Samwise Shadow Stepper: The War of Brimstone Book 2, Part one

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


Samwise was eight years old when the war of Brimstone reached his home of the Fort City of Fulminous. Sam and his family are Freeman and have fought for many centuries to remain as such but that
all change the night he met the Night Emperor and Beatrice...

Submitted: June 18, 2018

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Submitted: June 18, 2018

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Chapter one

Samwise was eight summers young when the legion marched into the town of Fort city Fulminous in the dead of night and murdered everyone except the children. He watched helplessly as Legion brutes put the hang men’s noose to both his father, Wilhelm and brother, Alexander. They hid him in the cupboard behind a shelf filled with loaves of leavened bread. His family was the Cities premier bakery. It had been the cornerstone of the city.

Wilhelm, Samwise's father, was the first baker of the Royal family, his primary responsibility was to supply the royal families' kitchen with his best and finest. That was true until the first-day of autumn when the Inquisitions Legion marched into enemy territories and merciless started a war. The one War to end and begin all wars, the War of Brimstone.

Samwise or Sam as is family adoring called him was in the yard playing or practicing as Alexander as always insisted, with his wooden spathe. "Hold your blade as such!" Alexander called out as he mirrored the movement, instructing his brother to mimic him. His blade was held at the high ready in the position of a guarding. Alexander slowly forcibly brought his sword. He connected the blow and sent Sam toppling backward into the grass and a barrel of water.

“Ouch, that’s too rough!” Sam protested as he clutched a barrel and tried to stand up. It took a bit of effort.

“Too rough my arse’ Sammy! You think those Legion bastards will care whether they're hitting you too rough? Nay! They'll lop your friggin’ head off and use it as a piss bucket!” Alexander protested as he twirled his blade in a lavishing fashion.

“Who says I will ever fight a legionnaire anyway? I hear it pays good and you get to travel the realm." Sam added.

In a sweeping motion, Alexander through his sword at Sam. It toppled end over end and connected just at the top of his head. Sam clutched his head in pain and Alexander grabbed him by the collar and lifted him up.

“Now you listen you shit! I don’t ever want to hear you say something like that ever again.” He demanded with venom in his eyes.

“I... I’m sorry Alex. I didn’t mean anything by it. I swear. I was only joking.” Sam pleaded.

“Sammy, you realize it been a year since I’ve taken my vow and been in the vanguard? You realize if you ever swore oaths to the Inquisition or the Legion we would be enemies?” Sam nodded “We would be enemies Sammy. You understand that, right? We would be destined to cross blades on a battlefield." He added Sam nodded again this time more quickly. “Sam, do you understand why I fight?”

Sam nodded again, then realized what he was doing and shook his head. “I fight because the Legion believes that anyone who was born differently from them, does not deserve the same rights as them. They believe because our skin is blue we are lesser. We are not deserving of our freedom. They believe our women are nothing more than brood mares. Perfect for warming their beds and feeding their families. Sammy, I fight because we are freeman! And no one, not some piss-pot legionnaire or tripe salesmen of an inquisitor will ever convince me otherwise. You’d better get your mind right and your blue arse in the thick of it, cus’ when it brews down to the broth they’ll kill you, me and da and ride mom into the sunset like a horse!” He finished as he shoved his little brother.

Sam fell back down. “OUCH!” He whimpered His cheeks trembled; he started to cry. “I’m telling mother!” He called out.

“Alright! Alright!” Alex called out as he ran to his brother’s side.

“What’s all this commotion about then?” A wise tenor called out from an open window. Pleasant smells of bread wafted gingerly from the window and filled the air. A man with a cleanly shaven bald head and white goatee.

"You'd better lie, or I'm gonna’ kick your arse, Sam!" Alex whispered.

Sam looked up at him. His eyes were cold and calculating. Sam had learned to understand when Alex was serious. He learned very fast, in fact. Once when Sam had told that Alex had snuck out with Wendy Chapperman from down the lane, and another time when Alex ran off to the town fair and forgot to take the bread out of the oven. Each time Alex was reprimanded Sam felt the repercussions. "He fell trying to swing that sword again Da!" Alex called out.

He pinched Sam's lower back to emphasize his compliance in the lie. "Well, what is it then?" The blue-skinned baker called out.

“I fell down Da!” Alex agreed. The pressure was lessened.

“Well get up off your arse get back to it! You know the Bakers boys don’t rest!” He added with a smile then slid his head back into the window.

Sam stood back up and clutched the hilt of his wooden spathe.

Alex looked at him with curiosity. "Why do you insist on using a spathe? We only own one horse, and it's not even trained for battle." Alex Joked as he tapped the tip of Sam’s wooden blade.

Chapperman’s Da told him that real men could fight on top of horses and foot. He also said they wield Spathes'." Sam declared as he tried to get his footwork just right.

He swooped his right foot outward and came in for a two-handed under-swing. The collision produced a loud popping noise.

