Being the Suun is out AND the completed trilogy that follows Frida Svand is available for preorder! Check out chapter one below!!
I caught the blazetaur’s horn on the blade of my sword with a loud, echoing clash. Birds stirred from the nearby trees. Their little black bodies lifted into the mist and disappeared.
The beast heaved its weight against me.
I dug in my heels, a scream of effort rising in my throat. Its beady black eyes—too small for its face—seemed to laugh at me. I could see why in the image reflected back at me. My dirt-smeared face, torn leather vest, leaves in my short, yellow hair. Yeah. I was a real terrifying opponent.
“Frida!” Estrid’s voice called across the clearing. She burst through the trees and ran toward me, stealing the blazetaur’s attention.
It released me.
I fell forward, narrowly avoiding being trampled by one massive foot.
It swung its barbed tail in a wide arc, moving faster than any creature its size had a right to.
“I almost had him.” I pushed myself to my feet and trailed behind the monster, taking useless swings with my sword at its armored backside.
The poisonous barbed tail struck out at Estrid.
She ducked and rolled.
The stinger stabbed into the trunk of a tree with a thunderous crack and stuck there. The soft spot at the base of its stinger was the creature’s only weak spot. Sever it, and the monster died. We’d learned that lesson the hard way in our three years on this blasted island.
Estrid rolled to a stop, covered in leaves and mud, and cursed. She would have preferred to be covered in blazetaur goo.
I reached her and grabbed her by the arm, pulling her to her feet.
The monster struggled to free itself from the tree, bellowing and thrashing about wildly. Its armored body slammed against nearby trees, cracking two of them in half.
“You found it.” Erik, our big brother, emerged from the tree line across the clearing.
The blazetaur turned and bellowed at him, yanking its tail from the tree.
Erik didn’t even flinch as he pulled out his sword. “I’m glad to see you saved it for me.” He raised his sword above his head, a smile on his dirty face.
It was his fault we were even here hunting this thing, and I was more than glad to let him have the glory.
But Estrid wasn’t. She and Erik were always competing. Sometimes it was cards. Sometimes women, and other times it was monsters. Who’d killed more blazetaurs? Who’d collected more shadebig body parts?
Maybe Erik was in the lead and that’s what possessed Estrid to take a running leap onto the beast’s swinging tail. She wasn’t close enough to the stinger. She dug her sword into a meaty crevice, causing the monster to flick its tail. Hard.
Erik’s eyes widened in surprise.
Estrid lost her grip and flew toward him.
He dropped his sword and made a valiant effort to catch her. They were almost the same size. Instead, she plowed into him like a boulder, sending both of them careening backward into a tree where they sat, stunned.
The blazetaur pawed the ground, raking a deep groove in the dirt.
Luckily, it seemed to have forgotten about me. Sometimes, as the youngest sister, it bothered me to be so forgettable that even the monsters on this blasted island ignored me. Other times, it was my greatest advantage. With my sword still in hand, I pulled my short-handled ax from my leather belt. I didn’t fight with a shield. They weren’t much use against monsters who could shatter them with one blow. But I was deadly with two blades.
As it drew its tail up to strike, I ran, taking long, quiet strides. My destination was a group of trees the monster had destroyed. The snapped trunks were positioned like a ramp. I hit them at full speed, slowing only slightly so as not to lose my balance. My eyes never left the tail. It was going to be close, but not impossible.
I didn’t pause when I reached the top, where I was level with the monster’s back. Instead, I leapt, feeling for a moment like a bird taking flight.
The tail passed just in front of me.
I hooked the blade of the ax around the stinger so I wouldn’t fall, and stabbed my sword into its tail, meeting flesh.
And then I was falling. Just me and the stinger and a stream of warm, red blazetaur blood. The ground rushed to meet me. I hit it hard, all of the air rushing out of me at once.
The black stinger landed beside me, its point inches from my face. I gasped, unable to catch my breath.
The blazetaur swayed dangerously above me.
Hands were on me then, Erik’s and Estrid’s. They grabbed my vest, pulling me to my feet, pounding on my back as we ran for cover. The two of them dragged me as I regained my bearings.
