Menu Close

Winter Sisters Prologue

Want to join the “Winter Warriors” Cursed Kingdom street team? Click this link to for details and to sign up. Hope you join the sisterhood! -xo-

Little does Paulina realize that the surviving son of her father’s enemy is plotting her death, along with her sisters and brother. Jasper Balthazar will have his chance at her when she travels across the Far North border into the neighboring kingdom of Westland.

This is a bonus opening prologue to Winter Sisters (Cursed Kingdom, season 1).

New episodes publish every Tuesday & Thursday – only on Kindle Vella + Radish.

Torches sputtered from iron brackets along the corridor. Even the damp chill clutching Jasper’s tattered blue and gold tunic was not enough to make him shiver. He’d been born of the North and hatred burned like an eternal fire inside his gut.

It burned inside all his men.

The Imperials, as their captors mockingly called them, had the hardened look of men twice their age, though there wasn’t one among them over twenty-two. They stood twelve strong, in silent reproach, awaiting their summons as the evening’s entertainment before the latest gathering of pigs.

They wielded wooden swords, which, with enough force, could inflict satisfactory damage upon the Westland soldiers. The din from the banquet within promised an opportunity to spill blood and knock out teeth.

Jasper stood out from the rest with midnight hair the darkest black. A golden crown laden with sapphires, booty from the late King Bolander’s collection, glimmered atop his head in the torchlight. Below the crown, icy blue eyes glinted with malice.

The first Westlander ever to attempt setting the crown on Jasper Balthazar’s head was now minus an eye. Since then, it had become the duty of the troupe’s narrator and fellow Northlander, Kingston, to place the crown atop Jasper’s head.

Unlike the rest of the troupe, Kingston did not reside in the dungeons, though he was as much a prisoner confined within the walls of every fortress and household the Imperials were ordered to entertain.

Middle-aged, and towering above the rest of them by over a head, Kingston rolled his shoulders, extended his gangling arms, and twisted from side to side, warming up. Jasper and his men were not true actors, but Kingston was a man of the theater, and his ability to perform made him useful in the capacity of spy among scoundrels.

From around the corner, heavy boots plodded over the flagstones. Soon, twelve soldiers in crisp maroon tunics marched into the corridor, halting near the heavy oak doors that led into the banquet room. They, too, held wooden swords and exchanged smug smiles. This latest batch of Westland soldiers looked like mere boys intent on playing war. The whole sorry lot of them had probably never seen real battle.

Jasper’s bones aligned themselves ruthlessly, causing him to rear up like a beast lured from a dank, dark cave.

His men came to life around him, bodies elongating, arms flexing, eager to hack the Westland whelps to bits.

A middle-aged guard with a proper sword sheathed at his side strode up the line looking over the boys in maroon. He planted himself between the two groups, wrinkles surfacing over his shadowed forehead like ripples across a fetid pond.

“You know the rules,” the guard said. “No fighting until Kingston gives the word. After that there are no rules, not until we give the word.”


The burly guard wisely avoided saying it out loud. The first guard ever to explain the last rule to Jasper no longer had a face, at least not one he could show publicly without eliciting screams of horror. The Westlander scum thought that because Jasper was their prisoner he was under their control. A grab of a torch thrust into the smug face of that first guard had proven otherwise.

Since then, most Westlanders avoided direct eye contact with Jasper. He had the nefarious, unsettling look of a man born to demons not royals.

The oak door creaked open, laughter spilling into the corridor and rebounding off the flagstones. The Westland soldiers stood up taller. Their smiles grew wider as though being called upon to serve a noble cause.

A guard appeared from the banquet hall, holding the door open several feet. “It is time to begin the narration,” the guard said.

A smile swept across Kingston’s face like the swell of an ocean wave before a squall. He strode forward as though nothing would give him greater pleasure than to present himself before a gathering of buffoons.

After Kingston walked inside, the guard pushed the oak door against the outer stone wall and held it open with his back.

