The Chalice War: Sword

The Chalice War: Sword

David B. Coe

August 2023 $17.95
ISBN: 978-1-61026-222-4

The Chalice War, Book 3

Our PriceUS$17.95
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A woman willing to brave the Underrealm.

A daring scheme intended to recover a lost treasure.

Carrie Pelsher is Fomhoire by blood. But driven by love, she has pledged herself to the Sidhe cause. Now, in a desperate ploy to end the ancient war for good, she will descend into the demon realm to recover a stolen relic—the Sword, one of the four magical chalices.

Brilk za Gorth is a humble Fachan demon who works for the Fomorian Ministry of Agriculture. Until immortals upend his quiet life. He's transformed into the most fearsome tyrant in the Fomhoire government and commanded to defy the Underrealm's God to help them steal the Sword.

Together, Carrie and Brilk are pawns in a game that spirals beyond their control. Everything depends on them surviving the plots swirling around them long enough to save two worlds on the brink of chaos.

After centuries of war, the quest for peace may cost them their lives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David B. Coe is the award-winning author of more than two dozen novels and as many short stories, spanning historical fiction, epic fantasy, contemporary fantasy, and the occasional media tie-in. His novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lives with his family in the mountains of Appalachia.

"An engaging, emotional read that carves out a space of its own in reinterpretations of Irish mythology. I look forward to more!"—CE Murphy, author of The Walker Papers

"A well-written, pulse-pounding thriller sure to please this author's fans and fans of urban fantasy. Recommend."—PenKay, Barnes and Noble reviewer

Chapter 1

BAELOR’S DISPLEASURE suffused the Underrealm as might a poi­sonous fog. It soured every drawn breath, settled like a noxious seas­oning on every bite of food, clotted every sip of onyx wine. None could escape it. And even the God’s most trusted servants could not improve the Great One’s spirits.

For Brilk, who was neither a member of Baelor’s inner circle, nor a power among Fomorian elite in his own right, the weight of the Great One’s wrath was another burden to be borne, a hardship to be endured. It had been such for some time now, fortnight upon fortnight. In­fo­rmation did not flow freely in the Underrealm, not unless the God willed it. But even Baelor Himself could not quash every rumor. And most among the Fomorian people, Brilk knew, believed the whispers claiming this latest surge of fury had been prompted by the failure of His minions to retrieve one of the Four Treasures from the Sidhe world. Again.

Among Brilk’s colleagues and underlings in the Ministry of Agriculture it was said—in hushed tones, always in hushed tones—that the Above had its weather, and the Underrealm had His moods. The one was no less a factor than the other in the lives of all within their re­spective realms. Brilk, though, in his years working for the government of the Below, had suffered through worse. The Great One was powerful beyond measure, wise beyond compare, shrewd beyond any contrivance the Sidhe might imagine. His every quality was extravagant in the extreme. Was it any wonder his temper should be a match for his talents and his moods should shape the very fabric of the Underrealm?

As it happened, Brilk had long since grown accustomed to navi­gating rough spells, be they of the God’s making or of more mundane origin. As Senior Deputy Minister In Charge of Irrigation Sectors, Dis­tribution of Permits, and Dispute Resolution—the youngest Fomorian in the history of the ministry to attain such a position—he excelled at crisis management. He was, he liked to think, the cooler head that prev­ailed in all circumstances. Nearly all. There was that unfortunate incident after the Aille Dearg Dam failure in 3614, but he was barely more than a boy then, new to his position. He would handle things differently now, obviously. The proof was in his performance. In the fourteen years since that occurrence, he had guided his division through more than a few potential catastrophes. He had earned his title and the perquisites that came with it.

History, as he would happily tell anyone who cared to listen, taught his people that the Fomorians were farmers before all else, even before they were warriors. During their earliest wars with the Sidhe, when both Fomorians and Tuatha Dé Danann still occupied the Above, the Fomorians controlled the land, and wielded famine and crop failure and pestilence as if they were great swords. Upon their relegation to the Underrealm, his people were compelled to transform a sunless, feature­less, landscape into an agricultural paradise. The Sidhe couldn’t have done it. None but the Fomorians could. According to Brilk’s father, Cichol guard his soul, many of their ancient ancestors played a role in that early miracle. Brilk’s work for the Ministry continued a long line of familial expertise in matters of the land. Some might dismiss his work as bureaucratic, but he took pride in all he did, and often asked those skep­tics where they thought the Fomorians might be today without the Ministry and all its accomplishments.

