This week’s Free Fiction Friday story from UnWrecked Press is “An Outrider’s Tale.”
UPDATE: Now that the free week is over, you can read the rest of this story by downloading an ebook from Amazon and Smashwords. Then you can read it on your laptop, desktop, Kindle, iPad, Nook, iPhone, or whatever device you use to read ebooks.
This story is also part of a four-story bundle of fantasy stories, if you’d like to save a buck.
I’ve always wanted to do a fairy-tale retelling, so this is my attempt at one. I really like the protagonist in this one, and the band of outriders he’s part of in this story.
CONTEST: A free ebook for the first person in the Comments to name to fairy tale I’m retelling here…!
An Outrider’s Tale
After the short, lopsided battle, as the younger warriors hauled the dead bandits out of the old castle, the man known only as Seeker carried a bottle of dark wine over to where the outrider known only as Fist sat, alone.
Though the Code forbade him to ask the history of another outrider, Seeker needed to know the man’s story. Now that the fighting was over, his goal was to loosen the tongue of the big, scarred man. Night had fallen, yet the moon shone brightly through holes in the ruined roof of the tower. Seeker’s eyes had been trained, in his first life, to see perfectly in pitch-black night, but when he stepped up next to where Fist rested, he doubted what his eyes saw.
The big man was cradling in his hands a perfect red rose.
Seeker turned to leave, chiding himself for even approaching the other man. He would drink his bottle of wine by himself and try to forget the way Fist cradled the rose in his hands like an tiny animal.
Seeker was moving away when a voice stopped him: “Wine?”
He looked down at Fist again. The rose had disappeared.
“From the black grapes of Southland.” Seeker handed the bottle to Fist. “Enjoy.”
Fist stared at Seeker so long with his mismatched eyes, one brown and one blue, that Seeker nearly let the bottle slip from his fingers.
“Will you join me?” Fist said.
Seeker exhaled. “Of course.”
Fist took the bottle and removed the cork. After a long drink, he grunted with appreciation.
“So,” the big man said. “You want to know about me.”
Seeker cast his gaze around the darkened tower, hoping none of the others had overheard. Something shifted high above him, at the top of the ruined tower.
“Of course not,” he said, trying to smile. “That’s not our way. ‘One man’s history is nothing to an outrider,’ of course.”
“Would you try to stop me if I attempted to tell you anyway?” Fist’s mismatched eyes glittered in the moonlight.
Seeker felt a chill fall over him. Out of the corner of his eye he caught movement above them, inside the castle proper. But when he turned to look closer, the movement was gone.
“Of course not,” he said, motioning for the bottle.
“Good,” Fist said. “I have need to tell my story. Tonight.”
Half of the other outriders had pulled out their sleeping rolls and settled in for the night in the newly-cleaned tower, though three others, like Fist and Seeker, remained sleepless.
Seeker pulled a flask from an inner pocket. Fist had already finished most of the rich Southland cabernet. After a quick mouthful of the sturdy moonshine, he nodded. “So. Tell me.”
“I know this castle well,” Fist began. “I was once the lord of this keep, years ago. Until, only moments after I was given a new life, I killed my beloved.”
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