Out of the Storm, Into the Wild

The Malcontents are back in action!

Into the Wild, the new novel by acclaimed author Larry Correia, will be available in February from Skull Island eXpeditions, picking up the story begun in Correia’s previous entry in the series, Into the Storm.

Now under the leadership of the reluctant Lieutenant Kelvan Cleasby, the Sixth Platoon of Storm Knights has been ordered to accompany an archeological expedition from the Royal Cygnaran University deep into the Wyrmwall Mountains to investigate an ancient site of potentially great historical value. But what seems a simple enough assignment will rapidly turn into a test of the platoon’s survival skills—an abandoned fort, the lone survivor of a horrifying attack, and a ferociously territorial tribe may be more than even the Malcontents can handle.

*Work in progress, final product may change


In this exclusive excerpt, Lt. Cleasby reports to Baron Conrad Wynn, the professor who the Malcontents have been assigned to protect when they venture into the wild. The real challenge for Cleasby and his Storm Knights, however, might be to resist killing the professor before they even get out of the city…

“Lieutenant Kelvan Cleasby, reporting as ordered,” the young soldier declared as he presented himself before Lord Professor Conrad Wynn.

The nobleman sat behind an old, cluttered desk that took up one corner of the old, cluttered office. From what Cleasby had seen so far, everything inside the Royal Cygnaran University seemed to fit that same description—old and cluttered—including the people. Despite that, Cleasby was excited. He loved this sort of thing. The smell of ink and paper—it smelled like knowledge.

The professor ignored Cleasby and kept writing. His ornate scholar’s robes were stained with wine spots and food bits. The professor was totally bald on top, and what hair remained on the sides of his head was trying to make up for it by being puffy and unkempt. His beard was grey, long, and sprinkled with crumbs.

Cleasby loudly cleared his throat. Perhaps the professor was deaf? Then he held out his new orders and waved them back and forth a bit, hoping to catch the other man’s attention. “I was told that you requested my presence. I’m the commanding officer of the 6th platoon, 47th Storm Knights.”

The professor didn’t bother to look up from his paperwork. He just kept scribbling rapid notes as he asked, “The 6th, was it? That’s the bunch known as Madigan’s Malcontents?”

“That’s correct, my lord.”

“Uh huh.” Scribble, scribble, scribble.

Cleasby stood there awkwardly as Baron Conrad Wynn, head of the archeology department of the Royal Cygnaran University, simply kept writing. Part of him had been hoping the professor would recognize his name from the application letters Cleasby had recently sent to the faculty, but since he didn’t, Cleasby decided to keep this professional rather than personal. Cleasby’s term of enlistment wasn’t up for a few more months, after which he’d be able to return to his scholarly career, but until then the army owned him.

The professor was a very important man in the capital city. The Wynns were an influential, wealthy, well-connected family. This Wynn in particular had been blessed with a brilliant scholarly mind, sufficient to become one of the most respected senior academics at Cygnar’s greatest university. Cleasby had been warned that the baron could be a bit eccentric, but Cleasby—an educated man himself—knew you had to grant allowances to truly brilliant minds when it came to matters of social niceties. His own lack of a filter between his mouth and his brain had gotten him into trouble a few times, so he tried to be forgiving.

“Would you like to see my orders?” Cleasby stuck them out a little farther in the hopes they’d be noticed and accepted. Baron Wynn reached out without looking, but rather than take the paperwork, he took hold of a half-empty bottle of wine instead. He pulled the cork with his teeth, spit it out, and with a horrible slurping noise drank straight from the bottle. As the professor didn’t seem interested in looking at his orders, Cleasby returned them to the pocket of his blue uniform coat for safekeeping before continuing. “I was informed that one of my squads is to provide a military escort for one of your archeological expeditions.”

“And I was informed that Madigan’s Malcontents are the ones who saved Caspia from being blown up by a traitorous madman.”

It was nice to know that the professor was actually paying some attention, but the Cygnaran Reconnaissance Service had declared any information related to Culpin’s plot to destroy Caspia a state secret. “I’m afraid I don’t recall the event you speak of, your lordship.”

