Blades of Wolfsbane – Full Free Audiobook by Jon Cronshaw

Dive into the world of chieftains, warriors, and ancient traditions. Experience the thrill of the tournament, the weight of a secret, and the struggle for respect.

Welcome to the immersive world of Blades of Wolfsbane, a high fantasy novella prequel to Jon Cronshaw’s Ravenglass Legends series.

This captivating tale is an unforgettable journey into a vibrant universe filled with courageous heroes and electrifying sword fights.

In the heart of the story, we meet Ragnar—a chieftain’s son yearning for his father’s respect.

Secretly honing an unorthodox fighting style, he grapples with a choice: reveal his prowess in the imminent boys’ tournament and risk family disgrace, or submit to defeat.

This epic tournament, a secret to safeguard, and a legacy at stake, sets the stage for a story that will ensnare your imagination.

It is a tale of intrigue, honour, and brave hearts.

Fans of rich world-building and high-stakes fantasy will feel right at home in the expansive Ravenglass Universe.

Embark on Ragnar’s epic journey today.

Dive into the world of chieftains, warriors, and ancient traditions. Experience the thrill of the tournament, the weight of a secret, and the struggle for respect.

Don’t miss out on this exciting journey! Listen to the full audiobook of Blades of Wolfsbane for free right here on YouTube.

Remember to like, share, and subscribe for more immersive audiobooks. Enjoy the adventure!

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Unlocking the Magic: Exploring the World of Coming-of-Age Fantasy

Embark on a captivating journey through the enchanting world of coming-of-age fantasy. Explore themes, top books, and claim your free starter library. Let the adventure begin!

Welcome to the enchanting world of coming-of-age fantasy!

In this post, you’ll discover the heart of this genre, exploring why readers are so drawn to these tales, and highlighting the top books and authors that have defined it.

And as a special treat, don’t miss the chance to claim your free Ravenglass Universe starter library when you join our newsletter today.

What is Coming-of-Age Fantasy?

Coming-of-age fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy literature that focuses on the growth and development of a young protagonist.

The stories often centrr around themes of self-discovery, responsibility, and the transition from childhood to adulthood.

With the backdrop of a magical world, these narratives resonate with readers as they follow the protagonist’s journey, both physical and emotional.

Themes and Subjects of Coming-of-Age Fantasy

Coming-of-age fantasy stories are rich in themes that explore the human experience. Common themes include:

Self-Discovery: As the protagonist navigates their world, they often discover hidden talents, powers, or abilities that define their identity and influence their destiny.

Friendship: The bonds formed with companions on the journey are integral to the protagonist’s growth, teaching them about trust, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Responsibility: As they mature, the protagonist learns to shoulder the weight of their newfound powers and the expectations placed upon them.

Conflict: Coming-of-age fantasy tales often involve battles against external forces, such as evil sorcerers or malevolent creatures, as well as internal struggles within the protagonist’s own heart and mind.

Good vs. Evil: The protagonist discovers moral ambiguity and navigates the complexities of right and wrong, light and dark.

Love: The protagonist experiences various forms of love—familial, romantic, platonic—that shape their character and choices.

Choice: At critical junctures, the protagonist must make difficult decisions that determine their fate and the fate of others.

Identity: The protagonist undertakes a journey of self-discovery to determine who they are and who they want to become.

Independence: The protagonist gains freedom from authority figures or home environments, allowing them to think and act for themselves.

Courage: Finding bravery in the face of fear and danger is central to the protagonist’s triumph over adversity.

Top Coming-of-Age Fantasy Books

Some of the most celebrated books and authors in coming-of-age fantasy include:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien:

This classic novel follows the journey of Bilbo Baggins, a young hobbit who discovers his own courage and resourcefulness as he embarks on a perilous quest.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling:

This beloved series chronicles the life of young wizard Harry Potter as he navigates the magical world of Hogwarts, learning about friendship, love, and the power of courage.

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman:

A thought-provoking series that explores themes of self-discovery, morality, and the nature of consciousness, as young Lyra Belacqua sets out on an epic journey through parallel worlds.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss:

This captivating novel follows the life of Kvothe, a legendary figure who recounts his rise from a lowly orphan to a renowned magician and adventurer.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle:

A moving story of Meg Murry, an awkward teen girl who embarks on an adventure across dimensions to find her missing father.

