Hell's March

Hell's March

by Taylor Anderson
Hell's March

Hell's March

by Taylor Anderson

Hardcover

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Overview

Major Lewis Cayce will need to use every weapon in his arsenal to keep his stranded men alive on a deadly alternate Earth in this gripping new adventure set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Destroyermen series.

It is 1847, and almost a full year after being shipwrecked on another, far stranger and more dangerous Earth on their way to fight Santa Anna in the Mexican-American War, Lewis Cayce and his small group of artillerymen, infantrymen, and dragoons have made friends in the Yucatán, helped build an army, and repulsed the first efforts of the blood-drenched Holy Dominion to wipe their new friends out.   

As an even more radical cult of Blood Priests arises and begins to pursue its own path to power, the Dominion can’t let its defeat stand. It must crush the heretics and expel them from the land it has claimed.   

Fortunately, Lewis Cayce is a professional. He understands defense can only result in a stalemate at best, and a stalemate with the more populous Dominion will only lead to defeat in the end. The lucky few will be enslaved. The rest will be sacrificed in the most horrific way imaginable. The only hope his new allies have is to win—and to do that, his little army must attack the most powerful and diabolical enemy on the planet in its own territory. Achieving victory will take all Lewis’s imagination, the courage and trust of his soldiers—and all the round shot and canister his tiny band of artillerymen can slam out.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593200742
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/27/2022
Series: Artillerymen , #2
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 38,577
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Taylor Anderson is the New York Times bestselling author of the Destroyermen novels and the Artillerymen novels. A gunmaker and forensic ballistic archaeologist, Taylor has been a technical and dialogue consultant for movies and documentaries and is an award-winning member of the National Historical Honor Society and of the United States Field Artillery Association.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

 

November 1847

 

1st Division  Nautla  Yucatán Peninsula

 

The sun stood bright and hot over the "ruined" city of Nautla on the west coast of the Yucatán, which was being hacked back out of the dense surrounding forest even while other labor was under way to reclaim it. Like the larger, even more ancient Campeche to the south, it boasted finely fitted stone walls around impressive dwellings and other structures, as well as the seemingly ubiquitous central stepped pyramid that appeared to grace every city of any size in the region. Unlike distant Campeche, however, Nautla's condition wasn't a result of centuries of neglect. Right on the edge of the Contested Lands, or "La Tierra de Sangre," largely controlled by Holcano Indians and furry-feathery, extremely ferocious, "Grik-like" beings (these struck most as a terrifying cross between vultures and alligators with their upright physiques, raptor claws, and toothy jaws), Nautla had received too much attention over the last several decades. First conquered by Holcanos about fifty years earlier, it became almost a traditional battlefield for Holcanos and Ocelomeh Jaguar Warriors to trade back and forth. The Ocelomeh were never as numerous and used imaginative tactics, especially after the arrival of Har-Kaaska and his Mi-Anakka (vaguely catlike folk from an unnamed land shipwrecked there twenty years before). They finally made a serious attempt to permanently liberate the city a decade ago, but never induced enough people to return and make it prosper. They gave up. It had "belonged" to the Holcanos ever since, though its only real inhabitants were bands of wild "garaaches," essentially young feral Grik that hadn't joined a tribe. They were a menace to everyone, even their own species, and Grik and Holcanos both hunted and ate them.

 

Despite years of fighting in and around Nautla, the combatants hadn't possessed the means to seriously damage its durable structures, and it remained largely intact. Troops under the command of the Blood Cardinal Don Frutos of the "Holy Dominion"-a power based on a warped mix of centuries-old Spanish Catholic Christianity and Mayan-Aztecan blood ritual, dominating most of what should've been Mexico and Central America and bent on conquest and subjugation-had briefly bombarded it when they passed through. They'd only been exercising their gun's crews in preparation for knocking down the walls of the independent northern coastal city of Uxmal when they got there, so the damage hadn't been severe.

