Here’s another free preview of my new book, Dove of War! Thanks to all of you who have purchased a copy and left feedback for me. It’s shaping up so far to be my biggest novel yet!
This preview is from Chapter IV and it not only allows you to get a glimpse at the mysterious “narrator” and writer of the journal, it gives you insight into the title character and how he got the nickname, ‘Hato!”
Enjoy and keep those comments coming!!!
Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one!
Marcus Aurelius, 2 A.D.
In the late summer of 1435, my master was a happy young boy of 10. He was beloved by every family in the village of Tobruk, which his father presided over in a form of democracy unheard of in the known world of the 15th century. Basil’s father, the legendary Duke of Tobruk, Constantine Panache, curried great favor with Prince Mircea the Old, rightful ruler of all the Province of Wallachia, now the country of Romania, bordered by the infamous Transylvania to the north and Bulgaria to the south.
Duke Constantine swore his allegiance to Prince Mircea in 1414 and was rewarded with goods, lower taxes, military rank and title. Rather than hoarding these things for himself, Constantine passed the wealth to his subjects, who swore undying allegiance to him. It was a bond that continued to grow over the years, and by 1420, Constantine’s village prospered with abundance and a powerful, regional army of nearly 5,000.
War exploded across the region in 1421. Prince Mircea’s brother, Prince Dan, sought to consolidate the entire region under his control and, thereby, become King. The power shifted back and forth as the blood soaked ground of Wallachia overflowed. Neither side was able to claim a substantial advantage over the other, mainly due to the lack of any military training on either side. Battles consisted mainly of ambushes, massacres, and assassinations. Across the plains, the gavalt was lifted to heaven on a regular basis. Cries to the Father were commonplace. Many felt the land was gornisht helfn … beyond help.
By chance, it was Constantine who stumbled upon an idea he would soon pitch to Prince Mircea. While on a supply run to Bucharest, he happened across a foreigner also seeking repast for his master, an ambassador from a country far to the east. Constantine was unfamiliar with this country … the Land of the Rising Sun … Japan.
It was while walking together down a deserted path that Constantine and this Japanese ambassador were attacked by a dozen drecks hoping to score massive gelt nach a mool. Constantine drew his sword and made his silent prayer, assuming this to be the end for both he and his newfound companion. Constantine never even drew blood, for in a matter of seconds, four of the goyim momzers lay dead. The remaining eight, totally fermishted, ran for their lives. Constantine’s Japanese companion was a knight … a warrior … called in his own land a Samurai. His skill with a sword was beyond anything Constantine could ever imagine. “Could you teach me?” he asked. His newfound companion, whom would later identify himself as Taro Ike, merely smiled.
After introducing Taro to prince Mircea, the Prince funded a trip to Japan for Constantine and ten of his most adept, upcoming knights. They would be taught the art of Samurai swordsmanship, archery, modern warfare tactics and strategies, and the spirit of the Bushido. After a full year of training, the knights returned with heretofore unprecedented military prowess, an understanding of warfare that in time could very well turn the tide in the ongoing war between Mircea and his villainous brother, Dan.
Constantine stayed behind for still another year, for he had found something more important to him that sword thrusts and bow strength. He had discovered Taro’s daughter, the Princess Kazuko. He returned to Wallachia in the spring of 1424 with his new Japanese bride, along with her widowed father, the Samurai warrior Taro. Before the passage of four seasons could be completed, a son was born to the happy couple. They named him Basil. Basil, son of Constantine, Earl of Tobruk.
By the summer of 1435, Prince Mircea’s power appeared to be clearly re-established. The Samurai tactics now employed by Constantine’s legion cut through the armies of Prince Dan with ease. With Dan defeated and in exile, Prince Mircea ascended to become King of all Wallachia and was anointed King Vlad I. Constantine was appointed the Duke of Wallachia. Peace reigned for a time, but alas, its tender roots were not strong enough to withstand the onslaught of the King’s son, Vlad Tepes.
Breaking away from his father, young Vlad Tepes, only 15 at the time, organized and raised his own army. Swearing allegiance only to Satan, he became known as Vlad Dracul, or Vlad the Dragon. In time, he would be known only as Son of the Dragon, Son of the Devil, or the abbreviated version which you likely know quite well … Dracula.
