Rematch

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Here is the latest Dana Illwind and Sorcerer Lord Jayden story, a pair of unlikely heroes first seen in the short story Not Quite a Hero. Jayden was nearly killed by the iron golem Wall Wolf and is in no rush for a grudge match. Sadly, Wall Wolf's master has no such reluctance.

Submitted: July 11, 2019

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Submitted: July 11, 2019

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“Join us for a drink, sorcerer lord,” a farmer offered.The inn was full with men eager to celebrate now that Kaleoth was no longer in imminent danger.

Jayden held up a full cup for the man and his friends to see.“I’m already well supplied, thank you.”

The farmer laughed.“Then join us for another drink!”

Dana was used to traveling unnoticed with Jayden, no surprise when he was a wanted criminal in their homeland.They’d stayed well clear of major cities and traveled on half-forgotten roads between small towns to ramshackle cities like Fish Bait that had degenerated into slums.Seeing such poverty and desperation in the kingdom had been an eye-opening experience for her.This made being cheered and cherished in the Kaleoth city of River Twin almost bewildering.

Jayden and Dana had destroyed the bridge to Kaleoth with great difficulty, and Jayden had nearly died in the process.Great as the risk had been, they’d done the deed before an army from their homeland could invade.That had won them great respect in River Twin, and they’d been treated like celebrities in the month they’d stayed here.

“Hail and well met, sorcerer,” a spearman said as he entered The Moody Museinn.Such welcomes were common ever since Dana, Maya and Jayden had settled in the inn for the winter.Such a long stay was expensive, but Jayden had gold enough to cover the cost.That had only increased his popularity, since paying customers were rare in these parts.

Jayden raised a drink in toast to the spearman.He’d been nursing the same drink all night as he sat at the back corner of the inn’s common room.Thirty other people shared the room and kept warm by a roaring fire.The innkeeper kept drinks flowing and served hot food. Business was good, and in Jayden’s case a little too good.

“Kind sir, merciful and benevolent one, I beseech your aid,” a middle-aged man said as he sat across from Jayden.“Word reached me how you thwarted the invasion of my homeland. Surely one who can do such a mighty deed can help a humble man in need.”

“Merciful?” Jayden asked Dana.“When did that word ever apply to me?”

“It’s the first time I’ve heard it used to describe you.”

The man pressed his case.“My eldest daughter Elsa fled home in the arms of a rapscallion of the worst kind. He seduced her with honeyed words and promises of adventure and riches.Already they flee for distant lands, taking with them her dowry and a horse I’ll admit to being a nag.Surely one so great as yourself can bring Elsa back and punish this rogue.”

Jayden set down his drink and looked at Dana.“Does this sound like the sort of thing I should be interested in, but aren’t?”

Dana didn’t look up from her dinner.“Yes.”

“It’s strange how often that happens.”

Outraged, the man sputtered, “B-but sir!How can you leave my beloved daughter in the hands of such a man?”

“Because I’ve been called a rogue, villain, blackguard, backstabber, thief, betrayer and so on for years.Honestly, you’ve never heard the stories about me?”

“I thought you’d turned over a new leaf,” the man suggested.

“Sadly, no.”Jayden took another sip from his drink.“I wish the young couple every happiness and success.”

Disheartened, the man left Jayden’s table and rejoined the crowd.Dana finished her meal and made a mark on a sheet of paper.“That’s three today, fifteen this week and eighty overall requests for your help, every one of which you’ve turned down.Have you considered renting a house outside city limits?It might cut down on the number of people trying to hire you.”

“In my experience it actually makes the problem worse.”

“How is that possible?”

“Men become bolder when there are no witnesses to their deeds,” Jayden explained. “There are a limitless number of people in this city who could use my help, but they wouldn’t dare ask when neighbors can hear the requests.It’s shameful for most men to ask for help.Besides, it’s cold out, and I wouldn’t want anyone to fall sick coming to find me when the answer is going to be no.”

“I know we have money, but we could take a few paying jobs.It’s not like we’ve got anything better to do until your ‘friend’ comes back, and it would help the people of River Twin.”

Jayden frowned and looked out a nearby window, where an early snow drifted down in thick flakes.“I want to return home as soon as possible.The more I become embroiled in local affairs the harder it’s going to be to leave when I owe debts and favors to locals.Better to make a hasty exit once the scout I hired returns with news of where we can safely cross the river.”

Another man forced his way through the crowd and sat at Jayden’s table. “Heroic sorcerer, you have already sacrificed much for our city.”

“Yet I imagine you’re going to ask for more,” Jayden said dryly.

“Winter has come to Kaleoth, making travel difficult and dangerous.The invasion you prevented means frontier soldiers we once relied on are manning the defenses in case the invaders attack again. Honest men dare not travel far when threats abound.”

The man unrolled a map on the table.“Caravans running between River Twin and the capital are in danger from wolves, bandits and monsters coming down from the mountains.Few men dare travel even with protection, and none without it. That makes this an irresistible opportunity for the canny investor.”

“I’m sorry, what?” Dana asked.

“A hundred gold coins invested in such a caravan can bring in a handsome return of a hundred fifty once it safely reaches its destination.A forty-wagon caravan is preparing to head out and is selling shares at a premium to men with the cash and the courage to back up their gold. How can you say no to a chance at riches?”

Jayden set down his drink.“Easily. No.”

“You’re a hard bargainer, so I’ll raise the offer to a hundred fifty plus first pick of the loot and bounties from anyone you defeat,” the man said. “We might not even get attacked, making you a healthy profit for sitting on the back of a wagon.Plus, your reputation might make regional tax collectors think twice about asking us to pay tolls.”

“Out!” Dana yelled at him.When the man opened his mouth, Dana asked, “Do you want to see an angry sorcerer lord? Scoot.”

“Protecting my reputation?” Jayden asked with a wry smile.

Dana pointed at him.“You’re already a wanted criminal in one kingdom.I don’t want to make it two.”

Their conversation ended when Maya joined them with a large wood board.The plucky young woman smiled as she approached Jayden, and she blushed a little.“This might keep people from pestering you so much.Here you go, let me set this next to your table.”

Dana looked at the board that Maya had painted with skulls and crossbones, plus what looked like charred bodies.The words ‘Do not bother the wizard’ were written in red paint across the top, with ‘or else…’ along the bottom.Dana frowned. “That’s not the kind of message we want to send.”

“Good use of shading,” Jayden said.Dana elbowed him in the ribs.

Just then a smiling man in a tacky suit marched up and placed both hands on their table.“Have I got a business proposition for you!”