 

But Don Frutos had been stopped short of his objective at the "Battle of the Washboard" by a small army led by Major Lewis Cayce, composed of recognizably Christian natives of the Yucatán and their pagan Ocelomeh protectors and trained by American castaways from "another" earth who'd been bound for a different Vera Cruz to join Winfield Scott's campaign against the president of Mexico. And just like this different earth, the geography of war had changed very little. The ultimate enemy (besides the land itself and wildly ferocious predators) styled himself "His Supreme Holiness, Messiah of Mexico, and by the Grace of God, Emperor of the World," and ironically ruled from the same . . . but different . . . Valley of Mexico. Major Cayce's roughly seven hundred American survivors were no longer engaged in a political war, however-a spat between neighboring countries over past grievances and territory. They'd joined in a war of survival against an existential threat and had a cause they could all believe in: build a strong Union of threatened city-states, oppose the Dominion-and hopefully survive. The odds were very long indeed. Major Cayce followed his victory over the "Doms" by marching his still largely American Detached Expeditionary Force and the 1st Uxmal and 1st Ocelomeh Regiments down to fortify Nautla into an impassable strongpoint astride the Camino Militar. So far, the most difficult tasks had been rooting out garaaches, repairing the walls and backing them with earth to better resist Dom artillery, and cleaning out years of accumulated filth to make the place tolerably sanitary. The first priority in this respect had been to fill in the hopelessly fouled freshwater wells and dig new ones. Nautla was "alive" again in a sense, but as a formidable fort, not a city. It was in this light Lewis Cayce surveyed it now, standing on the south wall with a collection of his officers and some luminaries from Uxmal; friends, he hoped and believed.

 

"This isn't exactly what I meant when I urged you to take the war to the Doms," said Alcaldesa Sira Periz in a dissatisfied tone. Tiny, dark, and beautiful, she'd become the ruler of Uxmal when her husband was killed in a treacherous parley before the Battle of the Washboard began. Her suite of advisors included a shrewd, also beautiful Englishwoman named Samantha Wilde and the oddly inseparable Reverend Samuel Harkin-a tall, bearded, overweight Presbyterian-and Father Orno-a short, slight, Uxmalo priest from a vaguely Jesuit tradition. They'd been brought down by the wiry, craggy-faced Captain Eric Holland in HMS Tiger, an elderly, lightly armed, retired British man-o'-war that had been carrying European passengers like Samantha away from the "old" Vera Cruz after General Scott's invasion there. She'd only incidentally been close to the American Mary Riggs, Xenophon, and Commissary, and the sailing steamer Isidra (taking troops to join General Scott's campaign) when they were all so . . . bizarrely and cataclysmically swept to this world by an appalling-some said "supernatural"-storm. Mary Riggs and Xenophon actually "fell" to earth miles inland, and Commissary crashed down on the beach. All were hopelessly wrecked with great loss of life except Isidra, now in the hands of the Doms, and Tiger, which they'd repaired and put to use. Old and decrepit on the world she came from, Tiger was the fastest, most capable ship the Allied cities had at their disposal. Sadly, most of her passengers had been carried away to "safety" by Isidra and had likely been gruesomely sacrificed to the bloodthirsty underworld God of the Doms. At best, they still lived in slavery.

 

Sira Periz was dwarfed by most around her, standing near one of the new embrasures for cannon captured at the Washboard like a bronze-skinned pixie in a dark green dress covered by gold scale armor. As was customary for widows still in mourning, her long, jet-black hair hung loose around her shoulders. Uxmalo women accepting suitors gathered their hair behind their heads (to best display their pretty faces, believed most of the young American soldiers). Sira looked particularly small beside the tall, broad-shouldered Lewis Cayce. Instead of his usual dark blue shell jacket that all mounted forces now wore (distinguished only by red artillery trim in his case), he'd donned his fine, single-breasted frock coat and crimson sash under a white saber belt for the alcaldesa's visit. Otherwise, he still wore the standard wheel hat and sky-blue trousers used by all the branches, but his trousers were tucked into knee-high boots, carefully blacked and polished by his scrawny, villainous-looking orderly, Corporal Willis, of the 1st Artillery. Lewis had apparently even allowed the man to closely trim his hair and thick brown beard. He was adamant that all the people in "his" army, Americans or not, maintain the highest degree of uniformity and hygiene-particularly under their strange circumstances-and demanded all the Allied cities provide proper uniforms for their people. Not only did he believe that men who looked like soldiers tended to act like them, he wanted all his troops, no matter where they were from or which regimental flags they flew (locals who hadn't joined "American" units fought under their city-state flags), to look and feel like one combined army, united by a common cause.

 

"I believe what the alcaldesa means," rumbled Reverend Harkin in his deep pulpit voice, "is that she hoped you might be able to do more than just come down and retake Nautla-and stop."