Alex smiled in response. "Well, it's an awkward fit for you. That thing is almost as big as you, and it's unwieldy as all hell. I recommend you finding something as a Secondary. Maybe shorts swords?”

“Short swords are for girls!” Sam Protested.

Alex laughed. “Well little brother in battle the only people who care about that kind of stuff are either dead or going to be. Death isn’t picky about what’s going on between the legs when it happens. Men and women take lives. Don’t be stupid Sam use every advantage you can. The only rule on the battlefield is surviving, and if you ever find yourself in a fair fight, something has gone wrong, and you run away!" he explained as he executed a forward lung to which Sam anticipated and parried.

“Good!” Alexander advised,

“So… why are we fighting head to head then?” Sam asked. Alex chuckled.

"Nothing about this fight is fair. You're a little whelp, and I'm a battle-tested brute going at half the pace… Trust me, Sammy, when the heat is on, and you're in the thick of it there will be men with more knowledge fighting longer than we've been alive. When that happens, you get the hell out of the way and slip into the shadows. You're a scrawny lout, and you'll mostly not gain some meat on your bones until your 18th summer. Nay, it’s best you move quickly. Now shut your mouth and let your Spathe talk!” Alexander called out as he came in for a brutal series of blows that nearly made him almost drop his sword.

“If you’re going to use the Spathe at least hold it right!” Alex called out.

 

 

Chapter 2:

 

They practiced until the first signs of dusk, both were winded and bruised when their mother stuck her head out the window and called, “Dinners on the Table!” In a chiming sing-song voice.

"Yes, ma’am!” They both answered.

They knew better than to respond with anything but “Yes ma’am!” If they were even a minute late, there wouldn't be plate set for them and if they protested, their backsides would be purple by the morning. You didn't back talk Adeline, the Bakers Wife. She was a bonnie lass with a head of black hair and strong features. She was beautiful in youth and striking as she aged.  Her hair was pulled up into a knot and tightly wound together. She had a splash of flour her nose that stood against her blue skin and always her face was in a sure smile. She was a confident woman. Confident in herself, her cooking, the management of her house and the day to day sales of bread. No one in the City of Fulminous could haggle Adeline the Baker's wife. You either paid your shilling, or you got the rolling pin. Once a man tried to run, He got a rolling pin right upside the back of his head. He was politely relieved of the bread and abruptly tossed out on his ear.

"Well hurry up then, you know how your Da gets with the broth gets cold." She added.

The boys made their way silently back into the house making sure to avoid their mother. If she had known how filthy they were, she would pitch a fit and have them washing linens for the rest of the week. They each took turns changing clothes and washing up.

“Boys!” Their father called out in frustration.

“Coming Da!” They answered as they checked each other for dirt.

“Good” Alex whispered as he tussled Samwise’s wavy locks and smiled.

They both ran downstairs into the Dining area and took their seats. The room was well-lit by several large candles. It was quite the display. No one in the city of Fulminous could afford as many candles as the baker could. On average each house had 1-3 candles the bakers' house had 27.

It was always lit and well supplied. The King had wanted his baker always to be ready to entertain or provide, so he went to great lengths to make sure he was.

The boys sat directly across from each other. Sam sat next to his sister Angeline, Angeline was the spinning image of her mother. She was just at the cusp of nubile beauty. She sported a locket of a silver heart.  Alex was directly adjacent to his mother and their father directly at the head which was customary for the head of the house.

“Took ye’ long enough.”

“Sorry about that pop! Sammy doesn’t know when to quit.” Alex said with a smile.

Their father smiled. “That’s my boy! Bakers don’t quit! We don’t stop until the jobs’ done son! gutsiest son ‘ova bitches on this side of the Nighwater!” Wilhelm swore.

They all laughed heartily. “Excuse me! Is this a tavern or a dining room?” Adeline chastised.  "Oh! Sorry, M’love! You know how I get talking about the Bakers bloodline!” She nodded with a cynical look on her blue face.

“See that it doesn’t happen again, or you’ll be the loneliest son ‘ova bitch on this side of Nightwater tonight.” She corrected with a cold smile.

The baker looked up with a look of shock on his face. Angeline smiled and chuckled lightly, and that was his cue to start in on her.

“Since we’re chuckling young lady, where were you today between noon and morning?”  She put her head down and tried to look away. I saw her with  the miller’s boy down by the river pushing a circle

Da!” Samwise accused.

“Lies!” Angeline protested!

“It damn well better be!” The baker demanded.

uhmm,” Adeline corrected.

"I mean it darn well better be! I haven't made any arrangements with Miller John, and I don't want that greasy, pimply whelp of a son getting any sort of ideas!" Wilhelm spoke sternly.

"Okay, Da!" Angeline replied trying to end the conversation.

"Okay, my arse! If I catch the lad, I'm gonna’ snap his neck like a twig! And you ain’t getting your mothers dowry!” The Baker demanded.

