Science Fiction & Fantasy by Dan Frederick
Science Fiction & Fantasy by Dan Frederick
All Rights Reserved.
All characters and other entities appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, dead or alive, or other real-life entities, past, present or other-dimensional, is purely coincidental. This is fiction!
Content Warning, graphic darkness, death and language.
Note: The Blade of Orn (c) 2021 by Dan Frederick is written in the same 'verse as my Broken Blade series of Dark Sword and Sorcery books. Welcome to the world of Riah.
Castle of Saug the Sorcerer, the Dead North
A bleak pale sun glittered blindingly across the ice-fields reflecting off the snow-covered plains. The grey stone of the tall castle tore upright out of the snow, towering over the frozen barren waste, like a skeletons middle finger. Jagged and sharp, partially coated by ice and snow the Castle of Saug stood alone on the snowy field. In the far distance to the south tall deadly snow covered mountains separated the ice flats from the Dead North and the tower. To the north there was endless white blotted out by sharp tearing winds. No one had traveled north of the tower in over a thousand years.
Standing in the uppermost dais of the castle, in an open roofed sacrificial chamber, snow swirling and several fire pits roaring, stood a medium height, thin man with a hooded robe and hooded eyes. Once an Apothecary in Magescar he had spent a wasted decade dispensing remedies made from herbs, plants and roots. He had often been the only recourse for the sick, and poor people who couldn’t afford more expensive physicians. It was a time he buried in the back of his dark memories.
His research in the libraries of the northern towns for new remedies had led him to a book chronicling a sorcerer named Saug. That had been the turning point in his search for fulfillment.
Master Apothecary Rezik read the book with vigor, cover to cover then reread it again on that first day he found it. All thoughts of herbs and remedies were forgotten and he left with the book. The library didn’t allow for checking out books and Rezik’s first kill took place that evening as he struck down the blue robbed librarian who dared question him. Rezik beat the blue robbed man to death with the thick book. The taste of blood on its hardbound leather cover serving to fuel its power.
The book spoke to him. It told of an order of sorcery and how ignorant men had fought to destroy the benevolent order of mages trying to bring order to chaos. He couldn’t find an author name on the book and whoever wrote it told of the two eras of the Red Order. The charismatic Saug who had around a thousand years ago provided prosperity and protection to the world for nearly three hundred years. Later Dandin Rouh had rebuilt the order, about fifty years ago, and prospered until roughly twenty five years ago when four hundred barbarians had cut down the great man and destroyed the order. The book warned of ignorance. Rezik read about those that had ruined the various incarnations of the order. Most recently, morality ambiguous hero’s like Orn, and the Mighty 400, destroyed an entire system of magic users who sought to better the world. Saug had faced a similar fate when defiant men of steal had forced him out of the world long ago. It was damning to read about humanity and its unlearned masses ruining those that sought to better the world for them. People wanted good, wanted evil, and those that couldn’t understand the beauty of the elemental forces assigned roles based on their ignorance. Thus the enigmatic Red Order was wrongly painted as evil. The moral compass of humanity was askew and saw themselves as victims. Victims like to paint others as evil. Obviously the sorcerers of the Red Order were magnanimous and enlightened men seeking to better the world.
Two years later, High Lord Magus Marcus Rezik, Head of the Red Order of Saug the Sorcerer and founder of the third Red Order stood in the biting cold castle, warmed by unnatural warmth. Six months into casting magic and connecting with the elemental forces that gifted power. Almost drunk with this filling power he knew he had already mastered it better than the leader of the second Red Order. Fire. Teleportation. Summoning. Three of the six mastered. Well into the Necrotic study Rezik was a man determined to fix the world. Even if fixing it meant bending it to his will for everyone’s benefit.
Rezik stood by a pillar, then leaned against it. Blood coated his hands from the child he had killed in the woods to open the portal. His mind raced. He had seen the heathen. When he set out on his mission he knew that was the ultimate point of it. But somehow, now having seen the man with his own eyes, Rezik felt intoxicated with anger. A bloodlust that took the very air out of his lungs. Sliding down the icy pillar the Sorcerer sank to his knees and shook. Sitting unmoved the Sorcerer replayed the events of the day in his mind.
Torches had flared in the open air sacrificial chamber as Lord Rezik stood over the chained man and woman who violently shook with fear as much as the piercing cold that morning. Looking up through the open ceiling of the tower Rezik raised his hands as one with the large dagger held tightly. The Head Magus felt clammy perspiration on his skin from a heat that burned from within his own soul. Calling on the elemental forces and focused he slammed the dagger down into the heaving chest of the man. Instantly he stopped moving as his life force was drained, altered and directed at summoning a dozen Abyss Wolves.