We made it to the trees just as the monster collapsed with a crash that shook the ground. Its rear end hit first, the once-dangerous tail limp and lifeless. Then its front legs gave out. And finally its head, with its fang-like incisors, plowed into the dirt mere feet from our hiding place.
We all stared at the body in silence for a moment.
Erik turned narrowed eyes on me. “Do you ever think before you act?”
“If I did, you’d both be dead.” I sheathed my sword and emerging back into the clearing. I kicked one of the blazetaur’s gaping nostrils. Nothing. I moved past it, avoiding spikes and horns, until I saw what I was looking for. The stinger and, beneath it, the wooden handle of my ax. My name was carved into it in Ahvoli runes by my father before he’d given it to me on my thirteenth birthday.
Bracing a foot on the blazetaur’s back for leverage, I tugged the ax free, careful not to touch the venom still leaking from the stinger.
Erik stood beside me, his eyes on my face. “I wish you wouldn’t be so foolish sometimes. Your life is worth ten of mine.” He clapped a hand on my shoulder. It was the closest to a “thank you” I would get from him.
“At least Luthair will be pleased.” Estrid still had her swords drawn. It was wise to keep weapons readily at hand here, below the veil.
I grimaced involuntarily at the name of our benefactor, the governor. Barepost was the only human settlement on the island continent of Bruhier. Stephan Luthair controlled everything—the mine, the trade, the transportation. And us. The Svand siblings owed him a debt, and Erik wouldn’t let us leave until it was paid.
“Without honor, we are no better than the monsters that plague the island,” Erik had said when I’d offered to sneak into Luthair’s lavish home on the ridge and bury my ax in his gut, putting an end to our servitude once and for all. And so I never had, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted every time I looked up from our tiny rooms above the pub to see lights glowing in his luxurious glass windows. But I would do anything for Erik, even if it meant spending the last three years hunting brutish monsters and kowtowing to an obnoxious governor.
He had sent us after this blazetaur before it could reach the plateau where Barepost was situated. We’d spent the last twenty-four hours tracking it, doing our best to survive attacks from the myriad of monsters that lived below the veil.
The first hour had seen Erik nearly strangled by a trithon, a nasty, three-headed snake that lived in the trees and liked to drop down on top of its unsuspecting victims. Not long after that, we’d startled a fire elk and it caught Estrid’s cloak on fire. Thankfully, she was unharmed, but her cloak lay in ashes somewhere on the forest floor. Part of our earnings from this job would have to go toward the purchase of a new one. Winters were unforgiving in Bruhier, and it looked like we would be here for another one.
I dropped the ax into my belt and turned to my brother. “Will he be happy?” I already knew the answer.
“Our job isn’t over yet.”
“It never is.”
But Erik, used to my complaining, just smiled. “This was a female blazetaur.”
Estrid and I raised our eyebrows at each other, not bothering to ask how he knew. Just as he was used to my complaining and Estrid’s arguments, we were used to him knowing things.
“So now we have to find the nest.” He stepped over the blazetaur’s lolling black tongue and disappeared back into the tree line.
Estrid and I scurried behind him.
We walked for a long time, following a path of trampled trees. Thunder rumbled overhead. Though we couldn’t see the veil of clouds from beneath the canopy of trees, I knew it would be grey and heavy with rain. I ran my hand along the trunk of a tree, tracing a deep groove that had almost certainly been made by a blazetaur horn. Estrid nodded at me approvingly. She was the best tracker of the three of us, but I wasn’t bad and was getting better with her tutelage.
The ground leveled out as we walked. We were heading farther down the mountainside, deeper into monster territory. I followed Estrid and Erik and kept my eyes open for threats, because that was what I always did. I’d killed for them countless times, and I would die for them if I had to. As the littlest sister, I was no one without the two of them.
When the rain started, it drowned out all other sounds, making our trek downhill even more dangerous even though the water couldn’t reach us through the canopy. We slipped our way down, one hill after another, until we finally emerged into a large clearing not unlike the one we had killed the blazetaur in. Fat drops of rain clung to my eyelashes, and I blinked them back, drawing my sword.