Province of Wallachia
Village of Tobruk
“Do you not see the leaves as they change from green to vibrant gold, young Hato?”
“I do see it, honored grandfather,” ten year old Basil answered, his face quivering with excitement from spending time with grandfather Taro and the assurance of learning something new. They were standing upon a towering hill, gazing into the blue skies and early stage of autumn as it crept among the thick trees of the forest. His Japanese was flawless, a fact that made his stoic grandfather struggle to hide the grin that threatened to spoil his serious mood. “What does it mean?”
“It means that a new season is now upon us, little one. We can learn much from what nature shows us if we will only look, listen, and feel.”
Young Basil’s brow furrowed.
“But Grandfather, if a new season is near, does this not mean that the old one must pass away?”
“You are indeed wise beyond your years, Hato-san. Yes, the summer must pass to allow the fall to arrive. Thus has it always been from the dawning of time.”
“Then I am sad, venerable master,” Basil lamented. “The summer is the time of frolic and laughter when the sun reaches its peak and empowers the earth to provide her bounty. How could anyone find joy in her passing, for we shall never see her like again!”
Taro reached down and placed a comforting arm around the shoulders of his young protégé.
“So somber, little Hato? Did you not enjoy the comfort of the cool breeze that touched your face as we ventured here today?”
“Yes, of course. It was wonderful.”
“And yet, it is now gone. Shall we weep for its passing as we would mourn the falling of a loved one to eternal sleep?”
“That’s silly, Grandfather. Of course we would not cry over the wind.”
“And why not? Did you not agree that you enjoyed the wind and the comfort of her touch? Yet you do not mourn when it departs from you. Is this not a contradiction?”
“No, Grandfather. You are tricking me! We don’t mourn the passing of the wind because it will return, again and again, to bring us joy and comfort.”
Again, Taro smiled.
“So true, Hato-san. And in this way, we can also take comfort that the summer will pass, allowing us to partake of the pleasures that come with the autumn. But in that comfort, we can be assured that as morning follows night, the summer will return in her own good time. And in that time, we shall rejoice as if we have become reacquainted with an old friend who has simply been away on a journey. When we understand this great truth, death holds no fear over us. For when death takes away a loved one … and eventually, death will take you as well, little one … we have no need of fear. For like the wind, like the summer, like the rain or like the sun, we shall one day return.”
Basil again furrowed his brow.
“I am confused, Grandfather. Is death not the eternal sleep?”
“Do not be troubled, Hato. None who live can fully understand the world that awaits us beyond the great shadows of death. But never forsake the lesson of kishi kaisei. For I see in you great power, and to fully experience the destiny that awaits you, you must always remember what you have learned today.”
“Kishi kaisei? I do not know these words, grandfather. What do they mean?”
“It means, ‘wake from death and return to life.’ My dear Hato, there is a darkness descending upon the land. It is a darkness borne of great evil, an evil long ago bent on the destruction of all we know. I fear that neither I nor your father will be able to stop this evil. But you can, little Hato. In time, kishi kaisei will be very clear to you. You will awaken from your sleep, and in that time and only then will you fully understand your life’s destiny.”
“Basil? Basil, come here!” Taro and Basil turned to see Constantine striding across the meadow toward them. He was obviously not happy. Basil ran to meet him with Taro just behind.
“Why are you not ready to go, my son?” Constantine berated. “We leave for the church in less than ten minutes. I need you there to receive the blessings of the Bishop before I go into battle.”
“Yes, Father,” Basil answered. “I will be ready.” He looked back to Taro, beamed, and waved. “Good-bye, Grandfather!” Taro beamed as well.
“Sayonara, my little Hato-san! Now be quick, for a great storm is coming. You don’t want to get wet.” And with that warning, Basil turned and dashed at breakneck speed back to the village.
Constantine grimaced as he shifted his weight from one leg to another. He had suffered several wounds to his lower back in the battles of the last year. Some were quite serious. He found it more and more difficult to stand, sit or ride for extended periods without shifting his weight.