Swirling black smoke and ash coalesced into the solid hulking forms of black furred and fanged wolf men. Demons brought from the pits to now serve and escort Rezik on his trek. Quickly the Sorcerer conveyed his wishes to the creatures. Once his deranged mind firmly held sway over the demon wolves he stabbed the blade into the guts of the sobbing woman. The brilliant blue white light of the opening tear of space rippled outward and opened a portal across distance, snow swirled through the portal onto warn green grass. Demon and man moved through the opening leaving the curdling crimson of the chamber behind.
The warmth of the wooded hills made the Red Sorcerer’s skin glisten with sweet as he labored for breath. He had rarely been south of the northern mountains and the ice flats. Reaching out with his right hand he grabbed a handful of leaves on the tree next to him. An inviting chill spread across his body as the leaves blistered and crumbled to dust.
Looking around at the demons under his command he stated: “West. The witch spoke of the blade and man being in a small village. Aremoor. West of this lake. Draw him here."
Rezik sorely wished he had the power to take the blade away from the dreadfully unsavory man named Orn, now. Moreover he was pretty sure he could, except the witch had cautioned against it. She had warned that the Blade of Orn would be surrounded by warriors, she had pleaded with Rezik to let the old man bring the blade to the tower and in the process be weakened by the beasts the Lord Magus had been unleashing on the north. Marcus Rezik was not an overly cautious man but was determined to see the raise of the third order of Red Sorcerers and had been practicing patience under the guidance of the book of Saug.
Lord Rezik waited by the lake as the demons both lured Orn towards the lake, harassing him along the way and one Abyss Wolf brought him his sacrifice for travel home. The ordeal was a fair amount of effort to just gaze upon his enemy. This much the witch wasn’t able to dissuade him of. Rezik needed to see the appalling barbarian who possessed the essence of the last sorcerer of the second order. The book had informed him that three powerful items could be used to secure his rule for a thousand years. The Staff of Saug, a most powerful weapon buried in the Dead North. The Blade of Orn, the axe that felled the last of the Red Order, the sorcerers soul was carried in that axe head. The third item was the key. Its origins and representation vague. The book called it a bracelet but warned it could be any form. When he had asked how he would find such an item the book responded with, the one who has it will reveal themselves to you in time as they fly by you.
Rezik knew he could have just waited for the barbarian to arrive, but the witch had located him in her fever dreams and he wanted to see the man. To see the blade. It was the waiting and dealing with untangle words that frustrated him. Thus far the third hadn’t presented themselves to Rezik. The Staff continued to be just outside his grasp, lost in the snow drifts of the Dead North. Lord Rezik had hundreds of slaves and dozens of demons searching for the tomb of Saug and the Staff.
The girl squirmed in his grasp as he watched the old barbarian make his way towards the lakes edge. Watching the axe in action left the Sorcerer in awe. He would have the weapon. Lost in lust, the Sorcerer started to summon up strength to blast a wave of flames at the man and claim the possessed axe when the girl pulled away to flee. Pushing her down he cut his dagger into her throat. She let out a scream of pain and death.
In the chamber Lord Rezik pushed himself to his feet. Ice crunched as he moved for the first time in many minutes. The book must give him more information. His leather boots crossed the camber to stone stairs leading downward to his study room. The book needed to give him more information and power now.
The echo of blades clashing receded with a final blow. There was a single moment of dead silence and then the crowd roared hysterically, all eyes on the last man standing. He was well known to them. A hero of sorts in their hearts and minds. He stood covered in blood and breathing heavily towering over the others sprawled across the sand of the arena. They chanted his name. Not his forgotten real name but the name given to him by the crowds after his first battle in the arena six months ago where he had slain the previous champion, a deadly man called the Wolf.
“Bear! Bear! Bear!”
Raising his exhausted arms high the Bear laughed and shook his buckler and sword out at the crowd.
The cheers erupted into a collective gasp as the Bear cried out in pain. The blood covered man laying at the Bears feet had suddenly thrust upwards with his own sword stabbing the Bear in his groin, the blade cutting deep up into the man’s stomach and disappearing to the hilt in the man. Sweeping his legs out from under the Bear the skewered champion toppled to the blood and sand groaning in agonizing pain as the crowd’s disbelief turned into excited cheering.
“Viper! Viper! Viper!”
