Surprise! I’ve decided to publish my young adult fantasy story, A Season To Fight, here on this blog! It’s a story that is inspired by the lives of my four grandparents when they were teenagers during world war 2 and it’s been channeled into a high fantasy story. A couple of the characters are fully fictional, but dear to my heart. ❤ I hope you enjoy it! I promise to leave ample time between posts so everyone can keep up to date with the chapters. ❤
Three vultures landed on the dusty street close to a shivering, starving boy. Barely aware of their presence, he stared at the last morsel of bread resting in his dirty hands. Any food that found itself within his grasp was worth savouring, but his growling stomach urged him to devour it.
A wagon’s squeaky tires startled the boy and sent the scavenger birds to flight. They tormented him day and night, the devils. The boy leaned against the wall of the brick building, watching them fly away. The wagon belonged to an elderly fruit farmer. The boy referred to him as “Apple Man”. He was always the last merchant to return home for the night, likely to avoid being trampled by faster, younger crowd.
“Best get inside, lad!” called Apple Man.
The boy shrugged and took a tiny bite out of the bread. The truth was that he had no home. He only had himself.
Apple Man paused, staring at him. “The army will be passing through here at any moment.”
“Let them trample me then,” muttered the boy.
There was no need to reiterate the statement. Apple Man shook his head and left.
The street was empty with everyone else already home for dinner. It was the boy’s favourite part of the day. In daylight, busy people on the streets regarded him with indifference, sometimes almost stepping on him. In darkness, rodents and stray cats came out from hiding. Some would brush up against him after he started a small fire, reminding him that he was not a ghost. There were small animals that would linger close to the warmth before disappearing back into the shadows. He learned months ago not to grow attached to anything or anyone. Even the rats had better options than visiting him and his meagre crumbs every night.
Glancing at the yellow-eyed birds perched on the tavern’s roof top, the boy slowly chewed the final piece of his supper. He hoped that someone would be kind enough to bury him when he died, before the buzzards picked away at his corpse with their filthy beaks. He didn’t want them to have the satisfaction.
He rose, walked to the tavern, and climbed up the stony side of the roof as he often did just before sundown. The rooftop was an ideal view of the sunset. Once he settled into the straw, a low rumble announced the impending arrival of the army. Apple Man was right. His heart raced at the sight of so many mounted warriors approaching. The famed, beloved General Kaloun led the massive force into the humble village of Blackston, Norforth. Though small, Blackston was not only rich in fruit-bearing trees, it was also a haven for fresh water with it being so close to the lake. There was not much to be said about the inhabitants, however. The boy was certain that no other place could have so many miserable, selfish people.
The sun hit the general’s golden hair and shined armour, lighting up the street as he rode ahead of his soldiers. His black cape trailed behind him. The boy stared in awe at the man who was formidable even from a distance. The general raised his right hand and stopped his horse close to the watering troughs. He jumped down and stalked over to the tavern’s entrance, pacing in front of the door instead of knocking.
“Water!” he shouted.
His deep voice made the boy start as it echoed off the buildings. Simon, the tavern owner, rushed outside and stooped before the general. A small smile formed on the boy’s chapped mouth at the sight of the cocky womanizer bowing before the warrior. He never thought he’d see the day.
“I will summon my water girls at once, my lord,” said Simon.
Simon was good at one thing and that was using people. He made a fortune out of it, in fact.
“You will help them with the water!” demanded the general. “I have five hundred thirsty men and the same amount of horses.”
His powerful voice seemed to shake the brick walls of the buildings lining the street. The tavern owner ran like the wind to fetch his employees. Four scrambling girls, along with their tyrant of an employer, worked the pumps. They would have to work for hours to provide enough water for the massive group. The well might dry out before they were finished. The boy climbed down from his perch and jogged over to one of the unattended pumps. He lifted the heavy handle and brought it down with both arms. Water rushed out of the pipe and into the trough. Despite his nutrient-depleted body, he was able to finish the job as soldiers brought their horses over to drink. It amazed him that they cared for their animals before themselves.
“Don’t kill yourself, lad,” chuckled one of the men.
The boy looked up and met the face of a huge, freckle-faced soldier whose hair and beard were the colour of fire.
“Yes, Sir,” said the boy, but his voice was drowned out by the men’s loud voices.
“You’re an angel,” grinned one of the tavern girls.
She pinched the boy’s shoulder as she walked by, swaying her hips in an exaggerated way. The soldiers in her vicinity watched her like hawks eyeing a mouse.
“Any word about how far the enemy has come, Sir?” asked Simon close by.
It was strange for the boy to see the solemn face of the man who was normally a babbling drunk. He looked up at the general of Norforth as though he were a god sent from heaven to save them all.
“The Ustrunian army has broken through the border at Bental,” said General Kaloun. “They are making their way through Bental as we speak and they’re destroying everything. Homes, libraries, churches, barns, schools, people who get in the way. Anything that can be burned.”
