Synopsis - This is a short story based in a Conan the Barbarian type land. The king has lost a war and needs gold badly so he sends his best heroes into the mountains to try and find some... Might be part of a longer story if people like the style of writing and the idea?

Fools gold

"I got off my horse wearily. The mountain track was getting more and more treacherous and I would need to walk the horse for the next few miles. The pass was about a mile away. I passed a glove tiredly over my eyes. This had all the hallmarks of a fools quest. There was no gold in these mountains. The king was better off sending his men back to die against the island scum than to die in a pointless quest in these mountains where tribesmen, bandits and the cold would take its toll.

Looking back I could see the sorry train of people and horses following. We had already had to slaughter two horses that went lame and my friend who had survived the whole campaign without a scratch had died in a skirmish against bandits earlier in the week, leaving behind another family for the state to look after. Not that the state did. They would either send them to mine for iron ore or rebuild the towns destroyed by war. Either way it was a death sentence but one was quicker than the other.

I was concerned at the speed we were making. We had one magicker with us and he had burnt the spleen of the last horse we had killed and examined it with a strange marked bone. He then told us we would be safe to take this route.

I did not trust the magicker. The only thing I trusted was my sword and my shield. Both had never let me down, but both like me were getting scarred and old. When I was younger I would have gone on a quest like this with joy in my heart and no fear of the consequences. Now I was older and wiser and less likely to be first into battle.

My horse whinnied nervously. I sniffed the air as well. A mixture of dung and animal fat permeated the air. The local tribesmen rubbed themselves in yak fat to keep out the cold. I drew my sword quietly and motioned at the people behind me to keep down.

An arrow whistled through the air and bounced off my shoulder guard grazing the metal. It span off with a strange whistling sound into the air. I looked up and could see the tribesman duck behind the rock on the cliff face. He was wearing his hair down in plaids like all of his tribe. I dropped my pack and raced to the cliff face. Another arrow whistled through the air and there was an agonized scream from someone in my party.

Who it was I did not know or care. I sheathed my sword and grabbed the cliff face. I started to haul my frame up the cliff. I dropped my shield behind me, it was too heavy. It fell with a dull clang sound behind me. The tribesman heard this and, looking directly over the cliff at me, sent an arrow towards me. This one skinned my hand making me hiss with pain. I needed to get up the cliff before he could get another one on the string.

My left hand found a loose rock on the cliff and I nearly fell with it. I was hanging from the cliff by one arm. The arm that I had nearly lost to a saber slice three years ago. The pain was intense, I kept my grip but I did shout out a few choice phrases about the son of a Vildonian worm who had cut me before.

Another arrow winged down but luck was with me this time and it missed. I clambered to the top and could see the face of the warrior who faced me. He can't have seen more than sixteen summers and his eyes were wide with fear as I drew my sword. He was stuck on the cliff ledge and had nowhere to go but my sword. With one slice it was over. I did not like killing such young warriors and with this one I would not even add a notch to my sword pommel to mark the event. Besides their precious little space left on my sword, especially after the wars of the past four summers.

I looked down at the tribesman I had killed and smiled. Their around his neck was a torque of purest gold. Maybe our quest was not as hopeless as I had feared."