Angeline stood up “His name is Andrew! And He’s a good person Da! He’s not like all the other boys in town! He doesn’t just want a bed warmer! He wants to travel Brimstone and see the world and I want to go with him!” She yelled.

Before Wilhelm could speak, Adeline interrupted. “No.”

The room grew silent as they collectively held their breaths.

“What?” Angeline finally responded.

“No. I said,” Adeline spoke again.

“But why mom? I thought you of all people would understand?” She pleaded.

"He hasn't asked your father for permission to court you, and his father has not made a respectable offer for your hand. By all right, we are the second most respectable house in the city besides the officers of the vanguard. If Miller John's son wants my daughter's hand in marriage, he will have to pull his bootstraps up, walk to my door and make a halfway decent offer to court you."

"Half way decent? Mom, did you listen to yourself? I'm not an item to be bartered for." The young girl added.

“When your father asked to court me, he baked 107 loaves of barley bread, and carted them through the forest in the dead...”

night! I know Ma! You’ve told me like a hundred times!” Angeline interrupted with her protest.

“Well if you understand my worth, then understand this! That Millers Boy is gonna’ have to a slay dragon to get me to be okay with him courting you! You’re a better bride than I will ever hope to be Angeline. You’re  the bakers’ daughter and don’t you go forgetting it!” Adeline swore at the top of her lungs.

“Dragons don’t exist!” Sam interjected.” The room looked at him. “They don’t exist right?” He asked again. Everyone stared at him.

There's a time and a place…" Alex started but was interrupted by a full rumbling cackle from both the baker and his wife.

Angeline understood when discussions were over, so she sat back and ate silently. They had cabbage and haggis. It was the baker's favorite, and they ate it in celebration of a sound fiscal year. The bakers were genuinely blessed with fortune, and they did flaunt it. They were reserved family who loved their city.

“How’s that blade training coming son?” Wilhelm asked his son.

Samwise’s ears perked up. “Uhh.., it’s going!” He admitted.

“I think he would be better off butterfly wielding but he’s hell-bent on the spathe.” His mother cleared her throat again.

"Sorry, Ma!”  She nodded indicating she accepted his apology.

“He thinks he’s gonna’ get himself a horse like an officer," Alexander added.

The Baker leaned in with a smile on his face. “Spathe huh?”

“Unh huh!” Sam agreed with a mouth full of broth.

“I’m sure you know spathes are only good on horseback?” The baker added as he stroked his beard. “Horses are expensive you know?”

“I know Da! I figure after I perfect my swordsmanship I can earn an extra shilling doing courier runs for the shop and security details to and from other towns.”

“To…and from other towns?” The Bakers said with his eyes wide.

"Well, nothing too far. I mean I'm only eight after all Da!" Samwise finished as he lifted his bowl and downed the contents.

He then looked over at his mother, smiled and asked. “May I have seconds?” She nodded and ladled another well-sized portion into his bowl. They all looked at each other in surprise. The baker looked at his older son who only shook his head, as if to say, “There is no rationalizing with the boy!”

The baker looked at his wife who only gave him a cautionary glare. “That’s quite a plan you’ve got their son. You came up with it that all by yourself?”

"Yes, sir!"

“Without your brother or sister telling you to say that?” The baker asked slowly.

Sam looked up. "Yes, sir! In fact, Alex thinks I've gone crazy... He said the only way I’d get a horse is if it was named Charlie and it was stuck in my leg!” Alex cracked a smile and started chortling.

The baker laughed with him. “Oh, stop it you two!” Adeline Chuckled before covering her mouth with a cloth to conceal her giggles. Everyone laughed in fact. Samwise was confused, however. He had never heard of a horse that lived inside of legs. Was it some magic? Did that mean he would run like a horse, for as long and as strong?  He Didn't he understand why it had to be named Charlie of all things? Charlie was ridiculous for a horse. He'd say something strong like Brum if it were male and Brum-Hilde if it was a girl.  They Ate in good spirits after that.

 

 

Chapter 3

Angeline excused herself abruptly for the night, and Alex decided to help his mother clean up.

“Boy, Come with me.” The baker demanded of his son.

"Ye… Yes, Sir!" Sam agreed. He learned that when his father called him boy, it was severe. He had made a foul error, and he was about to find out what. The baker put on his evening jacket.

"You'd better put something on. It's the first day of autumn, and I don’t want your mother chewing my arse because you got sick.” He whispered.

Sam grabbed his hand-me-down farmer market jacket and put it on.

“Follow me.” He said as he walked out the back door.

It was the dead of night, there was a crispness about the air that only autumn could bring. Stars shimmered in the sky as a full crest moon glistened proudly.

“Beautiful init?” The baker mentioned to his son.

Unh huh!” He added.

“Stay close boy!” The baker instructed as he started walking eastward towards the tavern and lodging district. They passed several rowdy bars where the sound of bards’ lewd tales and women chuckling salaciously made him blush.

“Best stay close or your mother will flay the both of us boy!” His father warned.

“Where are we going Da?”

“To see an old man about a horse.”

They reached it just before the town bell gonged to indicate it was evening.  They were at the Franklin Ranch and Wrangling outpost. Franklin's Ranch was the Cities premier stable for housing mares as well as livestock to feed the town. The Vanguard housed there mounts there as well as patrolled the area often. It had become a beacon in the city of Fulminous, like the bakery and the archery range.

“HAIL!” A Vanguard man called out as they walked past.

“Is that you out and about baker Wilhelm?” He called out.

be me!” The baker Agreed.

"I thought I had one too many spirits and I was starting to see things. What brings you to this part of town, in the dead of night? With your whelp no less.” He added as he tussled Sam’s hair.

gets’ it! You’re on the prowl trying to make a man out of the lad!” He started making lewd gestures with his hips.

“Lads a little young in my opinion but hey! Start em’ young, that’s what I say…. I said that once… I think?” The rambled on as listed to his left before belching.

"No… I'm not here to… Make a man out of my son. We are here to see Franklin."

“Ohhh, He's in there in the ranch. Been in a right fit since that mare was born. Keep going on about some kind of a curse or something." The Vanguardsmen admitted before shambling off into the night.

They stood there for a bit. “Son… do yourself a favor and don’t consume spirits and if you must… Do so in the comfort of your own home…”  Sam nodded in agreement.

They walked on to the ranch and heard sound coming from the just in the back.

“Hold her still, damn you!”

"I'm trying, but she’s jumpy!"  The other voice called out.

that was lit.

“Rancher Franklin!” Wilhelm called out.

There a pause in the farmhouse then quit arguing.

be me! Who’s there?”

“It’s the Baker! I have My Boy with me as well!”

"Well, Whatd’ya want I’m trying to do something here!” The Rancher called back furiously. “I’m here to see you about that thing we discussed earlier.” The baker responded vaguely. “Really?” A voice whispered.

“Really?!?” The Rancher called out.

“Yes! Really!”

Are ya’ sure!” The rancher asked again.

“Yes!” Wilhelm called out. Sam was getting nervous. The wind started picking up, and the darkness seemed to be growing.

There was choice silence for a bit as the Rancher franklin rustled around the combine making demands in pitched tones. Then he burst through the door.

His skin was a dark shade of blue similar to Sam's. His hair was long and greying. It was pulled back into a tight ponytail. He wreaked of manure, spirits, and sweat. His skin was leathery from years of working in the sunlight.

“Well, what is it? Have ye killed my daughter? Off to finish the job then huh? I tell ya what. You’ll get a hell ‘ova fight out of this old man! I tell you!” The Rancher demanded as he raised his fist in quivering defense.

"My wife, your daughter is fine," Wilhelm added.

I was in the middle of something? Ohhh! Wait a minute is that my Grand lad there! Well, I'll be a monkeys' arse!” He demanded as he knelt down and brought Sam in for a hug. “What’re doing out this late with this lug! Don’t Ya’ know sleep will make ya’ big in strong like your Grand Da!” He said as he lifted up Sam hugged him. Sam laughed and hugged him back. “Hey Grand Da it good to see you!”

"Hell, it's good to see you lad! You're more strapping every time I see ya! I’m glad to know to your taking after me and not your Da. The big ugly lug got lucky with your mother after all, did I ever tell ya the story…?” The baker cleared his throat.

The Rancher took it as a sign. “Some other time then.” Wilhelm silently agreed. “So, what do ya want?”

"To talk about that Mare, you showed me yesterday."

“What? THAT MARE? The damn things cursed. You know that, hell the whole town knows it. Why would you want to talk about it? Trying to put the damn thing down as we speak! Buggers slippery than a mermaids’ tit!” He declared.

Sam laughed, and his father gave him a stern look. "I know what you said, but I also know what you’re selling it for…I couldn’t convince you to give it up for free?”

“Hell no! A man’s’ gotta’ make a profit to feed his family!”

"What family? All your kids have gone, and you’re to to make more.” The baker quickly added.

“That’s not for lack of trying.” The Rancher rebutted with a smile.

“I don’t want to know…” The son in law retorted.

“The hell do you want with it? Gonna’ ride it into the sunset and finally give me my daughter back?”

“No.” The baker responded.

"Well, then what?" The Rancher queried further.

Wilhelm gestured his head to Sam. “You’ve got to be kidding me, you want to give it to the whelp! Do you want to curse your bloodline? I mean I'm already cursed, and you want to continue it? What kind of crazy are you baking up at that bakery Wilhelm? Did Addy put you up to this? I only missed her birthday because I was stuck in a ditch last month. I got the scars to prove it." He protested as he started to show them a grizzled scar starting up his lower back.

“No! For goodness sake, we don't want to see your scars!"

“Then what is it?” Franklin demanded.

"The boy is the right age, and he was born on the last day of summer."  Franklin looked at his grandson skeptically.

“Do you know anything about mares Lad?”

