Sorry for the non-existence lately. Self-publishing is a lot harder, and less kind, than I expected. Suppose that makes sense, huh? Anyway, here’s something I’ve been working on. The title’s rough, the story is rougher, and this is entirely unedited and un-reviewed. Enjoy!
It has been nearly 300 years since the fall of the Great Kingdoms and the end of the last Age. With the death of the five kings and the end of their family lines, stability and order collapsed as infighting among the noble families began. Bandits and outlaws rose from the remains of sacked cities, peasants taking up arms against their supposed masters.
This new Age, known to the common man as the Age of Blood, is filled with war. Everyone is scrambling to fill the void left behind by the five Great Kingdoms, uncaring of the destruction left in their wake. The north lies in tatters, lost to barbarism and warring city states, while in the south strong alliances form between kingdoms preparing for war.
In this war-torn land, there is good money to be had as a mercenary. Killing pays, especially if you were good at it. Sell sword groups and mercenary companies of varying sizes pledge to one side or another for the promise of good coin, warm food, and plenty of glory. Led by captains, generals, and strong warriors with a mind for good tactics and sound judgment.
Or, at least that’s the theory anyway. A tall man with graying dark-brown hair gripped his sword tightly, unable to take his eyes off the sight before him. Behind him a dozen men scrambled for their weapons, uncertain eyes locked straight ahead.
He’d thought he’d served them all in his time. From the most virtuous freedom fighter, to the cruelest lord’s son, Rodrik was confident that he’d experienced every type of leadership there is. There was nothing his 13 years hadn’t prepared him for.
Until today, when his now former captain proved him wrong. Rodrik hadn’t known someone so stupid could exist.
Always trust your average man to prove you wrong. Rodrik twisted his lips into a grimace, ignoring the furious muttering of the dozen or so men around him. The rest, wisely, had run off while they could.
Smart lads. The 33-summer old sell sword admired their sense of self-preservation. If only I’d been smart, too.
It had started rather simple, as it often does. He’d signed up with a mercenary company, one of moderate renown for once. He wasn’t young enough to ride with the more questionable companies anymore. The best part was that it hadn’t been large enough to catch the attention of any nobles. Fighting for nobles was how one ended up dead, after all. There were so many squabbles over land, inheritance, or perceived wrongs. The smarter mercenaries avoided nobles like the plague if they wanted to enjoy life for more than a few months.
His captain had been a hardened man, a veteran of a hundred battles, with looks to prove it. He seemed like a smart chap, Rodrik had thought. Unlikely to make any poor decisions, or to be a greedy cunt like so many others. And that assumption had been proven correct for the most part. They’d tackled a few contracts, mostly low-paying guard work, and everything seemed to be going swell.
Until the idiot had decided to “play with” what appeared to be your typical tavern wench. A tavern wench that had been sitting in the middle of nowhere, with not a town for miles.
The idiot was dead before his hands even touched the girl, split clean down the middle by a sword Rodrik hadn’t even seen until that moment. Magic, the men whispered. Mage, they whimpered.
Rodrik, however, wasn’t so sure. He’d seen Mage’s before. They didn’t behave like this girl. For all their magic a Mage at least appeared human, they appeared to be flesh and blood. He wasn’t too sure that applied to whatever stood over the bisected corpse of the poor bastard that had been his leader.
“Rodrik, what do we do?” He heard someone, a man with graying red hair and a spear clutched in one gloved hand, whisper. William, if he recalled correctly, another recruit to the company they’d picked up in the last town.
The others, having heard the question, also turned their eyes to him. Seemed he’d been elected leader in the…absence of the former captain.
Just my luck. Shaking his head, Rodrik forced himself to remove his hand from his sword hilt. “Don’t make any threatening moves, she hasn’t torn us apart yet-”
“Are you going to just stand there, or are you going to run like the rest?” A calm, rasping, voice called out. The men stiffened, and Rodrik’s attention snapped to the girl, who was wiping the blade of her sword on the fallen captain.
She lifted her head and Rodrik swore his heart stopped.
Not because of immense beauty, she was rather plain truth be told, but because of her eyes. Eyes that only appeared in song and legend, and not the good types. Only one person in this entire Gods-forsaken Age had eyes like that.
White eyes. The Lady of Iron.
They weren’t white like those that had lost their sight tended to be – dull and milky. The Lady of Iron’s eyes were dark and piercing, pupils surrounded by a ring of pure white that almost glowed. Eyes belonged to a single-family line.
“…Darkfei.” Rodrik choked out, wishing to be anywhere but here. He heard the men curse, swore there was even a whimper from somewhere in the back.Rodrik didn’t blame them.
“So, you’ve heard of me,” she inspected her blade, a very well cared for arming sword. Rodrik would almost say freshly forged. “Good. I’d wondered.”
Her eyes slid down to the chilling corpse of his short-lived captain. The corner of her mouth twitched in amusement before she slid her sword into a scabbard Rodrik hadn’t noticed until now. Where did…?
“Aye, we’ve heard of you. And if that idiot hadn’t been too busy thinking with his prick, then maybe he’d have noticed who you were.” Rodrik didn’t mince words. You didn’t with people that could murder you with the flick of a wrist.
Because the Lady of Iron was a Mage. She was the Mage in this part of the world. A Spellsword that was renowned throughout the land, and not just because of her eyes. She was half his age and strong enough to cut a dozen men apart without pause or need of breath. Monstrous, godlike.
Inhuman. He’d thought something about her was unnatural at first glance. Gods damn him for being right.
“I trust that there won’t be any further misunderstandings, then?” There was no mistaking the edge buried under her sweet tone, the warning.
“None, M’Lady.” William choked out, his hand clutching his spear so hard Rodrik could hear the leather strain. He looked ready to piss himself. Rodrik couldn’t blame him, really. He was close to doing that himself.
The woman’s white eyes flashed over to the red-haired man, and Rodrik heard him gulp. Her gaze held William’s for a moment, before she turned her attention back to Rodrik. He felt the sweat drip down his neck as she held his gaze, searching for something.
Suddenly, she broke eye contact and looked down at the corpse of their former captain, grunting to them. “Then get out of here.”
Rodrik and the men needed no further prompting, hurrying away from her. Each man kept his eyes trained on her until she was well out of sight. And they didn’t drop their guards then, either.
Check Out my Published Work: Dawn’s Arrival!
And that’s all she wrote (well, I wrote, but you get the bloody point)! This is a sample of an up-coming, full-length novel that I’m working on. I’ve written about 40% of the thing so far, so that’s fun. If you liked it, leave a like, if you didn’t, tell me why. Don’t forget to check out my other works and my novella linked above!