Sabriel by Garth Nix:

Sabriel, a young necromancer, must venture into the perilous Old Kingdom to rescue her father from the Land of the Dead.

The Belgariad by David Eddings:

Garion, an orphaned farm boy, discovers his destiny in a quest to retrieve a powerful orb and fulfill an ancient prophecy.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin:

The story of Ged, a sorcerer who must journey far from home to escape the darkness he unleashed into the world.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson:

Joel, a non-magical student at a school for Rithmatists–those who can animate chalk drawings and use them for defense–gets caught up in a dangerous mystery.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb:

This novel follows the life of FitzChivalry Farseer, a royal bastard who is apprenticed to become an assassin in the Six Duchies. As Fitz navigates court intrigue and the skills of his grim trade, he also struggles to find his place in a world that does not always welcome him.

Now that you’ve been introduced to the captivating world of coming-of-age fantasy, it’s time to embark on your own adventure.

Join my newsletter today and receive a free Ravenglass Universe starter library, filled with spellbinding tales that will transport you to a world of magic, mystery, and wonder.

Don’t miss this exclusive offer—claim your free books now and let the adventure begin!

Armour – a story in the Ravenglass Universe

Experience the thrilling world of Armour – a story set in the Ravenglass Universe. Join Hilda Strauss as she navigates the challenges of her workshop, alchemical inventions, and a fateful encounter with Lord Hueber. Get ready for an epic fantasy adventure like no other!

Hilda Strauss looked across the Braun Sea’s jagged waves as her workshop windows rattled against the autumn winds. She adjusted her optic lenses with sluggish fingers, sighing as the sun’s silvery edge crept below the horizon. She traced the line of the stone jetty as it snaked out into the sea, her eyes skipping to the north-east as the alchemical glow of the Nebel Hafen lighthouse cast rippling shadows across the water.

Hilda turned to her workbench piled high with brass cogs, rubber hoses, and copper wires, grunting as she shook an alchemical orb. Her arms ached with the motion, and stopped only when the orb glowed brilliant white. Steam hissed from around her elbow joints as she hung the orb from a hook behind her left shoulder.

Brushing aside her abandoned drawings for an underwater boat, Hilda heard the sound of approaching footsteps. She stepped over to the black-painted wheel to the door’s right. The wheel made a sharp metallic sound as she gripped it and turned it anti-clockwise. The door’s interior rattled with gears and moving parts as it swung outward, the air changing as the stony dampness of the corridor swept into her workshop.

A man strode towards her, his face obscured by a trio of candles, their light casting flickering shadows along the arched stone walls.

“Madam Strauss.”

“Viktor.” She gestured him into her workshop. “What brings you down here so late?”

Viktor stepped into the light, placing the candlestick on a shelf next to jars of chemicals and oils. He stood tall with a thin face and sharp eyes, wearing high boots and a blue tunic. “Lord Hueber is anxious to know how you progress with the latest invention.”

“Please extinguish your candles in my workshop, Viktor. There are a lot of volatile liquids on those shelves.”

“Of course.” He gave a quick nod and blew out the candles with a single breath.

“If Dietricht wants to know how my work is progressing, he should come himself rather than sending his serving boy.”

“I am the Sworn Advisor to Lord Dietricht Hueber the Third of Hafendorf.” He puffed out his chest. “And this is his workshop.”

Hilda’s hand swung up with a sudden jerk to signal silence, mere inches from Viktor’s face. Though he did not flinch, Hilda smirked at the slight hint of a gulp in his throat. She dropped her arm with a hiss. “Dietricht’s specifications have been difficult to implement. I may have to start again.” She stepped over to her workbench as Viktor followed behind. Her hands gripped on the half-built jumble of wires and gears. “Why are you frowning? These things take time.”

“Can you not reproduce the structure you use?”

Hilda shook her head. “If only it was that simple. Dietricht has said he wants them worn with plate. This puts extra strain on the mechanism and makes it difficult to access for maintenance. I’m concerned that within a coat of armour it could simply overheat, melting its parts and searing Dietricht’s flesh.”

