Dies the Fire is an alternate history, post-apocalyptic novel by S. M. Stirling and the first installment of the Emberverse series. The series is a spin-off from Stirling's Nantucket series. The first novel chronicles the struggle of three major groups and a number of minor ones to survive "The Change", a sudden worldwide event that alters physical laws so that electricity, gunpowder and most other forms of high-energy-density technology no longer work. As a result, modern civilization comes crashing down.
- Main article: Change
Mike Havel flies the Larsson family from Boise, Idaho toward their country home in Montana. While the plane is in flight over the Bitterroot Valley, the Change occurs. Everyone sees a blinding flash of light and feels an intense pain; the plane's engines die. Mike manages a controlled crash of the airplane in a creek.
Juniper Mackenzie is singing for customers at the Hopping Toad Tavern in Corvallis, Oregon when the Change occurs. She and Dennis Martin, who manages the tavern, turn it into an emergency first aid station. When threatened by gang members, Juniper uses an axe handle to kill one man armed with a tire iron. Dennis swings an axe at and wounds another carrying a baseball bat. That man retreats and his smaller friend introduces himself as Eddie Liu and promises revenge. Dennis tries to fire a pistol; Juniper and her party realize that firearms no longer work.
Ken Larsson is knocked unconscious and Mary Larsson is badly injured in the crash. Mike dives onto the wreck of the plane to recover emergency rations and his survival kit. The group gets fires started and digs in for the night. The next morning, they take stock of their situation. They find that everything electrical has failed and their only rifle no longer works. Mike learns that Astrid is skilled with a bow and is a fan of J. R. R. Tolkien; Mike makes her the hunter of the group.
Juniper, Dennis and Eilir gather supplies and head to her cabin by way of Luther Finney's farm to retrieve her horses and wagon. They travel by bicycles and take medieval weapons made by John Martins. Meanwhile, Juniper's handfasted mate Rudy Stern is killed in an airplane that crashes when the Change occurs. Chuck Barstow and Andy Trethar, who see the crash, are returning to Eugene, Oregon when they realize something they need is at a nearby museum. They stop and secure two big Conestoga wagons with horses to pull them and proceed to the restaurant Andy and his wife own. It is the meeting place for the Singing Moon Coven, which includes Juniper as its high priestess. Chuck finds his wife Judy and others already there for a Wiccan rite. Some members have failed to show. They decide to go to Juniper's Cabin.
Emiliano Gutierrez makes his way to the Portland Central Library, where he sees that the mayor and chief of police of Portland have been hanged from hooks. Entering the building, he is welcomed by Norman Arminger as "Lord Emiliano." Emiliano and other gang leaders watch Arminger kill four men in a fight using only his sword. Arminger tells the group that power will rest with those who can organize. Emiliano agrees.
Mike Havel and the Larssons make their way to a ranger cabin. Enroute, they survive by eating rabbits. Just before they arrive, Astrid luckily kills an elk. At the cabin, they find clean clothes, food, and warmth. Mike and Eric leave Ken Larsson and the Larsson women at the cabin and hike south to seek help. Enroute, they come to understand each other.
Juniper Mackenzie, Eilir and Dennis Martin arrive at the farm owned by Luther Finney and his wife. After they and the Finneys discuss the long-term prospects of the Change, Juniper offers the couple an opportunity to accompany her party to her cabin. The Finneys decline and the trio start out for the cabin in Juniper's wagon. On the way, refugees gang up on them for food. Eilir is forced to shoot Sally Quinn with her crossbow; the wounded woman's companions flee, but Juniper and Dennis take pity on her and her young son, allowing them to join the group.
Mike and Eric hike out to the highway, only to discover the widespread effect of the Change. They encounter a trio of white supremacists who have enslaved a black man, Will Hutton, his wife Angelica and his daughter Luanne. Mike and Eric rescue the women, but Will heads into the forest with the supremacists in pursuit. Mike and Eric prepare to follow them.
Chuck Barstow and his group in the Conestogas stop at a garden supply store and buy everything they can. Juniper and her party come to the Fairfax farm, where the owners have died and willed possession of the stock and supplies to whoever finds them. En route to Juniper's Cabin, Chuck and his party rescue a dozen school children abandoned on a school bus. As Juniper nears her cabin, she she that Chuck and his group have arrived. After exchanging greetings and information, the combined group settles in. Juniper says, "...it's a clan we'll have to be..."
Mike and Eric pursue the white supremacists back to the ranger cabin. By the time they catch up, the supremacists have murdered Mary, and are attempting to rape Signe and Astrid. All three supremacists are killed by Mike, Eric, and Astrid. Both young women are in shock; Astrid worse. The survivors head back to the highway and rejoin the female Huttons. The entire group accepts Mike as their leader and decides to head for Larsdalen, the Larsson family estate in the western Willamette Valley in Oregon.
Mike, the Larssons and the Huttons organize and Mike begins instruction in combat. They are interrupted when Astrid shoots a black bear with her bow, which provokes it into attacking.
