To Be the King is a story I've been mulling over for years and I've decided this is the year that I'd like to get it out of my head and on the page. Don't worry! I'm coming at this with much more realistic goals than some of my other projects. It will be a short story, limited scope, etc. I'm trying to make 2023 the year that I learn from my mistakes!

I had originally intended this to be opening, but I decided to take the story in a different, more action-oriented direction. I still really like this opening though, and I wanted to share it. Please forgive me if it's a touch rough!

Fornbur squeezed the reins as his horse crested the snowy ridge overlooking Barrowstead. The beast dutifully slowed its steps until it finally eased to a stop, snorting quietly with displeasure. He stroked its mane gratefully and squinted his eyes to gaze down at the farm below him.

Dogran Whoreson was no farmer, that much was clear. Even just a moment’s observation was enough for Fornbur to see a half dozen ways the younger man could do be doing things better. But the lad had only been at it for a few years now, unlike Fornbur who had been working the land his entire life.

Perhaps I’ll come back in the spring, he thought. I could help him. Show him how do to things properly. The prospect of laying eyes on Whoreson’s pretty wife didn’t hurt either. Fornbur had only seen her a handful of times, but they had been enough to leave an impression. She had emerald eyes, a fae’s smile, and a head of thick auburn curls.

Fornbur’s life had years before and he was long passed the age of considerations like romance. He’d be lying though, if he said her gaze didn’t bring a flush to his cheeks. Some women were just like that, he supposed.

Not that she’d ever have a greybeard like you. He laughed to himself and urged his horse forward again. Keep your mind on your task, grandfather.

The horse clopped down the hillside, frozen grass crunching beneath the weight of its shaggy hooves. He hoped there would be room in Whoreson’s stable for the beast. It was not an overly long journey back to Fornbur’s steading, but the beast would still be weary if it was expected to wait out in the cold.

His gaze drifted to the distant shape of the barrow that was the steading’s namesake. It was little more than a grassy mound now, but beneath its exterior waited the bones of ancient king. It was a place of holiness to those who still prayed to the dead. Fornbur wondered if that was why Whoreson had chosen these lands from all the plots King Hagon had offered him.

He’s certainly done his part to put enough men in the ground, he mused grimly. Dogran Whoreson had won his fame and fortune as a reaver and warrior. The greatest fighter yet living in the Gravenlands, depending on who you asked.

A pair of men slipped out the door of Whoreson’s hall, both of them cloaked in fur and wielding spears. They started toward him, walking side by side with a casual gait that suggested they suspected no harm. Even so, Fornbur raised a hand in greeting as the space between them closed. It was always good to look friendly when warriors approached with sharpened iron, no matter what your intentions might be.

“State your business!” One of the spearman called, once they’d drawn close enough to escape the muffling of the snow.

“I am Fornbur Beldson, landlord of Kelfsham!” Fornbur called back. “I have come to share words with Dogran Whoreson.”

The two men eyed him for a moment. The one who spoke, the shorter and younger of the pair, turned to his companion and whispered some words. The second, a broad-shouldered man with a graying beard sprinkled with snowflakes, muttered something in reply. Fornbur could hear none of it, but the older man never took his eyes off of him.

A moment of awkward consideration passed and Fornbur could feel his hackles start to rise.

“I mean your master no harm,” he said, doing his best to hide his annoyance.

The older man’s shoulders sagged as he exhaled a sigh. He waved Fornbur forward with his spear. “Follow us.”