Sitting by The Pyre Light

I grew up a huge Robert E Howard fan.

His stories about Conan, Kull, and Soloman Kane wrapped their arms around my childhood and never let go. It was because of those that I always wanted to be a writer.

The story of Robert’s life is as captivating as his fiction. A decade of struggles trying to ‘make it’ as a writer, only to end it all in a suicide even though his name was beginning to be known. True writers, are deep and unpredictable.

Hegemonian is the Sword and Sorcery tale that has been waiting to be written since my childhood. I packed as much of what readers of this genre expect into it as I could. It has a little bit of all the elements that make a Sword and Sorcery tale; monsters, Minotaurs, witches, sorcerers, tyrannical kings, and a host of interesting characters and places.

Hegemonian is only the first book in what I hope will be an enduring series and lifelong adventure. It is an introduction into my Sword and Sorcery vision; into its vast world and its character style. There is so much I plan to do with this, so many things in my imagination screaming to get out. I’m really looking forward to see all the future things that develop from this. I hope you’ll take the journey with me.

Most of all, I hope that I have done Mr. Howard proud, and treated the genre with the respect it deserves.

~ Tom Reinhart


Bull Fighting

Bull Fighting

In morning bright,
For freedom fight;
A mighty beast,
With hammer smite.

The morning sun was bright in his eyes. The iron bars of the gate in front of him smelled of rust and sweat. Of fear, and death. The arena lay out before him, a circular pit of sand that offered the king’s prisoners a chance to control their own destiny. It always resulted in freedom; either by royal pardon, or death. Either way, once a man entered the arena, he had never to see the king’s prison again.

Laruuk had volunteered for the arena. For the chance at freedom. When there were no volunteers, Normaanic would have his guards shove prisoners into the arena kicking and screaming anyway, so Laruuk chose to get it over with. He considered himself a good fighter, with as good a chance as any to win his freedom, and he chose to not spend any more nights in the king’s prison.

Now he stood at the portal to freedom, peering at his adversary through the gaps between the iron bars. A large wooden post, two feet in diameter and ten foot high, stood in the very center of the arena, casting a long shadow like a huge sun dial. A large heavy chain, massive in thickness and strength, was bolted solidly to the post. It hung down on the shady side of the pole until it reached the sand. From there it stretched across the arena, where it attached to the steel collar around the neck of the Minotaur.

Its cloven hooves paced through the sand; its leash just long enough to reach the full diameter of the arena, just short enough to not allow the beast to climb the walls. The crowd yelled and taunted it; increasing its rage. It dragged its massive war hammer behind it, waiting for something to smash. With every heavy step, it kicked up dust that caught in its matted fur and stuck to its snout. It snorted and wheezed and spoke in low unintelligible grumblings. Its tiny mind couldn’t fully comprehend its situation. It only knew it wished to leave this circle of sand and couldn’t. It knew humans entered the sand and attacked him. It knew it needed to kill the humans.

Laruuk could feel his heart pounding in his chest, and his stomach climbing up his throat. His knees felt weak and sweat poured from his brow. A prison guard threw open the gate, beginning the process of Laruuk’s freedom. Frozen with fear, Laruuk hesitated. The guard shoved him from behind, sending him falling forward face first into the sand. The smell of the iron gate was suddenly replaced with the smell of farm animals; manure and hay. The crowd roared with excited anticipation. The iron gate slammed shut, the old rusting hinges making a sound familiar to the Minotaur. Like a trained dog to a dinner bell, the great beast came running, dragging chain and hammer with it.

Laruuk quickly reclaimed his footing, and with sword and shield in hand stood to face his inhuman adversary. The beast came forward on two legs, like a man. But these were not human legs. They were the legs of a massive bovine; hairy, powerfully muscular, with dark hooves that pressed deeply into the sand under its heavy weight. Its upper body was like a man’s, but enormous and grotesquely muscular. Its arms were as thick and round as Laruuk’s waist. Its wide and heavily muscled shoulders were covered with brown matted fur that rose up around an unnaturally thick neck. The beast’s head was purely that of a bull, with massive horns that curved up and outward into deadly points. Behind its black eyes, in spite of its grotesque appearance of hybrid man with beast, was an unnerving glint of intelligence.

