The Heroika anthology series is created by author and editor Janet Morris (known for her Heroes in Hell, Sacred Band of Stepsons, Kerrion Empire, and Silistra Quartet series). The first volume Heroika I: Dragon Eaters featured seventeen stories from across the globe, from ancient to modern times arranged chronologically. Black Gate reviewer Fletcher Vredenburgh reported:
Too many anthologies pick a tone and then it doesn’t vary from story to story. Heroika avoids that. Connected by the themes of heroism and dragon-fighting, it allows room for varying styles of mythic tales and heroic fantasy as well as all-out pulp craziness.
Heroika II: Skirmishers follows suit, this time with twelve heroic tales spanning ancient history to modern times, arranged chronologically again.
Most authors have a historical fiction bent, so Skirmishers really is 50% historical fiction and 50% fantasy. Brief forwards provide context to each story. This post offers a brochure-like tour guide of these battlegrounds.
The Official Blurb
HEROIKA: SKIRMISHERS Conflict is a constant. When force on force is inevitable only the intrepid need come forth. Summon the Skirmishers to their eternal purpose, to face a foe who must be opposed at all cost. Gird yourself and join the brotherhood of ‘do or die.’ Created by Janet Morris and edited by Alexandra Butcher, HEROIKA: SKIRMISHERS is an anthology of desperate struggles in far flung time-scapes, the age old smell of battle and death. SKIRMISHERS –Tales for the bold among you!
So what is a skirmisher?
Each author and their primary hero(ine) were interviewed on editor A.L. Butcher’s blog. Links are in the table, so peruse the contents to learn about each skirmish. So what is a skirmisher? From the interviews, we get these answers:
A skirmisher is typically a lightly armed soldier who relies on speed and maneuverability to be effective in battle, rather than heavy armor and weapons. While the goal of heavy infantry is to come to close battle with the enemy and slog it out, skirmishers try to out maneuver the enemy, hit and run, break up enemy formations, wear down the heavy soldiers and win in the long game. – Sean Poage
A Skirmisher, by definition, is one who goes forward, ahead of the lines, who seeks engagement alone with the enemy, that stands apart, ahead, to protect those that are behind them. They do this with steel on the battlefield, they do it with spirit on the battlefield of their soul. – Tom Barczak
Any soldier roaming ahead of the core army, usually shield-less. Includes heroic civilians caught behind enemy lines. – SE Lindberg
A Skirmisher is a fighter who engages in smaller battles where hit and run tactics can be used. They can serve as scouts to collect intelligence, and can also serve as a small, quick reaction force that can be used to harry the enemy and keep them unbalanced. A Skirmisher is a fast, smart, efficient fighter who knows how to hit the enemy hard before they can properly react. – Travis Ludvigson
TABLE of CONTENTS
CONTENTS and INTERVIEW LINKS
HERO(INE) and SKIRMISH
|HABIRU by Michael H. Hanson||~1175 BCE||Egypt, Mediterranean Shore||Battle with Egypt’s Ramses III and Amnon of the Habiru (ancient Hebrew) tribe against the Sea Peoples.|
|A HANDFUL OF SALT by Sean Poage||401 BCE||Anatolia (Turkey)||Experience the Anabasis (“The March of the Ten Thousand”) with Gocha, a Taochi warrior of the Zurab tribe of Eastern Anatolia confronting the stranded Greek army of Cyrus the Younger.|
|THE NAKED DAEMON by S.E. Lindberg||~400 CE||Egypt, Alexandrian Library||Witness the birth of alchemical warfare as the pacifist Appollonius of Tyanna guards knowledge from Bishop Theophilus and the Roman military.|
|SOULS OF A LION by Tom Barczak||73 CE …and… 1943 CE||Masada, Israel and Warsaw, Poland||Join Lavi assassinate Romans and Nazis alike, while wrestling with doing what-is-right.|
|NITHING by Travis Ludvigson||~990 CE||Greenland||Go Viking with Grimolf an outcast tracker who is not afraid to challenge the offspring of gods.|
|IN THE SEASON OF RUST by Charles Gramlich||~1100 CE||Northeast, North America||Join the Wild Hunt of classic myths with Sheaugu, a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) tracker, who could be predator or prey.|
|BLACK QUILL by Cas Peace||~1100 CE
|Wessex, Britain||Resist religion and ancient creatures with the heroine Gytha, a cripple seeking sanctuary in an abbey.|
|OLD GOLD by A.L. Butcher||~1500 CE
|Goldmead, Britain-analogue||Raid the tomb of a skirmisher god with Moira, an herbalist hunted by zealots of the god Arun.|
|A LION IN KAMERUN by Ken Kiser||1914 CE (WWI)||Cameroon, Africa||Hunt behind enemy lines for a dinosaur with Felix James Malory II, a tenured professor of Biology from the esteemed University of Cambridge.|
|THE PATROL by William Hiles||1914 CE (WWI)||Sky above Europe||Survive an intense air-dogfight with a WWI Royal Flying Corps patrolman ambushed by German pilots.|
|LA PORTE EN ARRIERE by Beth W. Patterson||~2010 CE||St. Landry Parish, Louisiana||Track a serial killer with “Pichou” an 11yr -old, free-wheeling girl who has a penchant for trouble.|
|DURENDAL by Bruce Durham||~2025 CE (or maybe next week!)||Spain, France||Wield swords with Grace Matthews, a peace-keeping soldier embroiled in an ageless conflict of madmen, jihadists, and duty-bound warriors.|
Skirmishers is completely stand-alone from Dragon Eaters, but there are echoes from the first volume. Will Hiles is back, but his “Patrol” has nothing do with his impressive “Red Rain” from Vol.1 that had a serpent rampaging the civil war; this round Ken Kiser has us encountering a different type of winged-beast in WWI Cameroon. Beth Patterson’s Pichou is back, she’s the adventurous teenager introduced to us in Vol 1.’s “La Bétaill”. “The Naken Daemon” is an indirect follow up to “Legacy of the Great Dragon” which revealed the creation of the mystical Emerald Tablet (the alchemical Philosopher’s Stone, this time used for chemical warfare). Also, Cas Peace, Travis Ludvigson, Tom Barczak, A.L. Butcher and Bruce Durham have returned with swords drawn. Then there are veteran writers new to the Heroika ranks: already mentioned is Ken Kiser; Michael H. Hanson from the Heroes in Hell group opens the collection; Sean Poage explores the raw, untold history of vanquished heroes, and Charles Gramlich enters with poetic, genre-bending horror.
Each author has their own style, from frenzied-pulpy-madness, to darkly humorous, to plain entertaining. Likewise, each time-period offers a different mythical aspect. As Fletcher indicated about the first volume, you can again expect wondrous stories, very varied in style but all focused on the theme. Heroika II: Skirmishers is available now in Kindle version, and paperback soon.
S.E. Lindberg resides near Cincinnati, Ohio working as a microscopist by day. Two decades of practicing chemistry, combined with a passion for the Sword & Sorcery genre, spurs him to write adventure fictionalizing the alchemical humors (under the banner Dyscrasia Fiction). With Perseid Press, he writes weird tales in the same vein (Heroika and Heroes in Hell series). He co-moderates the Sword & Sorcery group on Goodreads, and invites all to participate. He enjoys studying Aikido and creates all sorts of fine art in the family workshop. Touch base via Facebook or Twitter.