 

Lewis smiled. "I know. But that's already more than the enemy would've expected. Even their General Agon, a cut above the rest, I believe, probably thought we'd lick our wounds at Uxmal and wait for them to come at us again. He can't have any idea that King Har-Kaaska and Second Division have already driven down to relieve Itzincab in the east, and are pushing his Holcano allies back toward Puebla Arboras." Puebla Arboras had been the southernmost "Allied" city, but its alcalde, Don Discipo, had given it over to the enemy. "Agon will see this as an aggressive step," Lewis continued, "but still essentially defensive. More than he expected, like I said, and therefore as much as he'll think we're capable of. It'll focus his attention."

 

Another tall man, Major Giles Anson, formerly of the Texas Mounted Rifles (or Rangers), chuckled lightly. He was lankier than Lewis, with a graying beard, and wore the plain blue jacket of a Ranger. Instead of a saber belt, he was burdened by a pair of huge Walker Colts in holsters on a waistbelt, suspended by braces, and a pair of smaller Paterson Colts in holsters attached to them high on his chest, almost under his arms. "You know how our Lewis is," he reminded with a combination of irony and fondness. The two men had known each other but hadn't been friends before they wound up here. Now they were. "Always focusin' the enemy on one thing . . ."

 

"While he does another!" burst out Varaa-Choon, clapping her hands. Varaa was a Mi-Anakka, one of only six known on this continent and the first the Americans ever met. Wearing silver scale armor over a reddish leather tunic covering dark tan fur-and with a long, fluffy tail that often seemed to have a mind of its own-she was also most emphatically not human. She claimed to be forty, but there was no white fur around her nose and mouth, only lighter and darker highlights around impossibly large blue eyes the color of the afternoon sky. She and her then more numerous companions were shipwrecked here twenty years before and taken for minions of a feline deity the Ocelomeh worshipped in their distant past. (This was particularly strange since, though Mi-Anakka did bear a certain resemblance to cats, as far as anyone knew, there were no Jaguars on this world.)

 

Their leader, now King Har-Kaaska, gradually corrected his follower's beliefs, but Mi-Anakka remained in positions of leadership among the Jaguar Warriors, more effectively guiding them in their apparently self-appointed, mutually beneficial role as protectors to the more peaceful and civilized peoples of the Yucatán. Varaa Choon was Har-Kaaska's female "Warmaster" and liaison to the Allied Army in the west. Devoted to her king and his interests, not to mention the Ocelomeh in the army, she'd also become a close friend to the Americans and was a trusted advisor and battlefield commander in her own right. Friend or not, there was only one subject she would never speak on, out of concern the Doms might eventually learn; where her people came from.

 

"Like last time," agreed Lieutenant Leonor Anson in a husky voice. The Ranger's daughter was almost as tall as him, having effectively passed as a young man in her father's Ranger company. Everyone knew she was a woman now, considered very pretty when she rarely smiled instead of just boyishly handsome, and she no longer stuffed the shoulder-length black hair of her Mexican mother up in her hat. Nor did she tie it in back in the local style for a variety of reasons. She'd been . . . abused by straggling Mexican soldiers during the war for Texas's independence a decade before, and the "girl" she'd been was virtually extinguished, her mother and brothers killed. Her father had been with Houston's army, and she was all he had left. He couldn't leave her behind again, so she grew up fighting Comanches and Mexican border incursions like a wildcat at his side. All that resulted in a somewhat . . . limited social development and an implacable hatred of Mexicans only now beginning to fade as she slowly befriended the young (newly promoted) Capitan Ramon Lara, also standing by. Lara was an agreeable young man, brave, resourceful, and funny, all of which earned Leonor's respect. He'd been in charge of a scouting force of Mexican soldiers onshore that was also . . . brought . . . wherever they were, by the same freak occurrence that dumped the Americans here. He now led the 1st Yucatán Lancers under Major Anson's overall command, as were all the Rangers and dragoons.

 

Leonor still dressed and acted like a man in the field, even though she'd been taken under the wing of Samantha Wilde and her French friend Angelique Mercure. Both ladies were abandoned by Isidra on the beach with Commissary's survivors. Fortunate for them, as it turned out. But under their influence, Leonor had taken a few tentative steps toward becoming a "lady," when she deemed it appropriate. Still a fighter, however, she'd earned the men's respect as such with her own pair of Paterson Colts, often leading scouts. Otherwise, she stayed busy at her self-appointed task as aide and protector for her father-and now Lewis Cayce, whom she had secret, complicated feelings for.

 

Lewis smiled and nodded at her. "Like last time," he agreed. "The smaller force, and I expect we'll almost always be, must do the unexpected."

 

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