Bental, their neighbouring country to the south, was burdened with a weak army for years. Though peaceful with Norforth, they were in disagreement on the fact that they needed a strong military should Ustrunia become violent toward the countries that do not agree with their ideals. The boy’s father predicted that if Ustrunia’s king ever declared war on the northern nations, the tiny nation would be wiped out. The man was right about one thing. The utopic nation hadn’t seen war in decades and was ill-prepared for an attack.
Even in his own bitter destitution, the boy’s gut wrenched at the thought of all the innocent people at the mercy of ruthless killers.
“They surrendered, but the Ustrunians still burned the capital city,” continued the general. “Several hundred lives were lost.”
“For the love of God,” moaned Simon. “Those savages are going to destroy what’s left of our country if you don’t stop them.”
“You should see them for yourself, miserable old rat,” snarled the soldier next to him.
“They are bloody hard to kill,” said another soldier nearby. “They’re beasts that are bred to fight.”
“Can men win against such monsters?” asked one of the serving girls, who stopped what she was doing to listen in on the conversation.
She was fine-boned and pretty with light brown hair that fell to her waist. Her audacity thickened the air around them. One of the men pushed her aside, reminding her of the job she needed to do. It made the boy cringe. He was aware of what battle-hardened men did to girls in taverns. She would not be resting for a long time.
“They are only men like us,” said General Kaloun, casting an icy gaze at the horizon. “Not monsters.”
“Our rightful ruler, King Viktor, finally got rid of that miserable little queen,” grumbled a man after gulping down the water in his canteen. “She would have stood by the window of her tower and watched her country burn before surrendering to Ustrunia. I hope she dies, wherever she is.”
The boy cringed. Mere weeks ago people in the streets were singing their praises of Norforth’s fair young queen. At present, everyone seemed to wish her every measure of ill. Even as he stood there in filth with a gurgling stomach, he could never wish death on a monarch who did everything she could to stop the war. She was also known to send the palace’s leftover food to the homeless and starving. Only fools hated rulers who did that.
“What are you doing all the way up here?” asked Simon.
A soldier swatted the back of his head, silencing him. The tavern owner slithered back into the shadows while the girls continued pumping water into the troughs and barrels from the well. The boy kept pumping as well, despite his aching muscles.
The red-headed warrior from earlier strode over with a shiny coin wedged between his thumb and index finger.
“Your reward for today’s work, lad.”
The boy’s eyes widened as the tall man toyed with the piece of currency. He didn’t want to allow himself to believe that it was real. Surely, it was a prank. The soldier tossed the coin and the boy caught it, clenching onto it for dear life.
The huge warrior gave him a serious look.
“It’s yours. No one will take it from you.”
The boy’s jaw dropped. It had to be a dream.
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Who is your father?”
His throat suddenly felt very dry.
“Stop gaping and speak!” shouted the commander.
“My father is dead.”
“And your mother?”
“She died shortly after him.”
“You’re all of what, twelve?”
The warrior frowned. “You are small for your age, but that’s nothing three square meals per day and some military training won’t fix.”
It was true. As the man stated, he looked like a scrawny twelve-year-old kid. Still, the soldier’s green eyes twinkled.
“Our army welcomes a boy with no home and a lot of will to fight.”
There was something oddly soft about his gaze. It looked out of place among the muddy, snarly faces surrounding them.
“Truly, Sir?” asked the boy.
“You need not question my words. I am Commander Voniz. The general trusts me to choose competent recruits. A seat behind me as I ride to our camp is all I can offer you for now, but once we return to the capital, you will be provided with a horse and a sword.”
“And food, Sir?”
The commander’s eyes crinkled as he grinned. “Yes, lad. And food.”
The boy’s stomach rumbled at the thought.
“I would be honoured to accept an offer to join the military, Sir.”
The commander’s friendly face was painful to look at. No one was nice without reason. What was he hiding? What were his intentions?
“Well, out with it. What is your name, boy?”
“Now you can buy a saddle for your new horse with that coin, young Viggo.”
Viggo climbed onto the saddle with shaky legs and sat behind the commander in the saddle. It was no dream, but it hardly felt real. He spent the past year waiting for death to take him off the grimy streets, but instead he would be riding away with the military. His father used to warn him that hope was a dangerous thing, but he decided it was fine to allow himself a little bit of hope for once. He held more money in the palm of his hand than he ever had in his life.
“Hold on, lad,” said Voniz.
The boy wrapped his arms around the commander’s torso as the horse moved forward. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt the warmth of another human being. It was a strange feeling. As they raced past the other mounted warriors, Viggo looked back at the grimy place. It grew smaller and smaller until it disappeared behind the hill forever.
Don’t want to wait for the next chapter? You can download a Kindle copy of A Season To Fight for only $2.99 here!