Randall Wallace Love and Honor

ISBN 13: 9780743265195

Love and Honor

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9780743265195: Love and Honor
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Summoned by Benjamin Franklin to prevent the Russians from aiding the British in the imminent Revolutionary War, Virginia cavalryman Kieran Selkirk travels to Russia in the disguise of a British mercenary to offer his services to the Tsarina in her fight against the Cossacks. By the author of Pearl Harbor. 50,000 first printing.

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About the Author:

Randall Wallace is the author of seven novels, including the New York Times bestseller Pearl Harbor. He has written four feature films -- We Were Soldiers, Pearl Harbor, The Man in the Iron Mask, and the 1995 Academy Award-winner Braveheart -- and produced and directed We Were Soldiers and The Man in the Iron Mask. For his work on Braveheart, he received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay as well as numerous other accolades, including Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations.

In addition to his work as a filmmaker and author, Randall Wallace is the founder of Hollywood for Habitat for Humanity. This entertainment industry partnership with Habitat for Humanity works to garner financial donations, publicity, and volunteer involvement in support of Habitat for Humanity's goal of eliminating poverty housing worldwide. Wallace has two sons and lives in Los Angeles.

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Chapter One

Northern Russia, 1774

The first howl sang across the night void and trembled the frozen air, a sound thin as the starlight poised on the blue plains of snow, with no more presence than the memory of a vanished loved one, and just as inescapable across the face of the world; and as with a ghostly visage rising before me, I might have denied that the cry existed. But the horses plunged.

Sergei Gorlov, the friend and fellow mercenary who had mentored me for the last two years in the art of cavalry warfare and who guided me now into the vast mysteries of his homeland, sat beside me, bundled beneath blankets in the open sleigh. Opposite us huddled a fat merchant, his back to Gorlov's driver, Pyotr, an ageless Russian peasant whose expert hands upon the reins had kept the horses moving briskly through the long night. And I, Kieran Selkirk, shivered beneath the sizzling stars, five thousand miles from America, and the colony of Virginia, and the cottage where my father warmed himself beside his fire at home. Or so I hoped. I tried not to think too much about him; I had learned it is not wise to dream of comfort when you dwell with danger, and have just felt the fear of your horses at the sound of wolves.

Pyotr growled the horses' names deep in his throat, and with Russian words I did not know but understood, he told them they were stupid beasts and full of perversion, yet he had a sentimental weakness for them and would consent to tighten their reins and sweep the whip above their heads. The horses did settle, and trotted on.

Their hooves fell muffled on the snow-packed road, and the sleigh's runners whisked. The tops of the trees drifted between us and the sliver of moon. The night, except for the wind sailing past, lay dead still, and I thought then that only I and the horses had heard the howl, until Pantkin, the fat merchant across from me, pulled the cloak from around his mouth, as if untroubled by the cold, and chuckled, as if unafraid, and said in French, "How much farther?"

"Shut up," Gorlov answered, without unwrapping the flannel from his own mouth, "or we'll let you measure the distance on foot."

Pantkin looked away and covered again his frosted beard, and his nose, with the twin ice rivers set in the whiskers of his mustache from the nostrils to his mouth; he covered all but his eyes, staring at the passing trees. When he had joined us two days before in Riga, I had thought Gorlov was giving him the best seat -- back to the driver, screened against the wind -- but I learned quickly that a swirl invaded the open sleigh when the horses were at speed; Gorlov and I, our heads against the high curved backing, sat in a dead calm, while Pantkin watched the road vanishing behind us and faced the breeze. That morning I had offered to change seats with him. Gorlov had laughed; Pantkin had only stared at me. I was glad now that he had not accepted. I had had no feeling in my feet since sundown.

Another howl rose from the darkness. Pantkin glanced at me.

The horses lurched again and threw their hooves faster. This time Pyotr did not gather them back. The sleigh seemed to grow lighter; the runners sailed on the road. I said to Gorlov, "I don't know how much farther we must go to the next station, but -- "

"Twenty versts," Gorlov volunteered casually. Pantkin looked up into the treetops, as if he did not care.

I calculated the versts to be twelve miles. "I don't know your winter, or your wolves. But I know if he tries to run those horses the last twenty versts, he will kill them."

