“Ye are upon Robin Hood’s ground, and should he find you seeking to rob an honest craftsman, he will clip your ears to your heads and scourge you even to the walls of Nottingham.”
—The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
Chapter 1 from Ankathata's Freeze (excerpt)
A herd of deer, caught leaping when the spell of ice struck, hung from the branches of the forest, suspended in the air three feet above the undergrowth; a groundhog and squirrel had scampered to a stiffened escape beneath their glistening hooves. The fur on a doe’s back shivered as a gust of wind tinkled the petals overhead. Their eyes did not suffer the freeze and continually darted back and forth beneath a thin pelt of frost, frantically searching for a way out of the wood that had been enchanted for more than a year. The trees’ shaggy gray arms lay like bridges upon the earth about the forest animals, and the higher limbs stretched the height of the great oak, bearing a silky white flower fringed in lavender. This blossom yielded the most coveted balm in all the land—the ingredient that gave potions and elixirs their strongest potency—nettil oil. Branches towering toward the heavens, and those low to the ground, shimmered with a uniform silver hue, lacquered with ice. The entire forest had been placed under a spell cast by Ankathata, an aggrieved witch.
Three trolls, standing on the verge of manhood, unexceptional in appearance and manner, came running through the green meadow, its lush carpet dotted with springtime wildflowers that grew to a precise line where the meadow met the trees in this place. The lads chased a lamb, whose fleece was matted and shaggy, up and down the slopes, not daring to venture too close to the frozen nettil forest. Grass swayed in waves and broad undulations all about them, the wind off the Faun River rolling in, then receding.
“Grab her by the back leg!” Marrow called, eyes on the lamb’s hind. His ears popped tall, their pointed tips going erect with excitement.
“I give up,” Frahn gasped. The tips of his ears wilted the slightest bit. Huffing, he collapsed on the ground, breathless from the chase. He leaned back upon an elbow and crossed his ankles, stretching himself long. “She won’t speak today, anyway,” he said, plucking a strand of grass, catching it between his teeth.
Brahm cast an insolent look in the direction of the lamb. “Yeah, I’ve not heard her talk in days—dumb animal!” Raising his mouth’s palate to make a nasal quality, he bleated, “Bah-baaahd lamb!”
These lads—Brahm, Frahn, and Marrow—were not the trolls of legend, monstrous creatures that terrorize only to be turned to stone, but three of a race of law-abiding citizens, fine tillers of the soil and apt fishermen, an earth-loving people guided by a tendency toward peacefulness, directed by a moral compass that pointed in the direction of goodness. It was their race that most suffered the consequences of the ice freeze in the land. They certainly fared worse than the gnomes of KinTotem, uppity urban folk dwelling in the north, and worse than the kints of the Eastern Straits, an elfin people living along the Ocean of Ogles, and worse than any dwarves mining a mountain or other scatter of men throughout Wir. But when united, these troll lads were without a care, transported to a place of euphoria at being together, the despondent state of their homeland melting away as they ran through the meadow or waded a creek, pounded ales in public houses, smoked shrooms, or schemed how to snag a kiss from one of the virgin maidens or men of the Village Ror . . .
Chapter 9 from Ankathata's Freeze (excerpt)
Ankathata had assumed the form of a hag upon her devotion to dark spells years ago, though whether willingly or unwillingly may never be told. An ivory shawl shrouded her thin figure, and her white hair threw its unkempt bush to a back that was straight as a washboard, except for two jutting shoulder blades, which conversed with one another as she found her way forward with a stick. Long fingers dangled from a gray woolen dress’s sleeves, and its jagged hems bound the forearms then curled up into a highly stylized ram’s-horn finish on either side of her collarbone. Elfish ears framed brilliant yellow eyes, and her nose, rough as a unicorn’s horn, stretched past her chin. Elegant as a moth tripped by a hole in its wing, the woman stunned the forest hollows when she stood sheltered under willow trees in moonlight, solving the fate of owls.
