I Am The Storm (Book #1 the Lone Riders Trilogy)

In the kingdom of Thresparia, a tyrant rules. He's taken all the gold, resources and hope of the people and crushed them into a shadow of their former pride.

But there are people who can rise against him. Can raise their weapons in a symbol of hope and glory, but these are not just any mortal men.

They are humans, elves, dwarves, Fae folk and creatures dedicated to protecting Thresparia. In a land where Riders exist, and many creatures side with humans to fight, in a never-ending battle. Who is better to wash away the blood....

Than the perfect Storm?

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1. Awakening

With each and every breath, she was roused more from her deep slumber. Maybe it was the sunlight streaming through the thin curtains, or the river lapping against the bank next to her window. Sophia couldn't keep her eyes closed.

 

A sigh and a gentle shuffle, she crawled out of bed and picked up her uniform for the day. A servant's cloth, a ragged old, brown dress and grey-white apron. No shoes, there never were for the servants like her. Orphans and scamps that worked to survive.

 

Sophie groggily stumbled over to the wash basin, an old, cast iron thing that was unforgivingly hot or cold. Dipping a toe into the water, she discovered that infact, the water was warm but not scalding. Sophie smiled ruefully and stripped off her nightgown, lowering herself into the water and starting to wash with the sterile soap that always left you smelling like cinders and animal fat.

 

After a quick bath and clean, Sophie grabbed her nightgown and used it as a towel for her extensive mass of white gold hair. Looking in the shattered vanity mirror, she saw her hair, tumbling around her face in soft bangs that brushed her jaw and the rest reaching her hips. Her milk-white skin that never saw the sunlight and when it did, it seemed to glow with young and beauty. Her eyes were of the most golden-hazel that anybody had ever laid eyes on, some whispered that she was the daughter of a witch and had the eyes of a cat, for it was certainly true that Sophie possessed a keen eye for detail.

 

And it was this eye that caught the attention of her master, a stocky man of about forty and five summers. He was a gem trader, he brought goods from a kingdom called Afritasia, at a mere two gold coins a piece and sold them amongst the Thresparian people for almost a thousand times what he brought it for.

 

Sophie had been hiding in the shadows that day, covering her face with a simple, woollen cloth to hide her pale skin and remain anonymous. She'd seen the master talking to a dark-skinned man who wore gold upon his person like it wasn't at all precious, her first glimpse of an Afritasian. She stalked closer, hoping to snag one or two jewels that could feed her for the rest of her life, or buy her medicine or new clothes.

 

"Are you sure this is a good quality ruby?" The master had asked, examining a blood-red gem that caught the light and sparkled gleefully. The Afritasian nodded slowly, gold bangles and trinkets jangling merrily.

 

"Yes sir, we've been mining them for years," The man rumbled, casting a quick glance to the shadows where Sophie hid, she caught her breath. "and I believe you have a little spy hiding right there." Sophie caught the eyes of the master, who had promptly spotted her. She tried to bolt but she was caught by the scruff of her dress.

 

"Well well! What do we have here? A spy of all things!" The master boomed, hurting Sophie's delicate ears but she only glared until she caught sight of the gem.

 

"How much did you pay for that gem mister?" She'd enquired casually, the master had sneered.

 

"More than you're worth Kaspule." Sophie squirmed at the use of the local tongue, Kaspule meant idiotic, it meant slow and stupid. An insult to a fast-thinker like her.

 

"Well, I'll believe that if you took it to a jewellers Raspitre, you'd learn that it's just coloured glass."

 

Both men had looked at her, gob-smacked that this little girl, who looked like she'd never seen a day off the streets. Could tell that the gem was infact, a fake. And that was the day Sophie began her labour, of being a quality checker for the master and a object of value to him.

 

Snapping out of her reverie, Sophie realised that she'd gotten herself dressed and was standing idly in the sleeping quarters. Another soft sigh was released before she trudged up the stone stairs, the cold biting at her feet but she didn't mind. It was better than being thrown out into the scorching weather of the Water District of Thresparia, her home and probably her grave.

 

Arriving in the grand mansion that she worked in, her fists clenched. Why did she have to work for them? Why couldn't she escape and never come back? There had been rumours of resistance fighters, who opposed the King's rule and wanted their king back on the throne. A king who had supposedly been killed.

 

Sophie thought about it for a second or two, staring at the grand oak doors, slightly ajar, letting a cool sea breeze waft in. Would they accept a scrawny, under-fed teenage girl who was the tallest girl in the whole district, maybe the kingdom? A girl who had been thrown rocks at for being the supposed daughter of a witch or a god of old because of her eyes or the beauty that most women seemed to think she possessed? With a final seconds thought, Sophie bolted for the door, nobody was there to stop her and she knew where the district was fenced off from the Feral Lands.

 

Pelting through the streets, dodging people and carts stacked up with goods, wind whipping her hair. Sophie felt her heart speed through the adrenaline that her body had given her, it felt good after so many years of being restricted by rules and regulations. And finally, she saw the barricade, the guards sleeping on duty once again. She flung herself over the small ditch that lined the fence and scrambled the wooden spikes that kept the enemy at bay.

 

Shouts could be heard from behind her, the guards waking to find a tall girl standing on the edge of the barricade. They looked confused before Sophie curtseyed and gave a little wave, stupidly, they waved back.

 

And then she was falling, her body pushing down against the air that was rising to meet her fragile frame. Suddenly, enveloped by salted water, her lungs gasping for air from the impact. Sophie felt victorious as she swam to the shore, glancing back at the fort that was her home, guards standing there, looking dumbfound as the not yet even seven and ten summers old girl had done the impossible and escaped of her own accord.

 

Then she was running again, through the dense foliage and it was an euphoric feeling, the taste of freedom sweet in her mouth. Although it mingled with the saltiness of her sweat and tears of joy, it didn't bitter the moment. She was finally free, all of her suffering over and left behind in the 'civilized' part of the world and a new beginning in the Feral Lands. Sophie had always been told she had a spirit like a spring storm, a ferocity that nobody understood and an eerie calm that signalled that she was different. And like many people, some had tried to capture that spirit from their own, other stayed away. But one thing remained true to Sophie.

 

You cannot contain the storm. 

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