In one fateful day, Kráva comes into possession of a sword of legendary power, and is claimed by the gods as a hero. She soon learns that there are problems she can't just cut her way through. Not to mention that the lives of the gods' favored are often exciting, glorious, and very short ... "Sounds interesting!"
eep in the night, Kráva sensed a presence. She snapped awake, one hand already gripping the knife beside her on the pallet. Then a familiar shape and scent put her at ease for a moment.
“What is it, father?” she murmured.
orning found Kráva sitting outdoors, sitting on a low bench with her back to a round-house wall.
Anyone watching her would see a young woman, perhaps of twenty summers, her skin a warm tawny-brown, her close-cropped hair as black as the raven for which ...
úrvira, king of the Ravatheni tribe, was a liar.
Kráva was not at all certain how she knew this. She had never met the man before, not in the year since he had been elevated to the kingship. She had heard few rumors of him, and Derga had always spoken ...
he Wolf-clan’s chieftain had seen many summers. He had silver hair, a long beard, and eyes that had gone weak with time. His chest was still broad, his arms still strong enough to wield spear and sword. Tonight, he wore a tunic in the Wolf-clan’s b...
hree of them slipped out of the gate of Taimar Velkari a little before midnight, each of them leading a pair of horses. Kráva glanced down the slope, but she could not see the place where the king’s men had camped, east around the shoulder of the great ...
ráva yelped in startlement, and drew Tarankláva out of sheer reflex. Strangely, neither Drúthan nor Lóka stirred at the sudden noise.
“No need for that,” said the stranger, in a deep, pleasant voice. “Come, sit with me. We have thin...
rúthan stirred when the morning sun shone in his face. He rose, going to the stream to splash water over his head and refill his waterskin. By the time he returned, Lóka had arisen as well, and was eating a bit of trail-bread from his pack. Through all this,...
The vaita came at Kráva’s call, slowly since he was shepherding three children across the fields. When he arrived, he glanced down at the skátë’s unmoving form and shook his head. &ldqu...
began their attack in the deep night. Sky Father’s star and the moon shone brightly down from their stations in opposite quarters of the sky, as if their gods leaned close to watch the battle. There had been hours of shouted taunts an...
ráva managed to catch about two hours of sleep, once the skátoi
had been put to flight. At sunrise, she rose to a quick meal of bread and cheese, washed down with a mug of sour ale. Then she and her companions went out to the stables, to prepare the...
hey set out for Verkanta later in the morning, three hundred of them or more, keeping to a leisurely pace that footmen could follow. A small range of hills stretched westward from Red Deer village, marking part of the boundary with the Mírsari tribe. The comp...
hat evening, the company made camp near an outlying village of the Wolf-clan. The villagers had seen none of the skátoi
, and had plenty with which to feast the king and his following. Kráva sat with Drúthan beneath a great oak tree, and they stuffe...
he next day, Lóka seemed his usual self once more, waving away Kráva’s attempt to apologize once more. He spent most of the day riding in Kráva’s chariot, talking with her and with Drúthan.
The day itself was cloudy and cool, unusual for ...
ore rain came on the following day, enough to turn the road into a sea of mud and dampen everyone’s spirits. Travel was slow, and it was very late in the afternoon before the king’s company reached Verkanta.
The Kanta River flowed through the...
ut in the countryside, and in the hill-forts, most Tremára lived in round-houses:
a single floor built on a circular plan, with stone or wattle-and-daub walls and steep thatched roofs. Within the ramparts of Verkanta, though, most houses were in a ne...
he royal residence was Mednákalë
, a grand mead-hall, widely known as the largest and finest in all the Tremára lands. It had been built at the very highest point of Verkanta’s hill, its wooden doors facing to the southwest. Its outer walls we...
or a few days, a guarded peace held in Verkanta. Kráva made excuses to avoid the king's hall, not wanting to be the object of Múrvira's attention, but otherwise she was free of the town.
She spent more of her time at the Sun-clan hall than she had expe...
wo evenings later, the Sun-clan climbed the long path up the hill of Verkanta, to reach the front doors of Mednákalë. Resavíra was there, and his grown sons Rótrena and Várdan, and Kráva to represent her branch of the chieftain’s family. Twenty mor...
fter all that, the feast itself felt almost like anticlimax. Kráva sat at her place at the Sun-clan’s table, and smiled when others praised her, and tried to eat and drink as if she still had an appetite.
Killing skátoi was one thing. Ki...
orning came, and with it the dull pain that came of far too much beer and wine the night before. Kráva rose from her cold cot, pulled on her third-best tunic, and emerged from the tiny chamber where she had slept since Resavíra’s arrival.
erkanta’s drill field was a wide space in the southern quarter of the town, kept empty of buildings, open to the sun and the wind. There warriors would go to exercise and keep up their weapons-practice, at least those styles that were used on foot. Horse...
ráva floated toward consciousness out of a deep sleep, somehow certain that someone had called her name. She woke, still wrapped in the darkness of her tiny sleeping chamber, feeling a sense of urgency that only grew stronger, despite the near-silence of the ...
ráva woke briefly when they raised her off the ground, onto a makeshift stretcher made of cloaks folded over two spears. She growled and cursed at them, reaching for Tarankláva and not finding it, ready to leap up and sell her life dearly. Then the pain hit ...
n the morning, Kráva rose with the sun. She submitted to the examination of a healer-vaita
, who removed most of her bandages and gave her warnings she had no intention of obeying. She polished her boots, her sword-belt, and Tarankláva’s sheath...
hile the king prepared to fight, Drúthan leaned close to Kráva. “Are you sure about this? Isn’t this just what that sword in your hand would want?”
“What the sword wants doesn’t matter,” Kráva told him, never glanci...
houts of anger and outrage, shouts of vehement support, half a dozen long-standing disputes breaking out all at once. Chaos.
“She’s not High Grove!”
“Look where rule by High Grove has gotten us! At least she’s a proven...
he escape from Verkanta was not quite as simple as Kráva hoped, but she and her company did manage to find horses and supplies, and flee to the West Gate ahead of the invading army.
It helped that the Men of Iron lost all discipline, the moment they br...
ráva.” Rána came forward, not quite within range of Tarankláva, and stared up at her. “Is it true? Múrvira is dead, and by your hand?”
She never saw the sanatha woman move. One instant Rána ...
ráva pulled up and dismounted from her chariot in front of the chieftain’s hall, surrounded by clansmen eager for news. Then someone came at her from the side, and she suddenly found herself wrapped in a fierce hug. Lips pressed hers for a moment, then ...
he enemy began their assault in the late afternoon, after a few straggling bands of skátoi
arrived from the sack of outlying farmsteads.
The skátoi led the attack, advancing toward the walls of the fortress in well-disciplined squads,...