Malice and Stout have a problem. Retired heroes of the MERC, they have enjoyed all the benefits that implies. Unfortunately, their son, Hari, decided to follow their lead and enrolled in the MERC Officer Candidate Program without their knowledge. Worse, Hari’s planning to attempt the Trial. Upon learning of her son’s folly, Malice demands that Stout take action. What’s an old soldier to do?

A New Military Fantasy Drama

Author Mike Eschbach brings a fresh perspective to military fantasy with a series of stories under the title Tales of the MERC. Part One is called the Trial. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, it is a coming of age story for a young cadet fresh out of Officer Training.

Despite being the youngest member of his class, Stout excelled in every facet of officer training given by the Military Expeditionary and Reconnaissance Corps (MERC). Upon graduation, he departs New Apros with friend and classmate Hound. Their journey takes them north across the continent of Flam’bhoreal, a slow trek that ends at Northern Command Base-Camp.

Upon arrival, they are given a choice: take immediate command of a platoon or face the perils of the mystical Trial upon the Isle of Cal Dakar. A challenge, the Trial offers each candidate an opportunity. Should they pass, their rune carved blades will quicken, offering a symbiotic relationship that binds blade and soldier together.

Should they fail, they die.

Well written in a unique voice, this coming of age story tells the tale of a young man who journeys toward fate and learns the measure of his mettle. It is an excellent tale and I highly recommend it.

Brenda Gable - Author of the "New Camelot" series of books

Dam’ good start to something awesome. The storyline and milieu are interesting without being cliche’. I am very interested to see how Malice and Stout – and Hari – develop!

Tab Rasa

Engaging plot and intriguing character development, all packed into a 20k story with a flowing, stylistic prose. Stout’s adventure has only just begun, and I imagine this is a well-developed world we’ve only just caught a glimpse of as readers. Can’t wait to see other installments in this interesting fantasy universe Eschbach has created. This is an author to watch, folks.


Very interesting first installment. Looking forward to the next book. This author has a lot of talent and very well developed vocabulary!


Tales of the Merc

Part Two: A Deadly Introduction

(Coming April 7th, 2019)

As a former enlisted soldier, Malice thrived in the treacherous northern slopes of the Lochlan Heights. Fearless and independent, she earned five battle ribbons over nineteen treks and has the scars to prove it.  

Her dream had always been to command a combat platoon. Now, nine months after her commissioning, she found herself stuck in the mundane role of training officer for new enlisted recruits. It was boring, thankless work, trekking through the lower Heights, at least until one cold winter morning when she took the newest set of recruits on their first trek.

Wakened in the pre-dawn stillness by her intuition, she struggled to guess what portents lay ahead. As the squad set out she grew certain that some momentous doom awaited. Upon reaching their destination, she found it to be the least likely doom of all.

About Author

Mike Eschbach

Mike Eschbach - Tales of the Merc AuthorI would describe myself as unassuming. I’m the 4th of 5 kids, a Penn State grad, a U.S. Navy vet and an entrepreneur. I’ve been married since 2002 and just recently I turned fifty years old.

I’ve been writing fiction informally since I was ten years old. I’ve outlined and written down ideas for stories in several different genres. It is only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve tried to take a stab at actually writing in effort to get published.

I’ve written in a number of different fictional styles including retrospectives, faith-based stories and humor. Right now my efforts are focused on world building in a military fantasy setting.

Special Thanks to the Graphic Artists for

Tales of the Merc

Graphic Artist Jessica Dueck has provided the vision of the author into living color. You can find more of her work at Stars Cold Night.

Tom Ruple created the maps for the stories. You can find out more about Tom’s work on his website.