Maya jabbed a finger at her sign.“Do you not see this?”

“A good businessman lets nothing get between him and other people’s money,” the man said proudly.

“Even pain?” Jayden asked.

“Why would that—yeouch!”The man hopped off while grabbing his right foot.

Dana put a hand over her face.“You really need to stop doing that.”

“He’ll recover,” Jayden replied.He smiled at Maya, making her blush again.The poor woman had spent a month with Dana and Jayden since she’d helped save his life, and she was every bit as smitten with him as when they’d first met. “You seem to be settling in well.”

“I know fellow orphans raised by Baron Vrask who settled in River Twin,” she explained.“They’re helping me a lot.One girl showed me where to buy paints and canvas, and another introduced me to shopkeepers who need new signs.It’s not great work, but it’s a start.”

Jayden’s smile faded when he asked, “Have you been able to find permanent accommodations?”

“No, but I’m looking.So many people came over from Edgeland before you destroyed the bridge that there’s not enough housing.Most of the refugees are renting rooms, and a few are making their own homes or fixing ruined buildings.There’s not much space to live outside of my room in this inn.”Maya looked down, her face flushing red in embarrassment.“My room that you’re paying for.”

“And I will continue to pay for it as long as necessary,” he told her.“When I destroyed the bridge, I forced the enemy army to camp in your home city instead of marching through it, making Edgeland dangerous for young women such as yourself.You’re homeless because of me, and I will do right by you no matter the cost.”

Maya blushed again.“Thank you.”

The inn’s door opened and a man bundled up against the cold hurried in. Jayden stood up when the man came to his table and waved to the innkeeper.“A hot meal and a drink for this man, at my expense.”

The innkeeper set down a plate of roast fish and dumplings, and watched in astonishment as the man devoured the meal so quickly it looked like he might choke. Jayden glanced at the innkeeper and said, “Another course appears to be in order.”

Once the innkeeper left, Jayden leaned across the table.“Ibrin, good man and talented scout, what news do you have?”

“Uniformly bad,” the scout said.“I checked bridges and low places on Racehorse River within ten days travel both north and south.Most bridges are gone, destroyed by Kaleoth frontier soldiers to keep back the invaders. The two left standing are under heavy guard on both sides of the river.No man could cross them without being cut down before he went halfway.”

“How strong are the forces on the opposite side of the river?” Jayden pressed him.

“Five or six hundred strong with heavy support by archers.”The discussion ended when the innkeeper brought a second plate of food.Ibrin ate more slowly this time, getting a few words out between mouthfuls of food. “The few low spots on the river that could be crossed are under even heavier guard.Kaleoth frontier soldiers brought in ogres to help hold the line, and enemy forces brought cavalry and ballista.Both sides built field fortifications, wood forts, barricades, ditches and walls.I’m sorry to say this after you paid me good money for the job, but the only way a man is going to cross that river is if he can fly, and with so many archers even that is risky.”

Jayden slouched in his chair.“The news you bring is valuable regardless if you brought the answer I wanted to hear or not.”

Ibrin finished his food and nodded to Jayden.“You’re a better man than most to say that.I wish you well, sir, and pray you find what you’re looking for. It may not be my place to say this, but if you can’t go home, you’ll find Kaleoth is glad to have you.”

With his job done the scout left the inn.Jayden brooded at his table with a foul look on his face that kept further petitioners back.Dana tried to console him, saying, “You can do good in Kaleoth.Fighting could start up again in spring, and the enemy army still has Wall Wolf.”

“All the more reason to leave,” Jayden said.“I can do more to stop the invasion on the other side of the border than here.Excuse me, I need time alone.”

Jayden got up and left.Maya looked at Dana, who said, “I’ll keep an eye on him.”

Dana followed Jayden out of the inn and to the snowy outskirts of River Twin. They were close enough to see the destroyed bridge brought down on both sides so only the center portion remained. Cooking fires from thousands of enemy soldiers lit up Edgeland in the dark.Both sides of the river now boasted complex wood and stone fortifications manned by crack troops, an intimidating obstacle even to the world’s only sorcerer lord.

Once he was far from the city, Jayden stopped beneath a large old oak and cast a spell.Dana watched shadows swirl together to form a giant clawed hand as big as a man.The hand hovered with the palm flat and the fingers stretched out.He stood there for long minutes doing nothing until the hand began to tremble and then smoke. Bit by bit it boiled away until nothing remained.

“Five minutes,” Jayden said morosely.

“I’ve noticed you practicing that spell a lot this week.”

“The spell could ferry us across the river, but it moves too slowly and ends to quickly to make the journey safely.We could stand on the hand as it carried us, but we’d be floating targets for enemy archers.If we crossed far from enemy forces we would also be far from roads and settlements, not a safe course of action during winter.”

Dana thought about what the scout Ibrin had said.“How high can you make the hand fly?”

“I’ve never gotten it to go over fifty feet,” Jayden reported.“Sorcerer lords of old could make magic wings, but it’s a spell I’ve never found.I’m told the spell doesn’t grant users the innate knowledge of how to fly, which in ancient times killed more than a few sorcerer lord apprentices.”

Jayden turned to face her, frustration growing in his voice.“Fighting that enemy army would be ruinous even if Kaleoth soldiers won, but I could drive them off by ambushing supply caravans bringing those men food.They’d have to retreat after they went a month without nourishment.It’s a task I could do better than most and would save thousands of lives.Instead I find myself marooned here.”

“Surrounded by people who love you for saving their lives,” Dana reminded him.

“It’s a pleasant exile, I admit, but an exile nonetheless.”Jayden glared at the enemy troops across the river. “My greatest nightmare has come true, proof that all my efforts up to this point didn’t prevent the king and queen from attacking neighboring nations, and here I stand unable to do anything.I despise feeling helpless.”

“Welcome to how the rest of us feel,” Dana told him.“Most people see huge events like this happening and can’t do a thing to stop them.We just have to keep our heads down and hope the storm passes.”

“More is expected of a sorcerer,” Jayden said.

“And from a prince, I get that, but you’re just one man.Jayden, none of the spells I’ve seen you use can stop an army or make you invulnerable.That iron golem Wall Wolf nearly killed you, and after almost dying you’re chomping at the bit for another fight.”

