First Chapter First Place Award for Science Fiction/Fantasy: The Sword of Vinganza by Michael S. Wigington
August 8, 2016
The Sword of Vinganza by Michael S. Wigington is the First Place winner in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category of Works in Progress for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.
Award-Winning First Chapter
The melee made its way further inside the estate. Steel on steel rang out, mixed with the shouts of the invaders. He didn’t care. He poured another glass of wine. It wasn’t his estate. Lord Henry had made a fine mess of things. The double oak doors crashed open and a fierce looking youth entered, brandishing a broadsword.
Owain smiled and blinked, trying to remember where he had laid his sword. He took four stumbling paces to the vanity as he remembered.
The youth charged.
Owain slid the sword from the scabbard still holding his wine. He took a drink as he watched the wild boy lunge at him. He stepped aside and slapped the youth on the back with the flat of his blade and sipped some wine. The stench of leather and sweat followed in the youth’s wake.
“You, my dear lad, need a bath. I’ll give you to the count of three to run along.”
“You’re drunk,” sneered the bandit. “I’ll have your head, old man.”
“One. Not until I have finished my wine.”
“That wine will be the end of you.” The youth whirled and thrust.
Owain parried and stepped back, the wine glass still held firmly in his right hand. “Two.
Run along and I’ll let you live.”
“That pretty sword and your woman will be mine when I’m done here.”
Owain laughed and turned his cup up.
The bandit seeing an opening, stepped in, sweeping his sword level at Owain’s neck.
Owain gave a slight bow and a twist of his hips. The broadsword whistled over his head.
The youth, now unbalanced, grunted and looked down. His eyes met Owain’s as the slim blade slid deep. The hilt showed and nothing else. The broadsword clattered on the floor. The boy’s breath rattled in his throat as Owain twisted the blade.
“Three. Why couldn’t you have just run along?”
The boy slumped over onto Owain’s shoulder.
The man patted his foe on the back. “That’s a good lad.”
One last exhale and the corpse slid down to the floor.
“You got blood on my surcoat.” Owain shook his head and removed his blade from the boy’s body. He looked at the empty cup still in his hand. “Lord Henry, I fear you’ve made a big mistake.” He licked his lips, set the cup down and poured more wine. He belted on the scabbard and slid the sword home. He grabbed the cup and made his way out of the room, he was sure that more than a mage or two would be with this group of marauders. He was in no condition to summon the magic needed to defend himself against another wielder of the art.
Slipping through the abandoned kitchen, Owain made his way towards the backdoor. Sneaking this way and that as to avoid being seen, he made the stables. The reek of manure and oats filled his nostrils. He found his horse and leapt up into the saddle. Spurring the horse onward, he made his way towards his small keep. Thunder rolled and Owain caught a flash from the corner of his eye. A red flash. Red Lightning. He sighed.
“This does not bode well.” He spurred his mount harder, his need to get home growing more urgent by the minute. The keep came into sight. The small farm below the keep with its wheat near ready for harvest made Owain frown. He hoped to see the harvest. This was the harvest that would make him. This was the harvest which would allow him to leave Lord Henry’s service. He dismounted the horse and ignored Hewitt, his servant, as he slammed through the door. “Merewen!” he called out to his wife. Thunder rolled and Owain cringed. All these long years, he thought he’d avoided the man. There is still time if Merewen will hurry.
“What is it, Owain?” Merewen questioned as she came from her quarters, she held a distaff in her hands. Glancing at his clothing she cocked her head. “Why do you have blood on you? Owain?” Worry spread across her face.
“Gather up Merien, gather up some food. We need to leave, now.”
“What? No. Owain, you said this was the last time. This is our home. We have wheat ready to be harvested, and it will be cold soon.” She eased closer to him and sniffed. “You’ve’been drinking,” she bit her lower lip. “Who did you kill this time?”
Owain spread his hands, “We’ve no time to discuss this, Merewen. We must leave now. You don’t understand.”
She slapped him, “I understand well enough. You’re drunk. You’re always drunk. I am not leaving my home. Who challenged the great Owain Mirthbourne and so lost his life?”
Anger welled inside him as the welts raised on his face. The magic simmered on the edge of his emotions. Sobering him. The slap stung more than physically. “Merewen, there are things you do not know. Things you cannot fathom. Lord Henry has made a mistake. Things have not gone well. I am no longer under his employ. Things are likely to get worse if we do not leave, now. My love. Round up Merien, and do as I say.” The magic rose like the tide, and threatened to burst, Owain ground his teeth to keep it at bay. He gazed into the wide eyes of his wife. Tears flowed down her cheeks. Her lips quivered.
“Miserable drunk. You always ruin everything,” she sobbed, shoulders slumped and defeated. “Merien,” she cried out. “Where are you, Merien?”
No answer came.
“Merien?” Owain called.
There came a pounding on the door. Owain jumped, startled.
“Merien,” Merewen called out as Hewitt opened the door.
A man stepped in, black booted, with a russet cloak. He held a large sack. Another man came in behind the first, holding Merien by the back of her neck.
“Pappa,” the girl cried out. A hand clamped tightly over her mouth.
Owain’s sword appeared in his hand, his magic ready to flow.
“Stay your hand, swordsman,” spoke the first man. “Make a move and she dies. I’ve no doubt you’re good. I’ve no doubt you’d kill me. Do that and he kills her. You can’t take us both. I am Hywel, he’s Landis, and this,” he opened the sack and turned it up. A flash and a thump as an object fell out of it. “Is Lord Henry Billingsworth.”
A head rolled out onto the floor. Dead eyes stared up at Owain.
Merewen jumped back and screamed. Merien struggled against her captor wide-eyed and crying.
Owain, keeping his sword up, glanced down. “Henry,” he whispered. “Let her go, if you wish to live.”
“We questioned him for a good while. He kept telling us that Owain Mirthbourne would make us all regret this. Just so you know, Landis and I had nothing to do with him dying. We are messengers for our Lord. We bring your greetings, Owain Mirthbourne. Greetings from Jermanus Tordun.”
‘I don’t care who you bring greetings from, there will be no talking until you release my daughter.”
“Kill them, Owain!” Merewen cried out and charged the men.
Hywel raised his hand. Merewen froze. Unable to move. She screamed and spat at Hywel.
“Shut up, woman,” Owain said through gritted teeth as he put himself between his wife
and the men.
Hywel removed his gauntlets, “Our Lord told us that you’d not come willingly. He desires to see you, Owain. His command was to make sure you came before him.”
“Release my wife. Let my daughter go, and I’ll come with you. My family has no part in
“Now you see, that sounds reasonable. And I must apologize, but if you attack us, and we kill you, our master will be sorely displeased. I think this is the safest way we can ensure that you appear before our Lord. You are to appear before our Lord before the sun sets, that is his command. Henry’s estate is his new residence. You know where that is. In the meantime,” he nodded at Merien, “she will be safe, I promise you. On my word as one with the gift, no harm will come to the girl as long as you show up by sunset tonight. I’ll release your wife once we’re
The man bowed, and both men slowly backed out the door taking Owain’s daughter with them.
Merewen screamed again, “No, no. Don’t let them take her.” Owain grabbed his wife and pulled her close. “Damn you, Owain, damn you, damn you, damn you!”
“I will get her back,” Owain held his wife as she pounded her fist on his chest.
Owain looked down at Lord Henry’s head. “Hewitt, take care of Henry, bury what is left.”