Viktor seemed to consider this for a moment. “Is there nothing you can do?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “But, as I have already said, these things take time.”

Viktor picked up the mechanical arms and manipulated the joints. “I’m sure this is in the same state as when I last examined it.”

Hilda sighed, snatching the arms back with a swift mechanical jerk and placed them back on the workbench. “The reason you have seen no change in the construction is because I have been trying to develop an alchemical coolant.”

Viktor scratched at the back of his neck and sighed. He turned to the sound of footsteps behind him. “Lord Hueber.”

Dietricht strode into the workshop and scanned his gaze along the cluttered shelves and dust-coated scraps of junk. “Madam Strauss.”

“My Lord.”

“I sent Viktor down here to see how things are progressing with my armour, then thought I might see for myself.”

Hilda noted Viktor’s change in posture, the air of confidence, the raising of his chin, and resisted the urge to smirk.

“Madam Strauss was just telling me about the alchemical coolant she is currently working on to ensure the mechanism doesn’t overheat.”

Dietricht lifted the mechanical arms from the workbench, turning them in his hand as he looked along each of the limbs as he gripped the shoulder harness between his fingers. “May I?”

Viktor waved his hands. “Madam Strauss has assured me they are not ready yet.”

“I must insist,” said Dietricht. “The mechanism looks complete, am I not correct?”

“You are correct, my Lord, but we are not ready for it to be encased in armour as yet.”

“But I can at least test its motion?”

“We can do that.” Gears crunched along her shoulders as she shrugged. “Place your hands up and keep your arms straight.”

She slipped the arms over Dietrict’s head.

He winced as the device tugged past his elbow, finally resting on his shoulders.

She stepped behind him and turned the key in the backplate to ignite the alchemical orb inside.

“May I?”

She frowned. “That is not advisable. The coolant is not quite there.”

Viktor placed a hand on Dietrich’s elbow. “My Lord, please.”

“Nonsense. Step aside.” Dietricht’s right hand shot forward with incredible force as steam hissed and gears ticked. “Impressive. Such speed. Such power.”

Hilda sniffed at the stench of singed hair. “Oh dear.”

Dietrich’s eyes grew wide. “Get it off me. Get it off me!” He screamed and writhed and thrashed.

Hilda turned to Viktor and sniffed. “Perhaps, next time, he will listen to his advisor.”

“We both know he won’t.” He shook his head. “We should probably help him.”

She licked her lips as Dietrich continued his panicked dance. “Probably.”

If you would like more stories in the Ravenglass Universe, including the novel Birth of Assassins, you can claim your free starter library when you join the VIP newsletter.

What is Noblebright Fantasy? A Beginner’s Guide

Explore Noblebright Fantasy, a sub-genre that celebrates hope, virtue, and triumph of good over evil. Discover top books and how it contrasts with Grimdark fantasy.

If you’re a fan of fantasy literature, you may have come across the term “noblebright.” But what exactly does it mean?

In this post, we’ll explore the concept of noblebright fantasy and what sets it apart from other sub-genres of fantasy literature.

What is noblebright fantasy?

Noblebright fantasy is a relatively new term, first coined in 2014 by author C. J. Brightley. It’s an approach to fantasy that emphasises hope, virtue, and the triumph of good over evil.

The stories are generally uplifting, featuring heroes who are motivated by a desire to make the world a better place.

Noblebright fantasy often contrasts with the more grim and gritty sub-genres of fantasy, such as grimdark or dark fantasy.

What makes a fantasy story noblebright?

One of the defining characteristics of noblebright fantasy is the presence of noble and virtuous characters. These characters may be flawed, but they strive to do the right thing and uphold moral principles. They often work together to overcome challenges and obstacles, and their actions inspire hope in others.

How can you tell you’re reading a noblebright fantasy?

The worlds of noblebright fantasy are often filled with awe-inspiring landscapes, magical creatures, and wondrous artifacts. These elements are used to create a sense of wonder and enchantment in the reader, reminding us that there is still magic and beauty in the world.

What are the themes of noblebright fantasy?

