To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.
So follow Kurval and Tsabo, as they brave the icy dangers of…
The Frozen Citadel
“Before he became King of Azakoria in the Year of the Forked Serpent, Kurval spent many a year wandering the lands of the Eastern continent, plying his trade as a sellsword. It was during this period of his life that fought the fearsome serpent Khalikidai and saved Kingdom of Simola from the enemies that live in the frozen where the sun never rises in winter and never sets in summer…”
From the Chronicles of Azakoria by Ragur, Count Falgune
I. Across the Icy Wastes
“Why…” Kurval wondered, as the frozen snow crackled under his boots and an icy wind blew daggers into his face, “…must civilisation always be so bloody cold?”
In the Year of the Twisted Rope, Kurval had left his homeland of Temirzhan behind and journeyed across the sea to seek his fortune in the more civilised lands of the East, half a fugitive and half chasing the glorious destiny that the Dark Gods that dwell on the Plains of Shadow had prophesied him, namely that one day he would be king in a land across the sea.
By now, he’d spent several years in the lands across the sea and still no royal destiny had manifested itself and no crown had landed at his feet and Kurval was beginning to suspect that it never would.
Still, he was here now and could never go home again, so he had to make the best of his life on the Eastern continent. And that meant making money the only way he knew how, by selling his sword and his brawn to whoever was willing to pay for his services.
Right now, King Ansio of Simola was willing to pay twenty pieces of gold to any man willing to take service at the Citadel of Harjula in the frozen north of the kingdom and defend Simola against its enemies from the ice. Of course, nobody seemed to know just what those enemies from the ice were, but twenty gold pieces was a good sum and so Kurval and his friend and fellow sellsword Tsabo had followed the call and embarked on the long and cold journey to Harjula.
They made a strange pair, these two swords for hire. They were both tall, muscular men, but that’s where the similarities ended.
Kurval had born on the steppes of Temirzhan across the great sea. His skin was bronze, his eyes grey like the cold hard steel of his sword. He was clad in a mail hauberk and padded leather trousers, woollen gloves and fur-lined boots, a fur-lined helmet and a thick vest of sheepskin. He wore his long black hair, now frosted with ice, tied back with a leather thong. Behind Kurval trotted his faithful black stallion Shadowmane, neighing in displeasure at the cold.
His companion Tsabo was a son of the Southern Isles with skin dark as ebony and a shaven head smooth like a polished ivory ball. He, too, was clad in leather and mail, topped with a plumed helmet and a cape of leopard fur. On his back, he carried a mighty battle axe.
The two men had met on one of the many battlefields on the Eastern continent, both outcasts, both bearing the mark of the slave whip on their backs and both considered barbarians by the people whose battles they fought. So they’d quickly become fast friends, travelling the land together in search of employment. And now that quest had brought them to the frozen north of Simola.
“I should’ve stayed in the Southern Isles,” Tsabo grumbled, his breath coming in freezing puffs, “At least it was warm there.”
“You couldn’t have stayed in the Southern Isles,” Kurval countered, his own breath forming clouds of white mist that swirled around him and obscured his vision, “After all, they were going to throw you into a pit of lions as punishment for your indiscretion with a virginal priestess of the goddess Tokoloho.”
“Wrong,” Tsabo roared above the whistling wind, “All wrong. It was a pit of leopards and that priestess was not a virgin.” Tsabo grinned, his teeth stark white in his dark face, “And she was worth every danger and banishment.”
“Still, you can’t go back,” Kurval pointed out, “Any more than I can.”
This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in The Frozen Citadel. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.