Pushing himself upright the new champion staggered then righted himself, a bloody grin on his sweet covered face. He burst into his own laughter.
The roar of the crowd could be heard across the town of Eagles Drift. Miles away her young ears heard it and then another sound. Her mother asking, “Hazel. Are you sleeping at that desk? This is your reading time. Wake up child!”
The chastised girl inwardly smiled. Perched atop one of the high poles surrounding the arena the eagle emitted a high-pitched giggle. Hazel conveyed her thanks to the bird of prey, severing her connection with the mighty bird as its heavy talons uncurled from the pole and it took flight.
Hazel’s mind snapped back into her own young body. Feelings of excitement and a bit of dread flushed her face.
“Mother. I. Uh, do you hear those cheers!”
Both looked out the open window towards the distant arena.
Her mother’s attention turned to the distant arena, dreamy eyed for a moment, then refocused on her own home.
“Child you have no attention span. Your father would be...” She trailed off. In the past she had used Hazel’s father as a reason, or an example of, why this or that. It was habit. Juliana Barlow pushed away her sadness and concentrated on what she next said to her daughter Hazel.
“Your father would be proud of your learning and want you to pay attention to your studies. Commander Mathias Barlow was a man of blade and book. He once told me how he gained power in the guard as much from his learnings as his sword. Just. Hmm, look Haz, just honor your father by paying attention to your studies. The arena is not a place for girls or children. Listen. Let’s take a break.”
Tossing the girl, a small pouch, Juliana set down her partially complete basket and stood stretching.
“Go buy us two pies. Straight there and back girl. We could both use the rush of sweet pie. Then we will return to our chores and learning.”
Grinning Hazel Barlow stood and ran towards the door. “Thank you, mother!”
Hazel headed towards the market. Stopping at the mouth of the dark alley she wondered at the sudden chill. A gelid icy wind seemed to wrap around her short frame, piercing then numbing with a coldness unlike any she experienced before. With it, a dull fear of being watched by something or someone malevolent. Her small mouth was thin and hard set as she made an effort to not let her teeth chatter as her arms folded across her chest to stave off the bitter cold.
Reaching out with her mind’s eye she sought both an explanation for the sudden freezing air and searched for any creatures in the area. At the fringes of her mind, she could feel a tabby sulking much deeper in the alley. Slowly Hazel started sinking her mind into the lazy dark furred cat’s mind.
The blast rocked her. Thrust across the alleyway Hazel slammed into the far wooden wall of the dark alley. Any connection between her and the alley cat severed. Blinking and coughing she started to sit up when a second impact collided with her.
The weight on her chest was suffocating. Needle like sharp fingernails cut into her soft skin as the rot mouthed hag slammed her down. Her nose was assaulted by the rancid odor of whatever vile meal the witch had last consumed, along with the decay of her remaining broken teeth. Wild hair exploded out of the hook-nosed hag’s head, her deep-set yellow brown eyes suggesting illness and pain, the witch’s lips were painted black, an impossible black as dark as her motley hair was.
For the briefest of moments, Hazel thought that the hag was choking, before she realized it was laughing as it pinned her to the cold stone ground of the alleyway.
“Where is he child?”
The rotting hag’s voice stabbing into her ears like fragments of ice and cold fire cutting away at Hazel’s sanity.
“Tell me child. Where is the axe man?”
Hazel cried out, “Please. I don’t know who you are talking about!”
“I must see him again. I must know his whereabouts child. Show Delores where he is!”
The rancid breath of the gnarled crone exhaled sharply as she tightened her sharp grip on the girl. Long, tangled, faded red and greying hair hung down over the girls face from the hag’s head as she forced a vision into the girl’s mind.
The grave bitter vision forced itself into Hazel’s sight, like insects crawling into her eyes and laying eggs in her head. Instinctively she knew the images ripping into her eyes were from decades ago. The grim visage forced upon her showing a tall, strong youth with flint grey steel eyes.
The young man wore a cheap, once white tunic and bare thin grey breaches which could not conceal the hard, ropy lines of his powerful frame, or his broad heavy shoulders, massive chest, lean waist and heavy arms. His skin was a deep brown, likely from time spent in the south-lands, his hair long was dark black, tied behind his head, cascading down to his lower back. He wore a long handled single bladed axe in a scabbard on his back. A back covered by a white fur cloak for warmth and camouflage. The axe blade glowed in her eyes. She had seen this man, older, and this axe, only a few days ago when flying with the eagles on the day she had helped the handsome man in the woods.
