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Lord krenn and his daugh.., p.1
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       Lord Krenn and His Daughter, p.1

           Jamie Bradshaw
 
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Lord Krenn and His Daughter
Lord Krenn and His Daughter

  Copyright 2012 Jamie Bradshaw

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Lord Krenn and His Daughter

  Copyright © 2012 Jamie Bradshaw. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without the express written permission of the author. The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  Cover Art Design: Jamie Bradshaw

  Cover Art: Jamie Bradshaw

  Copyright © Jamie Bradshaw

  Edited by: Jamie Bradshaw

  Published by: Jamie Bradshaw

  Krenn and His Daughter

  The jingling of the gold coins in his belt pouch could hardly be heard above the fierce howl of the wind as it drove cold rain into the horseman. His thick black cloak was little warmth against the ferocious weather.

  After a long day’s riding, the traveler spurred his black stallion through the muck and grime of the worn trail that led to his destination. A cold rain was falling from a gray sky as Krenn drove his steed toward the castle that was now in sight, the ever-alert guards lowered the drawbridge with a slow grind and squeak.

  The clip-clop of his steed’s hooves on the cobblestones echoed in the courtyard as the stallion trotted through. A waiting servant girl rushed to take the restless beast as Krenn dismounted, his chain mail armor clinking with a muffled sound from within his great cloak. Two guards approached, the red dragon emblazoned on the chest of their black surcoats stood out against the dismal surroundings. Carried between them was a thin young man in tattered clothing, with a dirty bandage over the stump at the end of his left arm.

  “My Lord,” one of the guards began, “the pig thief.”

  The Welsh lord said nothing as he approached the three, the young man struggling with fear in the strong grip of the grim and loyal guards. With a slow and measured movement, Krenn pulled back the hood of his cloak, exposing a scowling face that was dark with anger, the cold rain making his black hair stick to his deathly visage. His blue eyes burned with a life that eerily contrasted against the dark and weathered flesh surrounding them.

  The young captive struggled to no avail and began to whimper and cry. Krenn paused, then spoke in a stern voice, “You have stolen your last pig, thief! You will lose more than your hand this time.” Without another word, Krenn drew the sword that lay hidden within the depths of his cloak. The guards threw the crying man in a puddle of mud and water, and, with a clean swipe of the heavy blade, the thief’s head lay two feet from the body it once adorned, a pleading mask frozen in time forever.

  ****

  The room was pleasantly warm compared with the damp chill of the rest of the castle. Krenn sat close to the fireplace, contemplating his next move on the chessboard. He knew that in one move he could have his opponent in checkmate.

  “Ha!” cried Branwen as she moved her king to safety, a triumphant smile across her face.

  “Ah, I should have seen that. I must learn to be more careful when playing you,” replied Krenn.

  After the game, which Branwen lost despite her father’s kindness, Krenn stood, stretched his stiff muscles, and walked past his daughter to stoke the fire. Branwen leaned back into the oaken chair that was her favorite. She took up a hairbrush that was beside her and began to brush her long, thick and brown hair as she admired the new dress she was wearing.

  Krenn turned from the fire to gaze upon the young beauty who was his daughter. He watched as the firelight danced across her features, adding a strange life to the picturesque scene. She was now fifteen years old, and Krenn was proud to be her father. She was beautiful, intelligent, and already attracting wealthy suitors. Krenn chuckled as he reflected her skill with sword and shield. Little did her suitors know that this seemingly frail young girl could almost best any of them.

  “I think I shall retire, father,” said Branwen in her light voice. “I am looking forward to our ride tomorrow.” With fluidity and grace, she rose to leave. Krenn stepped to her and wrapped a warm cloak around her, kissing her forehead.

  “Sleep well,” said Krenn to his daughter.