"I know they take a lot of hard work; you have to pay for them, feed them, clean up after them and make sure to keep their feet in top shape Grand Da!" Samwise said with big smile.

“That’s my boy! You never forget a lesson! Sharp mind!” Franklin said with a smile.

“He wants to wield a Spathe…” The baker added. The rancher cocked his head to the sided and made a sucking with his teeth. “A spathe huh? That’s a horseman sword… Did Alexander put him up to it?” Wilhelm shook his head. Franklin looked at Sam with an air of seriousness. “Why do you want to spathe? You’re small… you could be hell with a gladius. Hell, with your blockhead of a father’s talents you would never have to see a battlefield you could spend the rest of your life in luxury as a baker. Granted you don’t get fat and lazy.” He finished as he glared at Wilhelm.

“I want to make my own way Grand Da! I want to prove Freeman deserve our Freedom!”  The Rancher smiled at him.

“Good answer. I was ten winters old when I was drafted into the Vanguard. It was a barbaric time… They had us fighting off the wild folk who kept raiding our onion farms. Not many made it out, and the ones' that did weren't quite right afterward. I'm glad the official age for service is 16 now. A lad should be a man through and through before he takes another man's life. But hey who's to say when you're a man. You could be a man today, and only you would know that!"  The old rancher finished with a knowing smile.

He looked up at his son in law. “Alright, I won’t make any promises. If it takes, then I’ll give it to the lad no cost. But if it doesn’t, there isn’t much I can do for him. He’ll have to come back when he’s bigger.  The only reason I’m considering this is because the one in question is recently born and right around his size."  They nodded. Sam jumped up in glee. HE was getting a horse. He was getting a horse, not Alex, but him. All of the other children would be envious of him for the rest of the year. It was unheard of! A kid his age that wasn't royalty getting a horse.

He knew it would be hard work to feed the horse of course. He had no disillusions of using his father’s coins to feed the horse. If a man used another man’s coin to feed his child then buy right that man could call the other man’s children his own, so he rationalized the same way when it came to horses.

“Come on boy!” His father called out as they walked into the combine.

They walked into the combine, and the smell of shit hit him hard enough to make him dizzy. “Like that do ya? Well, get used to it. That's the smell of Greatness Lad!" Rancher Franklin called out over his shoulder. They walked past several stalls with sturdy looking mares. White coats, silver manes, black coats, Painted horses and even Clydesdales.

“What’s wrong with these?” Sam asked.

"They ain't for you lad; they’re military issue.” He said as he stopped at a stall in the back of the stable. It was unreasonably dark, and the sounds of a horse whinnying was apparent.

“Come on over here and look this one.” He demanded. Sam was hesitant to do so until he saw his father gesturing in agreement.

He ambled over to the last stall and peered in.

"There she is." Inside the stall stood a jet-black pony with red eyes and wings. Not fake wings like from the town play that he was used to, but full-sized black wings akin to a crow.  Sam's heart doubled as he pitched a fit and tried to run.

The Mare whinnied and shied away. The farmhand that was standing in the corner pulled on the reigns to steady it. His father grabbed his arm and tried to steady him.

“Easy there Samwise, you'll startle the whole stable!"

“Da it’s not Normal! It’s got wings! What’s wrong with it? Horses don’t have wings!”

“No Shite! I thought you wanted a mare!” The Rancher mentioned in a sarcastic voice.

“I do... but I mean Grand Da… it's a hell mount! It’s got  devils' wings are growing out if it!" Sam protested. The pony Whinnied again; Indignant in its disgust at being mishandled.

“Those ain’t no devils wings boy! It’s a sky mare! They call it a Pegasus!” He corrected.

"Well, I heard you and dad calling it cursed."

"Well, we all are!" He added in a detached voice.

“The Sky mare is a sign for the end of times boy! It supposed to show up during the end times and be the harbinger of war. They say only great warriors wielding longswords cut for combat on horses rode them!”

It’s bad luck for me because the mare who bore her died during birth and I didn’t want to be the Rancher who birthed a Sky mare!”  Franklin Added. “Hell, I was gonna’ put her down and act like it never happened. I mean how the hell am I supposed to announce that I’m responsible for letting a Sky mare be born. All of the other ranchers killed their mares at the first sign of it. If I hadn't been stuck in that ditch on your Ma's birthday, I would've caught it." The Rancher explained.

“So, you’ve had this happen before?”

“Three times! Each time I caught it, this time for some reason I just couldn’t. It was like a force of nature, it was.” The Rancher confessed.

"That's awful Grand Da," Samwise whispered as he stared at the Black mare.

Its eyes were wide and intelligent as if it known what was going on.

"I was in the middle of trying to kill her when you walked in. She's a tough one, to say the least. Her coat is damn unbreakable, and she's built like a fort and to think she's only a babe! When she's full grown, she's gonna’ be a war machine. She's gonna’ draw down a lot of attention and from everyone. The damned thing needs to be put out of her misery and for our sake.” The sky mare whinnied in protest.