Closer to the barbarian and his axe this time she could see he was also handsome, more so than the older burnt version she had previously seen. The axe was less blinding, as if her eyes were prepared this time to gaze on it. She saw that the axe had one since blade, but had once had another. At one time the axe had been a butterfly like shaped double-bladed axe. Steely muscles rippled as this younger barbarian moved across a sea of white snow and ice under a full moon, he was bent over as if concealing his run towards a town on the dark horizon.
Hazel knew it was the same man she had seen with the blindingly illuminated axe in the Carthian Hills several days ago. She marveled at seeing him at a younger age. He was much closer to her own age of ten summers. Likely he was fifteen or sixteen if she had to guess.
Somehow, she knew that this was the only image the hag had of the barbarian, when she last saw him all those years ago. He was running through tall snow drifts, and across compacted snow somewhere outside of a town she had never been to physically, although she recognized its cobblestone streets and tall dark stone buildings from her flights. Magescar, a depressing cold place, in the north and pretty much ignored by her after she decided the north was dangerous. Hazel knew the witch wanted her to focus on where Orn was now, but she resisted and followed the younger man as he made his way to the city walls and pushed his fur covered back to the high stone walls trying to sink into darkness and stay hidden.
Again, the hag pushed at her mind, her stench lingering in the air, and Hazel clung to the memory era of the young bold barbarian. A vague sense of the hag standing in a dark room with other witches murmuring over a bucket of murky water. The center of the meager amount of water swirled with a life of its own and pushed pollutants outward to the side of the wooden bucket. The center water clearing and then showing a scene of the man climbing up the stone wall of the outer city. Muscles tight and breathing in short quick breaths Orn moved up the stone wall like a spider on the wall. Hazel was impressed. She could sense the hag was too, and somewhat afraid.
Minds pushed at each other, then the hag let the girl have free reign of the memory and Hazel knew that at the end the witch would demand her seek out where Orn was now. She was fascinated and in awe of the young man as he climbed over the top of the walls and quietly snuck past a sentry and clambered down the inside of the stone wall, inside the town of Magescar now. Hazel was both excited to see him masterfully move past sentries and close in on the center of town unseen, and knew she would end up bending to the hags demands after the remembrance passed. Hazel Barlow watched and could feel the hag’s apprehension.
Orn pulled the large white fur cloak off his broad shoulders. He then pulled the old, once white, shirt off and wrapped it up inside the fur, white side folded in and set the warm fur down behind some wooden barrels outside of an Inn, in the alley he was moving through. Dressed in a pair of old leather boots, greying cloth trews, he was bare chested now and had the single bladed axe across his back in its leather sheath. Slipping a dagger from his belt the young man moved closer to the front doors of the Inn, still hidden in the dark of night.
The Mighty had destroyed the Red Order four weeks ago. Still sore from that encounter, the last surviving member of the 400, Orn, had been in Stone Haven when he heard of three witches hiding out in Magescar. Less than a week later he was here. A passing merchant had related that the three witches were known to frequent an Inn named the Shadows Inn.
Orn saddled up to the shadows alongside the wall of the Inn and watched the front door. It was late and undoubtedly the establishment would be closing soon. He considered entering the place and finding the three witches. Frowning he pushed that idea aside. He really had no idea what the woman would look like and didn’t want to seem out of place as he searched.
The full moon hung heavily overhead and cast a light across the alley as Orn hunkered down at the edge of the building watching the front door of the Inn. Feeling brash for stashing the white furred cloak he shivered as his tan skin tightened and stung in the cold night air. Pushing all thoughts of cold and worry out of his mind he thought of his father as he waited.
Rike. A powerful man, even larger than the young Orn, he had been one of the lieutenants of the Mighty and helped plan the assault on the tower in the Dead North. Rike had hesitated to bring Orn with the Mighty when they set out to end the Red Order and the vile magic they used to enslave with. Orn thought of the last night in their home before setting out for the tower.
“Father. You can’t leave me behind. I will join you on this endeavor. Every man is needed.”
Rike had smiled a sad smile. “I know son. I know. I have foreseen the end of the magics. I was gifted the tormenting gift of seeing how it will all end.”
Orn frowned, “You have seen us win father? That’s good news, right?”
Rike grunted and reached for his horn, downing his drink from it.
Orn’s cold skin warmed in the heat of the memory. The Red Sorcerers had cut down Rike in the final assault of the tower. Orn had been locked in battle and not seen it. It was at the end when he finally realized he alone lived and his father was dead from the spells of the damned.
