A captured lord. A dying knight. And a heroine who refuses to abandon either.
Seventeen-year-old mage apprentice Rielle accompanies her master on a mission to save a lord from a town under mercenary control. But mercenaries aren't the only newcomers to town.
"Winter Wren" is a 7,000-word fantasy adventure short story, a prequel to the romantic epic-fantasy series Blade and Rose.
Viscounty of Signy, Emaurria
South Gate Forest
Three hundred mercenaries to defeat, and the mission would be over. Just the two of them.
Rielle’s breath clouded the frigid air as she removed her gloves, then rubbed her sweaty palms on her coat. Here, among the dense, snow-capped white pines at twilight, she and her master, Leigh, had gone unseen.
But soon it would begin. The mission that would determine whether she could test for adept and finally accept her own missions; at seventeen, she’d be one of the youngest to do so. She tingled all over with nervous anticipation.READ MORE
Across the open wintry field, Crag Company mercenaries manned posts in frosted watchtowers along the walls in the castle town of Signy. The viscount had hired the Crag to protect the town from bandits. Instead, the mercenaries had gone rogue, taken over, and now demanded a substantial fee from King Marcus. If they didn’t get it, they couldn’t “assure” the safety of the viscount or the townspeople.
The opportunistic blackguards. She grumbled under her breath.
“Do you know what you’re doing here today?” Leigh asked, his articulate voice smooth and melodious, always confident with an intelligence he never lacked. She loved listening to him talk.
“Saving a viscount?”
A heavier sigh.
“Testing how long it takes for frostbite to set in?” She blew warm breath onto her hands. “I would sing for a cup of tea.”
He raised a brow—and a corner of his mouth. “Ma chère, you’re here to show me your understanding of ‘Save one, save many.’ Do that, and you’ll get your commendation to test for adept.”
Save one, save many. Leigh loved to tout that one . . . the Divinity’s justification for serving kings and nobles—those who could afford their fee—and not the common folk. A saved king could implement policies to save thousands. A saved beggar couldn’t.
Here, the Crag held the townspeople hostage, but Leigh wasn’t here for them. He was here for the viscount. And, by extension, so was she, regardless of her thoughts on the matter. Orders were orders.
She drew in a lengthy cold breath. “Of course. ‘Save one, save many.’ My favorite. No worries there, promise.”
“Good.” He narrowed his eyes in a lingering look that made her shiver—or maybe that was the cold—and then looked away to the watchtowers.
Faint sunlight reflected off glass in one of the watchtowers, one of the Crag panning a spyglass just past her. She huffed. As if he could see anything in the forest at twilight.
The mission would go well. It had to. She tugged at her white mage coat sleeves bearing the apprentice’s two-bar chevron. Someday, she’d wear the five-bar magister’s chevron, like Leigh.
Signy had two gates, one to the north and one to the south. As soon as she and Leigh blasted their way in through the southern gate, the Crag would escape through the northern. After all, the Crag were mercenaries—soldiers of fortune—and there was no fortune to be had in death. Quick and painless, as long as the Crag reacted as predicted.
Leigh took her hand and gave it a squeeze. A stolen moment before they stormed the castle town.
Whispers in the Tower’s corridors said that apprentices lusting after their masters did so in vain. She pursed her lips to suppress a smile. Amateurs.COLLAPSE