Noblebright fantasy often features strong themes of community and cooperation. The heroes work together to overcome obstacles, and their actions have a positive impact on the world around them. There is often a sense of interconnectedness and unity in these stories, with characters coming together to support each other and achieve their goals.

What are the criticisms of noblebright fantasy?

Noblebright fantasy can sometimes come across as too idealistic or simplistic. Some readers may find the lack of nuance or shades of grey in the storytelling to be unrealistic.

However, defenders of the genre argue that there is still room for complex characters and difficult choices within a noblebright framework.

Where to start reading noblebright fantasy?

“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This classic epic fantasy novel is the perfect introduction to the genre and has had a significant influence on the development of noblebright fantasy.

“The Earthsea Series” by Ursula K. Le Guin.

This series follows the journey of a young wizard as he learns to harness his powers and fight for what is right.

“The Belgariad” by David Eddings.

This five-book series is a classic of the epic fantasy genre and features a cast of memorable characters and a thrilling story of good versus evil.

“The Dragonriders of Pern” by Anne McCaffrey.

This beloved series combines elements of science fiction and fantasy and features dragons, telepathic bonds, and a richly detailed world.

“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis.

This series of seven books is a beloved classic of children’s literature and features a magical world filled with talking animals, mythical creatures, and epic battles between good and evil.

“The Riddle-Master Trilogy” by Patricia A. McKillip.

This beautifully written series follows the journey of a young prince as he seeks to unravel the mysteries of his world and defeat the forces of evil.

Overall, noblebright fantasy offers readers a refreshing and uplifting take on the fantasy genre. If you’re looking for stories that celebrate hope, virtue, and the power of good to triumph over evil, noblebright fantasy may be just the sub-genre for you.

If you enjoy fantasy books, you can get a free Ravenglass Universe starter library when you join Jon’s VIP newsletter.

Blades of Wolfsbane: Read the Full Serial on Substack for Free

Discover “Blades of Wolfsbane,” an epic fantasy serialized story set in the richly imagined Ravenglass universe. Follow Ragnar’s journey of self-discovery, honour, and friendship. Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly chapters of thrilling swordplay and intrigue.

Blades of Wolfsbane ny Jon Cronshaw

Hello from Sunny Morecambe!

I recently launched a Substack newsletter devoted to sharing the stories and worlds I’ve created, and my first serialized story is now available! It’s called Blades of Wolfsbane, and it’s set in my Ravenglass fantasy universe.

Blades of Wolfsbane follows Ragnar, the son of a chieftain who is eager to prove himself but struggles to carve out his own path.

In secret, Ragnar practices his fighting skills with the help of his best friend using a revolutionary new technique.

As they train covertly at night, the boys must ensure their clan and enemies remain unaware of their burgeoning abilities.

With a pivotal warriors’ tournament on the horizon, Ragnar faces an impossible decision. Should he reveal his exceptional skill and risk dishonouring his family? Or should he suppress his prowess and confront a menacing adversary?

As Ragnar grapples with his destiny, a mysterious wyvern emerges from the shadows. But is this enigmatic creature an ally or an enemy?

If you enjoy sweeping fantasy epics filled with honour, friendship, swordplay, and intrigue, you’ll love Blades of Wolfsbane.

Immerse yourself in the first instalment of this serialized story by subscribing to my Substack newsletter.

Don’t miss your chance to follow Ragnar’s journey of self-discovery.

Subscribe now to be swept away by this thrilling tale of valour set in a richly imagined world. The adventure awaits!


Announcing: Guild of Assassins – A New Project on Substack!

I am thrilled to announce a new project that I will be sharing exclusively with you on my Substack page: Guild of Assassins.

Hello from sunny Morecambe!

I am thrilled to announce a new project that I will be sharing exclusively with you on my Substack page: Guild of Assassins.

This is your chance to dive into a world of intrigue, danger, and dark epic fantasy as you follow the tale of Soren, a young sculptor’s apprentice on his path to becoming a member of the Assassins’ Guild.

Set in the Ravenglass Universe, Guild of Assassins is both a standalone story and a prequel to my novel, Dawn of Assassins. Whether you’re already a fan of this series or just discovering it, this adventure promises to captivate you from the very beginning.