Laruuk watched the beast approach, and all his thoughts of being a good fighter, all his desire for freedom, left him in a swift rush of purged confidence. Where he thought would be the will to make a stand, now was only fear. The great bull quickly moved in close and raised its hammer; to swing, to smash. Laruuk panicked and ran to the other side of the arena as the great hammer swooshed through the air and landed heavily upon the ground. The crowd booed loudly, urging the prisoner to make a stand, to take it like a man. Laruuk was struggling just to breathe without hyperventilating in the grip of fear.

The Minotaur re-positioned the hammer on its shoulder and snorted loudly, dust and sand blowing out of its wide black nostrils. It stomped a cloven hoof heavily on the ground in anger as it turned and began moving toward its human prey again. Laruuk steadied himself, slowed his breathing, knowing he would indeed have to make a stand. There was no turning back now.

The heavy chain dragged through the sand like a huge iron tail as it followed along behind the Minotaur, who lunged forward with unexpected speed. Laruuk had only enough time to raise his shield as the hammer came down powerfully upon it. The crowd cheered excitedly as the two combatants made contact for the first time. Laruuk had hoped to block the creature’s initial blow, and then counter strike with his own sword. If he could wound it, then dodge, then wound it again, perhaps he could whittle the beast down and win a battle of attrition.

But the hammer blow from the mighty beast came with ten times the impact Laruuk could have imagined. The black iron war hammer smashed down upon the shield with crushing force, bending it out of shape and nearly breaking Laruuk’s arm. The force knocked Laruuk down to one knee as the crowd roared with approval. Not in a position to strike back as the Minotaur began to raise the hammer again, Laruuk could only drop the mangled shield and roll to the side, rising to his feet several paces away. The mighty bull turned again to follow, the iron leash always dragging behind, its massive links clanking one against the other in the sand.

Laruuk stood near the pole at the center of the arena, his back almost against it. Somehow having one side of himself protected by the massive wooden post gave him a slight sense of security, no matter how false. He placed both hands upon the hilt of his sword, and braced himself, preparing to strike the bull with as much force as he could muster. His plan to survive was still the same; strike, move away, strike again. The Minotaur, becoming enraged by the noise of the crowd and the elusive human, stomped quickly towards Laruuk with its hammer raised high. Its massive hooves pounded into the sand, kicking up clouds of dust as it charged. Laruuk swung his sword as hard as he could as he jumped to the side to avoid the oncoming hammer. The enormous weapon barely missed him, crashing down into the wooden post with a loud boom that echoed off the walls of the arena. The crowd cheered wildly at the spectacle.

Laruuk’s sword made contact. It hit the Minotaur in the side with a blow that he was sure would kill a man. But glancing quickly at the point of impact, he could see the bull’s tough leathery skin had but a small minor wound. A thin line of red, a bit of matted fur wet with a small amount of blood, but the mighty bovine had barely flinched. A loud snort, a strange guttural growl, and suddenly the hammer was coming around again, much quicker than Laruuk had anticipated.

There was a brutal impact of heavy forged iron against mortal flesh and bone. The war hammer, swung by an inhumanly powerful arm, caught Laruuk in the hip, sending him skidding into the sand several paces away. The sound of snapping bones was quickly replaced by the rambunctious roar of the bloodthirsty crowd. Laruuk was face down in the sand, completely numb from the waist down. For a moment he thought he was paralyzed, but the tingling sensation flooded back into his legs just as he heard the cloven hooves of the Minotaur stomping ever closer.

Laruuk rolled over, spitting out sand and blood. Gazing upwards he could see the king and his entourage upon the royal platform, watching, cheering, urging the spectacle to its conclusion; urging his freedom. Laruuk felt around blindly in the sand for his sword, but couldn’t find it. He attempted to get up, but the shattered bone in his hip wouldn’t allow it. So he lay there, gazing upwards, blood and sweat running into his eyes; burning them. For the first time he noticed the flies. Flies that had been buzzing around the piles of bull feces, that now buzzed around his sweaty skin and wounds.

For a split second he considered the irony that the humans cheering him were the jailers, and the Minotaur, the chained up monster of the arena, would be his liberator. The morning sun was bright in his eyes as he heard the snorting and wheezing of the beast standing over him. Looking up, he saw the sun eclipsed by a massive hammer, that swiftly came down to grant him his freedom.