“That’s because the people of Kaleoth are still in danger.”Jayden pointed at the opposing army.“Armies don’t fight in winter if they can help it, so our foes are likely quartered in Edgeland until spring, but in my heart I fear the worst.These soldiers could have been deployed elsewhere now that they know the advantage of surprise is lost and there is no easy path to Kaleoth, yet they remain.I despise the king and queen, but I don’t doubt their abilities.Those men are here for a reason, one I don’t understand, and the longer they stay the more time they have to put their plan in effect.”

Dana took him by the arm.“Come on, there’s nothing more we can do tonight.”

“I doubt morning will bring new insights, but if nothing else tonight may have some value.”Jayden selected two short branches off the ground and tossed one to her.“On guard.”

“You gave me a fencing lesson this morning.”Jayden had made sword fighting a daily routine.Dana didn’t complain when she needed the practice if she was ever going to use her magic sword to its full potential.

“I’m giving you another one.The warrior who sweats before battle doesn’t bleed during it.”

Dana took the improvised sword and dueled Jayden.She thought she did well, or at least walked away without bruises this time.When they were done she was overheated and exhausted.“You’re teaching me how to fight.Who taught you?”

Jayden tossed his branch down.“The captain of the guard.He was the best swordsman in the kingdom, and I begged him day and night to teach me.”

Dreading the answer, Dana asked, “What happened to him?I didn’t see him when I saw those memories of your youth.”

“The king and queen discharged him for drinking, womanizing and speaking his mind whether or not anyone asked for his opinions.He moved to Zentrix Kingdom, where he continues to drink, womanize, speak his mind and teach swordsmanship to young men of limited means.”Jayden smiled.“Men of influence in Zentrix despise him while the common folk adore him, so little has changed besides his address.”

“There’s got to be a line of men at the inn trying to get your help.We need to send them home or else they’ll badger you until morning.”

Dana led Jayden back to River Twin.They’d nearly reached The Moody Musewhen Jayden pulled her to a halt.“Why is Maya waiting outside the inn?”

Maya stood shivering in the cold by the inn’s front door.When she saw them, she ran over and grabbed Jayden’s hands. “There’s a scary looking man waiting for you inside. He says he wants to talk with you.I told him you weren’t taking job offers, and he said you’re going to take his.He told me to get you, and when I said I didn’t know where you’d gone he said not to come back without you.I looked and looked, but you two weren’t at any of the places I checked, and I was scared to go back into the inn alone.”

Jayden scowled.“Dana, I think I’m going to damage my good reputation in Kaleoth.”

Jayden marched into the inn with Dana and Maya following him.Maya pointed at a man in a dark cloak standing at the table where Jayden had been seated earlier.He was armed with a sword still in its sheath, but the man wore simple leather clothes instead of armor.Jayden headed straight for the stranger, stopping ten feet away and resting his hands on the back of a nearby chair.

“I take a dim view of people abusing my friends, and that includes ordering one into the cold as if she was your servant,” Jayden snarled.Nearby patrons backed away and the innkeeper ducked behind his bar.The stranger turned to look at Jayden.Looking angrier than normal, Jayden said, “I ask for neither thanks nor reward from your people for what I did, but expecting basic civility shouldn’t be too much.”

“Dark times demand different behavior of men,” the stranger said, his voice betraying no fear.“My master would have words with you outside.”

“Then by all means, invite him in,” Jayden countered.“I wouldn’t want him to catch cold.”

“He wishes to discuss matters with you in private.”

Jayden didn’t budge.“I care precious little who your master is or what he wants of me.You may have noticed a rather colorful sign by the table you’re standing at.The message is succinct and less of an exaggeration than you’d think.I am seconds away from inflicting serious injuries on you, and let the consequences be what they may.”

The stranger approached him and took a folded piece of paper from his coat pocket.He tossed it to Jayden, who caught the paper, unfolded it and stared at it for a moment before burning it in a nearby lantern.Jayden glared at the stranger.“This is going to cost you.”

“My master brought enough money.”

“I meant personally,” Jayden said a second before he punched the man below the belt.Men winced in sympathy as the stranger fell to the floor.Jayden headed for the door and said, “Dana, Maya, we have to deal with this.As for you, errand boy, come when you’re able.”

“The invitation is only for you,” the stranger croaked.

“Obedience isn’t my one of my strengths.”

Jayden left the inn with Dana and Maya, and then headed to a nearby house guarded by four heavily armored knights.The knights parted when Jayden approached, granting entrance to a small room with a table, four chairs and three men.

“I appreciate your coming, especially on short notice,” one of the men said.He was a youth of roughly twenty years, handsome and well dressed in furs.His hair was dark brown and trimmed short. He had a warm, sincere voice, and an expression of relief at seeing Jayden.That look was soon replaced with concern when he asked, “Special Agent Ulem was supposed to guide you here.”

“Special Agent Ulem showed shocking disrespect for my friends, the sort of behavior I’d expect from thugs and bandits.He’ll be along once he can stand.”

The other two men tensed at this news and stepped forward.Both wore the gray and green robes of Kaleoth wizards, and their staffs were black oak set with jewels.The youth waved them back, and did the same when the knights outside looked in.

“King Brent is going to be disappointed,” the youth said.“I keep telling him I can handle myself, and he keeps sending men to guide me as if I was a child.I apologize for any offense given and trust you won’t prevent it from hearing my offer.”

Jayden folded his arms across his chest.“Pray tell, what does a prince want with a wanted criminal?”

Dana gasped.Maya pointed at the youth and asked, “You’re Prince Onus?”

The prince bowed.“The one, the only, the poorly named.I wish we could have met under better conditions, but for security reasons I travel as quietly as possible.The king and queen may have spies in the city who could attack me if they knew I was here. It forces me to use intermediaries whenever possible, sometimes men who are better skilled in battle than in negotiations.And in regards to your status as a wanted man, the bounties on your head have never applied in Kaleoth.”

“Charming,” Jayden said.“I’m surprised King Brent would risk his only surviving heir by sending him to a city in peril.”

“I come because of River Twin’s peril,” Prince Onus replied.“Kaleoth has only four cities, none larger than River Twin.We can’t afford to lose it, especially if doing so opens up the rest of the kingdom to invasion.If River Twin falls then Kaleoth falls with it.”

Jayden didn’t respond or unfold his arms.Prince Onus pulled out the chairs and offered them.“I had heard you didn’t travel alone any longer.Please, allow me to offer some hospitality in such dark times.”

“Interesting that you should use the expression ‘dark times’,” Jayden said as he sat down.“Your agent used it as an excuse.”

Prince Onus winced as if struck.“My apologies.Some men use their high positions like a club.”

