Murandy Damodred and I wrote Fatestorm last year and decided to include it as a bonus story in the Far, Far Away Anthology. Now, we’re sharing the opening scene with you, here. If, after reading it, you’d like to pick up an ebook or paperback copy of the anthology, you can do so in our store: http://www.mirror-world-publishing.myshopify.com or from an online retailer, like Amazon.
221 BC – Somewhere North of the Great Roman Empire…
Deneige felt the water in the cloth beneath her hand crystallize, tiny pinpricks of cold stabbing into her flesh. Instinctively, her eyes sought those of her mentor. Ignes’ careworn face carried a gentle smile. “See now, I told you it was simpler with something cool and wet to direct your focus. You’ve got it now, Javvar’s fever is as good as broken.”
With renewed focus, Deneige returned her attention to her patient, dabbing at his steaming brown skin with her now ice-cold cloth, when sounds coming from outside the tent intruded on her concentration. Her ears pricked. She heard screams, a distant yell, and the unmistakable clang of weapons over the pounding of horses’ hooves. Along with it all, she felt a stirring in her blood, the kind that always warned her when the weather was about to take a turn for the worst. But if the sounds she was hearing were any indication, this wasn’t a natural kind of storm.
Instinct drove Deneige to her feet. She reached for her medicine bag, then fished around her sleeping area for her larger travelling sack. It had been a few weeks now since they’d settled in for the winter, and her belongings were mostly unpacked in the tent she shared with Ignes and sometimes those who were injured or sick, but she started shoving anything she thought she might need into the pack.
The stillness within the tent, in contrast to the rising sounds of chaos from outside, slowly alerted Deneige that all was not as it should be. She whipped her head around to stare at Ignes, who knelt unmoving in the centre of their living space. “Can you not hear that? Ignes,” Deneige snapped, losing patience in the face of the fear that gripped her, “they are coming. They have come for us. Your visions were wrong. They are here!”
“I should have told you.” She spoke calmly, but the old woman’s icy blue eyes snapped upwards and locked with Deneige’s own. Her words seared into Deneige’s soul as if driven into her on the tip of a cold, steel blade. Outside, the storm drew nearer.
“Should have told me what?” Deneige reached for her mentor’s hands and found them colder than her own, and brittle, more like lifeless objects than the warm, steady tools she used to comfort those given over to her care.
Ignes curled her fingers around Deneige’s hands up to the wrists and then clamped down hard. “You will be the one to lead us from this black night and into the bright light of day. You will save us. Only you can-”
Ignes words cut off like her life did, without warning.
Deneige had been so focused on her mentor that she hadn’t heard the tearing of the tent fabric behind her as a sword slid through it, and neither had she noticed the faceless armoured soldier who followed the point of his weapon into the tent’s softly lit interior. She did, however, scream as the blood-soaked tip of his blade emerged unexpectedly from Ignes’ middle. The bitingly cold air and the sudden feeling that the storm had arrived cut her scream short, and she whirled from the horrific sight to find yet another man staring at her.
This one was as faceless as the first in his helmet, but with one undeniable difference.He was the storm. The wind and early season snow swirled around him, but he was the storm’s centre; Deneige could feel it in her bones. The man sat atop a black horse with a striking white mane, wearing full plate mail and a cape the colour of the blood beginning to pool beneath her. He was death itself, come to claim her, but there was also no doubt that he stood very much among the living. He hadn’t moved, but to Deneige’s otherworldly senses he was a force in and of himself, as chaotic as a whipping wind. She found herself staring. Beneath his featureless helm, she felt him staring back.
“This one lives,” the storm thundered. “See that she’s tied with the others.”
“Wait! I-” Deneige began, fighting to compose herself. “Who are you to come in here and bark commands?!”
“Sir Rendall, Praefecti of Apollo’s Legion.”
“I’m the Dea of my people,” Deneige answered desperately, climbing to her feet and lifting her chin. Her mentor’s death meant she had inherited her position by default. “I am Deneige Audra.”
His response was impassive, despite the swirling power she still felt rolling off of him. “The Lumen are no more. Your rank is no longer relevant.”
She faced the storm head on. “You could take all I own, but you cannot take my identity from me.”
“We shall see,” he stated flatly, nodding to the other legionnaire in the tent, and before Deneige had a chance to react she was grabbed forcefully from behind.
“I do not fear the storm!” she shouted as she was dragged to her feet, her ears filled with the sound of his horses’ hooves striking the ground as he moved away. “I do not fear you!”