Tag Archives: village

Despot

The woods gave way to a bald hilltop. Buildings with thatched roofs and smoking stone chimneys flanked the dirt road ahead. Victor pulled back on his reins, slowing his horse to a standstill. He leaped onto the grass, ripping the blood-soaked cloth sack from the saddle. Aubrey followed suit, relieved to be through with the chafing of the ride. She massaged her aching thighs. Wearing a dress was not a good idea. Victor passed her by, swinging the bag at his side. The blood oozing through the twine mesh caught Aubrey’s eye. She was curious, but hesitant to ask. Understanding that the contents were terribly gruesome.

“People of the Hills!” Victor called out as he paced towards the houses.

Peasants clad in furs gradually wandered out of their shacks. Stretching their joints after being woken from their slumber. Victor waited for them to gather. Aubrey noted that these people did not look at them with fear. They seemed more confused by their sovereign’s sudden arrival.

“Hear me!” Victor announced. “Anyone who dares lay a finger on a Romanov.”

He flipped the back upside down. A pair of severed hands dropped at Victor’s feet. The still gathering crowd gasped. Aubrey winced silently before looking away.

“Will lose it.”

A man in the front row fell to his knees. He wept openly, consumed in his anguish. Others nervously murmured to each other. It seemed to Victor that the message had it’s intended effect.

“Send your tributes to the castle by the end of the week.” He spat.

Victor placed a hand on the small of Aubrey’s back. Nudging her back to the horses. He was eager to take her away from the squalor of the countryside. Back to the creature comforts of Castle Romanov.

“No.” The crying man rose to his feet. “We have nothing. You cannot draw blood from a rock.”

Though he still blinked away tears, he stood resolute. Victor noticed the impact it had on his kinsfolk. Fear quickly shifted to bitterness in a growing sentiment. Men were starting to run back to their houses, most likely to grab their hunting spears and bows. He redoubled his efforts to herd Aubrey away. She looked around nervously at the narrowing gap of encircling tribesmen. He slid a hand onto the hilt of his sword as a warning to them. Victor knew he could take this tribe by himself, but he was not sure if he could protect Aubrey if they all rushed at once.

“Run.” He hissed.

An arrow whizzed towards them. Victor drew his blade with blinding speed and sliced it out of the air. The mob stepped back instinctively. All except for the man with tears still running down his face. He stood his ground in an act of defiance and pounded a fist in the air.

“Victor Romanov! My name is Anton Krylov! And I am the man that will kill you!” He cursed.

The men and women of the tribe cheered in support. Victor grabbed Aubrey’s hand. They were completely encircled.

“Stay close to me.” He growled to her.

She trusted his judgement and obeyed. The swelling anger manifested verbally at first. Victor deflected the occasional arrow and hurled rock with short strikes with his sword. He realized that it was only a matter of time until the mob gathered enough courage to swarm them. He needed to think of a way to escape, fast.

“Watch out!” Aubrey yanked urgently at Victor’s sleeve to get his attention.

Victor spun around in time to catch an elderly woman mid-thrust. Dodging the spearpoint was a simple matter of timing. He gripped the extended shaft of the weapon with a single hand and barred his fangs. This was his opportunity to escape.

“Follow me closely.” He instructed.

Aubrey complied and wrapped her fingers into his coat tail. She was not sure what to expect, but she was drawn to his sudden certainty. Victor whipped the spear from the old lady’s grasp, redirecting the bunt hilt squarely over her chest. He shoved it into her firmly. Not enough force to impale, but enough to push her back through the crowd. Creating a fleeting path through the rows of people. Victor and Aubrey charged into the opening. The faces of snarling peasants blurred past. In a few seconds, they were clear. Victor released the spear. The momentum left the woman stumbling backwards.

“Hurry!”

Aubrey untangled her hand from Victor’s jacket. The two sprinted to the horses with arms outstretched.

“We are done cowering!” Anton roared behind them.

The mass of bodies stampeded in pursuit, emboldened by Anton’s fierce words. Victor was fast enough to escape easily, but he needed to keep pace with his struggling wife. Her breathing was erratic, and her strength was fading fast. Victor winced in annoyance. He dug his heels into the dirt. Aubrey shot him a puzzled look as he skidded to a stop. The mob was getting closer.

“Trust me.”

“O-Okay.” She panted.

With a swoop he ripped Aubrey off her feet. Then took off in a burst of speed. Moments later he had reached his mount. Victor grunted and tossed Aubrey onto the saddle. He pulled himself up with ease and slapped his feet against the horse. It whinnied gruffly. Sharp pebbles flew into the air as they raced down the road, retreating into the forest. Aubrey looked over her shoulder at the hill tribe slowly fading between the trees. Shuddering at the thought of what they would have done to her. She wrapped her arms around Victor’s torso with interlocked fingers. Letting out a relief laden exhale and gazing out into the passing woods.