“I don’t think she likes when you say that Grand Da!” Sam mentioned as he stared at her. “That’s tough luck.”

“Can you hold her?” Sam asked as he opened the stall to walk in.

The Pegasus whinnied in protest and reared back. The farmhand was pulled off of his feet.

"Dammit, Brutus why do I pay you?" Franklin protested.

The baker jumped in and tugged the reigns. Brutus resituated himself and together they held the black mare steady.

“Go say something Son. But don’t get to close… She seems pissed.” Wilhelm added as he glared at the Rancher. "Well, she should be. I was getting ready to…" The horse whinnied.

“Would you mind kindly shutting up Franklin?” The baker asked.

The Rancher just hunched his shoulders and crossed his arms.Sam walked slowly over to the now panting Mare. She was scared and he could. She tossed her head from side to side trying to shy away, but Sam drew closer. She stopped moving and looked at him.

“It’s okay.” He whispered."

She snapped at him as reached to pet her and he drew his hand back just in the nick of time. "Dammit, I told you this wouldn't work! Hand me the 2x4 with the nail in it and let’s get this over with.” The horse whinnied again.

“Grand Da would you let me try please!”

“Fine boy! But don’t come crying to me if you lose a few good fingers on this feral beast. I warned ya’!”  Sam edged closer this time more slowly.

"Hi, my name is Samwise, but everyone calls me Sam. You can call me that too if you want." He said just to be saying something.

“Horses don’t talk boy!” The farmhand added.

"Shut up Brutus. It seems to be working!” Franklin protested.

“Good Son, now make her feel comfortable.”

“I like your wings.” He started again the horse whinnied in protest at the mention of her wings.

"Well I admit, they scared me, but now that I see them, they are pretty. They're so shiny and long; they look big and strong.”  He said as drew closer.

The Pegasus stopped whinnying and resorted to pawing at the ground and panting heavily.

“Can I touch them?” He asked. She shied away. Tucking her wings in by her side.

“It’s okay… I understand, if I had wings, I wouldn't want everyone touching them either. Sam said as he drew to within range of the Mare. He picked up an apple and held it up on the flat side of his hand.

“Are you hungry? Would you like this apple? I can give it to you if you promise not to hurt me.” He told the horse. She looked at him skeptically. Then she turned away.

“Don’t trust me? I’m not the one who just tried to bite anyone! He protested.” She whinnied lightly.

"Well, I get that, but I wasn't the one who tried to kill you! In fact, I'm trying to save you right now, and you’re kind of rude." He added.

She looked at him for second in confusion then looked away again.  "That's a good son. It's like you're having a conversation with her. Keep going."

“Look!” Sam said as he took a bite out of the apple and wiped the juice away from his face. “There’s nothing wrong with it. I’m eating it too. Are you hungry? This is safe to eat, see. I’m eating it first.” She looked at Sam in amazement for a bit then drew closer.

She sniffed him then sneezed. "Well, you don't smell like a bed of roses yourself." He scolded.

She whinnied this time it was light as if she was laughing.

“That’s a good sign, right?” Sam asked.

They all looked at each other. “Boss, I ain’t never seen a horse laugh before.”

"Aye, me either… I may either need to increase my drinking or decrease. I'm not sure yet. I suppose I'll let you know in the morning." The rancher added.

The Pegasus took the apple slowly and chewed it while looking at Sam. "It's a good apple, right? I fancy them too… but not too many or My Ma will tan my hide...” She whinnied again.

Sam grabbed another apple and fed it to her. She chomped away. He fed her several more.

“Do you mind if I pet your mane a bit?” She whinnied again.

He touched her hair and felt the subtle shift of wind around him as if something moved past his legs. He looked down and saw nothing.

"Oh, my goodness, these are greatest things ever created!” He heard a feminine voice say. He looked around.

“Who is that?” he asked.

“Who is what?” The Farmhand asked in slight fear and confusion.

“Is there a woman here eating something?”

"No, it’s just us!” The rancher called out.

"I mean your grand Ma is in bed sleeping. She had a busy day at the local market, so it’s just us here.”

“May I have another please?”  The voice asked He realized he heard the voice of the horse.

“Sure…” He said as he gave her another one.

“Who are you talking to boy?” The Rancher asked.

“She can talk.”

“WHO can talk?” His father asked.

“The Sky mare. She can talk… and she really likes apples.”

“You know what boss you don’t pay me enough for this shite! I’m quitting!” Brutus said as he threw down his reigns and walked out of the stall.

Thank Goodness he’s gone… He smelled awful!” She protested as she chewed the apple.

Sam laughed.

What did she say?”  The Baker asked.

“She thought he smelled bad," Sam stated as he pointed to Brutus.

They all laughed. “Brutus is the worst smelling man I’ve smelled in a long while!” The Rancher chuckled! “It’s like he’s allergic to bath water!” They all laughed again.