Erik placed his hand on my arm, telling me I didn’t need it. He pointed. I followed the line of his finger to a group of massive boulders bunched together in the middle of the clearing.
Not boulders, I realized with a start.
Three of them leaning together in the middle of a ring of toppled tree trunks. All of them taller than even Erik and wider than the three of us combined.
“The galestone won’t ignite in the rain.” Erik pulled the box of the volatile powder from inside his vest.
It was the only thing Luthair had given us before sending us down the mountain, one of his most valuable exports from the mine. He profited shamelessly from other countries at war, willing to send what they needed to destroy each other if the price was right.
Erik sat on a fallen log, returning the box and tinder to his vest for safekeeping while we waited for the rain to pass. I sat beside him while Estrid stood at the tree line, watching the nest as if she expected the eggs to hatch at any moment.
“I don’t remember rain like this in the Western March.” Here below the veil, it rained all the time, the forests steamy and muddy, the rivers constantly overflowing their banks.
“Maybe not,” he said, “but do you remember the snow? It was even worse. It would freeze your eyes closed and turn your toes black.”
“I miss the snow,” I said wistfully.
That drew a chuckle from somewhere deep in his throat.
It wasn’t the only thing I longed for. “I miss Dad.”
“I miss his soup,” Estrid chimed in.
Just the mention of the creamy dish loaded with lamb and pork and vegetables made my stomach grumble.
“Was that thunder?” Erik hit me in the shoulder lightly.
I hit him back, nearly sending him to the ground.
He caught himself and dusted off his hands. “I do forget you’re not so little anymore.”
“Just as you forget to feed me. You’re a rotten big brother.”
“We will eat.” Erik said, “Just as soon as we are done.”
The rain subsided soon after, leaving the ground in the clearing little more than churned mud. It sucked at our boots as we crossed to the nest and stood before the eggs. I rapped my knuckles on one shell, half-expecting to hear something stir inside in response. It remained still and quiet. My hand came away sticky with slime. I reached over and wiped it on Estrid’s sleeve. She batted me away.
It did not escape my notice that there were three eggs, that there would be three siblings. Would one be the leader, the other two constantly nipping at his heels? Would the youngest be reckless and impulsive, with the oldest constantly pulling her back from the edge while the middle sibling rolled her eyes and tried to reason with them both? There was a pang in my chest, but it was something I was used to ignoring.
“Do not feel bad.” Erik seemed to be reading my thoughts. “The hatchlings would fight to the death as soon as they emerged. Only one of them would have survived anyway.” He carefully pulled back the lid on the box of galestone.
“And we would have been sent to hunt it before too long. Why don’t you let me light it?” Estrid held a hand out for the flint.
Erik shooed us both away. “You and Frida take cover.”
We didn’t have any direct experience with galestone, but not long after we’d arrived in Barepost, there’d been an explosion in the mine. It had blown a hole in the mountainside.
For once, neither of us argued.
I followed Estrid into the forest at a fast clip, moving back up the mountain until we came to a rocky overhang.
“Here.” She pulled me down beside her so our backs were against the warm rock, situated between us and the clearing.
My legs burned with the effort of running uphill, but my breaths were steady and quiet as I listened for Erik.
“Should we go back for him?” I knew better, but I couldn’t help asking.
Estrid shook her head. “No. He’ll make it. He always does.”
I imagined him setting the charge, unrolling the line and sprinkling it with galestone. Striking the flint and dropping it, watching to make sure it caught, which would steal valuable time from his escape.
“He should be here.”
Just then, he launched himself over the rock and pressed his body against ours. Taking his cue, Estrid and I ducked low and covered our ears, a ball of Svands.
The explosion rocked the ground and rang in my ears. Even this far away, dirt and debris flew over our hiding place. A jagged piece of grey, slimy shell hit the ground just in front of us, sticking into it like a blade.
Erik peeled himself away from us, his dirty face blank with shock.
“Well,” I said when the ringing had subsided. “Can we eat now?”
Our laughter followed us back up the hill to Barepost where a warm meal, a semi-comfortable bed, and a sleazy governor waited for our return.
Continue reading: https://www.amazon.com/Being-Suun-Legends-Fallen-Book-ebook/dp/B07QFYGP6M/