“Are you hurt?” He asked.

“No. I’m fine.” She laid her head onto his shoulders.

Victor sighed. He had never imagined himself running away like he did. Of course, he was thinking of Aubrey’s safety. But he could not shake the feeling that a fire was started here. One he would be hard pressed to smother. He thought back to the man that had incited the violence. The man that had promised to kill him. Anton. Anton Krylov.

Victor was certain that they would meet again.


This is a bit from a writing project I abandoned a while back. My laughable attempt at a vampire romance novelette. I ended up just losing interest. This encounter was supposed to be the moment when the newlywed Princess Aubrey and Victor Romanov spark the rebellion that brings the couple closer together in order to defeat it (She hates him initially). Maybe my next attempt at romance will be less cheesy haha.

Just Business

I spied movement coming from the road ahead. Or perhaps it was the shifting shadows of the great oaks playing tricks. The wagon creaked to an uneasy stop. My shaking hands caressed the sickle dangling from my hip. Tallow whinnied, sensing my anxiety. I calmed her with a caress of her neck and gave a few soft taps to encourage her to trudge on. The closer I got the clearer the situation became. A man dressed in rags lay on the ground just off the path. I remained a good distance away. His mare grazed on the grass and leaves beside him. The man hacked up blood before weakly addressing me.

“You there! Merchant! What’re you peddling?”

“Ale. I hear it fetches a good price around these parts.”

The man flew into a coughing fit. He wrapped a stained wool scarf over his mouth before looking back up at me with bloodshot eyes. A cool shiver took hold of my spine. This man was withering.

“I may be a lost cause, but if you could take pity-”

“Can you pay?”

He slowly shook his head, wincing with pain at each short burst of rotation.

“I will alert the local authorities when I get to town. That is the best I can do.”

Without another glance, I gave Tallow a swift kick to her side. She stamped into a hurried trot. As we passed the dying man, the mare spooked and galloped through the trees. Her owner let out a weak cry as I left the wood. Pity is for the superstitious and weak.

The forest opened up to a hill overlooking a good sized village. Houses were sparsely gathered around a tall wooden bell tower. Structures set ablaze, now piles of char peppered the outskirts. The wither had hit this place hard.

I jumped off the saddle and walked the horses down the main road through the center of town. Wary eyes peered at me through closed shutters. I stopped at the base of the bell tower where two people greeted me with excitement. One was a man dressed in red and gold silk, obviously born into wealth. The other was a modest looking women. She wore a dark hood over her face.

“Greetings traveller! Please excuse our surprise, we don’t get many traders around here as of late.” The man beamed. “I am Baron Voss, ruler of these lands. If I may ask, what are you looking to sell today?”

“Ale. I have around two hundred gallons in total. I’m not looking to barter. Price per barrel is one hundred and twenty-five sol.”

The pair looked to each other cautiously. Their bickering began immediately, quickly escalating to screams and threats of violence. I had to get them back on track.

“One at a time now. There’s plenty for both parties, I’m sure of it.”

“Good sir, that’s just it.” The woman explained “There is not. The village needs all of it. The river to the east runs through the wither. People are dying and few have the strength to till the fields. We live off what rainwater and runoff we can capture. I fear more dead by the month’s end. We can pay sir. Everyone will chip in. The Baron would have us die of thirst before lifting a finger to do anything for the wellbeing of his subjects.”

“Now that is just a malicious lie!” Baron Voss was visibly irate. “I told them I would pay for a well! And they have the audacity to say I do nothing!”

“My Lord, we need it now! Else, the crops will not be harvested!”

“Is that a threat? My dear, so help me I will-”

“ENOUGH BICKERING!” I exclaimed. My patience grew thin with these people. The silence did not last.

“I will now present my offer” Baron Voss composed himself. “I am hosting a party at my estate tonight, for which I require ale. A lot of it. You can consider yourself among the invited should you accept my offer. There will be many powerful lords at the table. Many of whom would be delighted to broker a deal with a merchant that still ventures this far south. I will give you seven hundred sol for your entire stock, which I believe is fair seeing as how you are attempting to charge more than twice the market price.”

I licked my lips greedily. A contract with any one of those lords could spark big things. This was an opportunity I could not pass up, and the Baron knew it. He cracked a wry grin and turned to the woman. Fat tears welled up in her eyes.

“I expect the men out tending my crops first thing tomorrow morning.”

The woman resigned her head in defeat, mumbling angrily to herself as she walked away. Baron Voss on the other hand, was beaming with joy. He chuckled and slapped by back with an open palm. On the way to his estate I told him of the withering man by the side of the road. He seemed unfazed.

“I’ll dispatch some men to burn the body. You made the right decision. It’s just business.”