The truth was—and this he couldn’t say to anyone, not even in whispers, not even in the most intimate of settings—he feared what would become of him if the God realized His greatest ambition. What kind of life could a deputy minister who specialized in maintaining the Underrealm’s agricultural productivity expect to lead in the Above?

He’d never been there, of course. Few Fomorians had. He had heard others speak of it, however, and he gathered it was a virtual hell-scape of sunshine, fertile soil, abundant rain, and predictable seasons. Where was the challenge in farming such a place? What possible role could he play in building this new home for his people? Who really wanted to go there anyway?

On this final thought, Brilk glanced around and peered over his shoulder, half expecting to see the Great One directly behind him, the one huge eye boring into his skull, reading his every thought. He shud­dered and almost lost his footing on the riverbank.

He liked to visit the irrigation sectors whenever he could, and this morning, with the first glow of the day fires, he had come to unit 237 in the northwest, to inspect a new canal that had been built off a tributary to the Thúr Rí River. The local administrator, a Cuachag who was unusually solicitous for one of his kind, wished to accompany Brilk on his inspection. Brilk refused his offer. Administrators invariably tried to show only what they wanted him to see, thinking him too callow to recognize their efforts for what they were. He knew his way around an irrigation system; the last thing he needed was some obsequious toady distracting him from his job. The Cuachag, white hair tangled by the hot wind, sweat beading on his brow ridges, looked as forlorn as a hungry Sluagh when Brilk put him off and walked away.

He had grown fond of this area. Someday, when he no longer wished to work, he might settle here. The caverns were particularly deep, the spéir charraig—the rock sky—was as high as he had seen anywhere, and the blue gleam of the cliffs was unique among all the farming landscapes he had found in decades of travel. A fine place indeed.

Or it would be until it was abandoned.

Brilk’s mood curdled on the thought. He peered around again, making certain he was alone, and halted beside the sluggish dark waters of the river.

He hated the Tuatha Dé Danann. Of course he did. He wasn’t much of a warrior, despite being Fachan. But were he to encounter a Sidhe, he would gladly kill the creature and dance a jig on its entrails. Like any black-blooded Fomorian, he wanted to see the Sidhe wiped from the earth. Thousands of years ago, his people were defeated, robbed of their rightful homeland, relegated to this prison of stone. Yes, they had turned it into a paradise—a testament to Fomorian strength, intelligence, resilience, and determination. But for all their awesome achievements, they remained a people in exile. Naturally, Brilk shared the God’s desire to avenge the loss of the Above. Who wouldn’t? He understood the Great One’s single-minded pursuit—dare he say, obsession—with des­troying every living Sidhe and punishing the Milesians for allying them­selves with the Fomorians’ enemy. How could he not?

But regardless of how they’d come to be here in the Below, this was their world now. Did revenge require that he and his fellow Fomorians leave their homes, their careers, their dreams of marriage, family, and, eventually, a quiet retirement? Did it mean they had to give up their canyon whisky and their gardens? He surveyed the river valley, the cliffs towering over him. Why would he—why would anyone—wish to leave such a place? Why, after toiling for thousands of years to transform the Underrealm into their new homeland, would the Fomorians be so eager to move their society to the Above? It made no sense to him.


He wheeled, frowned to see the administrator had come after all. The Cuachag rode a boar—the only mode of transit, other than foot travel, suitable for the irrigation regions. He steered to where Brilk waited, his animal, a handsome gray, kicking up pebbles and mud. The administrator dismounted and sketched a bow.

"I thought I made myself clear, Administrator. I wish to conduct my inspection—”

"Yes, Minister, I know. And please forgive me for intruding, but this is . . . .” He cringed, more sweat dripping from his ridges. "This is an emergency.”

"What sort of emergency?”

"One of the irrigation pumps has stopped working. We don’t know why. And now, as we were trying to maintain water levels in sectors downstream from the broken pump, one of our gates has jammed. We can’t close it, and we can’t open it further. It’s just stuck.”