By subscribing to my Substack, you’ll gain a rare glimpse into my writing process. You’ll be able to read chapters of the novel-in-progress, and I encourage you to share your thoughts, comments, and support as we embark on this journey together.

Please keep in mind that the chapters posted may not appear in the final novel, as I often make cuts and revisions during the final draft. This means you’ll be experiencing an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the raw, unfiltered story as it unfolds.

Be the first to explore the shadowy corners of the Ravenglass Universe and uncover the secrets of the Assassins’ Guild.

Follow Soren’s journey from humble beginnings to his ultimate destiny and immerse yourself in a tale that will leave you on the edge of your seat.

So, are you ready to join the adventure?

Don’t wait—subscribe to my Substack now and begin your exclusive journey into the world of Guild of Assassins. Together, let’s explore and discover what lies within.

Join me now by subscribing to my Substack page:

See you on the other side!


Cover reveal: The Fall of Wolfsbane – Ravenglass Legends book one

Discover the epic tale of Ragnar and Maja in “The Fall of Wolfsbane,” a prequel set in the intricate world of the Ravenglass Chronicles. Immerse yourself in a rich fantasy realm!

If you’ve been following my Author Diary podcast, you’ll be aware that I’ve added a second point-of-view character to The Fall of Wolfsbane, and the story is so much stronger because of it.

Now, you can expect a full-length epic fantasy novel (it’s the longest novel I’ve written to date) that tells the story of Ragnar and his sister Maja as they are taken as hostages by the Ostreich Empire.

Ragnar is forced to live in Welttor under the mentorship of Prince Gregor, while Maja is sent to the Imperial Palace in Reichsherz to become a pet project of Princess Saranka.

It’s set several hundred years before The Ravenglass Chronicles at the time when the Empire first invades Wiete.

There will be some familiar places and even a familiar character!

As with Dawn of Assassins, you don’t need to have read The Ravenglass Chronicles to enjoy the story, but as I write more stories in this world, hopefully you’ll enjoy the little Easter eggs and how the world is different at various points in the timeline.

If you’ve not read the prequel Blades of Wolfsbane yet, you can get it for free as part of the Ravenglass Universe starter library.

If you’re a member of the Ravenglass Universe Facebook group, you’ll have already seen the cover for The Fall of Wolfsbane.

I love what Christian has done with this. It fits in nicely next to my Dawn of Assassins and Ravenglass Chronicles series.

As an author, getting a new cover is as close to the feeling I used to have opening presents on Christmas morning.

The designer gets the brief, you wait…and wait. And then something magical happens and the vague notes you made about the concept and colours come to life in front of you.

Of course, I still need to finish writing my redrafts, but having a cover definitely energises me to a book finished.

Here it is…

The Killer Look: Building the Perfect Fantasy Assassin’s Wardrobe

Explore the ideal wardrobe for a fantasy assassin, from enchanted boots to invisibility gloves. Learn how outfit choices can make or break an assassin in a magical realm.

Being an assassin in a fantasy novel is no laughing matter.

With a mix of danger, intrigue, and magic, it’s easy to see why many people find wet-work a thrilling life choice.

However, to coin a cliché, with great power comes great responsibility, and choosing the right wardrobe is key to success.

Because, if you want to be an assassin, you need to look the part (I didn’t make the rules).

Here are five essential things that every fantasy assassin should consider wearing.

1. A cloak with a hood.

Let’s be honest, cloaks with hoods are just cool. They’re the epitome of badassery, and they provide a perfect disguise for when you’re sneaking around, trying to kill someone. Make sure your cloak is enchanted for maximum coolness, and don’t forget the hood—it keeps your hair from getting in your face, which is never a good look.

2. A pair of enchanted boots.

Every good assassin needs a pair of enchanted boots, not only to enhance your agility and speed, but also so you look good while doing it. Whether you’re jumping from rooftop to rooftop, or just walking down a grim backstreet, enchanted boots will make sure that everyone knows you mean business.

3. A belt with a million pockets.

An awesome belt is a must-have for any assassin. It’s the perfect way to stash your weapons, lockpicks, and poisons without having to carry a bulky bag. Plus, it makes you look like a bat-related superhero…or a really well-equipped assassin.