“Why can’t they hear you as well?” Sam asked.

“I don’t know… Why can you hear me?” She asked.

“What did she say?”  Brutus the farmhand asked.

“Why can I hear her, but you can’t?”

“I suppose it because she trusts you.” The Rancher added.

“I’m not one for hocus pocus, but trust is key in these situations.” Sam’s grandfather noted “Well how about it? Would you like to be my Horse?”  She whinnied.

This time a more excited noise.  Sam chuckled and stroked her mane.

“That’s good then! Now if you wouldn’t mind getting her the hell out of my stable. That would be greatly appreciated.”

“How are we expected to do that with those?” The baker queried.  The Rancher walked off into the shadows.

“I got something for that.” He declared with a raised a finger.

In a matter of moments, he returned with an oversized saddle. The saddlebags were oversized and looked like large leather sacs. It's a harness I made for mules to haul. Sam wasted no time in rigging the saddle onto the horse.

After a few minutes of fumbling with the straps, the saddle was situated and secured the rancher said “Now lad look here. Ya’ see these zipper contraptions well if you tug these this string they will both retract and voila!” He said as he pulled a thick red string and the tension from the string activated a mechanism, and the zipper retracted.

As if on cue the mares’ wings popped out. "Oh, thank goodness I thought I would be stuck in there.” The Pegasus pleaded.

Samwise rubbed her mane to comfort her. “How did it feel?”

“It wasn’t the most pleasant feeling in the world. It felt like having my legs scrunched up.

“She doesn’t like it?” The boys’ father asked as if on cue.

"She feels scrunched up," Sam added.

"Well, it'll have to do for now. She can take it off inside the stables, but she has to wear it outside. The king sees her wings, and I fear the whole family might end up in shame and flogged.”

Sam understood the implications his grandfather was declaring.

“You don’t have to wear it all the time just when you’re in public.” She whinnied in exasperation. “I dislike these a lot!”

“I know, but it’s the best we can do for now. I promise you’ll only have to hide your wings in the city.”

The rancher walked to the front of the combine and can back with a ledger. “The only thing left to do is complete the transaction.

“I thought this was supposed to be a birthday gift.” Wilhelm protested. “Relax ya’ oaf the horse isn’t the sale, it’s the special saddle. I will have to document the transaction for tax purposes. Hell, if the king knew I was giving away free horses he’d have me hanging from the throne room rafters for a week,” he scribbled on the receipt and handed it to Sam.

Sam looked at it then back at his grandfather. “What am I supposed to do with this?” He asked.

“Good grandson, you want a mount, and you want to provide for it. It will cost you. Your father isn't financially responsible for your horse, and you will be.”  Sam looked at his father.

"Normally, I would disagree with anything your grandfather says but I think this is a great learning experience for you Samwise." Sam grimaced and read the receipt.

“One copper sovereign, that’s unheard of! You’re practically giving her away! And look here! It’s not even for the sale of the mare, it says right here it comes as a packaged deal. It’s for the sale of the custom-built saddle.” Sam said in glee.

His grandfathered smiled. “I sold it at a reduced rate on the count of the saddle being faulty.” He winked.  Sam searched the contents of his pocket for a Sovereign and smiled in excitement as he found it, produced it and placed it in Ranchers Franklins’ hand.

Franklin bit down on it and smiled. “The last thing you have to do is name her.”

“Do you have a name?” She shook her head.

“I don’t know what that is, what’s a name?” She asked.

“It’s what you go by. What people call you when they address you,”

“Oh… I guess they have been calling me it and monster.” She noted. Sam felt a cold pang of sadness at that last thought.

“I don’t think you’re a monster. I think you’re a Beatrice.” Sam said as he stroked her silvery mane.

“Beatrice huh? I like that." The Pegasus agreed.

“Alright then! Your name is Beatrice, from now on.” Sam said out loud.  The Rancher produced a leather ledger and wrote in it, looked up and smiled then said. “Pleasure doing business with ya.”

The rest of the transaction was quick as Franklin gave Sam specific instructions on how to properly mount and dismount a Pegasus. He then gave him several books on the proper care of the Mare and mounts worth of appropriate feed, a dried-up blend of corn apples and other grains.

“Under no circumstances would I recommend you being on her back in the unfortunate event of her taking off from the ground!” He whispered as he escorted them out to the edge of the farm and locking it behind them. Sam and his father walked down the road into town. The sounds of nightlife in Fulminous had been replaced by an ominous silence, it was foreboding and just at the cusp of menacing.

"I don't like this place," Beatrice said but whinnied to punctuate her displeasure. As they passed the local in the sound that could be heard within were no longer merry, but instead, frantic and aggressive.

The baker quickened his pace. “Hurry up boy! Your Mother will flog us both if we stay out a second longer then we need.”

 

Chapter Four

 

They reached the stable in the compound of their house and Sam lead Beatrice to an empty stall directly adjacent from the barn door. He gave her a bucket of apples so that if she became hungry, she could eat.