The spell that crippled her, the curse cast by Valmew in his fury after she’d seduced him and stolen his pebble, had never lifted. Her feet remained a bothersome pair to her living corpse at all times, and at this instant she was forced to pull herself by vines dangling from a long trellis of dead grapes. The wrinkled fruit hung like the dried-up testicles of an old widower. Grabbing and trading the vines, one for another, she yanked herself toward the trellis’s sunlit egress, heels trailing a rut dug into the dirt over many years by her withered feet. The vines tunneling all about Ankathata drooped in stark contrast to the rest of the witch’s wood, a bursting potpourri of deep reds, fiery oranges, and gilded yellows, for it was the season of death—autumn . . .
Chapter 18 from Ankathata's Freeze (excerpt)
Sait DaVinia, the queen of KinTotem, ascended the terraces two steps ahead of the king; then together they came out upon its full-circle overlook. A thousand hems touched the ground, a sea of hats got removed from heads. The people bent at the knee, but they were unable to lower their eyes from the woman. Heads upturned, mouths fallen agape, the entirety of KinTotem stared with adoring faces, mesmerized by Her Highness.
Silver twigs crawled up from the heavily embroidered bosom of the pearl-worked gown that hugged her naked sternum—lichens wrought of a glittery metal. An amethyst stone, the purplish rock exclusive to this mountainous area of Wir, chosen for its native distinction as the official gem of KinTotem, hung about the slender throat whose skin was as smooth as wax, kept young by the finest soaps and oils. Jet-black hair swooped out from beneath a head circlet to capture it with a larger crown, one that brought its braided locks to a bunned finish inside. The coverlet on her shoulders was threaded with slivered emeralds, and an amethyst-sutured cloak shone through a transparent cape of the thinnest chiffon laced with diamonds and rubies. The crests of the queen’s pale ears, dusted with silver spuds, glittered. Yet none of these sequins or glimmering gemstones, none of these fiery tokens, could strike a spark to the blazing blue sapphires that were Sait DaVinia’s eyes.
Prepared to address the people in duet with the king, she stood on the brink of their kingdom, hand in hand with the man. Frube’s face flushed and his cheeks reddened as a rosy tint spread across his entire body. Flesh tingling, heart pounding, his groin throbbed at the touch of his spouse’s hand.
“My people,” DaVinia addressed the onlookers; citizens came hushed, horses took muzzle, flags fell flat from sills, and birds saluted their heads down to the leader. “I give you—” Her pale hands glittered fuchsia into a million shades of purple in the gray of the day. Then she let go the king’s hand and presented him with a lilt of her arm and crossed her heart as she did so. “—your gnome king: the Masse Frube.” Sait DaVinia’s bow pulled its cloak of honor over the man beside her. The people followed suit. She backed away and lowered to her throne. The queen’s half of the speech had ended.
There, she thought, that should shut them up! She was eyeing two dozen women and men, assembled close by. A group of seamstresses and tailors, they’d demanded higher pay for long hours spent dressing the queen and her entourage. They’d threatened to show up, and there they stood at DaVinia’s feet. The queen knew they’d be too dazzled by her gown and gems to heckle her in front of the flocks. They fawned endlessly, like gnomes do. Transfixed by this latest display of garish fashion, they’d forgotten their bane, just as the queen had planned. DaVinia smirked, pleased with herself. Let my purse stay closed to them awhile longer! she thought.
Her eyes took in the larger flocks. Dullards—all of them, vapid flies. The king was addressing the crowd with sweeping gestures of his stubby arms and spoke on. His words fell on deaf ears. All eyes were on the queen. Sait DaVinia had mastered the art of distraction and used it to her advantage.
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First book in a series
Paul Andrew is a novelist. He writes in the high fantasy genre with a slant toward literary fiction. Through the use of sweeping language, grim subtexts, and colorful characters drawn from German and Danish fairytales, he creates compelling and vivid stories.
In his debut novel, Ankathata's Freeze, a troll lad, Frahn, has a chance to win salvation back for his people, who are under assault merely because of their race. Will the queen of the gnomes, the clever and conniving Sait DaVinia, stand against the "tall-eared varmints," as she secretly calls the trolls, or does she denounce the hatred and bigotry that flourish on the streets of her kingdom? Her official stance will determine not only Frahn's fate, but the future of a whole land. Ankathata's Freeze is a beguiling tale of the haves and have-nots and what happens when the have-nots take power into their own hands.
Copyright © Paul Andrew. All rights reserved.