The Crimson Outlaw
A novella approximately 35,000 words long, set in 18th Century Transylvania (but without a single vampire to be seen.)
When Vali Florescu runs from his father’s cruelty, leaving their castle to seek his fortune in the untamed Carpathian forests, he expects to have to fight ferocious bandits and woo fair maidens before he can prove himself worthy to return and depose the tyrant. But when he is ambushed by Mihai Roscat, the fearsome crimson outlaw, he discovers he is more than happy to have it turn out the other way around.
Mihai, once an honoured knight, has long been waiting for revenge against Vali’s father – who killed his lord and left him to a life of banditry. He’s sure that Vali would make an excellent hostage to hold over Wadim’s head, if only the boy wasn’t quite so enthusiastic over being captured and debauched.
The point caught Mihai under the shoulderblade, lifted him off his feet. The speed drove a foot and a half of ash shaft into the wound before Eugen could not hold up the weight any longer and let go. Mihai fell so hard he broke the lance under him, and he did not get up.
But Vali had seen something worse. The thing twisting in agony behind the windows of the hall was the missing child, Maria, altogether ablaze. He hammered the lock of the shutters with his sword hilt until it shattered and she tumbled out, screaming , one great candle of a child. He let the sheepskin fall from his arms, wrapped it firm around her, picked her up and praying the shock wouldn’t kill her dropped her straight down the well.
Pausing only to grab the rope neatly coiled beside the bucket, he jumped after. And oh God. Oh, God it was cold, but the little splashes and the whimpers said she was alive and swimming. Fumbling, because his hands were numb already and this dark was the profoundest yet, he managed to get a loop of the rope around her chest beneath her arms. She clung to him, breathing like one who is afraid to cry out loud – so fast they learned these skills. He didn’t have to say “Ssh. Don’t say a word or the bad men will get us.” She knew it already, better than he.