Jayden didn’t look impressed.“Your letter, which I burned according to your written instructions, claimed you needed my services in the defense of the kingdom.Save both my time and yours by skipping ahead to the job you need done so badly.”

“Reports of your lack of tack are clearly true, but given your experiences I suppose it’s not surprising.”Prince Onus offered chairs to Dana and Maya before sitting down.“Enemy forces remain at the border, curious when there is no way across.Racehorse River runs too fast to freeze over or for boats to cross, and rebuilding the bridge while under fire from Kaleoth troops is impossible.Grandfather believes the enemy still seeks to invade, and I proved him correct.”

The prince tossed a cracked crystal ball with a bronze stand onto the table. “It cost the only crystal ball in the kingdom, but before it was destroyed by an interceptor spell it showed enemy forces building two mobile drawbridges inside Edgeland.The first is forty feet long, the second equally long but not as wide, and both are mounted on wheels.I believe the enemy intends to set one across the gap to the remaining bridge section and use the second bridge to cover the remaining distance to the riverbank.Once that’s done they can march soldiers across.They still have Wall Wolf, maimed by your assistant but still standing. The only blessing in this matter is that Wall Wolf is undoubtedly too heavy to cross these makeshift bridges.”

“It won’t have to,” Jayden told the prince.“Racehorse River runs fast, but Wall Wolf’s greatweight means the river can’t wash the golem downstream.The enemy general Kyver Rendmal will likely send Wall Wolf in first by walking across the bottom of the river and then attack your troops.The enemy army will bridge the river while your forces are occupied.”

“That’s my feeling as well.Grandfather is calling upon aid from the Guild of Heroes, the Brotherhood of the Righteous, the Servants of the Cause, the Square Pegs, anyone who might listen. He even asked for help from the Yelinid Banking Cartel.”

“Why would bankers fight a war?” Dana asked.

The two wizards looked surprised that she’d spoke, but the prince didn’t seem to be bothered.“Dead men don’t pay back loans, and conquerors don’t honor the debts of their enemies.If Yelinid expects to ever see the money we borrowed from them, they have to keep us alive.”

“How soon until these bridge sections are completed?” Jayden asked the prince.

“The last image from the crystal ball showed the first section was finished and the second nearly done.I need those bridges destroyed before they can be deployed, a difficult request when they’re made from some of the largest trees I’ve seen.Such thick timbers won’t burn easily, and green wood from freshly felled trees even less so.”

“You have two wizards,” Dana pointed out.“Why do you need three?”

Prince Onus waved at his wizards.“Malvel is a fire wizard, and Klim understands water and wind magic. Both are talented and brave, but by their own admissions aren’t powerful.My original plan was for Klim to create a magic cloud and fly the two of them over, then have Malvel set the bridges on fire.It would have placed them in great danger while offering little chance of success, but having a sorcerer lord improves the odds.”

Prince Onus looked nervous when he said, “It may surprise you that grandfather’s spies developed a lengthy file on you, Jayden, including eyewitness evidence of the spells you have cast in the past.”

“Should I feel honored or paranoid?” Jayden asked.

“Both,” the prince replied.“Grandfather keeps files on anyone who might be a valuable ally or enemy.His file showed considerable evidence of your hatred for the king and queen of your homeland, if not the reason why, so you were listed as a possible friend in time of need.As for paranoia, that’s a healthy trait to cultivate.”

The prince looked at Dana.He was cute, close to her age, and good God did the man sound sincere.She could feel herself blushing.

“Our file mentioned the young lady, but not her name or the magic sword she used to cripple Wall Wolf.Please, may I see it?”

“No,” Jayden said.

“It’s my sword,” she reminded him.Dana gave the sword to Prince Onus.The prince drew it and marveled at the blade before sheathing it and returning it to Dana.

“Impressive.Grandfather’s spies keep a close eye on powerful magic items in the region in case they are used against us.I’m surprised I’d never heard of this weapon before.Is it named?”

“I didn’t know people named weapons,” Dana admitted.

“It’s a guy thing,” Jayden told her.

“It might be the right tool for the job, even if it’s not what I had in mind,” Prince Onus said.“I’m told you can create a black whip that melts through nearly anything.”

“Technically it ages through them, but I see your point,” Jayden replied. “The whip won’t attract attention with light and smoke the way your fire wizard’s spells would.We could get in, cut through the bridges with my magic whip and leave unnoticed, but it would buy less time than you’d think.Kyver could replace anything we destroy.”

“Not easily.”The prince held up his ruined crystal ball again.“Prior to this war, the resident nobleman Baron Vrask had his people harvest timber to cover high taxes imposed on him.The largest trees were cut down long ago.We saw enemy soldiers searching high and low for the trees for their bridges, using up the best trees in the process.Using smaller trees less suited for the task will still take a month or longer.That could be long enough for grandfather to summon help.If nothing else there might be deep snow that would slow down another attack.”

“Your plan puts my life in great danger,” Jayden pointed out.

“I realize what I’m asking.I don’t know what your grievance is against your own king and queen, even if I share your dislike of them.This is a chance to hurt them and save good men.Naturally I’m offering pay proportional to the risk.”

Shocking everyone in the room, Jayden said, “I don’t want it.”

There was a stunned silence in the room, broken when Prince Onus said, “I didn’t see this coming.”

“You need the money here,” Jayden told him.“I need to get back into my home kingdom if I’m to do any good.Once I’ve done this for you, Klim is to make a magic clouds and take me anywhere I want to go, no questions, no limits. Those are my terms.”

Prince Onus looked at Klim, who nodded.“It’s a deal.Klim tells me there’s a storm coming tomorrow night.That will be the best chance for the three of you to infiltrate the enemy city.”

Jayden got up to leave.“That’s enough time to finish my business here.Prince, meeting you has been more of a pleasure than I’d expected, and I respect your ignoring how abusive I can be.Few have that skill.”

The prince smiled.“Years living under my grandfather’s rule have given me a thick skin.I’m grateful you accepted, even if grandfather was sure we could count on you.”The prince’s brow furrowed for a moment before he said, “Grandfather is normally quite clever, especially for a man of his advanced years, but when I told him I was going to enlist your aid he said something that didn’t make sense.”

“What might that be?” Jayden asked.

“He said you take after your mother in every way that matters, which makes no sense when no one knows your parentage.”

Jayden was silent for a moment.“You needn’t worry that your grandfather’s wits are slipping.His mind is only sharpening with age, and he paid me a compliment.I bid you good evening.Dana, Maya, come.”

Once they were outside and away from the wizards and knights, Dana whispered, “How does King Brent know who you are?”