Juniper Mackenzie's group starts to farm the land. To supplement the food reserves, Juniper and Dennis go hunting and stumble upon Sam Aylward, a former member of the elite British Special Air Service and a superb archer and bowyer as well. He had been injured after falling into a steep ravine and had become trapped. They return to the cabin.
The bear seriously wounds Mike before he and the others kill it. The event gives the group its name: the Bearkillers. The Bearkillers pause while Mike heals and Will Hutton begins making weapons. Mike tells Will he wants to make a stop to see if they can recruit more people because they may have to fight for what they want. The new recruits include Pamela Arnstein, a veterinarian from San Diego.
The Bearkillers are hired by a group near a Nez Perce reservation to investigate disappearances, and find and wipe out a nest of cannibals; in accomplishing their mission, they rescue a medical doctor who joins the group. Mike and Signe become attracted to each other, though she keeps him at arms length, still horrified by the memory of her near-rape.
Eddie Liu and his friend Mack find their way to Portland, looking for food. They are intercepted by people recruiting for labor gangs for the Portland Protective Association. Eddie sees Norman Arminger, whom he learns is the Protector, and says he wants to be a fighting man. Arminger says he can try for a position.
Mike Havel takes a reconnaissance party to explore the territory between the Bearkiller camp in Idaho and Larsdalen. The Mackenzies and the people of Sutterdown face down a group that allegedly represents the governor of Oregon and is demanding supplies. Sam Aylward shoots one of the interlopers with his longbow. Juniper understands that her people need to be able to defend themselves and authorizes weapons training. The [[Mackenzies plan the layout of a walled community centered on Juniper's Cabin. Juniper tells her group that it is time to conduct their own reconnaissance of the Willamette Valley, including Corvallis.
Mike's party meets with Norman Arminger, a former professor of medieval history, member of the Society for Creative Anachronism and leader of the Portland Protective Association. Arminger is reinstating feudalism, recruiting gang leaders and former SCA members and driving those he does not want or need out of the city. Arminger offers the Bearkillers positions as Protectorate nobles, but Mike asks for time, and proceeds to the Willamette Valley. Back at the Bearkiller camp, Ken Larsson and Pam Arnstein become intimate. Meanwhile, in the Willamette Valley, Juniper takes a few companions on a scouting expedition.
Juniper Mackenzie and friends from Clan Mackenzie are attacked by cannibals. While they are trying to repel the attack, Mike Havel's party arrives and provides assistance. Together, the two groups defeat the cannibals. When the clean out the nest, Juniper finds Carmen, Muriel and Jack, the missing members of her coven, who were being held prisoner before being eaten.
Mike Havel and his party decide to pause and spend some time with Juniper Mackenzie and hers. Mike and Juniper are attracted to each other and have sex. The groups part and the Bearkillers ride on to the Larsson farm where they are challenged.
Mike Havel meets with Robert Woburn and Mother Superior Gertrude to plan the re-taking of St. Hilda's Monastery. Following the lopsided battle against the Portland Protective Association troops by the combined forces of Clan Mackenzie and Sutterdown, the Mackenzies find themselves faced with an application for admittance to the clan by virtually everyone who lives in or near Sutterdown.
Mike Havel and the Bearkillers mount an operation to destroy a Devil Dog patrol with ultimate goal of taking St. Hilda's Monastery back from he bikers. The Bearkillers and Robert Woburn's militia win that battle. However, The bikers infiltrate the Bearkiller camp with the assistance of the treasonous Bearkiller. Mike detects the infiltration and responds with a tired force. During the battle in Craigswood and the camp, Ken Larsson, who has just learned that steam engines do not work, loses an eye and a hand.
In late September 1998, Clan Mackenzie entertains officials from other nations. Included are Luther Finney and Peter Jones of Corvallis City State and John Brown of the Central Oregon Ranchers' Association. Will Hutton, Eric Larsson and an escort from the Bearkillers arrive bringing information that the Portland Protective Association has constructed two castles to block a pass through the mountains. After a delay caused by CORA's de-centralized organization, the combined Mackenzie, Bearkiller and CORA force prepares to take the first of the two castles in late November.
Juniper Mackenzie decides to accelerate the birth of her child to make it appear that she was already pregnant at the time she met Mike Havel. She next finds that her daughter Eilir and Astrid Larsson have, at the age of fourteen, sworn eternal blood sisterhood. Ken Larsson attacks the castle with a trebuchet. Mike Havel prepares to launch a hang-glider borne attack on the castle.
- ↑ Chapter Nineteen
- ↑ Chapter Twenty
- ↑ Chapter Twenty-one
- ↑ Chapter Twenty-two
- ↑ Chapter Twenty-three
- ↑ Chapter Twenty-four
- ↑ Chapter Twenty-five
- ↑ Chapter Twenty-six
- ↑ Chapter Twenty-seven
- ↑ Chapter Thirty
- ↑ Chapter Thirty-one
- ↑ Chapter Thirty-two
- ↑ Chapter Thirty-three
- ↑ Chapter Thirty-four
- ↑ Epilogue