In Cold Blood

The mechanisms of his crossbow turned as Rosto thumbed the brass cylinder, a new habit formed quickly with the unusual machine. A bolt, tip honed to a murderous edge , settled snugly into place along side it’s siblings
His tools laid out on oil cloth, cleaned and tended to after a Market of hard use. Knives sharped and polished, throwing daggers honed and balanced, bow unstrung to rest and fouling blood and wrenched rust removed with the care of a master craftsman preparing for the next day.
His mind wandered, lulled by the familiarity of routine. To the Market, to the forest, to the cold and wet and dark. To his death. He hadn’t wanted to worry them, and with the murder of Nobility his own death was… inconsequential. Wrong place at the wrong time, trying to do the right thing. A great-blade singing through flesh and bone and fat and gore.
Funny, he remembered his blood being a different shade of red last time….
Laying in a pool of his own blood, the chilling mists stealing what warmth he had left, dim lights fading as everyone else left him behind. A whispered voice he could still hear, cold and soft, like freshly fallen snow
“How was your first death, hmm?”
Some part of his brain, far off and distant, wondered if he would ever be warm again.




After all, they always said he was a cold blooded killer


-Sticks and String

CW: Violence, Eye Trauma

It was a familiar dream, seen a hundred times and to be seen a hundred times more. He knew this, but still fear filled his gut like glowing lead. Hot, heavy, toxic, and lethal.
Snow swirled around him, burying him up to his ribs, and biting deep into the sopping wet cloths we wore. Yet still he ran. One foot in front of the other, he ran. Stillness was death, by cold or by blade, he knew that if he stopped, he would die.
And so a much younger Rosto ran, through thick drifts of snow and howling wind. Though freezing rain and ice capped streams. He ran from the images that would haunt him forever, he ran from the sounds of battle and bloodshed, he ran from the bodies of his family piled high like cords of firewood, he ran into the ice and snow and cold. He runs into Her arms.

Time passes and a young boy wrestles in the snow with a older man, a splintered bow and shattered ax littering the ice around them. The older man bleeds from an arrow ruining his left eye and the young boys face is marred from cheek to cheek by an horizontal ax wound that nearby bisects his nose. The boy is dying, he knows it in his bones, the cold bites deep into his flesh and he cant breath through his ruined nose and broken jaw. The older warrior is trying to squeeze the life from him, two hands wrapped around his throat. The boy does the only think he can, with his last breath, he screams into the cold void of death. A raw, ragged, primal scream, the last sound of despite life flinging it’s self into the frozen void.
The storm churns around them, and She watches on.

Rosto awakes from his nap, still nestled in the crook of the branch he had found a hour before, bow across his lap, and arrow knocked. The snow piled up on his skin and cloths not bothering him as he takes stock of what awoke him form his nightmare. Below him, a stag moves in the snow, silent as stalking cat. Rosto draws the nock to his cheek, sights down the shaft, and exhales a heatless breath.

Sticks and String, Ice and Cold, Simple things that separate the living from the dead.


The arena was empty when the squire arrived, pre-dawn, cold, clear, and crisp. Since the end of the contests and tournaments the roped off ground had been abandoned, save for a stray animal or two… and Tumble. His shirt, heavy armor, and tower shield piled in a corner, the squires bare chest steamed in the cold air as he slowly moved though the motions of a series of strikes and blocks. He couldn’t read the sword manuals he was trained from to save his life, but his instructor had drilled these lessons into him so hard it had penetrated even his thick skull.

His foot work slipped, and the strike was sloppy.
He dug in his heels and began again

And so, each morning, he practiced. With armor, without. With his shield, and without. Over, and over, and over again, until his breath burned and his arms ached, and his lungs felt like ice. He was no Ice Hardened, but he was the son of a Smith and a Farmer, used to the pre-dawn hours.

The callouses on his palms tore and the blood made the sword too slick to hold.
He bound his hands and began again.

Visions danced before as he worked. Images of horror he could never unsee, things he would never ever forget. Burning corpses rising again, shadowy spirits that crushed his mind with a word, blood drunk clansmen feasting on human flesh as they boasted about murder.

A hollow suit of armor and flowing cloak that mocked him for his simplicity. His… ordinary mortality.

His hips turned too slowly, the cut was weak and easily punishable.
He reset and began again.

Tumble drilled until his legs felt like frozen stumps and he couldn’t lift the heavy training blade anymore. Until the whispered jokes and jests and quiet laugher he had heard the last two days faded to the back on his mind. Until, mortal as he was, simple as he was, he had to stop and rest and watch the dawn break over the trees.

His breath in steaming clouds, he counts on his shield hand fingers:
“One: I will never take a human life”
“Two: I will never flee from the face of Evil.”
“Three: I will stand for those cannot stand for themselves”

Then he stands and begins again.

-Too Big, Just Right-

Willam Smith looked at the stranger in the polished copper mirror, dressed in fine boots and homespun clothes under a worn gambeson and armor that was anything but shining. He lifted one arm the stranger followed in lock step, metal plates rubbing and clinking together with the simple movements. A slow spin in place and a rolling of the shoulders produced a sound like a coin purse being aggressively shaken and Tumble couldn’t help but chuckled at himself. All dressed up like a maid at her first barn dance and twice as nervous.

A shield sat in the corner of his small room, stoically guarding the corner with zealous fervor, his sister’s painting scrawled across the front. He still wasn’t sure where she got the paints, and he wasn’t going to ask either. The white wings and knight’s golden helmet were straight from one of their childhood fairy tales, the kind of knight who slew monsters, who saved princesses and nobles, whos armor gleamed like noonday sun. Again, Tumble stared at the stranger in the mirror and the too-big armor it wore.
He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and recalls what his father told him when he first helped his son into the thick cloth and metal plates. When Willam had expressed concern over the size of the armor, worried it would be too big for him. But his father had seen the true issue, the anxiety over being a squire, of the responsibility of being the first Smith to leave the farm in several generations, of being the first son to leave Murten in an age.
Roain Smith’s response was the same to all worries, spoken and unsaid

“You’ll grow into it.”