“Prince Mastram visited Kaleoth as a child and made quite the impression by talking with King Brent for hours about the ancient sorcerer lords,” Jayden whispered back.It was strange the way he spoke of his life as a prince as if it was another person. “If King Brent’s spies know as much about me as he claims, then they doubtless drew sketches of me.The old man recognized me from those, and bless his heart told no one.”

Maya stopped walking.“You’re leaving.”

Jayden stopped and took her hands.“If I ignore this battle, another one far worse is sure to come before long.”

“I mean after this you’re leaving Kaleoth and not coming back.You’re not taking me with you, are you?”

“It wouldn’t be safe.I’ll leave sufficient funds to cover your needs for a year, and I’ve met a few people in River Twin I can ask to offer further aid.It’s not what you deserve, but it’s what I can give.”

Maya looked at her feet.“It’s okay. It was silly thinking anything was going to happen.Princes don’t marry foundlings.”

“Don’t you dare talk about yourself like that.”Jayden’s voice was firm, and Maya looked up at the commanding tone. “You lost your home because of me, and paintings you created that deserved to hang in the halls of noblemen and kings.Even after I’d done you harm you risked your life to save mine.I owe you a heavy debt, and I pay what I owe.Maya, ask of me what you will, one request equal to a man’s life, and if it is within my power to grant it to you then you shall have it.”

Dana slapped a hand over her face.The man just didn’t know how to act around girls, especially impressionable ones.

Maya hesitated.“You mean it?”

“I keep my promises.”

Maya paused again, gazing into his eyes, then frowned.“You know what I’d ask for, but you wouldn’t be happy here.” She waved her hand across the river. “After destroying these bridges you’d want to be over there, because people need you.You’d keep your word, but you’d be miserable for the rest of your life because that’s your homeland and those are your people, and you feel responsible for them.”

Jayden said nothing in reply.He stood in front of her, his eyes locked on hers, waiting for her to make her wish as if he were a genie.

“You want me to charge you for saving your life, but you don’t charge for saving other’s lives.Dana told me how you helped so many people, sometimes getting rewarded, sometimes not. I want this to be a no reward situation. I, I can’t live the kind of life you do. I’d come with you if I could, but I’m a painter, not a fighter.So, no reward, no gift or promise you’ll keep even if you don’t like it.Do one thing for me.”

“Anything.”

“When we’re at peace again, come back to me and we’ll talk.If I get what I want, I want you to want it, too, and that can’t happen when you think you have to do it.”She hesitated and asked, “Is that too much?”

Jayden kissed her on the forehead.“It’s proof you are a kinder soul than I.”

* * * * *

The following night it snowed as promised, not a serious storm but enough to reduce visibility.Jayden and Dana waited outside town, and were soon joined by the wizards Klim and Malvel. Special agent Ulem made the mistake of showing up as well, and Jayden gave the fool a hostile stare.

“Where is the prince?” Jayden asked.

“Gone,” Ulem said.“It was a mistake for him to come in the first place.He’s safe where he’s at and doing important work.”

“You’re ready?” Klim asked.The wizard had a soft voice and looked calm.

“He’s not,” Ulem said.“This mission is risky enough without you bringing the girl.”

“I helped bring down the bridge over Racehorse River, and I chopped four fingers off Wall Wolf,” Dana countered.“I can take care of myself.”

Ulem ignored her and spoke to Jayden.“I heard you settled accounts with the other girl.Pay her, and be quick about it.”

“What does he mean by pay me?” Dana asked Jayden.

“He means,” Jayden began, and punched the man below the belt again. Ulem cried out in pain as he fell into the snow, and the wizards winced.“That he’s a classless bore.Every kingdom has men like him, crude and belittling to those around him, as common as roaches and just as hard to remove.He means he’s sorry for his behavior, and is going to give greater thought to his words and deeds from this day on.”

“I kind of think that’s not what he meant,” Dana said.

Jayden scowled at the fallen man.“It is if he expects to walk away from this meeting.”

Malvel stepped between Jayden and his victim.“We’re on a time limit.If you’re taking the girl with us, fine, but there’s no room for delays.”

Klim cast a spell, forming a large, flat cloud that hovered inches above the ground.He stepped onto it as if it was a solid object, and to Dana’s amazement the cloud bore his weight without effort.Klim waved his staff at the others.“Let us begin, and may higher powers guide and protect us on our mission.”

Malvel and Jayden climbed onto the cloud without complaint.Jayden helped Dana up when she hesitated.The cloud felt spongy under her feet, like it was made of wet cotton, but it supported her.She grabbed onto Jayden’s arm as the cloud floated into the sky until it merged with the storm clouds overhead.Dana shivered in the cold.She could feel the magic cloud moving, but could see only inches ahead.Wind tugged at her, and she worried that a strong enough gust might push her off.

“Sorry Ulem was such a bother,” Klim said as he guided the cloud.“He has many fine features, bravery, prowess in battle, but he’s best kept outside of polite company, even more than you are.”

“I don’t insult women regardless of their birth, and neither should he,” Jayden said.“How long until we reach our target?”

Klim’s voice called out from the darkness, “Thirty minutes.If I travel faster we might make a disturbance in the clouds that enemy soldiers could see.”

“They’d notice it in a snowstorm?” Dana asked.

“They know Kaleoth has wizards,” Klim responded.“Unless their general is a fool they will have men with keen eyesight watching the clouds, especially in bad weather.”

“Do you always let your servant ask questions,” Malvel asked.

“Dana is my friend, and yes,” Jayden replied tersely.

“It wasn’t a complaint,” Malvel said.“My teacher told me an inquisitive mind is to be encouraged.Pity so few men feel the same.”Malvel hummed a strange tune before asking, “Does she have a sister?”

Dana was disoriented by the darkness, wind and cold, and she answered before considering the question.“Three. Why do you want to…oh, wait, hold on a second.”

“Don’t you have enough women mad at you?” Klim asked.

“Mission first, dating opportunities second, and none with my friend’s sisters,” Jayden told the wizards.

The cloud halted in the dark and cold.Klim called out, “I cast a spell granting me sight within clouds before we left. We’re over the bridges and nearly five hundred feet above them.I’m going to increase the snowfall for five minutes.That should cover out descent, but to be certain I’m going to drop us as fast. Hold tight, and no screaming.”

