I have a brand-new SAGE story coming out on Monday; about Andrin and the Sword who washes up by his riverside cottage. It’s one of the stories in the Gifts of the Magi anthology, published by the Speculative Fiction Guild to benefit Indy Reads.
Here’s a bit from my story:
Andrin and the Sword — excerpt from
“The Warmth of Midwinter”
by Marian Allen
On the bank of the Fiddlewood River, not far from a bridge, in a little stone cottage, lived a very old man and his grandmother. Don’t laugh, my children, for even very old men have grandmothers, you know. She didn’t quite live with him, though, for she had a place of her own nearby, but she popped in to visit often enough to be both welcome and familiar.
We will call this old man Andrin, my children, and his grandmother will be Verrina. He has a chicken, as well – didn’t I tell you? A hen, in fact. We’ll call her Chandler.
The day had been glum and chill, with miserly flourings of tiny snowflakes to add to the crust on the ground. The night had been calm, with only the grunting cough of some benighted animal breaking the silence.
Morning came, signaled by the increasingly irritated pecking of Chandler on the wooden floor.
Andrin woke, stretched, and said, “Now, how do you know? With no windows in the cottage, how do you know it’s morning? It could be the middle of the night.”
Chandler answered with a saucy cluck, and Andrin got up and let her out, leaving the door open to the fresh, damp, icy air.
The old man was tall and well-muscled, dark of skin, with black-purple eyes. He slept in nothing but a loincloth, convenient for doing his morning exercises. In other seasons, he bathed in the river and exercised outdoors, but he saw a difference between discipline and stupidity; in the winter, he bathed in a bowl and exercised indoors.
An agitated squawk and clucking told him Chandler had found something to displease her. When the noise continued, he dressed in trews, boots, and tunic, wrapped a blanket around himself, and went out to see what small outrage had upset her.
“Oh, dear, oh, my,” he called to her. “Oh, whatever now?”
He followed her racket to the riverbank, where his good humor fell away.
A man in black leather armor lay face-down in the muddy snow, bare hands tinged with blue. The uniform marked him as a Sword, a member of the royal guard that was becoming a standing army, answerable to the crown and not to the people.
“For once,” Andrin said, “you’re right to protest, my friend. Of all the places for bad fortune to wash ashore, why at my feet?”
“At whose feet would you prefer bad fortune to wash ashore, Little Plum?”
The breathy, amiable voice of his grandmother didn’t startle Andrin, for he was accustomed to her sudden appearances.
“At Landry’s,” he replied, Landry being the name of the ruler who had banished him from a life of royal comfort into rural obscurity.
“And what would Landry do with a man who brought bad fortune?”
Nothing good was the answer, of course. But why should he wish good to a Sword? This could be one of the very men who had chivvied him out of the castle grounds with little else but mockery to take with him.
If you’d like to read the rest of this story and see where to buy the book, check back tomorrow. 🙂
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: A character’s worst enemy’s representative is delivered into their hands.