Enjoy this 3 minute read from Chapter 1 of my next epic fantasy release, The Veridian Wars.
“Oy! Mal! Goat or ass?” Torus was braying.
Grigor frowned. His fool companions, with their stench of paan smoke, kept drawing him out of the epic he was reading.
They cackled like a group of hags as Torus bounced around in mimicry of a donkey.
Grigor gave Torus a scowl. Not that he’d noticed. The big, bald foot soldier was as perceptive as a lubberfish.
Grunting, Grigor returned his attention to the scroll and managed a few more lines of script before another of his companions interrupted him — the short, irritating weasel they called Mal. Grigor had met many men named after gods who seemed worthy of the title. But Mal was nothing more than a loathsome camp gossip.
Mal crouched low under the hanging spruce limb and stepped closer to where Grigor sat with his back against the dry tree trunk. Mal’s red hair contrasted sharply against the dark green of the tree.
“Oy.” Mal’s nasal voice rose with the wind. “You hear me, One-Eye?”
Grigor reluctantly looked up with his sole eye that had inspired one of his many nicknames. Mal’s long face with drooping eyes made him appear perpetually sleepy. The whole effect was worsened with a crooked nose, and one of those mouths that remained open at all times. In all, the short man looked stupid. Not inaccurate. Not that Grigor could talk of ugliness. He’d travelled the known world as a slave soldier of the Solan Realm from his homeland of Krell in the west, to Thasus in the east, and he was yet to find a man uglier than himself.
“… running out,” Mal was saying.
Grigor sighed. *Not again*. He brought the ancient scroll down to rest on his lap and glanced beyond Mal’s slight frame. The others had formed a circle by the fire, all of them laughing as they puffed on paan pipes. Sniggering at Mal, Grigor had no doubt. “What is?” he asked, reluctantly.
“You stupid?” Mal’s mouth gaped more than usual. “It’s the night of daemons.”
Grigor stared a moment before replying, slowly, “I’m aware tonight marks the beginning of the Sacred Abstinence.” Grigor was careful to use the words of the Faith, which all soldiers, from generals to slaves like him, had been forced to adopt. He’d read enough epics over the years to know all sects come and go, along with their gods. In ancient Krellia it was said cannibalism was once common, stemming from a belief that eating the organs of one’s enemies weakened their gods. And now this newest cult, Duas, believed fasting during the Darkness, only taking of bread and water, would cleanse both body and spirit. The Faith was tightening its grip on the Realm, and converting the army had quickened the process. But Grigor didn’t trust any god, not even his own, and he trusted the men who followed them less so. At his age he no longer wished to risk the whip, so he took pains to speak the pompous words of the Faith where he could.
“Sacred Abstinence.” Mal spat. “Listen to you.” He stood as tall as his short stature would allow and broadened his chest, then lowered his voice in mimicry of Grigor. “I am aware it is the Sacred Abstinence. La-dee-bloody-da.”
“If that is all…” Grigor returned his attention to the scroll.
Mal took a step closer and was about to say something more when a chittering screech pierced the air.
“What was that?” Mal’s voice went high.
“Feeder bat,” Grigor replied, not turning from the scroll.
“Feeder b — ” Mal yelped throwing his arms in the air.
Mal straightened and returned doleful eyes on Grigor. “How do you know? A bird there. A bat thither. A storm brewing, or something wrong with Flur. How by Unark’s balls do you think you know?” Mal’s face was turning as red as his hair. His tantrums were tiresome to endure. Grigor had the fleeting thought that if he swung a punch with his right fist, Mal would lose his last three teeth on the left. It would give his perpetually open mouth a dull twist. But Grigor’s hand continued to hold the scroll, the parchment too precious to risk a splattering of blood.
Grigor shrugged and cast a look at Flur. The mare could just be seen on the other side of a spruce tree beyond their circle of tents. She was sleeping.
Mal uttered more curses and Grigor waited for his ire to explode into the rantings they’d put up with for the last lunath during which this sorry band of eight soldiers had tolerated each other. But Mal stepped away.
The Veridian Wars is a standalone epic fantasy novel and is now available for preorder. Get 10% off when using the coupon code: VERIDIAN
Preorder here: https://aderynwood.com/b/SW1p9
Stay tuned for 1.2