the war machine.

Once they return to the lake, the going becomes steadily easier and they’re able to increase their speed. The foothills afford much more gradual terrain than the hilly, forested region they just came from.

“The mine we passed on our way out is just ahead,” Qyrll announces after the lake is an hour behind them.

“Good,” says James. “If the mine is just ahead then we’ll be on roads from this point and may have a chance of catching up with them.”

It isn’t long after that when through the hills ahead of them the road leading from the mine to Ironhold appears. Qyrll moves onto the road and then breaks into a gallop as he turns in the direction Ironhold lies. The others follow suit.

Riding hard it takes a little over an hour before they crest a hill and Ironhold appears below. “There they are!” Miko cries out.

Just entering the town are over two dozen riders, and they’re riding hard.

“Heya!” James says as he kicks his horse and races down toward the town.

“James!” Jiron cries out as the rest gallop to keep up with him.

Not heeding Jiron’s cry, James races at breakneck speed down toward the town. All he can think of is Dave and the Empire’s role in his demise. Red begins clouding his vision as the pent up rage begins to take control.

The soldiers have disappeared among the buildings before James even closes half the distance. Which way they went is hard to tell but only one road leads out of Ironhold to the south and that’s where they’ve got to be going.

With the others trying to catch up, James lays along his horse’s neck in an attempt to decrease wind resistance and increase speed. He closes the distance with the outskirts of town rapidly and finally shoots down the street between the outlying buildings.

Ahead of him is an intersection and when he reaches it, crossbow bolts fly from the street to the right. He becomes aware of his danger too late and one bolt takes him in the leg while four others strike his horse.

The horse stumbles and throws him from the saddle. He flies through the air and slams into the ground ten feet away. Instantly, he erects his shield around him just as another volley of bolts flies at him. They strike the shield and are deflected away.

His nerve endings tingle when he begins detecting the workings of magic. Looking around quickly, he sees the mage emerge from the side street and come toward him. In his hand is the Star. His troops set up a blockade to prevent the others from coming to his aid as bolt after bolt is fired.

Jiron and the others are forced to retreat from the deadly volley. They quickly backtrack to the edge of town and then their group splits, Jiron and Qyrll going to the right and Miko and Fifer going left.

James gets to his feet, his right leg from which the bolt is still protruding barely able to support him. Thankfully it’s only embedded in the muscle and didn’t hit the bone, although the pain it’s inflicting is almost unbearable.

The tingling sensation suddenly spikes as the Star pulses and a wave of force strikes him. His shield is little protection from an attack of this magnitude and he’s thrown backward where he strikes the side of a building. His lungs freeze from the impact and it takes him a couple seconds to get his breath back.

The mage’s soldiers are keeping guard against the appearance of James’ comrades, the crossbowmen and soldiers lining the streets.


A massive explosion rips apart the street upon which the mage is standing, several of the soldiers adjacent to him are thrown into the air. The others stagger from the concussion of the blast.

When the dust clears, the mage is standing unscathed.

Crumph! Crumph! Crumph!

Three more explosions erupt beneath the soldiers this time, James targets them to better enable his friends to come to his aid.

A sudden spike in the tingling and an explosion similar to those he used on the soldiers erupts beneath him. His shield protects him from the brunt of the impact but he’s still thrown to the side. Landing on his injured leg, he drives the bolt deeper into his thigh, eliciting a cry of pain.

Using the side of the building for support, he works his way back to his feet as he turns to see the mage approaching. Behind the mage, Qyrll suddenly appears on horseback with Jiron right behind. They begin wading into the men disoriented from the explosions, Qyrll’s swords from the vantage of the horse’s back are deadly as they fell man after man. Jiron, though only having his knives and tied to his saddle, is just as deadly.

At the sound of combat behind him, the mage turns and sees his men beginning to be cut down. From the other side, Miko and Fifer join the battle as they begin taking out the remaining crossbowmen before they have a chance to unleash their bolts.

James sees the mage turn toward his friends and raises the Star.


He unleashes the magic and the building beside which the mage is standing suddenly explodes outward. A shimmering field immediately encircles the mage as the building sags and then finally collapses on top of him.

The mage taken out of the battle, James turns his attention to the remaining soldiers. Despite the increase in pain, he bends over and picks up stones and begins throwing them, taking out soldier after soldier.

He’s takes out his third when the rubble covering the mage suddenly explodes upward and the mage comes to his feet, again unscathed. A large section of stone wall comes flying toward him from the blast and he dodges out of the way to avoid being crushed. The stone smashes into the building right where he had been leaning and creates a large gaping hole.

Fifer is fending off the attack of one soldier when the eruption takes place. He’s hit by one of the flying stones in the side of the head. Stunned, he’s unable to counter the sideways slice which strikes him just above the knee, severing his leg. Crying out, he topples to the side.

Jiron, momentarily free of attackers, sees him fall. Kicking his horse, he lurches toward the soldier moving to finish off Fifer.

James struggles against the pain the bolt in his leg is inducing as he tries to remain on his feet. Turning to face the mage, he again feels the tingles just before a fireball roars to life over the mage and comes hurtling toward him.

Unable to move fast enough to avoid the impact, his shield flares once again into being. With a roar the fireball impacts with the shield and he’s immediately engulfed in intense heat. Every breath is agony as the heat from the fire coating his shield burns his throat with each inhalation. Changing the aspect of the shield, the interior begins to cool as the shield counters the effects of the fire. With a sudden pulse, the shield emits a blast of frigid cold and dispels the fire coating it.

As the flames recede, he sees the mage with the Star ablaze in his hand. A frown crosses his face as his eyes narrow and the tingling once again spikes.

“Fifer!” Jiron exclaims as he rides to his rescue. The soldier stands ready to meet his charge and at the last minute, Jiron throws one of his knives. The soldier dances back to avoid being struck by the knife only to be bowled over by the horse.

As the soldier falls to the ground, Jiron takes his remaining knife and cuts the rope securing his broken leg to the saddle. Swinging off his horse, he lands on his good leg just as the soldier regains his feet.

Smiling, the soldier advances on this man with only one good leg who’s only wielding a solitary knife.

Nearby, Fifer groans as the blood is pouring from his severed leg rapidly.

Jiron makes ready to meet the attack, realizing he’ll not likely survive it. From behind him, he hears the roar of a Parvati war cry as Qyrll races from where he’s just finished off his opponent and is coming to his aid.

The soldier’s eyes widen when he sees the Parvati bearing down on him. He slices out at Jiron who manages to deflect the blade and then Qyrll is there.

Lashing out with his small sword, he draws the soldier’s sword to the side then follows through with his longsword and the battle is joined.

Leaving Qyrll to finish off the soldier, he hobbles over to Fifer. From the looks of it, he’s already lost a lot of blood, a pool has formed on the ground at the base of the stump of his left leg. His face looks ashen as he glances at Jiron’s approach.

Вы читаете The star of Morcyth
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