Fiction Friday: Dragon-Blooded part 1

Exalted

Today we’re offering a look at the intro fiction for Dragon-Blooded: What Fire Has Wrought, whose deluxe edition is currently on Kickstarter. It’s set about 50 years prior to the “present,” Realm Year 768.

RY 718

The last wagon trundled away, bearing with it the daiklave of River’s former commander. The blade would return to House Peleps accompanied by a letter describing Peleps Lazurin’s brave last deeds, and conveying River’s sincerest condolences at the lack of a body. A short train of carts, wagons, and sledges wended away down the road, leaving their Wyld Hunt’s once-bustling camp little more than an empty stretch of road just north of the River Province. Birdsong was already replacing the ring of weapons on the air, and the last cookfire had dwindled down to embers.

The carts contained the weapons and armor of the slain — at least what River, Eshuvar, and Kingfisher Swift had been able to recover. A scant handful of monks’ and soldiers’ bodies were being shipped home, but the Anathema had reduced most of them to splintered bones and stinking offal. Far too many families were receiving only letters. River’s hands ached from writing them, but she’d taken on the responsibility while the servants and retainers she’d dismissed packed their dead masters’ things. It was the least she could do.

There wasn’t time to be writing missives — every hour’s delay let the two Anathema who’d laid waste to their Wyld Hunt slip farther away. But the survivors who hadn’t fled needed time to regroup, to tend to their wounds, to figure out what came next.

All three survivors.

Sesus Eshuvar stood in the middle of the road, watching the wagons go. He’d been only a few months out of the Heptagram when they first set out on the Hunt. River had noticed how young he’d seemed, then: tall and gangly, practiced but not yet polished, trying to find the proper line between self-assured hauteur and polite deference. Now there was a slump to his shoulders, as though he’d aged twenty years overnight. We all have.

Next to Eshuvar, Kingfisher Swift leaned heavily on her mace, her unit’s standard propped beside her. Her legion’s talon had made up the bulk of the Hunt’s forces, and now she was all that remained. Swift was a lost egg who’d taken the coin; she couldn’t be more than a dozen years into her service. River might have asked if Swift wished she’d taken the razor instead, but, well. That wouldn’t necessarily have kept her away from this disaster. River herself was proof of that.

The Immaculate Order had arranged this Wyld Hunt, mustered the might of the Realm and sent them on the trail of two Anathema who were preying on the people north of the River Province. The Order had provided the intelligence and placed one of their most promising monks in charge of the expedition. He’d been a solid leader, brave and competent, right up until the Wretched slew him.

Now River was the last Immaculate still breathing, and it fell to her to finish the Hunt.

She straightened her robes, thankful that if she’d gotten ink on her sleeves it didn’t show against the black fabric, and joined the others. “We have to find them.”

Eshuvar and Swift turned toward her as one. “We three?” asked Eshuvar. “You don’t think we should wait for reinforcements?”

“They won’t come in time,” said River.

“If we wait,” said Swift, “the Anathema have time to recover from their wounds. We can’t waste the opportunity our companions died to give us.”

For a moment River thought Eshuvar might argue — it was in the way his jaw settled into a stubborn line, how his chin lifted just a hair — but he closed his eyes and breathed deep, and merely nodded.

Stay tuned for more next week, or read the full piece yourself in the Dragon-Blooded: What Fire Has Wrought Deluxe Edition Kickstarter!