The Exodus Sagas: Book I - Of Spiders And Falcons (3 page)

BOOK: The Exodus Sagas: Book I - Of Spiders And Falcons
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Something jolted and without warning James rolled on the ground nearly crushed by his own spasming steed. He could not breath, there was nothing able to force the air into his chest it seemed, and he lay gazing at the pond of shimmering purple blood pooling under his stallion. His horse still twitching and spreading the blood into brighter red in the overgrown grass, the youth reached for his dented and useless helm.
Whoosh.
The shadow of an axe passed overhead. Then there was a crack of steel on steel as the axehead of the ogre dove into the helmet, embedding it into the ground. James heard more trampling, battle and screams grew louder, the ogre advancing; the thought of moving quickly dominated his mind. The knight rolled to his right with his shield up in time for the second blow, his arms ached with shooting sparks of pain. Rolling again, hearing clearer the sounds of war, breath plunged into his hot lungs making his eyes water, and he came to his feet, broadsword in hand. The ogre towered over him, nearly eleven feet tall, a bloody axe adorned with tufts of red hair and pink flesh raised overhead. James ducked and closed with quick steps. With a side stroke of his blade and another step to the left, he opened the beasts’ abdomen wide. The ogre’s howl was cut short when it bent to cover the wound; his head was released with a downward chop of the knight’s weapon, barely feeling the resistance of bone. James looked at the fallen axe, not wanting his dark hair on the end of it, and kicked it away from his fallen foe. The head rolled to the ground followed by the slumping body, its face grinning in a close-eyed smile that unnerved the knight. A river of foul black blood soaked James’ boots. Suddenly the juvenile warrior came to, unfocused from the grim visage at his feet, he heard the sound of his Lord rallying the men toward him. Arlinne was backed against an old church foundation. His men were falling quick to ogre swords and spears, at least eight James saw, many more at their feet dead.

The youthful knight marched forward in careful, quick, and planned steps, his shield guarding his advance from left to right. His sword arm was cutting many from beside his protection, never stopping the forward momentum. He knew he could not let himself get hit or slowed by standing off with the ogre, he had to keep moving and reach Arlinne. He cut low on a brute that charged him, taking off the leg below the knee. His shield rang again from a spear tip from another foe and he plunged the blade up into the creature’s throat, still forwarding. Yet again an ogre sword whisked his dark hairline and he went low to the ground cutting twice into the thigh of his adversary. Then once across the back to make sure he was not pursued. The blood that splattered his face tasted of rust and spoiled meat, and the ogre fell to meet death. James lunged forward at the opponent in front of Arlinne, thrusting his sword through the back and out the chest with two quick motions, each doing their work, then kicking the beast over, making room to stand with his Lord.

The veteran lord looked weary and was favoring his left side in step and shield. James quickly took position to his left, knowing to protect his superior’s weakness. As he did he noticed that the hand of his lord had been run through from a spear that penetrated his shield, leaving the appendage hanging useless and bloody. There was chaos throughout the front line of the army, all in disarray, receiving blow after horrible blow from the ogre. The view from his vantage did not look like anything remotely close to victory. James reached his hand out to his lord and elder, forgetting for a moment the hopeless scene, touching the injury and concentrating with a whispered prayer to Alden for sacrifice of whatever he needed to help the men. Arlinne flinched and glared at James, confused as the wound stopped its release of precious blood, fingers twitching yet still useless. The young knight met his gaze, smiled and picked his stabbed blade from the earth and motioned to move into the inner ruins. Both men knew staying here in this position was a deathwish, so they advanced into the ancient lost city.

The two men turned round the wall rapidly, not noticing the decayed city swarming with the enemy, and were met by four ogre warriors, two of them carrying decapitated heads as trophies gnarled up in their fists by the hair. James moved in straight forward then short stepped to the left and cut deeply across one beasts’ flank. Arlinne followed the youth, plunging his noble sword into the chest of the same ogre and spinning around to face the next enemy who dropped the remains he was holding so proudly. James squared off now, there was nowhere to move, and he found himself toe to toe with the tallest ogre he had seen yet. The creature put both hands on a club the size of a small oak and swung over head with a roaring scream. The shield held true and James countered with an attack to the ogre’s arm, missing by inches. The ogre did not flinch or pause, his eyes of deep green and black fixed on the human’s shield and he let out another blow, this time cracking the metal shield in two.

