THE BLACK FOX
Excerpt from The Black Fox Chronicles
Astrid the Black Fox stood alone, wearing a dark tunic of cotton with black fur tossed over his broad shoulders. His cloak was wrapped tightly around him with its dark design woven along the hem and center of the shroud. His worn boots were dark leather made from the hide of the northern bison, as were his arm-guards and belt. His attire helped him blend with the shadows casts by the moonlight.
His middle-aged face was worn and beautiful with a neatly trimmed black beard scuffed around his pale cheeks. His only noticeable imperfection was the long, crooked scar that stretched from the top of his forehead, pulling down diagonally across his left eye. His pupil in that eye was white as snow.
Night hung over the world like a collection of black raven feathers. The cold seemed to stick to everything in sight, the endless plains covered in ice and snow. The winds cut like a sword made of ice, striking against the few naked trees scattered across the plain. The sound of their quivering trunks echoed throughout the cold night as ice and rain slowly began to fall.
Astrid liked the cold. It was as familiar to him as his own name. He’d spent so many years in the deep north, tracking through the snow and enduring the cold winter’s roar. The roar always spoke of endless winters and the coming of frozen deaths.
The Selfish Peaks pierced through the pale fog, their snow-capped tips like white suns, shining down upon the frost-bitten shelters of the northern trappers who shivered in their fur-covered beds. The moon wolves occasionally howled as they scurried across the endless sea of frozen white near the White Mountains. The trappers quaked with fear at the thought of the whisperlings who hid deep within their glossy-pearl caverns. They were said be awaiting the day when they might roam free once again and sing their deadly songs to lure those unaware. They were but one of the terrors northern trappers feared. There was a deep silence that came with walking alone, the only sounds coming from the shards of ice that fell, keeping time with the subtle rhymes of a trappers’ ballad. As they journeyed, they would sing, “’Tis a terror frost, this day and night, pray to come a sweet sun of warmth and light.”
A longsword rested against his well-muscled thigh, its silver hilt shining as the streams of silver moonlight caught it. Chips and scratches covered the guard all the way down to the pale gem set into the tip of the pommel. When drawn, the blade was three and half feet long, bright steel shining almost like silver. Its foreign name was crafted vertically down the blade. Read in the common tongue: Sleep.
Astrid rested his hand on the hilt and rubbed the jewel with his thumb. He exhaled slowly and remembered holding the sword for the first time all those years ago. Its blade was forged from good northern steel. As he dropped his hand from the hilt, his memory quickly followed. He cleared his mind. The past was the past and no one could shift its course. No one knew this to be true more than him.
On his dark gauntlet was perched a magnificent bird clothed in pearl-white feathers, its silver beak piercing through the wind like a sword. Norf.
He looked into the bird’s clear-blue eyes and stroked its spotted, feathered middle. The majestic bird let out a soft cry that echoed through the silver fog and hid in the wind blowing.Astrid had found the hawk caught in the trap of a poacher he had hunted in the deep north near the White Mountains where the goblin’s towers lay in crumbled ruins with thick silence blanketing them. Scissortails were scarce; nearly all of them had vanished. It was against
Astrid had found the hawk caught in the trap of a poacher he had hunted in the deep north near the White Mountains where the goblin’s towers lay in crumbled ruins with thick silence blanketing them. Scissortails were scarce; nearly all of them had vanished. It was against northern law to poach them, just as it was illegal to hunt moon foxes and white bison for their pelts, but this didn’t stop the hunters. These things were worth a good amount of silver to the right buyer. Astrid had freed the beautiful bird and the hawk had stayed with him.
“You ready old friend?”
Norf leaped from Astrid’s arm and flew into the night sky. Me too.
Astrid shifted his gaze back to the herd of men huddled around a small fire. They were dressed in thick garments topped with heavy furs of the white bison and moon wolves. Their garments and knowledge of the terrain allowed them to seemingly disappear into the white covered hills and mountains. White Raiders. The thought of silver put a gleam in Astrid’s good eye.
The White Raiders were known for attacking and plundering supply caravans that ran through the trails and roads of the Wild North. They had no preference who they robbed from or what the wagons consisted of, as long as it held something of worth. But this time they had stolen from the wrong man.
Astrid spotted the leader. He was better armed than the others. His sword gleamed brighter and his furs were not as ragged. He stood a foot taller than the rest and Astrid knew he ruled through brute force alone, not wit. The Black Fox counted the heads. Six.
Each of them wore a broad sword on their hips and their backs carried a quiver of arrows. He could smell the rich meat roasting over the fire and the heavy scent of dark ale. They had been drinking. Good, Astrid thought. Their minds would be slow and their swords heavy. Astrid counted the weapons they each held and rehearsed his strategy.
He moved out from behind the white boulder and approached the herd of men. It was only when the fire caught the silver hilt of his sword that the leader spotted him. “Who’s there,” the leader said as he gripped his sword.
The other men followed suit and gripped their weapons, their hands clumsy and slow. Astrid said nothing.
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