“Why did you tell him that nonsense about a coming storm, Taro? There is not a cloud in the sky.”
“Some storms are clearly visible,” Taro responded. “Others are not so easy to see unless you know where to look.”
“I hate it when you use those Zen philosophies to answer a question!”
“You are troubled by more than my Zen riddles, my son,” Taro smiled. “What torments you?”
Constantine grimaced again and shifted his weight.
“Dracula has marshaled new forces against the King from the north,” he answered. “He’s hiring out barbarians from the surrounding lands, some from as far away as Ottoman, to fight for him. The dreadful things he’s doing are beyond description.”
“I have heard of these things,” Taro said. “These are the things which will lead to his downfall. No man can long lie with the dogs before he finds himself bitten by fleas.”
Constantine smiled in spite of his irritation.
“Do you have some old Japanese saying for every situation, Taro?”
“That one was not so old. I just made it up.” The two men laughed together and grasped hands.
“I’m afraid for him, Taro. I am afraid for Basil. Dracula is getting stronger and stronger. I am beginning to believe he really is the son of the devil. He buried his own brother alive and, according to reports from Transylvania, he burned the residents of a village to ‘rid his kingdom of poverty.’ King Mercia is afraid. And now, with these barbarian hordes on his payroll as well, what will become of Basil if we fall? He’s not old enough … not strong enough … to carry on the fight without us.”
“Kaeru no ko wa kaeru, my son. Of this, you can be certain.”
“I don’t speak Japanese as well as Basil, Taro. What does that mean?”
“It means two things. One, it means you must learn to speak better Japanese. Two, it means the child of a frog is a frog. You are a great warrior. Kazuko is an honorable woman. Young Hato will be as you both are … strong and honorable. In this you must find great solace.”
Constantine again struggled with his anger.
“How can I find comfort when you keep filling his head with these silly thoughts of peace and understanding? I need him to learn to use a sword, to use a bow, to kill as many men as possible quickly and efficiently. And it doesn’t help that you keep calling him ‘Hato!’”
“He is known as Prince Hato for miles around. Why does this upset you?”
“Because he’s also being referred to as ‘Hato’ by our enemies, Taro! I have yet to find anyone intimidated by the image of a dove.”
“In this you are simply misguided, my son. The image of the dove is one of great power through peace and eternal tranquility. There is no weakness in it. It is quite prominent, as I understand, in your own Christian faith. Would not your Bishop agree to this?”
Constantine huffed and looked away. Taro waited just a moment, then continued.
“And you are obviously mistaken in your premise that no one is intimidated by your son’s nickname of Hato. I certainly know of one who trembles at its mention.”
“You, of course, dear Constantine. And if this name causes a warrior such as yourself such fear and dread, imagine the power it must have over your enemies?”
Feeling his temper about to leap out of control, Constantine whirled and began walking away. As he did, he shouted back to Taro without turning to address him.
“The time has passed for cute slogans and words of negotiation, Taro. We need action. We need warriors. Dracula is out for blood. And all your witty philosophical ideologies won’t be enough when the day of the Dragon arrives in Tobruk.”
As Constantine walked away, Taro shook his head in sadness. The limp was getting worse, and Taro had seen the wounds on Constantine’s back and legs. This war was raging across the land and it was indeed coming to Tobruk sooner than later. Taro knew he was not the warrior he once was, but he knew he would die if need be to protect his beloved daughter and precious grandson.
Almost at once, a brisk wind billowed in from the north, bringing dark clouds and, in a matter of seconds, a heavy rain. He could hear Constantine yelling and cursing in the distance. Standing in the midst of the storm, Taro lifted his face skyward and outstretched his arms, allowing the driving torrent to completely engulf and saturate him in its blistering downpour.
“Ame futte chi katamaru,” he offered softly to the gods of wind and rain. “After the rain, the earth is hardened more than before. Take in the rain and enjoy its fragrance, my little Hato. For after the rain will come the fire. And you must be hard, not hard as in the war of the hawk, but hard as in the peace that can only come after the war. Hard in the peace of … the dove … the Hato!”