gap between two large rock formations. Trotting briskly, they headed toward a thin tower of blackish smoke that bent and rose toward the sky. The lead rider remained no more than a pace ahead of the others. Until he pulled back on the reins and slowed to a near stop when they reached a clearing at the apex of the hill, where a gathering of structures and figures appeared. They were mostly surrounded by a treeless stretch of ground, which revealed furloughs, gardened patches, and tree stumps. At the far end of what would seem to be an archaic village was an unfinished wall of oak logs roughly twelve-foot-high, mounted side by side, each with pointed tips carved atop. The partition began at the northern corner of the encampment, snaked toward the west, then back toward the south, where it ended unfinished near a pile of logs that lay on the ground. The barricade resembled a crescent moon that partially encircled the encampment. Twenty-plus paces behind the incomplete bulwark was an abrupt cliff, dropping some fifty feet or so toward the river valley. From the edge of the precipice, one could see the creek winding amongst the trees.
Three longhouses, mud-clay structures, with curved roofs, wooden supports, and narrow arched entrances were positioned almost congruent to one another. The largest was positioned farthest north and was approximately six feet tall and thirty feet long. It stretched east to west, as did its two, slightly less impressive, counterparts. Various symbols appeared painted along the structures: a black turtle, deer, bear, and a red painted bird among other such animals. A fourth, smaller structure of similar design rested apart from the others to the east. A lone white maple towered in the near center of the village, and pottery, baskets, blankets, and tools of assorted manner lay about without apparent organization. Several large animal skins, resembling those of bears and deer, were stretched flat and bound to frames made from thick tree branches and rested amongst the buildings’ walls. Smoke rose from a dying fire, and the snow continued to lightly fall as three canines angrily barked toward the oncoming horsemen.
A score or more of men, women, and children sat, side by side, in a circular pattern. Most had their arms wrapped around both knees, and all were silent and still. They were a clan of the woodland Iroquois, a people who had lived in these lands for centuries. The Iroquois were mostly nomads who roamed the countryside. After settling, an Iroquois tribe could count on surviving two or three generations before needing to wander again in search of food. This tribe had settled along the creek in the past summer, after being driven out of their eastern home by American settlers. Their manner of dress consisted of deerskin or rough leather blankets, skirts, smocks, sashes, and moccasins. All were embellished with regalia of beads, fringes, jewelry and stitching of varying sort. Some wore differing types of feathered headdresses or bands.
Clad in similar garb to the riders, with cardinal-red waistcoats, nine soldiers stood, spaced several feet apart, in what appeared to be a formal column, alongside the huddled Iroquois. Their appearance seemed more functional than their mounted counterparts. Each had a circular canteen strewn along his back, leather pouches along his waist sides, and a short, cylindrical container strapped to his belt along the small of his back. Each of the soldiers dared not flinch or utter a sound. They were steadfastly focused, dutifully resting long, bayoneted muskets, butts at their feet, up to and over their left shoulders with the muzzles facing skyward.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
“Enormous and smart ... a grand epic tale ... crammed with characters unbelievably alive across the great gulf of war ... touches all human emotion love and hate, loyalty and treachery, hope and despair. See for yourself. This is truly a novel to get lost in.” ~ Book Review Concierge
“If our history books were only like this! E. Thomas Joseph takes American history on a wicked and disturbing journey in Winter Eternal. Historical fiction really isn't my genre, but the mixture of history and fantasy ... Joseph writes it with enough prowess to grab your attention and pull you in his morbid historical tale.” ~ Janny C
“I found it interesting and clever how the story weaves history with fictional fantasy. At times it can be a bit dark and gruesome even, but that is somewhat balanced by the touches of the light-hearted.” ~ Amazon Customer
“Wicked!!!!! I mean wow!!!! I am literally chewing on my nails. I do not know some authors can write like this.” ~ seasongirl09

About the Author
E. Thomas Joseph is an award-winning historian and Professor of U.S. History in Westchester County New York. Thomas Joseph sits on the board of the Thomas Paine Historical Society and the Historical Society of America’s Forbidden History, has presented at the Lincoln Center, the Cornelius Van Wyck Historical Site, and the Bunker Hill Club.
His fantasy tale, Winter Eternal, is part a fictionalized account of this dissertation on the Revolutionary War and New York’s Hudson Valley and is, in part, based on his research from the Archives of America’s Unknown History.