"I see.” Brilk drew himself up to his full height. "Then this is a most fortunate day for you, Administrator.”

The Cuachag couldn’t have looked more perplexed. "It— It is?”

"I have been underwhelmed by what I have seen today. Don’t mis­understand. This is a lovely region, but your irrigation system is . . . dis­ap­pointing, to say the least. Your equipment has been neglected, your gauges appear to be, let us say, less than accurate, your canals are silted to the point where their flow has been diminished—”
"Our water comes from the Northern Caves. Of course it’s silted.”

"I don’t care if the water is silted, Administrator. But the canals should be kept clear. Or did you expect them to de-silt themselves?”

The administrator dropped his gaze.

"I would imagine the jamming of the gate and the malfunction in your pump can both be traced to silting. Wouldn’t you agree?”

"I don’t know.”

Brilk thinned a smile. "No, of course not. But as I was saying, you are fortunate because I am here with you today. Crises of this sort occur without warning, with potentially crippling consequences. That it hap­pened now, while I am present, is fortuitous beyond measure.” He clappedthe Cuachag on the back. "We’ll have you up and running again in no time.”

"Thank you, Minister,” the Administrator said, the words wrung from him.

"Which pump has failed?”

"Pump Eada, in Sector 4.”

Brilk hadn’t yet visited that sector, but he knew where it was. "Very well. I will take your boar. You will join me there as quickly as you can. I assume a crew is already on the scene.”

"Well . . . yes, but . . . that’s a walk of two leagues.”

"Indeed it is.” He narrowed his eye. "You sought me out, Admini­strator. Surely you don’t expect me to walk that distance.”

The Cuachag stared at the ground again. "Of course not, Minister. But she’s a fine boar. She could carry both of us.”

"Not at speed. And we haven’t time to waste.” He strode to the boar and swung himself onto its back. To Brilk’s surprise, the administrator had an Oilliphéist-skin saddle. Given their cost, he didn’t know whether to be impressed or suspicious. "I will be expecting you in Sector 4, Administrator. Don’t dawdle.”

He didn’t wait for a reply. Wheeling the boar, he trotted back the way he had come and cut northward at the first opportunity.

By the time he reached the pump house, repairs were well under way. Whatever the administrator’s shortcomings, he had dispatched his crews with, well, dispatch. Brilk laughed at his own wordplay.

After checking that repairs of the pump were headed in the right direction, he continued on to the damaged gate. Here matters were a good deal less satisfactory. Two workers, Urisks both, stood thigh deep in mucky water, trying to clear the canal floor with shovels. Like so many of their kind, they appeared fit but far from sharp-witted.

"Shovels won’t get the job done,” Brilk called to them, reining the boar to a halt along the canal road. "One of you will need to go under and clear the silt by hand. Once you can close the gate, and all this water has a chance to drain away, then you can shovel.”

The Urisks eyed him, shared a glance, and regarded him again.

"Who in Cichol’s name are you, boy?” one of them asked.

"Someone who knows how to fix a jammed irrigation gate.” When they didn’t respond to this, he said, "I happen to be Senior Deputy Minister In Charge of Irrigation Sectors, Distribution of Permits, and Dispute Resolution.”

"Wonder if he needs a nap after saying all that,” the first Urisk muttered.

His co-worker smirked.

"I need neither a nap, nor the satisfaction of withholding your purchase credits for the next two months. But I would be happy to have both if that’s what it takes to get you to do as I say.”

Their demeanor changed with satisfying swiftness.

"Yes, Minister.”

"Right away, Minister.”

Brilk dismounted and over the next two hours watched while the two workers followed his instructions to the letter. Before long, they had the gate closed. Once the water receded, they were able to assess the extent of the siltation. Seeing how bad it was, Brilk wondered how the sector had avoided this sort of emergency for so long.

The administrator arrived while the Urisks were shoveling. Perspir­a­tion glazed his pallid face, and he approached with leaden steps. He peered into the canal and winced at what he saw.

"Silt, Administrator,” Brilk said. "As I suspected.”

"Yes, sir.”