So This Happened…

“Tom Reinhart’s story is a throw back to the glory days of pulp fiction. Through the veins of this story runs the blood of Conan, Kull and other great warriors of another age. Reinhart pays homage to the great Robert E Howard throughout his story while keeping his characters fresh and distinctly his own. His story also offers slight variations on traditional S&S stories that provides a unique twist to the genre’s general plot outline. Treat yourself to a journey back to the 1920’s and 1930’s where stories were written from the soul and warriors walked the pages.”

“Once upon a time, the literary world was filled with characters who relied on their quick wits and sharp steel to cut their way to fame and glory in cruel and unforgiving worlds. During the heyday of pulp fiction, magazines and book store shelves almost seemed to ring audibly with the clash of sword on sword, and the screams of the dying on the battlefield and in back alleys, and the wails of comely maidens in distress. It was a time of bigger-than-life heroes, cruel villains, and monsters beyond belief, brought to us by the likes of Robert E Howard, Fritz Leiber, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and etc. Well, I’m proud to say that this tradition lives on today, and Mister Reinhart’s novel here is a prime example. The action is fast and brutal, there are wonders to behold, and the author has a narrative voice that takes you there with confidence. Fantasy authors today have rather large boots to fill- Tom Reinhart wears them well. Highly recommended, and I eagerly await more!”

“You wont be disappointed with this epic tale.”

“HEGEMONIAN harkens back to the golden days of epic pulp fiction, the era that spawned what today we call “sword and sorcery” fantasy. Clearly, author Tom Reinhart has based his own epic hero, Lucan, upon Robert Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian, and like Conan Lucan is a northern barbarian who leaves his savage homeland in search of adventure. Though Reinhart’s inspirations are obvious, he manages to make Lucan a distinct character with his own personality, and if HEGEMONIAN is in some ways a Howard pastiche, it is far superior to most of its cousins in that field. To say that Reinhart’s novel is action-packed is an understatement, as he subjects Lucan to one deadly encounter after another with undead warriors, giant spiders, and wicked enchantresses. And all that’s even before he reaches the big city, with all its “civilized” politics, backstabbing intrigue, and a war in the offing! Exciting and imaginative, HEGEMONIAN is an amazing literary epic that all fans of classic sword and sorcery should read with relish. I certainly did.”

“A good solid read. Engaging and worthy of the Genre without trying to make itself more then what it is. Looking forward to more, this one would have been right at home in the pages of Weird Tales back in the day.”

“The perfect epic fantasy novel.”

Vargas Rocks.

Its so crazy the way writing works sometimes. Yesterday, I was pretty much finished with Hegemonian. But I thought it needed just a little more, maybe another 1000 words. Just something to fill a little space of a short chapter. I had no idea what it would be. Not a clue. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, I probably put in what will end up being my favorite character of the whole saga. Vargas, the bounty hunter.

“Lucan noticed one person that stood out from the rest, sitting in the very back corner, where it was dark and out of the way. He was aged like the rest, but still strong of body. He had the look of a fighter, like a retired mercenary. His gray beard added to his age, but his eyes still signaled youthfulness, cunning, and prowess. As Lucan purchased an ale, the aging warrior motioned to him to come closer.

As Lucan approached the man, the gentle illumination from the candles on his table allowed his face to reveal even more of his persona. His face was wrinkled and leathered from the weather. A large deep scar cut diagonally across his nose and right cheek. He was not a large man, but muscular; his shoulders and biceps contrasting his age. He had well-worn leather armor, enough to offer protection without being too heavy as to slow a man down. He clearly appeared like a man not to be trifled with. Lucan approached cautiously. Not afraid, but alert.

“Come here lad,” came the gravelly voice, tainted by years of drinking and smoking. Lucan stood at the edge of his table, still not sure what to expect.

“You’re the one from the Tamorric, aren’t you? The minotaur killer.”

“Aye,” answered Lucan.

The gruff stranger motioned to the empty seat across his table. “Please, join me.”

Lucan did as asked, and the old man shifted in his chair, leaning forward on the table. “That was quite impressive this morning. Quite impressive. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone like you come through here.”

“Someone like what?” Lucan asked.

The old man grinned. “Someone like me.”

You rock Vargas. Welcome to the world.