“The CRS is slipping. It was in the broadsheets.” Baron Wynn put the wine bottle back in position where it strategically served as a paperweight before wiping his lips with the ornately embroidered sleeve of his robe. “You destroyed a city landmark.”

“The Protectorate explosives did that,” Cleasby corrected him and then immediately regretted it. “Technically, we only set it on fire.”

“Technically? There’s a giant blasted hole down by the docks. They’ve still not filled it in. Did General Rebald really think no one would notice?” Wynn looked up for the first time, as if waiting for confirmation about the kingdom’s intelligence apparatus, but when Cleasby just stood there, noncommittal, the professor went back to his notes.

Cleasby glanced around the office. Baron Wynn was a respected historian, so as expected, his walls were covered in tacked-up maps of Immoren with boundaries both modern and ancient. There were rows of shelves filled with books and artifacts, and between the shelves were stacks of wooden boxes overflowing with assorted trinkets. It was really more of a haphazard storage area than a proper scholar’s office, but as a student of historical literature, Cleasby would have loved the time to browse in it. Sadly, before he could wander around to look at the interesting things, the professor suddenly started paying attention to his presence.

“My university works closely with the Strategic Academy, and in exchange, the army is happy to loan us troops when we need them.” Wynn finished scribbling a note and then paused to study the young lieutenant for a moment.

This wasn’t a superior officer, so he wasn’t required to stand at attention, yet Cleasby still made sure to use good posture. It always helped to make a good first impression. His dress blues were perfectly clean and pressed. Of course, his uniform was tidy because it had spent most of the last year packed in a trunk. His day-to-day outfit tended to be more practical, not to mention bullet resistant. Cleasby knew that in his dress uniform he didn’t look like much—just a thin, bookish type who appeared to be even younger than he actually was. Since he didn’t fit the dashing image of the modern Cygnaran soldier, most people mistook him for a clerk rather than heavy infantry.

Wynn scowled, then went back to his writing. “You don’t strike me as a war hero.”

“I never claimed to be one.”

Since he wanted to make a good impression on such an important person—and was hoping to get a junior faculty position at this university shortly—he’d even worn his Distinguished Service to the Crown medal. The army didn’t just hand those things out for nothing. Yet from the mixture of boredom and apathy on Baron Wynn’s face, apparently Cleasby’s attempt had failed.

“Regardless, my expedition requires you to provide for our safety. Some of the best minds in Cygnar will need protecting.”

“It is an honor,” Cleasby lied. The 6th had just been granted some much-needed leave after a season of strenuous campaigning, and he would have much rather gone on vacation. Luckily, most of his platoon would be able to stay in Caspia, and he could staff this temporary additional duty with a handful of volunteers. It wasn’t as good as leave, but it beat being sent back to the front. “My superiors have authorized the release of one squad to assist the university.”

“A squad… That’s, what, ten?”

“Give or take.” In truth, he wanted to inconvenience as few of his hardworking soldiers as possible so the rest could spend some time with their families. The final number of soldiers would be whatever minimum Cleasby thought he could get away with.

“I suppose that will do, provided the rest cut a more intimidating figure than you do.” Wynn himself was pudgy, and he scratched one armpit absently as he mulled it over. “Should we be beset by bandits or wild beasts, I expect your soldiers to throw their bodies in front of any dangers we encounter. My archeologists are rare and valuable, but the kingdom has an overabundance of common soldiers.”

Eccentric was one thing, but rude was another.

“Storm Knights are not common.”

“Are you correcting me, boy?”

Cleasby almost blurted out the first thought that came to mind, which included the phrase ignorant civilians, but no matter how insulting he might be, Wynn was not only a potential future employer and member of the nobility but a regular correspondent with the king. Cleasby forced himself to take a deep breath before continuing. “No, my lord. May I ask the nature of this expedition?”

“A find of potentially vital importance has been made in the hinterlands. Some gold miners found something fantastic.” He picked up a charcoal rubbing from the disorganized mess on his desk. “These are from the site and are of rare ancient languages far beyond the understanding of that Rathleagh fellow.”