“Friends! Quiet down. Quiet,” a voice bellowed from within. “Tonight, I have a special treat in store for you. If you will direct your attention to Kingston, famous thespian of Far North.”

The room quieted somewhat.

Kingston swept his arms open as he addressed the crowd. “Ladies and gentlemen, fine folks of Westland. It is my great honor to stand before you this evening.” Kingston’s voice carried with force. “Your honorable host, Mr. Bronston, has arranged for your pleasure and entertainment, a reenactment of the great Battle of Thumper Hill.”

Several cheers went up then died down.

“Now you all know the story of Thumper Hill,” Kingston said conversationally. “You all know of Westland’s heroics . . .”

Loud cheers arose.

“. . . and valor . . .”

Louder cheers.

“. . . and might!”

The banquet hall erupted into a deafening roar.

In the corridor, the boy soldiers shifted in place reminding Jasper of spooked fillies sensing a predator nearby.

Jasper and his men held stock still, reserving their energy for the fight to come. They were well trained in their own way.

“You’ve heard the tale, but tonight you shall see it with your own eyes. Tonight it is my great honor to present to you . . . the Imperials!” Kingston shouted.

The hollers were deafening.

Jasper led his men into the banquet hall. They entered behind him, two-by-two, jaws set and grips tightening around their wooden sword handles.

Westlanders sat slouched over long wood tables, hunks of meat in their grubby hands, spittle flying from their mouths as they yelled, ale spilling from tankards down their sullied tunics. They looked like pigs gathered at the trough.

Jasper took in the room and sneered.

Once the excitement died down, boos and hisses followed. Jasper knew the rhythm as well as his own jagged heartbeat.

It was the men who booed and jeered.

The women tittered and stole glances at Jasper. Westland whores married to Westland swine with limp pricks that compelled their women to entertain fantasies of their skirts tossed above their hips and the Far North devil between their legs. He could read the speculation in their eyes. If he could fuck the way he fought they’d hear the screams all the way down in Estival.

Jasper’s lip curled at the sight of the women in their ugly cotton gowns, hair braided down their backs. He’d sooner pleasure a pig than a woman of Westland birth.

“Never fear, the brave soldiers of Westland now march to squash the Far North invasion,” Kingston announced.

The thunder of footsteps pounded over stone as the maroon uniformed boys marched inside.
Applause erupted in the hall.

Kingston lifted his arms in the air, holding them there until the hall quieted.

“These daring men volunteer their lives to protect Westland and, indeed, many of them will die at the battle . . .” Kingston paused for dramatic effect, looking around the room. “For Balthazar is gathering his troops to descend upon the gallant men at Thumper Hill.”

The boos and hissing rose anew. Jasper took that time to look over the Westlanders seated nearest to him. The ones with their backs to the hall had half turned their bodies for a better view. Daggers were sheathed at their hips and boots. None of them had swords.

Kingston’s arms rose once again for quiet, but it didn’t come readily. Tankards were slammed against the table. Men shouted incomprehensible words with their mouths stuffed full. The women fanned their faces with their hands.

“Will Westland prevail or will it perish?” Kingston shouted.

When the clamor at the table continued, one of the young soldiers in maroon stepped forward, lifted his wood sword into the air, and yelled, “Prevail!”

He looked at his friends who joined him lifting their swords.

“Prevail!” they yelled in unison.

The men at the table paused their gibberish and lifted their tankards above their heads and hollered, “Prevail!”

“We shall see,” Kingston said with a glint in his eye as he swooped aside. “Let the Battle of Thumper Hill begin!”

Jasper and his men were on the Westland troupe before the boys had a chance to charge. They barely lowered their swords in time to ward off the swift attack brought on by the Imperials swarming them from all directions.

Jasper brought his sword down on the boy who had first yelled “prevail.” As he did, his crown slid backwards and landed on the flagstones with a clatter. The Westland boy jerked to the side in time to avoid a blow to the head, but not his shoulder. It gave a satisfying crunch when the wooden sword made impact.

The first Westlander’s scream to rise from the melee was sweeter than any symphony Jasper had ever heard during his brief years of leisure. An instrument could not reproduce a human scream. It emitted emotion and anguish as no inanimate object could ever hope to achieve.

A Westlander bumped into Jasper as he defended himself against the onslaught of his attacker. Jasper punched him in the face then swung around and jammed the hilt of his wood sword into another boy’s stomach.

The boy yelped and doubled over. Jasper slammed his elbow ruthlessly into his back, sending the boy crashing to his knees with a cry of pain.

Once the Imperials had beaten the Westlanders to the ground, they yanked swords from their bloodied and broken fingers and tossed them aside, including their own. They jumped on top of the battered boys and pounded their heads into the flagstones with their fists.

The screaming stopped. Soon, the boys stopped making grunts as they were beaten unconscious.
The audience stared with their jaws hanging open, no longer chewing their food.

Extra guards ran at the group, yanking Jasper and his men off the boys. Grown men with grizzled expressions drew actual swords.

They closed in on the Imperials, pointing steel tips inches from their throats.

Jasper’s men froze as though on command and waited. The fight always ended too quickly, but they could never help themselves, no more than a pack of wild wolves surrounding a herd of weakened deer.
A vein bulged on the thick neck of the muscular guard in front of Jasper. He didn’t look the blue devil in the eye, but he watched him for movement.

“Kingston!” The frantic voice of Mr. Bronston yelped.

A loud belch answered.

Kingston set a tankard onto the table from where he sat at the end. He staggered to his feet and glanced into the center of the room. “Is the battle won already?”

“Mr. Kingston,” Mr. Bronston said with a scowl.

Kingston cleared his throat and lifted his arms. “And so, Westland claims their victory with their brave comrades riding in just in time to turn the tides in their favor. Meanwhile, the rebels from Far North are forced to surrender.”

A stocky guard carrying a white flag at his side picked his way around the unconscious Westland soldiers on the floor. The audience held a collective breath as the flag was presented to Jasper. No one knew what to expect. Even Kingston had no idea what Jasper would do.

This time, he leaned forward and spit on the white canvas. A manic smile appeared over Jasper’s lips as he lifted his head.

One of his men, Bastian, a stocky lad with shaggy brown hair, snickered. A burly Westland soldier pushed him out of the group and forced him to the tables where he was flanked by two additional guards.

Several guests scurried from the benches as Bastian was shoved against the edge of the table and had his hand forced onto the surface. A dagger was drawn by one of the guards as another held him down. A woman across the table gasped. Bastian screamed. The guard with the dagger lifted a severed finger into the air.

A young woman at the table fainted and fell backwards off the bench. Two young men hurried to the ground to help rouse her.

The pounding inside Jasper’s ears roared above all other sounds. He whipped around and dove at the guard closest to him in a blind attempt to grab his sword. As Jasper went for the sword’s hilt, the guard brought it crashing down over Jasper’s fingers.

The impact shot needles across Jasper’s hand, but rage suppressed the pain.

The guard showed no sign of fear. Jaw set, he jutted his chin toward the table where they held Bastian down.

“Take the flag or we take another finger.”

With a snarl that sounded more animal than human, Jasper snatched the white flag and lifted it into the air.

Uneasy cheers went up with the flag, as though on command. Bastian was allowed off the table. When he faced his troupe, he clutched at his bleeding left hand, dark fury in his expression.

As Jasper kept the flag raised above his head, the man who had handed it to him made the mistake of remaining in place to watch. As he did, Jasper brought his arm down fast and slammed the flag into his face.

The guard screamed as blood gushed from his nose and splattered across the flag.

Jasper’s pulse quickened with excitement. He threw his head back and laughed manically. He’d make every last Westlander bleed for their insolence. There weren’t enough white flags in the realm to mop up the blood he’d spill.

As he continued to laugh, the guards closed in and dragged him from the room. Laughter echoed along the corridors, torches jumping in response as though the flames were enlivened by the sound.