Klim chanted and the clouds dumped snow as if it was a blizzard.Seconds later the magic cloud dropped like a stone. Dana held tight to Jayden and clenched her eyes shut as she stifled a panicked scream.The magic cloud slowed so fast it forced Dana to her knees, and then landed before boiling away to nothing.Dana opened her eyes and found herself once more on the streets of Edgeland. They were near the inn that had been abandoned during their first visit but now brightly lit and packed to capacity with soldiers.

Jayden took Dana by the hand and led her into the alleys.Klim and Malvel followed before Klim pointed them to a courtyard in the distance.Dana saw large tents filling the courtyard, and soldiers patrolled regardless of the cold and thick snow.

“I don’t want to attack the guards if we can avoid it,” Jayden said.“They will be missed even if we defeat them silently.”

“No doubt,” Malvel said.“Klim can create a strong wind and fog to hide us while we get into the tents.If we’re lucky no one is inside them.”

Klim cast another spell, and the wind grew to gale strength.Soldiers turned away and covered their faces against the sudden wind.It was a momentary distraction that let Dana, Jayden and the two wizards to run over and crawl under the edges of the largest tent.It was dark inside until Malvel whispered a spell that produced a tiny light.

“Wow,” Dana said.The bridges didn’t disappoint.Each one was fifty feet long, half a base with large wood wheels and the other half could be lowered like a drawbridge to cover the gaps in the bridge. Construction wasn’t finished, with missing wheels on one bridge and only half the drawbridge section done, but they looked sturdy.The bridges were armored with iron plates and then wrapped in fresh ox hides.

Klim ran his fingers over an iron plate on the second bridge.“This could be an issue.Jayden, can handle this this?”

Jayden cast a spell and formed his black whip.“With difficulty.Once I’ve cut through a section it’s going to make too much noise when it falls to the street.I need the bridges supported.”

“Easily done,” Klim said.He cast a spell and sprayed blue-white ice from the tip of his staff.He aimed the icy spray under the bridges until there was a layer of ice reaching from the cobblestone courtyard up to the bridge.

With the bridge supported, Jayden swung his whip at the completed bridge. The whip stretched until it wrapped entirely around the massive bridge.It hissed like an angry snake as it began to slow process of cutting through the bridge.

“Dana, Malvel, keep watch in case the guards come,” Jayden said.

“I could cut the bridges with my sword,” Dana offered.“If it can hurt an iron golem, it should do the job.”

“It crippled Wall Wolf, but not quietly, and I recall a shower of sparks when you struck the golem.If we are discovered I’ll need you to step in and do as much damage as you can, but that is a last resort.”

Malvel stood by the tent flaps with his staff and Dana drew her sword.She’d had training with it, but she wondered if it would be enough for a fight.The last time she’d drawn it in battle was against Wall Wolf, a victory by the thinnest of margins.

Jayden continued cutting through the first bridge, his whip eating through iron, wood and animal hides.The bridge was so thick and the iron plates so hard that he made slow progress. Guards walked by the tent twice. Dana and Malvel readied themselves for a fight, but the guards continued on without looking inside.How long would their luck last?

Once the guards had passed the tent for the second time, Dana took the opportunity to look around.It was hard to see much with Malvel’s dim light.Dana barely made out woodworking tools on benches, extra iron plates wrapped in ox hides, and what looked like piles of dirt and curled bits of paper. She sifted some of the strange pile through her fingers and held it up to Malvel.

“Wood shavings and sawdust.I think it’s left behind from building the bridges.If we have to leave before finishing the job, we could spread it around and you can set it on fire.I bet it would burn pretty fast.”

Malvel picked up a pinch of sawdust.“The question is whether it would burn long enough to do serious damage. About these sisters of yours…”

“They’re not your type.Jayden, how’s it coming?”

“I should be done with the first section in five minutes.Barring interruptions, I’d like to cut each bridge into more than two pieces.At a minimum, we’re going to need hours.”

Dana tensed when she heard voices in the distance rose up, their tone angry. She heard the voices again, not coming closer but not stopping, either.More troubling, she didn’t understand the language.“What is that?”

“Dwarven,” Jayden said over the hissing of his whip.“I heard the words ‘idiot’ and ‘overtime’, but the rest was too quiet.”

“Why would anyone be speaking in dwarven in a human kingdom?” Dana asked. Guards walked by again, and she fell silent until they left.“Kyver Rendmal hired human mercenaries for his army.Could he have hired dwarfs, too?”

“A definite possibility,” Jayden told her.“I’m almost through.”

Dana looked to Klim.“I need cover.Can you make the snowstorm get worse for a little while?”

Klim cast a spell, causing the tip of his staff to turn pale blue.“You have three minutes of blizzard conditions.”

“Be careful,” Jayden cautioned her.

Dana left the tent and headed in the direction of the angry voices.The snow was so thick it was impossible to see far, but she could follow the sound of arguments in the dour language of the dwarfs.She reached another tent, this one far smaller than the one concealing the bridges. Dana bent down and lifted the edge of the tent to look underneath.

There was Wall Wolf.

The iron golem was on its back with five dwarfs standing around it.Wall Wolf’s right hand was still missing its fingers, but by the look of it not for long.The dwarfs wore brown robes and had the severed fingers on a wood table. They were studying the hand she’d cut them off of.The armor on the right arm was gone up to the elbow, revealing a bewildering array of pipes and cables.Strange runes were cast on the palm of the right hand and the forearm.Dwarfs waved wands and scepters over the runes.The symbols glowed in response.

One dwarf yelled at another and held up one of the damaged fingers.The second dwarf yelled back and pointed at the rune on the palm.They made wild gestures, waving their arms and stomping their feet when they spoke.

One of the dwarfs saw Dana.She winced under the dwarf’s harsh gaze.The dwarf shifted from his own language to human and said, “This isn’t women’s work. Leave.”

For a second Dana didn’t know what to say.Why weren’t the dwarfs attacking her?Then it hit her like a brick: they didn’t know she worked for Jayden.Most people didn’t since she didn’t appear on Jayden’s wanted posters and their steadily growing price on his head.The dwarfs thought she was a peasant girl, maybe a servant.

“Sorry, sir.”Dana ran to the other tent and hurried inside.Once she was back among friends, she said, “Wall Wolf is in the other tent. I saw dwarfs working on him.I think they’re wizards trying to put his fingers back on.”

“That’s not surprising,” Jayden said.He finished cutting through the first bridge, and the two pieces settled on the ice supports Klim had made.“Wall Wolf was built by Golem Works, one of the largest dwarf corporations. The king and queen must have hired them to repair the golem before they send it into battle again.It also explains who destroyed Prince Onus’ crystal ball. Dwarf wizards are experts at building magic items and would have no difficulty destroying one, even at a distance.”

