Tides of Blood and Steel: Book II of the Northern Crusade
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He shouted, “Anienam!”
Another groan, somewhat louder, answered him. Skuld pushed his way frantically through the debris. He needed a sign, just a scrap of cloth. Hope found its way back into his weary heart and he desperately clung to it. His efforts soon paid off when he stumbled on Anienam’s prone body. A rotted log lay across the old man’s legs.
“Anienam, you’re alive.”
“Of course I am,” he replied weakly. “Help me move this log.”
Skuld bent down and gathered what remained of his strength. The log didn’t budge. “It is too heavy.”
“You can do this, Skuld. Besides, there is no one else. Roll it off me if you must.”
Skuld cringed. Visions of breaking bones danced in his eyes. Strengthening his resolve, the boy bunched his muscles and went back at it. Sweat dripped into his eyes, streaking the dust coating his face. His efforts were rewarded. The log rolled away. Anienam was freed. Skuld collapsed beside him.
“Thank you, my boy.”
He tried to smile. “Anienam, why didn’t you use your magic?”
The look he got in return was one of mild surprise, or perhaps just diversion. “Magic? Oh yes, I suppose I could have. Seems that bump on my head rattled my brain a little.”
Skuld was too exhausted to think further on it. He also failed to notice the appraising look Anienam gave him.
“I have to do this,” Aurec said, trying to defend himself. This is all my fault, he wanted to say. In his heart he truly believed it. His reckless adventure to whisk Maleela from her father resulted in countless dead and his vision of a perfect dream shattered. And it was all for love. A war of complete annihilation sparked by love. Aurec wanted to laugh and cry at the irony of it.
Mahn leaned closer so that no one might overhear. “I understand you. I do, but you need to think beyond yourself now. Rogscroft will have need of a strong ruler to rebuild. Your father does not have many years left on him. This will be your kingdom soon. It is time for you to start thinking like a leader, not just a soldier.”
Aurec didn’t get the chance to answer.
A shout cried out. “Here they come!”
Goblins broke from cover en masse. Aurec cringed upon seeing the sheer hatred in their soulless eyes as the front ranks clambered over the ruins of a row of merchant shops. The Goblins could crush his men just from sheer weight of numbers. Aurec knew there was little hope in fighting them head-to-head. Fortunately he had known this and had appropriate traps emplaced.
“Archers draw!” barked the command.
Bows creaked as tension was placed on them. Aurec drew his sword in anticipation.
The Goblins were either oblivious or they simply did not care. Rank after rank pushed forward towards the makeshift barricades blocking the road. One of the largest Goblins raised his cudgel and bellowed. They attacked.