Refugee Trail

Refugee Trail – A fantasy novella of magic and survival

by Tracy Falbe

Myles Rulong leads a band of survivors into unknown lands. They were driven from their ancestral home by the brutal Lashers waging a campaign to capture resources. A comet had hit their fair world of Deos, and the planetary disruption had brought cruel drought to a once bountiful continent.

Myles and his people are now bereft of their ancient Kadolia magic. Their Elders say that the magic came from their homeland and that it is gone forever. They are scrambling desperately through badlands to stay ahead of Lasher slave hunters when a faction of survivors wants to turn back and surrender. Myles struggles to keep his people united, but annihilation looms until he senses the return of his power.

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Read an Excerpt

Myles came down from his tired horse and strode the rest of the way. Into the heart of the camp he stalked with a swelling line of people behind him. Tristine had Wangen and his cohort encircled by her followers. In the center, she confronted Wangen herself. She was tall for a woman, and her eyes blazed with righteousness. A green head scarf held her blonde hair back so that it framed her unforgettable face like the mane of hill lion.

Her followers let Myles barge into their ring. Wangen’s expression soured at his arrival, and Myles reflected an equal measure of dislike.

“You’ll not stop me,” Wangen boasted loudly. “You can’t make us follow you to certain doom in cold mountains.”

A group outside the circle shouted in agreement. Their cries of support restarted the arguments that they were having with other members of the tribe.

Amid the rumble of dissent, Tristine said, “Certain doom lies behind us.”

“We must find a way to live among the Lashers,” Wangen insisted. He stabbed a finger toward the Mundol Bane where snowy peaks intruded upon the slate sky to the north. “You place our hope and that rocky unknown? We will perish in the snow,” he complained. A chorus of fearful agreement echoed him.

“We will find shelter in valleys and passes to new lands,” Tristine declared, certain that she would be the one to find the way forward.

“Wishing won’t make it so. We must turn back,” Wangen said.

“There will be no going back,” Myles announced sternly. His first words quieted the crowd. He had not yelled, but his tenacious will came through in every measured syllable. His father had taught him how to speak. Myles missed the sound of his rich voice that was now only a memory.

More softly, Wangen said, “You can’t keep me with you.”“We must stay united,” Myles insisted.

“Then come with us,” Wangen said, speaking loudly again. “Show us your wisdom as Chief and admit you made a mistake. We’ll forgive your youthful transgression.”

Myles’s fingers flexed with the urge to attack. Many foreign men had died by his hand. Only the fact that Wangen was Kadak restrained him from violence now.

“The transgressions have been done by the Lashers. My duty now is to find a new home for us even when the known routes are blocked,” Myles said, knowing he peddled dreams to those who lived nightmares.

“Bah!” Wangen said and flapped his big hands disrespectfully at the young Chief. “We can go home if we bow to the Lashers,” he said.

“Our homes are gone,” Tristine reminded harshly. The memory of flames lit her blue eyes.

“We can rebuild,” Wangen argued and turned to address more people. “There is no shame in going back. We were the last to fall to the Lashers. They will respect that. Peace can be made,” he shouted, seeking more allies. Those already convinced by Wangen entreated others to listen.

Myles grabbed Wangen’s arm and spun him around. The barrel-chested man flared with barely caged aggression.

“The Lashers deal out only death at best and slavery at worst. They have no need for peace. We must leave this place forever,” he said and believed utterly in that truth.

“Even a slave’s life is better than the bitter death awaiting you in the mountains,” Wangen said.

“Enough of this!” Myles cried. “No one is turning back.”

“Then make me stay with you,” Wangen challenged. He knocked Myles’s hands away and pushed his chest against Myles. The grim need to fight one of his own people sickened Myles, but the stark necessity of it could be delayed no longer. He would not let this coward split what remained of his people and weaken them further.

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A Note from the Author

I rescued this story from oblivion!

It almost didn’t survive to reach publication.

I began writing it in 2014. I conceived of it as a new fantasy world set on a planet experiencing upheaval after the impact of a comet. After writing epic novels for many years, I wanted this project to focus on the shorter novella form. If I made it into a series, I wanted to build the series with tight, episodic adventures.

After writing six chapters in 2014, I became too ill to write and stopped working on it.

I stopped just about everything and lived off my savings for several months. I had collapsed from adrenal gland fatigue. My body was as trashed as my mind, and I could do very little.

I stopped writing and struggled to rebuild my health.

During the initial months of my recovery from adrenal gland fatigue, I questioned whether I would write fiction again. At some point, I deleted the files for Refugee Trail from my computer.

About a year later, I felt somewhat better and decided that I wanted to keep writing fiction. I began the novel Werewolf Castle (which I’m currently editing) and gave little thought to my abandoned novella.

Although the computer files for Refugee Trail were gone, I had printed my partial manuscript. I started reading it four years later, and I discovered that I liked it.

To revive the draft back into digital format, I first tried to scan my printed pages, but I had already put handwritten edits over most of the pages, and the scans would not translate to a word processor program in a usable manner.

I was forced finally to read the draft aloud and use voice-to-text software to return the manuscript to a workable state.

I then finished writing Refugee Trail and am pleased to announce the publication of my first new work of fiction in four years.