Orn had insisted on helping destroy the Red Order, and now he was set on ending any who followed the old vile ways of magic, including these three witches here in Magescar.
Pushing the sorrow down, he concentrated on the hate which warmed him and cleared his mind as he waited. Several patrons left the Inn and he knew the establishment must be closing soon. Strangely the axe across his back seemed to be warming his body too. A heat radiated from it.
Becoming concerned about the unusual heat across his back, he started to reach for the axe, quickly sheathing the dagger. He pulled the single blade axe out and saw the trio exiting the Inn. Stepping out from the shadows of the alley, Orn faintly felt the heat burning from the axe blade’s head as he moved closer towards the three witches. Somehow, his mind seemed hazy as he gazed upon the mystic trio.
Each woman had a particular, unique beauty to them. Each was mesmerizing in their own way. Gold, black and crimson strode out into the alley, their soft, full curves, facing away from the young barbarian as he took in the sway of their hips, the heaving chests laughing with mirth, he faintly registered his own sudden intoxication at seeing them. One looked like an angel, golden hair, dazzling skin that glowed, thin waist and large of breasts. Laughing and walking drunkenly next to her, an arm wrapped around her for support, was an ebony skinned delight, alluring and fine. Her black, long braided hair cascading down her strong thin back to her knees. The two were bewitching in their magnificence.
They were followed by a third woman, eyeing her Orn’s heart felt as if it were being pulled from his chest towards her radiant beauty. Long curled, blood red locks, running down her back, skin tanned bronze, lips full and red, petite in comparison to the other two, she was lean with tight muscles and had an air of command about her. The saucy curve of her mouth broke into a smile as she laughed. Orn staggered, the axe head digging into the ground in order to keep his balance.
The burning pain to his leg, from the axe held down to his right side, was what broke his mind from the spell cast upon it by the enthralling woman.
Even as they started to turn and look at him, Orn growled with brute determination, the single remaining blade of the axe swung upwards cutting its hot edge across the neck of the golden-haired witch. Blood flew across the alley and the other two screamed in shared pain.
“Charise!” The ebony witch lowered her dead sister to the ground. Stained golden hair mixing with blood-soaked dirt.
The crimson witch rounded on the barbarian with such speed and hatred the man took a sharp breath in and continued to lean on the axe handle. Long sharp nails, painted red, pointed crookedly out at the young man as her seductive lips silently moved. Orn barely recovered, still dizzy, and rolled to his left across the alley as a blast of black wind wrapped in deep purple crackled out from her fingers. Striking the wood behind where Orn had stood, the wood burned and splintered as an aroma of putrid death wafted in the wake of the necrotic blast.
Bloodshot flint eyes, and tawny yellowing eyes, scrutinized each other as both readied for the other to attack.
The ebony witch stood upright adjacent to her sister, blood on her hands and lips. Orn’s eyes flickered down to look at the dead witch at her feet, his stomach twisted as he saw a horribly disfigured old hag lying dead on the ground.
Summoning power the crimson witch curled her fingers into strange shapes and took a step back from the axe man. The young barbarian’s eyes followed her, but he also caught the movement of the ebony witch as she hurtled herself forward at him. Blade like talons ripped out of her fingers, her hands mutating into monstrous versions of a black bear, long sable talons cutting at his bare chest. A poisonous pain tore into his chest and he suddenly tasted a chalky bitter vileness in his mouth.
His vision was still assaulted by the witch’s presence, Orn flinched as flames spun across his vision followed by a scream of pain. He felt a disappointment in the back of his mind, the Mighty had ended magic but somehow these hags still were connected to it. Stepping back, twisting and swinging with all his might Orn brought the remaining blade of the axe down heavily across the black witch’s face. Cleaving the front of her head off he followed through with a backhanded arc that cleaved the blade into her chest rocking her backwards and left her dead in the alley near her dead sister.
“Damn you Orn!” The crimson witch screamed at the barbarian.
Hazel watched through Orn’s eyes as he looked at the two disgusting hags, lying dead next to each other. He turned his head to the crimson witch as she cursed his name and stepped back into a mist of summoned ash.
Hazel could feel the confusion of the young man at the thought that the hag knew who he was as much as she could feel the agony that coursed in the red hag’s crooked body at the loss of her sisters.
“Enough girl. You will seek out Orn and show me where he is. Now!”
Hazel felt her body shake violently as the hag dragged her closer and keep her sick mind in the girl’s mind.
I hope you enjoyed this preview. When the entire book is published I will link to it.