"Is the pump working again?”

"Soon. It’s clear now. It just needs priming.”

"Very well.” He fixed the Cuachag with his flintiest expression. "This once, I will refrain from filing an incident report. But next week, I intend to return for another inspection. If conditions have not im­proved, I will have no choice but to put your entire sector on conditional notice and place an admonition in your personal file. Understood?”

What little color was left in his cheeks sluiced away. "Yes, Minister. Thank you, Minister.”

"I’m leaving now. You will remain on duty until the sector is back online.”

The administrator lifted his chin, a hint of pride sparking in his eyes. "That had been my intention.”

"Good.” Brilk patted the boar’s shoulder. "She’s a good beast. But how did you ever afford that saddle on your salary?”

The Cuachag was still stammering as Brilk walked away, chuckling to himself.

BRILK’S HOME STOOD on a headland overlooking the river. It wasn’t a large structure, but it was more than he needed. As the day fires began their long dimming, he paused on the walkway to his front door, savor­ing the view, the colors in his garden, the flutter of bats around his chim­ney. He liked having so much space. Another reason to dread the im­pending takeover of the Sidhe world. With the diminution of his influence would come a reduction in his pay. How could he hope to find such a fine home in the Above?

He had skills, talents; he had authority and he knew how to wield it, as he had proven again today. All of this would be worthless in the Above. There was talk of leaving some behind, of maintaining the Fomorian realm even after the Sidhe were defeated and the God had his vengeance, but that was no more enticing than life Above. He didn’t wish to be relegated to a lesser world. Why couldn’t everything simply stay as it was? Why did Baelor have to pursue this foolish fixation with the Sidhe world?

Brilk gave a small gasp and turned a complete circle, abruptly uncer­tain as to whether he had merely thought that last or spoken it aloud. He saw no one nearby, though his neighbor, Mrs. Clatch slanted a glance his way as she watered her dahlias. He smiled weakly, raised a hand in greeting, and hurried into the house.

Once inside, he breathed easier. He also double-bolted his door. After depositing his briefcase in his office, he poured himself a generous glass of whisky and retreated to his den, where he could enjoy the view and not think about what Mrs. Clatch might have heard.

He sat, put his feet up, closed his eyes. This had been a good day. Not the day he anticipated, but the best days never were. He had faced a challenge and prevailed, as was his wont. Whatever the future might hold—for the Great One, for the Fomorian people, for Brilk—he would face it with a firm belief in his own abilities and intellect. For now, that would have to be enough.

He sipped his whisky, tried to get comfortable in his chair.

A noise from the front of the house made Brilk open his eyes, sit up, listen.

He heard it again. A footstep. Perhaps several. He set his glass on the table beside him and stood, trying to keep silent. His heart hammered, which was ridiculous. He was a Fachan. His kind were fearsome in battle. He recalled the tales his father told of his great-uncle Uvar, whose heroism during the Sluagh Uprising of 3457 saved countless lives. Brilk would face down this intruder, whoever it might be. Woe to those who dared to enter his home without his leave.

Or he could remain where he was, make not a sound, and hope the intruder kept to the other half of the house. Most of the good stuff was there anyway.

What if they didn’t come to steal? What if it’s a minion of Baelor, here to mete out punishment for traitorous thoughts?

Many Fomorians, he knew, displayed on their walls ancient swords and pikes and axes, mementos from the great wars fought by their forebears. Brilk had always preferred art. Right now, this struck him as a particularly poor choice.

"Hello?” A voice from the common room. A female voice. "Anyone at home?”

How threatening could a female be?

Quite, actually. He’d once seen a Fideal rip the arms off an Urisk to win a battle tournament.

He thought he heard a second voice, also female.

"I’m sure he’s here.”

"Maybe he’s hiding from us.”

"Maybe he’s seen you dance. That would scare anyone.”

Curiosity got the better of him. If the arrival of these females presaged his doom, so be it. He would not hide.

"I’m here,” he said, raising his voice so it carried through the house. "Come in and do your worst, if that’s your intent.”

More footsteps, now growing near. A moment later, three of them entered his den.

"Honey,” said the middle one, "if we wanted to do our worst, we wouldn’t need your permission.”

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