“Can we kill it while it’s lying down?” she begged.

“Bloodthirsty little girl, aren’t you,” Malvel said approvingly.

“It would fight back if attacked,” Jayden replied.His magic whip vanished now that it was through the bridge, and he recast the spell to create another.“You’ll forgive me, but after our last encounter I’ve no desire to renew our acquaintance.”

Dana frowned.“General Kyver the Jerk could send Wall Wolf across the riverbed to attack River Twin even without the bridges to bring in troops.”

“The risk is too great,” Jayden replied.“We’re in a city filled with soldiers and mercenaries.If we fight Wall Wolf those men could come after us.”

Malvel extinguished his magic light and stepped away from the tent flap. “Guards are coming.”

“You’re going to get us whipped and branded,” a man’s voice called out.

“Staying out in the cold any longer could cost us our toes,” another man replied. “If the high and mighty general won’t give us braziers with hot coals, or at least a campfire, then we do what we must to keep from getting frostbite.”

Two soldiers in chain armor opened the tent flaps. The first one had enough time to say, “See, these guys had the same idea.Wait a min—”

Malvel struck the first soldier across the face as Klim blasted the man with a stream of icicles.Jayden created his magic hand and slapped the other soldier to the ground.For just a moment Dana thought they’d done it, but the second man screamed when Jayden struck him again with the hand.Men called out in the distance, and the air filled with whistles and bells.

“I do believe it’s time to leave,” Malvel said.

“Not yet,” Jayden ordered.“Klim, hold them off.Dana, Malvel, do as much damage to the bridges as you can.”

Klim sprayed the ground around the tent with magic ice, forming a slippery layer inches thick.Malvel cast a spell that made his hands glow cherry red.He pressed them against the second bridge and began to melt through the iron plates and burn the wood.Dana drew her sword and swung it at the nearest bridge.She hit an iron plate and had to close her eyes against the shower of sparks the sword made as it cut deep.

“Alarm!Alarm!” a man cried out in the distance.“We’ve got men down by the tents!”

The deepening layer on snow on the ground made it hard to hear the crowd of men coming.Dana had no trouble hearing those men scream and curse as they slipped and fell on the ground Klim had iced over.She saw a man slide by the tent flaps and crash into a building, followed by two more men.

Jayden wrapped his whip around the second bridge.The whip melted through iron plates, but at such a slow rate that he’d never destroy it in time.He looked at Klim and said, “Do we have minutes or seconds?”

Klim formed a wall of ice eight feet tall around the tent.“If we’re only fighting men then we have minutes. If Wall Wolf attacks then even seconds is too much to promise.”

Dana hacked at the bridge, cutting deep grooves through iron and wood. Normally she’d be thrilled at how much damage she was doing, but the bridge was so huge she’d need an hour to destroy it.Malvel’s and Jayden’s attacks sped up the process, but not enough.She glanced at Jayden and asked, “This would be a good time for your fire spell.”

“It takes too long to cast, and we’re so close to the bridge that we’d be caught in the blast.”Jayden’s whip cut through an iron plate that fell to the floor.He looked at her and shouted, “Watch your feet!”

“What?”Dana looked down and screamed.The sprays of sparks her sword made hitting the bridge had ignited sawdust around her. She ran from the growing flames and went to another part of the bridge.

Boom.The snow on the ground did little to conceal the sound of Wall Wolf walking toward them. Dana heard ice crack as Wall Wolf stepped onto the icy sheet around the tent.There was a horrible crunch when the golem broke through the ice wall, sending sharp chunks of ice through the tent that tore it open.

Wall Wolf loomed over them with Kyver Rendmal a step behind it, and behind them a host of soldiers.The golem’s right arm was missing all its fingers and much of its armor.This made it weaker than the first time she’d faced it, but not by much if it had burst through the ice wall so easily.

“You,” Kyver spat.The general still wore his armor, but had exchanged his purple cape for furs.He pointed the control rod for the golem at Jayden.“I’d hoped you would’ve had the decency to die like the mangy dog you are, but here you are again, attacking your own homeland once more.Worse, you make common cause with its enemies, treason by any standard.”

Jayden pulled his whip off the damaged bridge, and his magic hand pointed at Kyver.“You mistake me for someone who has any respect for your opinions.I hope you’re enjoying your stay in Edgeland.It promises to be a long one.”

Kyver’s eyes shifted to the left, where one of his bridges was cut in half and the other had suffered serious damage.“You think you can hold back the full fury of the king’s wrath with this? Fool!It would be easier to drink the ocean dry than to stop this army! Wall Wolf, hear me and obey!Kill Sorcerer Lord Jayden and his allies! Stain the snow red!”

“You remain charming company as always,” Jayden quipped as Wall Wolf stomped toward him.Kyver and his men didn’t follow it, a smart move when the battle between the golem and wizards could spill over onto them.Jayden fell back against one of the bridges and looked to Klim.“This would be an excellent time to leave.”

Klim raised his staff.“I need time to create a magic cloud.Slow the golem down.”

Stopping the sun from rising would have been an easier request.Jayden swung his magic whip and struck Wall Wolf across the face.Malvel hit the golem in the chest with a jet of white-hot fire.Both attacks did nothing.Klim was still casting his spell when Wall Wolf tried to trample the man. Klim gave up on his spell and ran for his life, dodging the golem’s heavy feet by inches.

“Aim for its right arm!” Jayden yelled.He swung his whip and struck the golem’s palm, while Malvel blasted it with more fire.Dana ducked below their attacks and swung her sword at Wall Wolf’s arm.Sparks flew when her blade cut deeply into the unarmored right arm.

If Wall Wolf could feel pain the golem hid it well, pushing onwards without hesitation and nearly stepping on Jayden.He ran along the edge of the damage bridge, dodging a punch that broke through the street near Jayden’s heels.

“Stop!Stop!” The dwarf wizards pushed their way through the crowd of soldiers until they reached Kyver.A dwarf pulled on Kyver’s arm and shouted, “We didn’t finish the repairs!”

Kyver pulled free from the dwarf.“Away from me!”

The dwarf didn’t give up.“With the armor compromised every blow they strike is doing serious damage.You’re pushing up the time and cost of repairing the golem.Send in your men instead.”

Gouts of flame washed over Wall Wolf, followed by a shower of razor sharp icicles and a stinging blow from a black whip.Soldiers saw the golem take hits that would kill even a man in armor, and they flinched when a giant clawed hand punched Wall Wolf in the head.