"They are Russian horses," Gorlov said. He did not uncover his mouth. He did not look at me.

When the master at the last station had shrugged and told us we could either stay or drive on with the horses we had used for eight hours already, because he had just turned out his last fresh pair, Gorlov had snatched him by the throat. The stationmaster had wept, and begged, and babbled something in Russian, repeating what I assumed to be the word for "early" -- we had driven hard since crossing the border. Gorlov had cast the man into a corner, shrugged, and gone outside to order Pyotr to trace the same horses back up. While I sat beside the fire, drinking hot beer, the stationmaster grinned, said something to Pantkin, and laughed uproariously. Pantkin had walked to me and said, "The stationmaster remarks that we may catch the other sleigh. We can pick up the horses then. He finds this very funny." Then Pantkin looked at me with the same expression that had been in his eyes ever since.

The horses ran on. I stomped my feet on the wooden floor of the sleigh and felt a comforting ache. I stomped three times, and a barking rose far off, as if in response. Pyotr gave the horses' backs the lash and let them out into full gallop.

A shrill moan came from somewhere -- the wood beside us, I thought; and then it seemed the cries were everywhere: before us, beneath us, over us. The whip whistled back above the sleigh, then cracked between the horses.

Gorlov sat up. He raised his head to the wind. I leaned forward with him, and when his face turned slowly toward me, I saw nothing of his black eyes except a glimmer -- not of snow, but of something hot.

Pyotr pulled back on the reins, and the sleigh stopped.

At first the noise danced -- cacophonous barks and growls from a legion of demons, as if someplace distant yet far too close to the earth had opened a fissure to hell. But as the breeze of our motion died, no longer twisting around us the sound of the passing plains, Gorlov and I stood, raising our heads into that troubled calm, and I said, "Not behind."

"No," Gorlov said. "Before."

A tallow lantern hung on either side of the driver's perch. Gorlov stepped up onto the seat beside Pantkin, unslung one of the lamps, and held it aloft.

"Pyotr. Yezdi."

Pyotr clucked, and the horses shambled forward. Gorlov steadied himself with his free hand, and the merchant slid into the middle of the seat as I stepped up into the corner opposite Gorlov and peered into the darkness of the road beyond. The gelding on the left jerked his snout into the shoulder of the bay mare, and she danced sideways. Pyotr tugged the left lead and urged them forward again. They went, slowly.

The mad voices grew louder, more numerous. Then they stopped. The horses halted. Gorlov raised the lantern higher and leaned forward into the night.

Circles of fire glowed ahead of us, a hundred pairs, all turned in our direction, all unblinking and still. Eyes.

A pistol boomed beside me, and the eye fires scattered, flowing across the drifts and through the ranks of fir trees. I turned and noted where beneath his cloak Gorlov replaced the pistol that I had not known he carried.

The report of the shot soaked into the hollow quiet, as if the whole dark world were an empty cathedral, and the black powder had shouted Death! -- for all around the trees and snow and the black clouds with the moonlit edges expelled the last breath of life, and held still.

"Yezdi," Gorlov whispered. The horses obeyed, feeling through the reins the wish in Pyotr's hands. Now we could hear the snow crush beneath each descent of hoof.

We came upon the rear of a sleigh; Pyotr, speaking in a reverent hush, guided the horses to the left and stopped when we were alongside the broken harnesses, where the other horses should have been standing. Pyotr lifted the lantern, the one on the right side, and I stepped out into the snow. Gorlov's boots banged across the floor behind me and crunched down at my side.

I cannot say I had any thought when seeing the clustered skeletons; in the way that I was speechless, I was thoughtless as well. The harness tracings grappled at the horses' bones and held them clustered, when no muscle or even gristle existed anymore to bind them into shape. The tongues of the sleigh led up to the box, and beyond that to the empty compartment. I knew there had been drivers, passengers, but somehow did not think of them; I realized, without reasoning, that some must have tried to run and had, like the horses, been pulled down. Others had been torn from the seats where they were clinging, stiffened already by cold and fear. Scraps clung everywhere -- clothes ripped and even chewed apart in frenzy. But most of all there was bloo...

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Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

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