Shadow Warrior

I found a bit I wrote a long time ago – perhaps as much as three decades, but more likely two.

This is the rough draft. I typed it exactly as I found it written – and I shudder when I read it. The passive voice alone kills me. I’ll consider it a character draft, and don’t want to lose my warrior, so here it is.

Criticism not accepted. I have enough of my own.

 

At night he hung his travel hammock under the largest of the three merchant wagons and smiled as he slept. The merchants took turns guarding their gold, especially from him. During the day he rode his black stallion near the wagons, but ranged across the area watching for trouble. He saw signs of bandits, but they must have seen the man in the leather pants and silver mail with the red wolf emblazoned over his heart, for the bandits faded away and didn’t approach the wagons. The merchants spoke with him and joked during the day. The eldest daughter of the leader smiled enchantingly whenever he approached. She was only seventeen and he wasn’t interested in someone half his age, although she was beautiful.

The fourth night of their journey, a mere half day of travel from their destination, the merchants drank too deeply and watched less keenly than usual. The shadow of his shape hung under the wagon and he had shown no interest in their gold. The shadow under the wagon would look solid until morning.

He moved silently at the fringes of their sight,aided bu a wild magic that coursed in his blood and glowed behind his eyes.

The shadow of his movement solidified briefly next to the sleeping form of the flame-haired daughter. In her dreams she felt the kiss from the raven-haired warrior with the wolf’s head for a heart. She might have felt a brief caress before drifting into a deeper sleep.

The bag of gold was easy to find under the seat of the lead wagon. Feeling generous he took the gold and left a bag of fairy gold in its place. Once opened, the merchants could spend it, but the night would turn the gold coins to paper. With his quirky sense of humor, the paper would have the image of an eagle on it – his own private joke.

The shadows shifted again and his stallions snickered as it stepped into the familiar realm of almost-reality.

He counted the gold coins the next day, leagues from where he left the wagons. His chain mail was replaced with black silk and leather, a flaming eagle on his breast. Impersonating the wolf’s head was fine for a few days, but there were still fools who would want to challenge a known champion, and he wasn’t interested in fighting.

The shadows and mis-direction were his realm, and blood doesn’t cast a shadow – especially his own.

As he settled down after his meal, he pulled the bag of coins out for a final count in the flickering light of his campfire.

The bag was full of wooden chips, each with a laughing face stamped on it.

His eyes widened in surprise, then the little grove was startled by the sound of laughter.

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