  Branwen took up a silver candelabra and left for her room, her soft tread barely audible in the large hallway. Krenn closed the huge oak door and walked to the large window in his room. He pulled back the heavy black drapes, opened the heavy shutters and gazed out into the courtyard while the cold air rushed in to meet his face. He turned to the cloudless, starlit sky, his gaze meeting the silver orb that hung high in the night. There was a soft knock at the door as Krenn returned to the fireplace. “Enter,” he commanded.

  In walked a young woman with pale skin, wearing only a simple sheepskin robe, her long, blonde hair shining in the firelight.

  “Ah, Mildryth,” Krenn said, gazing into her clear blue eyes, “I am pleased that you are here. My tired eyes have longed for your beauty and now they are overwhelmed.”

  “Your ride has made you weary, my lord. I have a remedy for that.”

  ****

  Krenn awoke to a pounding on his door. He quickly rose from his bed. As he rushed to the door, Mildryth covered her nakedness with the bearskin blanket that draped the bed. Krenn opened the huge door to see a panting servant woman. “Well,” he asked impatiently. “What is it?” Krenn could see urgency in the woman's expressive face.

  “Branwen is missing, Milord!” Krenn did not wait for further explanation as he rushed past the servant, breaking into a run to reach his daughter’s room, the cold stone of the floor biting into the flesh of his bare feet. He reached Branwen's room quickly and rushed through the open door. Krenn felt the cold, morning draft coming from the open window across the room. The dark purple curtains were cast aside, waving in the breeze, allowing the cold spring sun shine through. He slowly turned to survey the room, a seething rage beginning to well within him. Branwen's bed was disheveled as if she indeed slept in it the night before. Her dress was characteristically put at the end of her bed

  “Search the castle!” he commanded to the servant woman as she finally caught up. Within a few minutes there were servants bustling about, calling out for Branwen. Krenn joined in the search for his daughter, but suspected she would not be found on the grounds. At least, he thought, there might be a clue what became of his beloved daughter. Mildryth entered the room, pulling her robe tighter around her. Krenn walked slowly to her and spoke in a soft voice, looking deep into her eyes. “I want you to use your power to find Branwen.”

  She returned his gaze and smiled. “I will do what I can.”, with that, she turned to walk out of the room, a servant desperately trying to get out of her way. Krenn watched her leave. She had served him well in the past. He walked over to the end of the bed and he picked up the purple dress that Branwen wore only the night before. He swore that whoever was behind this act should pay with his life.

  ****

  Krenn sat brooding in his empty hall, a flagon of ale sat on a table at t
he right of his stone throne. He sat in this barren room drinking from the silver-lined skull that was once the head of a pig thief. The torches that burned in sconces on the walls provided little light as Krenn watched the lithe form of the woman he trusted glide toward him as she entered the hall. His heart began to race as Mildryth stepped up to him.

  “I am sorry, Krenn. I am unable to see Branwen's location.” Krenn slowly put down the skull from which he was drinking and stood, the muscles on his bare chest beginning to twitch with frustration. “Whoever has taken your daughter is skilled in the Art enough to shield himself from my divining. I can say that she is somewhere in the North Country. Krenn stepped down from his huge chair and walked up to Mildryth, taking her hand and raising it to his lips.

  “You have done well.” Krenn walked out of the room leaving Mildryth alone. She sat down in the stone chair and picked up the flagon of ale and poured some in the skull. She drank from the skull with satisfaction as she admired the workmanship of the vessel.

  ****

  The black stallion raced along the trail, its warm breath creating a cloud of mist with each exhale. Krenn gripped the reins tight as he thought of his daughter. There was only one person who could be responsible and Krenn's group was ready for the battle that awaited them. Ten soldiers thundered along behind him as the local wildlife scattered out of the path of the deadly hooves. Mildryth followed behind the faceless soldiers in their chain mail armor and black cloaks, her thick blonde hair wildly fluttering about. Her eyes were watering as the cold air was forced into her face. They had been riding for hours and she was beginning to tire, as were the soldiers that rode before her. She knew that Krenn wanted to reach the bastard that stole his daughter but she also knew that tired soldiers would do Krenn no good, no matter how good they were. She spurred her horse to a greater speed, passing the mailed warriors to reach the side of Krenn, the muscles in her legs aching all the way. Krenn looked to her and she signaled for him to stop, after a few moments of thought, Krenn did as she asked. The thunder of the horses slowly died as the war band came to a stop, the soldiers grateful for the rest that they so badly needed.