4. A pair of invisibility gloves.

Invisibility is a valuable tool for any assassin, and what better way to achieve it than with a pair of invisibility gloves? Not only will they help you stay hidden while you’re out on a contract, but they also give you an extra layer of protection against chilly eveningst. Just make sure you don’t forget to take them off before shaking hands with your next target.

5. A pair of dark sunglasses.

Dark sunglasses are the epitome of cool, and they’re a must-have for any assassin, fantasy or otherwise. They provide a perfect disguise for when you’re trying to blend in with the crowd, and they also protect your eyes from the bright light of justice. Did I mention they just look cool? Because that’s really all that matters.

Remember, the right outfit can make all the difference between success and failure, so choose wisely, or risk being the laughing stock of the assassin community.

Would you like read the novel Birth of Assassins for free? You can get as part of the Ravenglass Universe starter library when you join my newsletter.

The Rogue’s Gallery: Introducing the 10 Faces of Fantasy Thievery

Enter the captivating world of fantasy thievery as we introduce the 10 distinct faces of rogues. From cunning thieves to daring smugglers, explore the intriguing characters that define this thrilling genre.

Fantasy worlds are filled with all sorts of weird and wonderful characters, but none are quite as thrilling and entertaining as the rogue.

From the cunning thief to the daring smuggler, the rogue is a staple of the fantasy genre.

Here are ten distinct types of roguish characters that you might encounter in a fantasy world.

1. The Thief.

The classic rogue, the thief is all about the loot. Whether it’s pickpocketing the unwary or breaking into a wealthy noble’s mansion, the thief is always on the lookout for their next big score.

2. The Smuggler.

The smuggler is a more subtle type of rogue, using their cunning and charm to slip past the law and bring illegal goods into the kingdom. Whether it’s precious gems or exotic spices, the smuggler is always one step ahead of the authorities.

3. The Con Artist.

The con artist is a master of deception, using their wit and charm to fool their victims into handing over their hard-earned cash. Whether it’s selling a fake potion or playing three-card monte, the con artist is always looking for their next mark.

4. The Gambler.

The gambler is a risk-taker, always looking for the next big win. Whether it’s a friendly game of dice or a high-stakes card game, the gambler is always ready to put everything on the line.

5. The Trickster.

The trickster is all about the joke, using their cunning and humour to fool their friends and enemies alike. Whether it’s playing a practical joke or using their wit to talk their way out of a tight spot, the trickster is always up for a good laugh.

6. The Outlaw.

The outlaw is a rebel, living life on the edge and outside the law. Whether it’s robbing from the rich or sticking it to the man, the outlaw is always ready to stand up for what they believe in.

7. The Scoundrel.

The scoundrel is a rogue with a heart of gold, using their wit and charm to help those in need. Whether it’s stealing from the wealthy to give to the poor, or using their cunning to outwit an evil wizard, the scoundrel is always looking for a good cause to support.

8. The Spy.

The spy is a master of disguise, using their cunning and stealth to gather information for their employers. Whether it’s infiltrating a rival kingdom or gathering intel on a secret society, the spy is always ready to go undercover.

9. The Swashbuckler.

The swashbuckler is a daring adventurer, always ready for a good fight. Whether it’s battling evil pirates or facing off against a dragon, the swashbuckler is always looking for their next great adventure.

10. The Pirate.

The pirate is a rogue on the high seas, using their wit and cunning to command their ship and rule the waves. Whether it’s pillaging and plundering or seeking buried treasure, the pirate is always ready for a good time on the open sea.

Would you like read the novel Birth of Assassins for free? You can get as part of the Ravenglass Universe starter library when you join my newsletter.

Basilisk on a Yellow Field — a story in the Ravenglass Universe

I stood on the edge of a large stone room lit by alchemical orbs casting soft white light across the faces of two dozen children as they danced to the drummers and pipers performing a traditional Ostreich folk song.

The adults looked on in their green finery. The men wore matching coats, tailored from silk. The women wore long hooded dresses in a darker green than the men. They were cut low along the bust and pulled tight at the waist, with wide skirts extending to the floor.