“Yes, send them in, Kyver,” Jayden taunted.“Maybe burying us in bodies will make up for your poor generalship.”

Wall Wolf pressed on regardless of the damage it was taking.It swung at Jayden, missing again but by a smaller margin. More fire struck it and the damaged arm turned red hot, but instead of retreating it dug its left hand into the street and pulled up a handful of cobblestones.It threw them at Jayden, the mass of stones spreading out as they flew so it was impossible to dodge them all.Three rocks hit Jayden in the chest and stomach, and he staggered from the blows.

“Give me the control rod!” the dwarf shouted.He tried to grab it, but Kyver shoved the dwarf to the ground.“Wall Wolf isn’t under warranty!Think about the bill!”

Wall Wolf grabbed part of the destroyed bridge, and with one hand the golem lifted it over its head before throwing it at Jayden.The golem missed as Jayden leapt to the side, but the heavy timbers and iron plates of the bridge dug a deep furrow into the street. Wall Wolf tried to stomp on Jayden and barely missed.

The golem pulled its left arm back for a punch when Dana ran it and stabbed its right arm.Malvel had blasted it with flame so often that the inner workings of its arm were red hot and softened.Dana’s sword sunk deep into the metal arm, showering her with sparks.Jayden created his black sword and ran in alongside her before he drove his sword in next to hers.Both of them pulled their swords up, hacking off the arm at the elbow. The severed limb fell to the ground with a thud.The runes cast in the limb flashed and sparked before they burst.

The dwarfs looked away in horror.Their leader said, “Insurance isn’t going to cover that.”

Kyver screamed like a child throwing a trantrum.Then his eyes fell on Dana.“You again!Wall Wolf, hear me and obey!Your armor will hold against their attacks.The girl is the only one with a weapon that can hurt you.Kill her first!”

Wall Wolf’s armored head turned to stare at her.It was missing most of an arm, but Kyver was right, the rest of its body was impervious to their attacks.Even Dana’s sword could only do superficial damage.The reverse wasn’t true, and Wall Wolf battered aside a section of the destroyed bridge as it went after her.

“Klim, we need that magic cloud now!” Jayden shouted.He ran along Wall Wolf and hacked at its heels.His magic sword bounced off no matter how many times he hit it.Malvel made his hands turn blazing hot and grabbed Wall Wolf around the left leg. His blazing hands heated the golem’s thick armor but nothing more before the golem kicked him off.

Dana ran from the golem and kept only steps ahead.Running wasn’t going to be an option forever when soldiers surrounded them.If she ran into them they’d cut her down with spears and swords.If she needed a reminder of what would happen if Wall Wolf hit her, she got it when the golem trampled and crushed the piece of the wooden bridge it had thrown at Jayden.

Which, oddly enough, gave her an idea.

“Let it come after me!” she shouted to the others as she headed for the second bridge.She, Jayden and Malvel had damaged this one, but not seriously enough to put it out of commission.Dana ran to the bridge and scurried under it.

Wall Wolf caught up with her and raised its left arm high into the air before swinging it straight down.Dana screamed when the huge fist came through the bridge a foot away from her.She crawled along the bridge as Wall Wolf punched one hole after another through it trying to get her.

“Wait, stop!” Kyver yelled.“I said kill the girl, not destroy the bridge!”

“Order it to come back to us while we both still have something left to salvage!” a dwarf begged Kyver.

“Wall Wolf, hear me and obey!Return to my side!”

Wall Wolf had its remaining arm raised for an attack, but at its master’s orders it halted and turned away from Dana.It raised a foot to take a step away from her, and that’s when all three wizards attacked.Klim encased the golem’s head in a block of ice four feet thick.Jayden used his giant magic hand to grab the golem’s heel and pull, toppling it over.The ice block shattered when the golem hit the ground.Malvel blasted the golem in the head with magic flames, and the metal made a pinging sound as it changed from extreme cold to intense heat.

Dana was still on her knees underneath what was left of the second bridge when the golem landed beside her, its armored head so close she could touch it. Wall Wolf’s head looked like a knight’s helmet, complete with visor and eye slits, and as she looked inside those narrow openings she saw runes cast in the metal within.Wall Wolf had similar runes on the arm they’d cut off it.Dana didn’t understand magic, but it looked like those runes were important to it somehow, a weakness concealed under armor thick enough to protect them.

Wall Wolf was struggling to get up with its one arm when Dana got out from beneath the bridge and ran straight at it.For a second its head was level with her, and she stabbed her sword through the visor and into the rune.

Wall Wolf rose to its feet and thrashed about wildly.Dana held onto her sword and was pulled up with it.She struggled to hold on as the golem staggered about and swung its left arm in the air.It seemed to go into seizures, shaking uncontrollably as the rune inside its head sparked and burst.There were more explosions inside its body, some strong enough to blast off pieces of armor and reveal more runes sparking and bursting.Dana screamed when Wall Wolf went stiff and fell over backwards. She lost her grip and fell next to it, nearly hitting the unforgiving ground before Jayden caught her.

“That seemed like such a good idea in my head,” she gasped.

Jayden set her on her feet and pulled her sword out of Wall Wolf.The golem laid silent, smoke rising from it. He returned her sword and said, “I can’t imagine how it could have gone better.”

There was a stunned silence from the soldiers surrounding them.Men backed up.A few even dropped their weapons.Kyver stared at Wall Wolf, too shocked to scream threats or insults.

One of the dwarf’s pointed at Dana’s sword.“That’s Thume Breakbones’ workmanship.I’d recognize it anywhere.”His face twisted in rage, the dwarf screamed, “I’ll kill him!”

“Klim, we haven’t got long before they regain their courage and attack,” Jayden said.“We need to leave.”

“Done and done.”Klim created a magic cloud under their feet and carried Dana, Jayden, Malvel and himself away.

“Archers!” Kyver screamed.“Get me my archers!”

The order came too late.Dana saw men scurrying below as the cloud went ever higher into the sky.A few men managed to notch arrows to their bows, but darkness and snowfall ruined any chance they had to see their targets, much less hit them.

“That is an impressive weapon,” Klim said as he guided the cloud. “Wherever did you find it?”

“That’s a long story,” Dana said.She studied her sword for a moment before sheathing it.The weapon had lived up to the promises Thume had made months before.Wall Wolf, guardian of the royal family for generations, a terror no one had even scratched, lay dead.Well, as dead as a golem could be.Maybe her sword did deserve a name.


© Copyright 2019 ArthurD7000. All rights reserved.

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