The earth keeps secrets. In this short story, a warrior discovers ancient power in his veins when he’s plunged into the political corruption of a war devised to hide the truth of his mother’s death.
The forest nodded beneath the subtle insistence of autumn’s touch as a rider thundered through. Boughs, brush, ferns and fallen leaves rippled in his wake, seeking quiescence. Another winter, a long one this year, if the geese and caterpillars knew anything.
Cloaked in the fragrance of blood, the Captain of the North Thorn Guard leaned forward in his saddle, breathing heavily beneath a turbid river of pain strewn with the corpses of his slashed and broken company, their fair eyes staring at nothing.
Harald, he heard his mother say. Fear not the earth.
In one moon’s cycle, he would bow his head to the keening of women, swaying and clutching root knives at the Feast of Shadows. Women for whose blood his men had died at the hands of outlanders, hired cutthroats ravaging the Realm of Five Hawthorns for nothing but stories.
Fifteen suns past, the same women had stood before their mossy altars in silence after finding his mother in a meadow surrounded by a late summer tapestry of goldenrod, purple aster and bramble, her head crushed by a stone. So it was told. Just into manhood, his black hair hanging in strands dripping cold rain, Harald had not been allowed to see her. Instead, his father gave him a sword.
Trust not the earth, he had advised.
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“Earth Blood” is included in the Second Edition of Wizards, Woods and Gods, a collection of twelve dark fantasy tales exploring the mysteries of the Otherworld through tree and animal lore, magic, cosmos, love, war and mysticism.
© F.T. McKinstry 2017. All Rights Reserved.