As I labored to complete the final volume of Season Four, (Prime Meridian) the story suddenly took me on a journey that was far longer than the one I had planned. I was working on a segment involving the Duke of Elvington, and the mystery of the Keyholders. It was meant to simply give that plot line a little more ink, and carry his journey forward. In truth, he has been in the back of my mind for some time since first introduced way back in season one, and many readers have written to me asking what ever happened to him, and whether we would ever get to see what he was up to with his Footman Ian Thomas.
As I wrote this segment, it began to draw me into his secret little mission again, and I also included the Meridian Project Team, who have now discovered the Duke’s name appearing suspiciously in and around variations in the history that they have been monitoring. I meant to stop there, and then continue on with my rampage through WWII, but the Waterloo battle was so compelling that I just kept going. The sound of drum and fife, the hard tramp of marching soldiers, and the distant rumble of cannon drew me inexorably to the Duke’s journey, and his strange rivalry with Fortier. I could not resist marching to the sound of the guns.
I have always held to an important principle in my writing—when the story is there, alive in your mind and emerging from your imagination, by god, write it! So I did. But Prime
Meridian will be along very soon, and I will have it for you on Oct 1st. This battle was a place I have long wanted to go, and it dovetailed into several other aspects of the series as a whole: the physical time rifts created by the Tunguska Event, the mystery of the key found within the Selene Horse and then lost on HMS Rodney,
and the expedition now launched by Fairchild and company to try and get to a place in the history where that key might be recovered before it was lost. In effect, the story I present to you here in
this special edition is still an essential part of the Kirov Series.
Sir Roger is also in pursuit of that key, using the one he already had to try and find it in an earlier time
period--hence, his journey to the year 1815. But these novels are all about military history, and how could I set Ames and Thomas ashore at Ostend on the eve of Waterloo, and then tiptoe by the
thunder of the campaign that would begin a day later? I could not. The urge to go there became irresistible, and so in order to show you what Sir Roger Ames and his rival Fortier were doing, I had to
give you good look at the Waterloo Campaign they were tampering with, for that was where the deadly game between Sir Roger and his rival Jean Michel Fortier was being played out.
Lord Nelson made an appearance in the story, we learned that Fortier had been trying to bend the history towards a French victory at Trafalgar, one that would permit Bonaparte to carry out his plan
to invade England. That plan was foiled, and you will learn more about Ames’ part in accomplishing that here. Yet that little victory did not end Fortier’s ambitions, as this tale will
reveal. There are many key Nexus Points in the history where hidden Pushpoints lurk, just waiting to be found. Fortier thought he could find them at Waterloo, the campaign that seemed to be balanced
on a razor’s edge, the “nearest run thing” that Wellington himself said he ever saw.
I had to decide how to best develop and present this intriguing subplot. I could string
it along, dropping chapters into books throughout Season Five, but suddenly that story line just took hold, and before I knew it, I had written this long alternate history depiction Waterloo
campaign! The thought of slicing that all up and stuffing parts in to four or five books next season just seemed unappealing to me. The narrative had its own drama and gravity, and I just came to
think that it simply had to be concentrated in one volume.
So here it is, a special edition that has now slipped into the line of books in the series like someone sneaking into line at the
movie theater. I will make it the season finale here, one of the most climatic battles in all modern history. Prime Meridian will then become the Season Five Premier, but you will not have to wait two more months for it. Since it is already more than half finished as of this writing, it will be released Oct 1. That volume has a major twist of the rope in terms of Allied strategy, is it pulls the war in a very different direction. And without my obsession with Waterloo taking up so many of its chapters, I can now focus better on that twist, and all the plot lines involving Orlov, Fedorov and Karpov.
But it is Ames we follow most closely in this volume, and with him, we will inevitably be drawn into the dramatic events of mid-June, 1815, and the great battle of Waterloo. His tale is essential to the “Keyholder’s Saga,” and it is a road that must be taken in order to carry that mystery forward. That saga may end up seeing us visit other places in the history touched by the deep web of time rifts that have opened as a consequence of Tunguska, and also one that may reveal the other Keyholders who have thus far remained hidden.
With the decision made to concentrate Sir Roger’s adventure into one volume here, I thought it best to reprise the few chapters scattered about in earlier volumes, as far back as Devil’s Garden and Armageddon.
This would serve two goals: firstly, it would concentrate the whole story here, like an army that has all of its corps present for battle. Secondly, it would make this novel capable of standing alone
for any new reader interested in this history—in effect, “Keyholder’s saga, Volume I.” New readers would learn who the Duke of Elvington was, meet his Footman Thomas, and
learn how they actually got to the scene of these events without having to find and read chapters here and there in three or four other Kirov Series novels. Otherwise, they would be lost.
All in all, it just made sense to present the story this way, concentrating that subplot here instead of continuing to deliver it in small bites next season. So the opening six chapters will catch us all up, and then the rest of the book is all new material. Series readers may also find that I have seeded new “clues” in this opening material that they were not aware of when they first read it, so that helps as well.
To simulate what happens in these events, I created a massive war game map of Belgium, from Brussels to just south of Charleroi, and at 200 meters per hex. It was based on the excellent period map by Ferraris to be as accurate as possible, and I provide a link to that map so you can all use it to follow along and find the places mentioned in the narrative. As I do with all the alternate history battles in the series, this campaign was intensively researched and “gamed out” as I wrote the chapters presented here. It has long been a battle that has always been a personal obsession for me, I hope my enthusiasm for this campaign has inspired my prose.
Enjoy! - John Schettler