“Good night Beatrice!”

“Good night Samwise.” She said as sent a mental equivalent of a nudge to him.

She whinnied as a way of agreeing, and he closed the barn door. Immediately a Sam felt his body shift, and he lost his balance. He began to fall slowly. The world around him rushed towards him to claim him.  He tried a yell of a surprise but before he could the darkness swallowed him whole.

He lay still for a moment, unsure of what expect. His heart raced as the unknown attempted to claim his sanity. His skin was cold, yet his insides boiled. He convulsed in an attempt to stabilize his unbalanced system.

His heart raced as his mind introduced terrifying possibilities in which he could die. Had The Inquisition come and poisoned him and his family? Was this the result of some bonding with the cursed mare?

“You can relax Samwise, this discomfort you are feeling is momentary,” A strong wizened voice declared. “Open your eyes boy.” The voice demanded. “He shook his head denying the voice. “Open your eyes boy!” The voice demanded

“No!” He protested.

“What!” The voice protested.

"You heard me you… you… Inquisitors Dog! If you want to slay me, you’ll find no pleasure in killing me if I stare at you! You'll have to get jollies off staring into the eyes of a rotting Corpse!”

There was long silence as Sam waited for the sharp pierce of a blade to part his skin.  He was instead greeted with a chuckle. The man chuckled heartily, and Sam cracked one eye. He was laying in the grass. He opened his other eye to peer around. He sat up. He was sitting on a hill just above the city.

He could see the lights of the Guard towers twinkling as soldiers walked pass them on sentry duty. He turned around. There was a road that usually heavily trafficked with adventurers and Sellswords. Brigades of men and women traversed the very path he was laying on. Now it was lit with a single torch of pale flickering flames.  Next to that light stood a tall man Dressed in black robes.

His face was covered by a hood with green opulent glowing stones. The little Samwise could see of was his chin. It was long and pointed with a greying beard and elaborate braids.

"I haven't laughed like that in a very long time." The dark man stated. “I suppose I should thank you Samwise.” He stated as his beard parted to reveal a yellowing smile.

“Who are you?” Samwise demanded.

“Such disrespect from a youngling. I suppose it is to be expected of a Freeman.” The Old man muttered to himself.

“I go by many names, Lord of the Night. Emperor of the silent ones. The first shadow walker and the last. I am Kotchsheit the Eternal, but you boy may call Milord or His Majesty." The Night Emperor Declared.

The ground rumbled as he spoke. “Those are but a few of my countless names.”

Sam could tell this man was a man of actual power and depth. He could feel it pouring off of him. He was afraid, yet curious. “I already have a King I bend a knee too. You don’t seem like a King I’d want to serve.” Sam said in a blasé fashion as if he was often visited by visitors of a high caliber.

Kotchsheit chuckled again. “I think you’re going to be an interesting piece to my board.” “What’s funny you old Codger? I’m not bending a Knee to you or any man!” Sam demanded “Oh… is that so, then?”  The Dark Emperor said in a playful tone.

“Born Free, Die free!”  Sam called out as he reached for his spathe to illustrate his declaration. The Dark emperor lifted up his hand and showed Sam he was holding his sword.

“The Freemans oath is it?”

“Aye!” Sam agreed.

“Well then Samwise, understand this… I am not the kind of Liege lord who forces his vassals to bend a knee. If I am speaking to you now, then it because you belong to me already.” Sam wanted to protest but, in his heart, he could that the King of Shadows was speaking the truth.

“What do you want then?” The young boy asked.

"I have come for several reasons. First, I wanted to see the first horsemen of the Shadow Walkers, and also I have come to personally extend an invitation to you and your family before your village is wiped out tonight." Kotchsheit said with a serious face.

“What are ye’ prattling on about! Wiped out?!”

"You're City, and its King is next to subjugated by the Inquisition.”

“How do you know? What proof do ye’ have?” Sam demanded.

The Lord of Shadows stared at him blankly. "Boy, you don't understand the grand scheme that is in play here. This war… This war of Brimstone is already written, and now it is time for the story to unravel. You boy…are the second piece in a larger story. Your gift has awakened, and your noble steed has arrived.

“My gift?” Sam queried.

“Yes Samwise, your gift. It shall aid you in the quest for vengeance in the coming future." The shadow King declared with sadness in his voice.

“Quest of Vengeance?” Samwise demanded.

"Yes boy, all will be made apparent in a matter of moments. Remember this, for it will aid you in the coming future. The way to the realm of the night is just south of the phantom mountains. In the forest of eternal autumn. Seek refuge with a man named Lorenzo Glass. He will make sure you and family arrive safely to the Nightmare throne room.”

As the king finished speaking the sound of a shrill woman’s scream filled the air.

“Looks like our time has reached its pinnacle.” The Night King said with a frown. “Godspeed Samwise… May the Shadows watch over you.” He declared before vanishing into the night.

 

To be continued…

End of Part One.

 


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