Arlinne feigned to his left then spun again. He drove his steel forward into his adversary’s stomach, driving the sword hilt deep through the body of his enraged foe. Surprised, the beast roared and raised his great serrated blade over head, chopping down with a dying howl. Arlinne raised his shield, but the muscles twitched in pain, slowing the motion, and the blade cut clean through below the shoulder. For a slow moment, the old lord did not feel anything and ripped his sword out of the beast, plunging it again into and out of the chest. He then looked down at his arm and shield that lay on the ground, feeling the warmth and moisture down his left side. His foe dropped, then the pain came as he hit his knees, feeling for what he knew was no longer there, dropping his sword and opening his mouth for help. “James, you need...” Arlinne’s eyes closed and he fell to the cold ground.

The young knight pulled his blade from the dying ogre’s neck with the sound of steel scraping collarbone as the blade jerked free from the ogre that broke his shield. Sadness swept over him mightier than any assault could ever have. There lay his Lord in a crimson puddle of his own life, unmoving. James reached down in an attempt to heal the wound, knowing in his head and heart it was too grievous for his mere gift. He tried to pray to Alden for mercy, his hand glowed a soft blue-white and trembled. Tears flowed onto his dirty, blood smattered face. The touch did nothing for it was too late.
The fourth ogre
, James thought as he dove for his sword from his knees.
This day was supposed to be different.
A sudden pain paralyzed him, a sharp pain in the neck from the end of a handle or pommel and all spun into darkness. Dimly he was aware of the vast number of small echoing screams and roars of the battlefield, the stomping of hundreds of feet and boots, whinnying of frightened horses, and the sensation of being carried. Lifted from the frozen weight of his pained body,
I must be dying,
the young knight thought.
This must be it. Alden have mercy
.

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Cold stone, wet stone, and the pain that wracked his neck and head barely allowed him to notice that he was no longer out in the bright light of day. James peered around with one eye still shut. He was in a cavern bearing few torches, underground for sure and surrounded by at least a hundred ogre. Snarling, spitting, gleaming malicious scowls and smiles adorned their hideous countenances. One did not make a gesture of emotion at all, the one standing behind him. The young knight tried to stand but his vision blurred as the pain riveted through his neck. He looked up instead at his captor and noticed it was not dressed like the others. This ogre wore black leather boots, tanned animal hides that were fitted like robes, and carried a large curved blade, smooth and polished unlike the rusty dirty weapons of the others. His hair was pulled back in tails and braids and his garments did not smell, from where James could tell on the ground anyway. James stood slowly, pulling all the strength he could to tolerate the pain, gritting his teeth, and then he felt clattering realizing his sword was in its scabbard.
How odd
, he thought,
leaving me armed
. The young warrior looked around now viewing the ogre women, as hideous as their children peering from behind them, the aroma and reality hit him.
This will be much worse than dying.
Low groans and talking in the ogre tongue went about, and James could see several of his human brothers tied up and gagged behind the ogre guards, as well as many of the regular army. There were perhaps sixty or so captives.

“Tell me, human, what is your name?” demanded the ogre leader in perfect Agarian tongue, although deep and bestial. He had an air of supreme leadership and respect, at least from his own kind. When he spoke, the other ogre were still.

James hesitated, and then replied with a smirk of one who knows death is near. “Give me yours, ogre, and release my-”
Crack
, his jaw went numb for a moment from the backhand of the ogre lord as several others lurched forward surrounding the young man, ready for anything. James stumbled back and then regained his composure, beginning to speak. He was again interrupted.

“I am Avegarne, son of Hedrigurl, King of these lands. You have invaded unwisely and killed many of my people. Now your name boy, and remember this, every slip gives my men the head of one of yours.” The ogre king’s purple and mottled eyes did not blink when he spoke through his tusked teeth. James knew he was as serious as death.

“I am James Andellis, of Southwind Keep, Knight thereof.” He spoke as calm as his nerves would allow, and clenched his right hand on the grip of his blade. He waited for the time to strike.
For it would be better
, he thought,
to kill this bastard ogre king than to face execution or enslavement
. He watched the ogre king move, almost graceful in spite of his heritage.

