In my rush to get through some editing on Bloodlust: Red Glory, I completely forgot it was Thursday. And so, late, but with feeling, here is the wolftime!
This is a serial story, here is a link to post #1.
Want to re-read last week’s post? here it is.
And finally, a guide.
Torvul’s eyes shifted from me to Sildus before they lost focus and he slumped to the ground, his last breath rattling red bubbles through his ruined throat. His gaze was meaningful. Perhaps he meant to convey to me that I would not have been able to kill him without the help of the assassin.
Behind me, the sounds of fighting had been replaced with the moans of the dying and the wounded. I still heard some shouting in the distance; part of the fight had spilled into the tunnels, it seemed. Quiet was descending on the chamber. The Devout fought to the death, although it seemed that they saw little reason to sell their lives now that Torvul was dead. No doubt their self-style lord had not bothered sharing the lore required to re-activate the ancient elven way-gate with any of his followers. Knowledge was power, and the Devout did not share power. The conspiracy would die with him, it seemed.
“I can’t believe she did it,” said Sildus, kneeling beside Madame Glorianna. “What a show of will.”
There was admiration in his voice. I wish I felt the same. Madame Glorianna’s death was worthy by the standards of my people. She showed courage, not allowing herself to be used as a pawn or a shield, choosing her own death over a greater disaster. Sadly, lying there, her noble blood mingling with that of Torvul, I saw only my own failures. There had to have been a way to save her.
“She died well, old wolf,” said Thyra, putting her hand on my shoulder. “Let it be. You cannot change the past. Harald is dying, he wishes to speak with you.”
Harald was sitting with his back against a pillar, three of his sons around him. He looked up at me as I strode over to join him, motioning his boys to let me pass.
“Ripper blade,” he said, half-amused. “If they pull it out. I will die, if they move me, I will die, if they leave it in, I will also die. Garm’s luck! Wounded in battle by sword and axe more than a dozen times and here I am done in by a little knife.”
Ripper blades were popular among certain types of fighters. They created a ragged wound that was hard to fix with mundane or magical healing. No doubt this one had powerful enchantments as well. The Devout were nothing if not utterly invested in brutality. I knelt in front of Harald, my eyes still level with his even though he was sitting.
“You owe me no tears Ragnar,” he said. “I only wish to know one thing. Is the man who slew my son dead?”
“Lord Torvul has fallen,” I said. “Bjorn can rest easy now, and so can you Harald Magnison.”
He smiled his eyes glazing over. For a moment I though that was the end of him, but with a great effort he stole a little more time from the grave and his eyes latched onto mine once more.
“I misjudged you, exile,” he said. “You had no reason to help me and mine, but you did. Here in the dark, as I die, I call upon the gods to bear witness and do you just honour. You are true, Ragnar Grimfang, I see it now. My boys will carry word of your deed to the North. My word will not be enough to stay your exile on its own, but perhaps it will help tip the scales in the end. Boys, give the man your oath on this.”
They did. And we stayed for a while until Harald joined his son.