Muted and ghostly, the echoes of war hung in the musty air of the bolt hole. The wails of the dying mingled with the triumphant shouts from defenders on the ramparts and the Whump! Whump! of massive war catapults launching their deadly projectiles towards the rebel forces.
A screech pierced the walls of the secret room where Thurle crouched. Startled, he subdued an impulse to flee. He had seen first-hand the savagery of the Charakai attack; heard the terrified screams of the Bikashi soldiers as the bird reptiles feasted on their still living flesh. When Sequana had eventually acknowledged defeat and signaled the retreat, he had been almost giddy with relief. This battle was lost, Sequana had told his lieutenants as they urged their steeds to haste, but the war would continue.
It was Sequana himself who had ordered Thurle to infiltrate the enemy lines and bring the Sword to him. It was an honour that Thurle thought was well deserved. After all, wasn’t it he who had revealed the secrets of the city defences that had almost led to their victory—would have led to their victory if it hadn’t been for the Earthling female? The one absurdly named Hickory Lace, who had used her magic to call the Charakai down upon them, Balor curse her name.
Before he had defected to the rebels, Thurle had memorised the underground pathways leading through the mountain and into the Temple of Balor. Now, he pushed gently at the wall in front of him and peered through the crack. Seeing no one, he pressed more firmly and slipped inside. He had been here many times, and normally there were supplicants and priests aplenty, but not today. No doubt, the priests would have gone to the walls to encourage the city militia to greater efforts, distributing amulets and giving blessings and absolution to the troops.
A fire pit flickered in front of the altar, sending shadows to dance across the four faces of Balor, sculpted from the mountainside that formed one of the temple’s walls. Thurle’s heart rate slowed to normal. Quickly, he padded over to the grotto where the legendary heroine Connat-sèra-Haagar was immortalized. Her statue wielded a double-edged sword while the dead and dying enemy lay before her in various postures of terror.
He studied the figure. It was carved from stone, but the weapon glittered in the fire pit’s red light. He took a dagger from his belt and tried to prise the Sword from the statue’s hand but to no avail. Drawing his sword, he slashed at the fingers. His sword ricocheted sending spasms of pain along his arm. Thurle was horrified. Sequana had assured him that stealing the sword was a command from Balor, but this felt like desecration. He mumbled a prayer, forgive me Balor, and brought his sword down with all his might.
The statue’s arm shattered and the heroine’s sword fell in a shower of dust. He spread his cloak on the floor and wrapped the relic tightly, making sure not to touch the blade. Lifting it reverently, he bowed to the mutilated statue, then hurriedly retraced his steps and left the temple.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish