The Blood-Tainted Winter by T.L. Greylock

Title: The Blood-Tainted Winter
Author: T.L. Greylock
Genre: Mythological Fantasy

Raef Skallagrim wants to take the sea road. His ship is fast and sleek, his crew skilled and eager, and they will seek out new lands and win fame in the eyes of the gods. But Raef’s father refuses to allow the journey and when a stranger brings word that the king is dead and a gathering has been called to choose a successor, Raef must set aside his dream for his duty to his ancestral lands and his father.

When factions split at the gathering to choose a successor, Raef finds himself mired in bloodshed and treachery. Forced to make an uneasy alliance with a man he does not trust, Raef must navigate the tides of a war among three kings while seeking revenge for cold-blooded murder.

But winter has come early to Midgard, and even the gods will feel the cold.

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The Palesword had removed his leather armor, but the firelight, dancing across his face, cloaked him with a different sort of shield and he was no less imposing. The wound on his arm had been tied up with black cloth and the blood of his enemies had been washed from his hands and face. He held his hands over the fire.

“You must be hungry.” 

Raef did not answer. The Palesword had not yet earned any trust.

 “We have meat for plenty. I will see that you get some.” Torrulf fingered something around his neck. “What am I to do with you, Skallagrim? I have here before me the lord of Vannheim, promised to the Hammerling, but not in his heart, I think. Fengar threatened death, I am sure. The Hammerling?” Torrulf cocked his head and looked hard at Raef. “Perhaps the same.” 

When Raef kept silent, the Palesword shrugged. “No matter. Death is too easy and I am in the middle of a war. I do not intend to throw away lives lightly. Not if I see use in them.” 

“What use do you see in me?”

Now it was the Palesword’s turn to evade. “You keep odd friends, Raef.” 

“They are here of their own free will.”

The Palesword laughed. “I never said you coerced them. I only wonder what drives them.” Raef felt an echo of the Deepminded ripple through his head. He pushed that thought away. “Perhaps because I did not threaten them.” The laugh came again, this time with mockery. “A nice belief. The world revolves around threats and counter threats, Raef.”

“When we fled the gathering, you could have put a blade to my neck and demanded Vannheim’s spears. But you did not.” 

“Only because I was in no position to do so.” The Palesword turned and looked at Vakre, Siv, and Eira. “You see, Skallagrim, it is not your neck that matters.” He drew his sword. The firelight made the pale blade flicker with orange. “I could lay this on your skin and give you a final choice, but the blade’s kiss will not influence you. But if I do this?” The sword was up against Eira’s neck in an instant, so gracefully and so quickly done that it seemed not to have happened at all. But it was deadly all the same and Raef’s breath caught in his throat and his pulse quickened. 

“You sacrificed men today and it did not bring you Fengar. Perhaps you even had him within your grasp. This eats at you. Do not take your frustration out on me,” Raef said, coming to his feet.

The Palesword gestured to Vakre, Eira, and Siv with his other hand. “Will you sacrifice them out of loyalty for the Hammerling, a man you do not trust?”

“You know I will not.”

“You are right. I do know.” Torrulf sheathed his sword. “I do not ask for your shields and spears, Skallagrim. But there is something you will do for me. I do not need to tell you what happens to them if you refuse.”

T L Greylock is the author of The Blood-Tainted Winter, the first installment in a new Norse saga, The Song of the Ash Tree. She drinks tea (English breakfast with milk), wears neon colored socks, and once held an epic pigeon racing tournament in the gardens of The Tuileries.