The Blood of Coldfrost (A Wardstone Short)
by M.R. Mathias
The concussive “whoomp” of an exploding oil keg brought the encampment awake. A ball of flame roiled skyward, bathing the sparkling tundra of Coldfrost in an orange-yellow glow. Men were scrambling. Large, mannish forms, more feral than not, darted about the shadows unchecked. The battle roar of a Breed beast cut through the frigid night as it brought an ax down, into the head of a Westland Captain, who was emerging from his tent. Flames danced crazily, throwing wild shadows about the chaos. The shouts of a fervent sergeant trying to generate some sort of order among the terrified men, rang out from somewhere across the crunchy snow covered terrain.
In the Royal Pavilion, Mikahl was trying desperately to get his king’s armor fastened. They had been in Coldfrost for days, hunting and corralling the wild breed beasts that had come out of the mountains to feed on Westlander flesh. Even in the heated pavilion, it was so cold, that Michael’s fingers felt like giant sausages. Mikahl hated the cold. Coldfrost was bitter, but he was the King’s Squire, and he would have rather cut off his own head than disappoint good King Balton. Determined, he ground his jaw tight with effort, fumbled the stiff leather straps through the buckles, and cinched them tight.
“You’ll be stay’n out of it, Mik.” The king stood, and twisted his frame to get the ornate plated chest piece to settle. His visage was one of savage determination. Even inside the tent, his breath came out in great clouds of steam. “Watch over the horses. If one of them fargin beasts comes at ya, remember your drills.”
Outside the tent, a man screamed out, his horrible voice cutting over the din of battle. King Balton Collum winced at the sound of the agony, and then pulled his infamous sword out of its sheath. Forgetting his helmet, he threw the scabbard to the side, and charged out into the freezing silver moonlight. The blade of his ancient weapon radiated an icy shade of blue as he went, but Ironspike’s potent length graduated swiftly to the raging color of blood as the king started putting it to use.
Mikahl came out behind King Balton, and darted around the pavilion to the canvass stall that had been erected for the animals. He turned back just in time to see Ironspike’s blade flash with a pulse of blinding energy. Screams of pain and fear erupted from man and beast alike, as the flare filled the world full of blinding white radiance.
No breed beasts came for the horses, so Mikahl watched the battle waging out beyond the gray expanse of ice between him and the main encampment. Lord Gregory, the Lion Lord of Westland, was in a tangle with one of the ten foot tall creatures. The beast was trying to sink its finger long teeth into the Lion Lord, but finding it no easy task. A pair of Lord Gregory's men danced around the combatants frantically. Every so often, one of them would dart in, and jab his weapon into the creature’s side.
Not far away, the Royal Wizard blasted at the hulking monsters with streaking lavender pulses of magical force. Pael looked insane with his wide open eyes, over clenched jaws, and his egg shaped alabaster head. His charge, Prince Glendar, was calling out orders to a troop of men that had surrounded a hand full of the breed. Mikahl wanted desperately to raise his old iron sword with them, but he wouldn’t betray the king’s order.
It ended when Duke Fairchild and his huntsmen came thundering in from the other camp on their warhorses. The Breed beasts were no match for the Duke’s competent cavalry. And with Lord Gregory’s might, and Ironspike’s angry power thrown in the skirmish, the savage beasts were soon brought to bear.
After they were corralled, Pael spelled them into a stupor. In the morning, the men who were left alive herded them across the icy shallows, out onto the glacial Island with the others of their kind. King Balton then drove Ironspike’s dragon-forged steel into the ice, and let its power surge forth. A boundary was formed. The glassine field hummed and crackled with the power that would hold it in place for all of time. The Battle of Coldfrost was over. The feral Breed could no longer ravage the mountain herds, or rape and pillage in the north.
One of the creatures stared at Mikahl from across the icy flow that separated the Island from the rest of the world. Mikahl couldn’t help but wonder what the creatures would eat. The prison they had just been confined to was nothing more than a solid slab of ice that rarely thawed. A glance around the encampment at the crimson stained tundra, and the gore strewn remains of his company, hardened him to their dismal fate. Let them starve. He had no idea that someday he would have to face them again, but he would. And when it happened, good King Balton would be long dead from Pael’s traitorous poison.
Mikahl noticed one of his favorite sparring partners lying half shredded in the snow. He had to force back a tear. He took Ironspike back from his King, and dutifully ran to the pavilion to put back in its sheath. The battlefield was so saturated with blood, that his boots left a trail of footprints across the carpeted floor of the king’s quarters.
In all of his days, throughout all of the wild adventures his grand destiny would bring him, he would never forget the Battle of Coldfrost. He would never forget the blood. THE END (actually the beginning)
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