Down to the dungeons they took him, but Jasper wasn’t escorted to the same cell as his men. The guards took him to a smaller, single cell, and tossed him inside, quickly locking the door behind them.

Jasper continued to laugh until he tired himself out. Afterwards he sat, back against the wall, facing the door, rubbing his fingers together thinking of all the ways to make the Westlanders pay.

Or should he take care of the Far North traitors first?

Jasper pulled his fingers apart and stared intently at each open palm.

Far North or Westland?

Westland or Far North?

His glare jumped from one palm to the other.

He was deep into plotting when Kingston interrupted his thoughts from the other side of the door.

“A most exceptional performance,” the older man said jovially. He peered through the bars set into a small square window above the door. “Tonight’s climax might have been my favorite yet. Very daring. Very dramatic. And exceptionally memorable.”

“Kingston,” Jasper snarled. “Go away.”

The infernal man seemed to think his visits brought Jasper comfort.

“Though I must say I found the bit with the dismemberment too grotesque for my liking,” Kingston continued. “It was certainly too much for the ladies. Did you see one fainted right off the bench?” Jasper folded his arms and glared at him. “Not to worry,” Kingston said, voice lifting. “I have told Mr. Bronston that the Imperials will never perform in his home again, not after his guards behaved with such savagery. Nor shall we perform in any household without certain assurances. Armed guards are only allowed as a precaution. They can’t go cutting up my troupe.”

“How is Bastian?” Jasper asked.

“They sent one of their physicians down to the dungeon to clean and wrap the wound. He wants us all to know that one missing pinky won’t affect his performance.”

It would probably make the lad fight harder.

Jasper got to his feet and stalked over to the door. Something in Kingston’s smile told him the narrator had news. Before being captured, Jasper had allied with Hunter Northington, another noble refugee from Far North. Hunter had numerous spies in Westland households and used them whenever possible to get information in and out. Unlike Jasper, Hunter used charm and camaraderie to recruit Westlanders to his side.

As Jasper approached the iron bars, he looked past Kingston’s shoulders into the dank hall beyond. He raised his eyebrows.

Lowering his voice, Kingston said, “We are alone for the moment.”

Once Jasper was at the bars, Kingston grinned cheerfully. “I come bearing glad tidings.”

Jasper sneered at the man’s sense of irony.

“We have been summoned to Westfort.” Kingston’s grin widened as he waited for the information to set in.

The stronghold lay a half day’s ride from the Far North border. Jasper hadn’t been that close to home in half a decade.

“The Imperials have been requested for a very special occasion to take place by the border.” Kingston wet his lips. “A wedding between the fort’s commander, Don Romiq, and Lord Ivers’s eldest daughter is to take place within a fortnight.”

“Ivers,” Jasper hissed. He threw his head back, irises flaring in the dim light. “Will the entire family attend? Will he be there? Ivers?”

All Jasper needed was to be in the same room. He’d find a way to get to Ivers and kill him with his bare hands. He didn’t care what happened to him afterwards. In the end, it would be he, Jasper Balthazar, who squeezed the last breath from the tyrant’s lips.

Maybe then Jasper could find peace in a world where he’d lost everything.

Kingston shook his head. “That, I do not know, but Northington has a plan. He says this will be your last performance—one that will never be forgotten. It is time for Westlanders to wave the white flag.”

The priorities of Hunter Northington were slightly different than Jasper’s. His friend wanted to retake Far North and establish a new democracy.

Jasper had another goal in mind.


He didn’t care if his captors waved the white flag. Any pleas to spare the man responsible for his parents’ death, his little sister’s, would fall on deaf ears.

He would show no mercy and he wouldn’t stop until Ivers and all his kin were dead.

Author’s Note

So, Paulina’s in for a terrible surprise. :/ Jasper’s prologue is how Winter Sister’s originally began. I love his chapter, but decided at the last minute to pull his villianous introduction and jump right into Paulina’s storyline. You will see Jasper again after Paulina reaches Westfort.

Start reading episodes on Kindle Vella or Radish.