  “Your men do not have the stamina that you do, Krenn.” Mildryth said as the group dismounted. “I know how urgent this is, but your soldiers need rest.” Krenn turned to the haggard troops and saw that the woman’s wisdom was true.

  “You will have two hours to rest.” The soldiers quickly began to build a fire to warm them against the cold. They knew that anytime now the rain would come and they wanted to be warm as possible before it did. Krenn called to Mildryth and she came up to him. She wrapped her arms around him, shivering against the cold steel of his chain mail armor, the soldiers eyeing the Saxon woman with distrust. “That demon-spawned Northman will pay for this, Mildryth.” Krenn grimaced as he spoke these words and his stomach muscles tightened with the anger and hatred that he felt.

  A light rain began to fall from the brooding sky, adding to the discomfort that the travelers felt already. The soldiers put out the fire as Krenn and Mildryth mounted their steeds. The group was again racing toward the castle ruins where Branwen was being held captive.

  ****

  The crumbling stones of an ancient fortress could now be seen as Krenn and his band rode forth, its high walls giving a sense of foreboding against the darkened sky. Rainwater was standing in the open field that surrounded the castle, splashing up on the soldiers as they rode toward the lowered drawbridge. The muddy moat flowed over the wooden planks of the drawbridge causing the horses to slip and slide as they trotted through. The courtyard was littered with refuse as Krenn saw that there was no one about.

  Krenn and his soldiers dismounted, leaving their war-trained mounts to stay in the courtyard. Mildryth stayed behind as the group entered the huge double doors that lead to the great hall of the castle. Krenn pulled the hood of his black cloak off of his head so that he could better hear around him. The chink of swords being drawn echoed in the empty entrance hall as the warriors prepared themselves for battle, the soldiers carrying their heavy steel shields in defensive positions.

  It was dark and brooding inside the castle walls, but the band could see well enough. Krenn was irritated with the noise of his soldier's armor echoing in the abandoned hall, but he knew that it was unavoidable.

  Krenn lead his group into the dining hall. The cold rain fell on the warriors from the hole that was once the ceiling. It was cold, but at least they had light to see by. As the band made its way through the debris, Krenn heard a shout from behind him and spun to see a soldier slumping to the ground, an arrow jutting from fingers that grasped at his heart. The man slumped to the wet stone with a splash and thud.

  The other soldiers quickly took cover behind whatever piece of furniture that was still large enough to protect them from the hidden assailant. Krenn picked up the dead warrior and rushed toward the dark room that the arrow came from. Struggling with the bulky body, Krenn used it as a shield to protect himself from further attack.

  Krenn saw movement ahead of him and jumped to the side as an arrow flew past him to stick into a rotting chair behind him. His attacker was a small man wearing a green cloak who turned to run, but Krenn was faster and with a single lunge, his sword met the heart of the archer. Krenn yanked his sword free and ran back into the hall to see his soldiers engaged in combat with three huge Danes. The giant enemies wielded swords and carried large round wooden shields, their chain mail armor rusted due to exposure to the elements. Their bare heads sported manes of yellow hair, their faces covered with long braided beards.

  Before Krenn got close enough to engage the berserk giants, three of his men were gutted. The crash of sword against shield resounded off the walls of the hall, blending with the cries of the blonde giants to create a deafening roar in the ears of the combatants. Krenn closed with the closest of the Vikings and swung with a mighty blow that would have felled a normal man, but the warrior stood. With a roar of pain and rage, the bearded berserker cleaved the skull of a soldier that was unfortunate to be too close. Krenn took another swing before the giant could recover and cut the raider’s throat. As the warrior clutched his wound in an attempt to stop the flow of blood, a soldier stabbed him from behind. The giant of a man fell with a great, bloody splash.

