Cold Lords (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: July 9, 2015 in Fantasy, Fiction
Tags: , , , ,

This week’s challenge was to go to a site, get six random titles, and use one. I ended up with COLD LORDS. Overall, I’m happy with how it came out (even if I went a bit over word count). There aren’t going to be any challenges for the next couple of weeks so I’m going to have to find something to fill this space with, I suppose.

“Remind me again, Illyana, why we chose to take this commission?” Marius descended from the carriage, his furs wrapped close to his body to ward against the biting wind. “I am cold, and the carriage was too tight.” The big man unstrapped the baggage from the top of their transport and hefted it on to his shoulder.

Illyana descended from her side of the carriage with the grace of a dancer, brushing snowflakes from her raven-wing hair. “Because we need the money, Marius.” The side of her face left uncovered by her hair gleamed like porcelain, and her red lips were curled up in a capricious smile. “Besides, it isn’t as if the warmer climes were quite, well, welcoming, were they, darling?”

Marius snorted. “Hardly my fault.” He stared up at the foreboding stone structure, their destination. “That’s it?”

Illyana nodded. “Mmm-hmm. The familial estate of the Strumoviches.”

“Hell of a place to raise a family.”

“Not so different from where I was raised, truly. Do you think so little of me?”

Marius smiled, revealing teeth through his great black beard. “Hardly, but then you had the good sense to leave.”

“Hmm. You do retain your charm. Come, it would be boorish to stand out here when we are expected.”

“Oh?” Marius turned toward the snow-bound manor to see a lantern had been lit. Several servants pushed against the blowing snow toward them, dragging a sledge. “You told them we were coming?”

Illyana sniffed. “And why not? Don’t tell me you were considering laying siege to the place, Marius. That would be rather gauche, don’t you think?”

“Master Marius and Mistress Illyana, correct?” The lead servant’s voice was muffled by the thick scarf he wore wrapped around his head, but the two could make him out clearly enough.

“That would be us, but I’m no Master. Merely the Mistress Illyana’s servant, much in the same way you are to the Strumoviches, I’d imagine.” Marius settled the chest on the sledge, grateful to be momentarily relieved of its burden. Marius thought he saw the servants shudder when he mentioned their masters by name.

“Please, this way. The Lords Strumovich have ordered a meal prepared in anticipation of your arrival.”

“You see Marius, we have not entirely abandoned civilization.”

Marius’ reply was a silent glare.

Inside the manor, the air was no warmer than it was outside. Lights gleamed from sconces, but gave no heat. In the fireplaces, cold blue flames burned, casting strange shadows against the bare walls. A frozen wind whipped through the halls, accompanied by the sound of howling laughter and bitter weeping.

Marius dropped the chest he’d picked up from the sledge and stared around. The servants backed away, huddling together and hiding their faces. “Figure we came to the right place, eh Illyana?” He shed his furs, revealing a blackened breastplate stretched over his barrel chest. He raised a coif of chain over his head and lowered lenses of smoked glass over his eyes. A short hafted axe hung from his belt.

“Mmm. I do believe you are correct. Be a darling and open the chest would you?” Illyana shed her furs as well, revealing the dancer’s silks of blue and silver she wore beneath.

Marius knelt down and bent the leaden clasps holding it closed open, then lifted the lid to reveal the contents. Illyana drew a long bladed sword out from within and draped a bandoleer over her chest, its loops filled with various vials. Marius, for his part, drew a long wooden object with various cords and brass embellishments marking it as more than a simple beam. He turned a handcrank, and the arms of the arbalest extended out. He reached into the chest and slotted home a magazine of bolts that would keep his weapon well fed. Stenciled along one side of the stock was the word “Jasmine.”

“What is the meaning of this intrusion, brothers?” a voice called from the top of the chairs, as devoid of emotion as a sheet of ice. A gentleman, dressed in blue and silver, descended the stair case. His hair was a pale blue, and his skin was the color of frostbite. In his hand he held a thin rapier or black ice.

“I do not know, Ivan,” came another voice, this one barely more than a creaky whisper, like shifting ice over a lake. “The woman though, possesses such a heat as I haven’t felt in too long.”

“And what do you think we should do about them, Fyodr?”

“Feed on their heart’s blood, Ivan. Feel their warmth dripping down our throats.” Fyodr’s mouth split wider than any man’s should, his teeth like icicles, sharp and hard.

“Truly?” Illyana laughed and pulled a vial out from her bandoleer. She pried the top off with one long nail and poured the contents down the length of her blade. It blazed with a fierce red light, though the flames didn’t affect her. “You might find us a difficult draught to swallow.”

Marius rolled his big shoulders and hefted the arbalest to his shoulder. “I hate the cold, Illyana.”

“I know, darling. Let’s do something about it shall we?”

Ivan leapt down from the stairs, sword held point down. Illyana neatly sidestepped his impaling thrust, her sword trailing a flaming arc in her wake. Her blade met the sword of ice in a cloud of steam. Ivan howled, his blade a full foot shorter than it had been. He came at her with nails like claws, his mouth an icy maw. Illyana laughed and spun, her flaming sword arcing around her. The edge of the blade met Ivan’s wrist, dissolving it into steam.

Fyodr stalked down the stairs, careful to keep frost-rimed pillars of stone between himself and Marius. “You cannot win, mortal man. Do you know how many others have come to these halls, seeking to end us? We are immortal fool, and soon we will feast on your mortal hearts, drink melt water from your skull.”

“Uh-huh. Keep talking, monster. You aren’t the first one I’ve put down, though you might be the chattiest.”

Fyodr leapt at Marius, claws extended out. Marius felt the wave of cold extending out from the ice wight. He smiled grimly under his beard, triggered his arbalest. The bolt released, trailing a cord as thick as a young woman’s wrist. The bolt pierced Fyodr in the abdomen with the sound of breaking glass, and the wight collapsed to the ground. He started to get up, but a second bolt slammed home, followed by a third. Laying there, twitching, Fyodr could do nothing but watch as Marius approached with a flask of oil in one hand and a box of matches in the other.

“Almost done, Illyana?” Marius asked, as what remained of Fyodr burned behind him.

“Almost, darling,” Illyana replied. Ivan had been reduced to a torso, but he kept snapping at his tormentor, his eyes rolling in pain and madness. “I suppose I should put the poor dear out of  its misery.”

“We aren’t paid to toy with them. And I’m cold.”

Illyana sniffed. “Don’t be such a baby.” She shifted her weight, took the flaming blade in both hands, and drove it clean through Ivan’s neck. “There, done. Are you happy?”

Marius shrugged as he packed his arbalest away. “I’ll be happy when we get paid.”

Illyana laughed as she opened another vial and poured the contents over the blade to dowse the flames. “And then, darling?”

Marius smiled. “Then we go find some more monsters to kill.”

  1. Being more into Fantasy than Sci Fi, I really like this one. =)

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