“Earl Rathleagh of Rimmocksdale?”

“No, his dim-witted uncle, Casner of Ironhead. But it doesn’t matter. He is of no importance.”

The professor picked up a huge book that, when he opened it, raised a cloud of dust. He began flipping pages as he searched for something, ignoring Cleasby once again. The young officer felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Baron Wynn seemed to be a terrible person to have to take orders from. This assignment wasn’t shaping up well at all.

“If you’ll pardon my interruption, your Lordship, my orders stated you’ll be traveling deep into the Wyrmwall Mountains. My squad is made up of heavy infantry armed with galvanic weaponry.”

“Huh?”

“We’re Storm Knights. Our weapons shoot lightning.”

“I know what ‘galvanic’ means. I’m a professor!” he shouted, indignant.

“Of course, but perhaps heavily armored men throwing lightning bolts aren’t the best fit for your mission parameters in the wilds.” Every soldier thought his branch of the service was the finest, but at this point Cleasby was just hoping to get out of the assignment. “Maybe a squad of rangers or long gunners would be better suited to your needs.”

“No. They don’t have you as an officer. Your name was suggested.”

Maybe I should have waited until after my discharge to fill out that employment application. “By whom?”

The professor waved his hand dismissively. “One of my assistants. The taller one, I think. He said you used to be quite the student before you enlisted. The way he spoke so highly of you suggests you’re not as stupid as most men who have no better prospects than joining the army. I’m sure the majority of your soldiers will be dullards, but this way at least one of you will be literate, and I could always use an extra secretary.”

Cleasby tried to keep his expression neutral. Insulting his troops was like insulting his mother. “On the contrary, I’ll have you know—”

“Ah ha!” The professor found what he was looking for in the book and copied something over to his list. “A rutting gorax disturbed my last dig site, but it says here that burrow-mawg urine acts as gorax repellent. Go get some.”

“Burrow-mawgs?” They were vicious, burrowing predators. Cleasby had never even seen one himself, but Corporal Pangborn had told him stories about unsuspecting farmers losing limbs by accidentally disturbing the nasty things while they were nesting in irrigation ditches.

“Not the whole animals. I just need their urine. And it’ll need to be fresh, so you’ll have to collect it directly from their bladders. Two gallons should do.”

“That sounds like a lot.”

Then he shoved the piece of paper toward Cleasby. “Here.”

Cleasby took the note and studied it, perplexed; the professor had terrible handwriting. “This appears to be a shopping list.”

“Vital provisions you’ll need to procure for the comfort and wellbeing of my people. Now be gone. Our train leaves at dawn, and your men will need to carry my luggage. I will not be delayed by slothful soldiers too hung over to wake up on time. Scientific discovery does not wait for the lazy.”

Back when he was a staff officer, Cleasby would have simply done as he was told and gone shopping, but then he’d wound up in the 6th, where an officer who had not played well with others had mentored him. A bit of Sir Madigan had rubbed off on him, and Cleasby had had about enough of this nonsense.

“I’m not your errand boy.”

“What?” Wynn exclaimed.

“Allow me to clarify a few things for you, professor. My men are not dullards nor are they servants. They are soldiers of Cygnar, and the only reason you still have this fine university is because we wouldn’t let the Protectorate burn it down. My platoon has been on continual combat deployment since the invasion ended, and while most of them are getting some well-deserved rest, one of my squads has been tasked with babysitting some academics. Your academics. We’re to keep you from being murdered on your little camping trip, but beyond that?” Cleasby tossed the shopping list back on Wynn’s desk. “You will receive from us only as much respect as you deign to give. If that is unacceptable, you will just have to tell my superiors you found the Malcontents unsuitable and request some other unit to protect you.”

Wynn stared at his list in dismay. “But who will fetch my buckets of burrow-mawg urine?”

Into the Wild will be available through your local game store and at Amazon.com in February 2016.

E-book available through Skull Island eXpeditions, the Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble.com, iBooks, and DriveThruRPG!