  Krenn looked around to discover that another Viking was dead. All but one of his soldiers remained standing. The final raider stood facing Krenn and his last soldier, blood flowing from a score of wounds. He raised his sword to the sky and yelled out to some strange god in a foreign tongue, and, with a great lunge he landed in front of the soldier and ran his sword through the young man’s heart. Krenn stepped back and to the side to avoid a second attack that was meant for his head. He swung his sword in a great arc but the Dane deflected it with his shield.

  The Viking leaped over the dead soldier and rammed his shield into Krenn as he began another attack, almost causing him to slip on the blood-soaked flagstones. With a great yell the giant kicked his knee, but Krenn was able to keep from falling. He drove a mailed fist into the blonde warrior's nose, causing his eyes to water, temporarily blinding him. Krenn took advantage of the situation and thrust his sword into the chest of his opponent, the chain mail giving way to the blade allowing it to find the heart of the yellow-haired giant. Krenn withdrew his sword and slumped to the bloodied floor in exhaustion, leaning back to allow the welcome cold of the rain on his face.

  ****

  Thunder crashed and the wind howled outside the castle as Krenn and Mildryth made their way through the winding corridors that were the gut of the decrepit place. Krenn ignored the pain in his knee and the chill in his bones as he concentrated on finding his daughter, the scent of mildew and rot wafting into his nostrils. Mildryth's torch provided light to see, but no warmth.

  “Krenn…” Mildryth began but was cut off by a horrible, high pitched scream.

  “That sounded like Branwen!” cried Krenn. The scream sounded as though it came from somewhere below. T
he two began to make their way toward where the sound came from, not taking care to move silently any longer. They quickly come to a stair leading down. Krenn took the lead with his companion close behind, his grip on the sword hilt tightening in reflex.

  The stairs ended in a dark cellar deep in the bowels of the ruins. There were broken crates scattered about, their contents long ago rotted. Krenn visually scanned the room, but saw no one. His blood turned to ice when they heard a slow rhythmic beating of what sounded to be a drum.

  “What is that?” Krenn asked as he turned a fearful look at Mildryth. Before the Saxon witch could reply, another scream echoed in their ears, seemingly coming from beyond the wall at the far end of the room. The hairs on Krenn’s neck stood on end as Mildryth rushed to the stone wall, easily stepping over the rotted debris that littered the floor.

  “Come!” She said, urgency in her voice and a fiery glow in her blue eyes. Krenn quickly caught up to the woman and pressed his face up against the wall. The beating of the drum was louder in his ear now and his heart was pumping fast.

  “There must be a latch somewhere!” Krenn yelled, panic beginning to overwhelm him. He frantically groped the wall in an attempt to find the lever that would open a door to whatever horrible sight lie behind it. Mildryth paused to calm herself and she began to concentrate. The young woman fondled a small leather pouch and chanted softly. Krenn continued to search the wall from its base to its highest point, sweat freely flowing down his battle-scarred face. The salty fluid that flowed into his eyes burned, but Krenn would not give up his search. The rhythmic drum beats began to speed up.

  “Stop,” Whispered Mildryth. Krenn halted and glared at the woman, barely recognizing her in his blurred and heated vision. The blonde woman stepped back, a trickle of fear running down her back as she stared at Krenn, frothy foam dripping from his lips. She suddenly felt colder in the already chilled room, recognizing the fury on Krenn’s face. “I know where the trigger is.” She said, releasing a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. Krenn calmed himself a little and stood there in silence, the beating of the drums booming in his head. Mildryth made her way across the room and reached behind a pile of rubble. Krenn saw her flick her wrist and a deep grinding of stone began to echo in the room. Krenn spun around as he realized the wall behind him was moving.

 
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