“James, I have tasted the human wines from north in Caberra, read histories from a temple I raided in northern Harlaheim, and enslaved many of your kind, women and children alike. I have not been so lucky in my travels to capture a
wizard
though. My men tell me you have magic powers, saw you make a spell outside the east wall with your hand. I will let your men live to their failed lives, when you teach me what you know.” Avegarne paced three steps up, back turned, and three forward facing the youth. James wanted to strike as anger at the words of pillaging began to build in his chest.

Through his gritted teeth, James spoke, “I can not teach it to you, I do not know how it happens. Nor would I, filth, even if I were able to.”
Glorious, brave
, he thought, and drew his blade into his hands in one fluid motion, lunging forward straight at Avegarne’s chest. The ogre king drew his curved sword a mere second later than the knight, swung up, quickly deflecting the attack aimed for his chest straight through his bicep. Blood ran down James’ blade, black ogre blood. As he withdrew to attack again he was grabbed from behind, tackled to the ground despite his efforts as heavy ogre feet stomped his hand until the blade came free. He lowered his head, feeling foolish for his actions and ready for death. Then he heard it, the muffled screams and tearing of skin, the cutting of flesh, the sound of beheadings. He dared not look. James knew what was happening, yet pinned to the stone floor by six of his foul captors, he was powerless to do anything as ten or more were brutally slaughtered.

A mighty roar from the pits of the cursed creature’s belly echoed in the cavern. Besides murmuring among captors in terror and ogre children giggling, all was still. “Heal it human, now!” Avegarne bellowed, spitting and dripping his blood onto the floor. The ogre king lowered his blade to right under the knight’s chin, nicking it ever gently, permitting a drop of blood to trickle onto the steel and dry quickly.

James moved his eyes only to see the faces of his comrades. He could not tell what they would say, they looked at him directly, but was it with fear that he would let them die, or anger that he might give in to the enemy? Confused, James recited his pledge, a knights’ pledge to Chazzrynn. “May I fear not my end, but the dishonor of my kingdom, may I protect the people at my highest cost, be sworn to duty and service, and stand against all enemies of the crown in life and death.” James whispered the words, looked again at the faces of the men, hearing anticipation in the enemy voices. He stood, and the ogre brutes let him stand. James faced his enemy, bent down and picked up his blade, sheathed it with military fashion. The ogre grew closer, weapons drawn, at least a dozen now, awaiting the young human’s next display of stupid chivalry and bravado. He reached out his hand, whispered a prayer to Alden the God of charity and lord of Heaven and asked for forgiveness and mercy. His outstretched hand glowed a gentle sky blue and it touched the bicep of the ogre king. The blood dried, the wound healed to pink, then sickly purple, then moments later it seemed a day old scratch without even much of a scar on the mottled yellow flesh.

Silence. From the men, the ogre women, the ugly bestial children, the brute warriors, and even the towering king himself. “How do you do that, James of Chazzrynn?” asked Avegarne, looking at his arm in amazement.

“I do not know,
your highness
, now let my men go.” Replied the knight, full of fear, sarcasm, and hope.

“Not a chance of that, young human. Now teach me how to do what you did or you will not see the light of day again.” The ogre spoke with cruelty and a wickedness that was impossible to reason with. James knew that this gift could not be taught, he had tried in the past. Lowering his head, he refused.

The next few hours became a blur of beatings, beheadings, howls and roars from a brutal tribe of ogre. The screams of “traitor”, and “coward”, and many a curse in Agarian and ogre alike were strewn at him as his men died. Heads were tossed at his feet, tortured friends’ cries in the cavern were followed by harsh ogre laughter, and they even made his comrades stone the young knight more than once before their executions. He was carried, bloodied and half conscious, paraded like a trophy of war throughout the cavernous undercity of Arouland. The ogre waved Lord Arlinne’s bloody broadsword and falcon banner over James as a sign of dishonor. It all happened so quickly yet took forever. The blows had dulled his awareness, James felt dead already.

BOOK: The Exodus Sagas: Book I - Of Spiders And Falcons
5.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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