My dress was in the style of the other women, though a hidden slit allowed me to reach across with my left hand and easily grasp my blade, the Feuerschwert.

A red-faced dancer stared at me as she swayed from left to right, turning and twisting her hands in time with the music. I smiled, but my smile was not returned. There was fear in those eyes.

The Feuerschwert rested cold against my skin. Though secured to my waist, I feared the ravenglass might cut into my flesh, bringing out its dormant power.

The scent of roasted pork hung in the air as I examined the revellers’ faces. I took care to note the features of each person in an effort to remember. A woman’s face sparked a memory when I saw her from the side, but when she turned to me with an unsure smile, it was clear we shared no recognition.

Just one smile, just one nod of recognition was all I craved. Someone to tell me who I am — to tell me my name.

I moved left along the wall as the beat continued. Though the festivities were held in honour of Jorg Shultz’s fiftieth year, the Viscount had retired to his chamber during the final course of the feast. I stepped around a stone bust of my target, staring expressionless from a marble plinth, and skirted past a colourful tapestry that was fifteen feet across. It showed a knight bearing the Ostreich sigil of a black basilisk on a yellow field thrusting a lance into the belly of a green-scaled wyvern.

Reaching the end of the great hall, I slipped through a half-open door. The alchemical glow faded as I made my way along a bare stone corridor illuminated by wall candles. The handle of the Feuerschwert brushed against my side as my steps grew urgent. I found my way to a spiral stairway.

I ascended the steps until I reached a thick door in varnished oak. I placed my ear against the door and listened. Hearing nothing, I turned the handle. I held my breath, pulled up the hood of my dress, removed my shoes, and stepped through the door.

The corridor was dark and the floorboards cold beneath my soles. A faint glow seeped out from beneath a door at the end of the passage. I reached into my dress, removed the Feuerschwert, trembling as I held it my hands. Its ravenglass blade was a deep black — a much deeper black than the darkness of the passage.

I unhooked the skirt from my dress and freed myself from the corset, dropping them in a heap next to me. I stepped towards the door and teased its handle. My heart thundered in my chest as I pushed the door open.

A fire burned in a hearth at the far-right of the room. Above it, a portrait of a long-dead Viscount looked on with a dark, disinterested gaze. Thick green drapes hung in front of the windows overlooking the Braun Sea. I heard a shuffle to my right — it was Jorg Shultz. Our eyes met.

“What is the meaning of this?” he asked.

I said nothing and pricked the index finger of my left hand with the Feuerschwert. The Viscount’s eyes widened at the blade turned from deep black to a glowing red as it consumed the blood.

“Ravenglass,” he whispered, his eyes bulging.

I jumped back on my toes as he tipped his chair towards me. Jorg unsheathed a blade, longer and thicker than my own. With a fluid motion he rolled up his sleeve and sliced the blade across his left forearm. His blade too glowed red.

A wolfish grin rose beneath his thick blond moustache. Nobody had warned me about this.

My hands went slick with sweat. I danced on my tiptoes, feinted left, then right, trying to draw him into dropping his guard, to making a mistake.

“Who sent you?” he growled.

I shook my head. I was not going to answer him. How could I answer him?

He swung his blade in a broad vertical arc. I hopped to the right and stabbed forward with a twist of my wrist. He jerked his shoulder to the side. We both straitened up, regaining our stance.

We circled each other, his blue eyes locked with my own. I dived forward, striking the back of his leg. He let out an agonised scream as the blade hissed, its magic tearing through his flesh, burning him from within.

He swung and I moved to parry, but instead of the expected ricochet, his blade went through my own, like two jets of water crossing each other’s paths. His blade nicked my arm and I felt its fiery heat swell inside.

Neither of us bled from our wounds, but I sensed Jorg’s pain as it spread through his body. He fell backwards, looking up at me in terror. “What do you want?” he managed. His words were weak, his breath shallow.

I stood over him. His blade returned to black as it dropped from his convulsing hand. I pulled my hood down and pushed my blade into his chest.

“It’s you,” he gasped. “What—”

I pulled the Feuerschwert from his chest. “Wait,” I said. “Who am I?” I leaned down and shook him. “Please,” I pleaded. “Tell me who I am.”

But he was already dead.

The End.