man stared at Khirro, one eye regarding him, the other canted at an odd angle, looking toward the moon. His cheeks were sallow, his thin lips drawn up in a dead smile; a hollow laugh rattled and died against the sides of his open throat.
Khirro gasped and stumbled back as the dead man drew his sword and approached; a sliver of moonlight illuminated the splash of red across his armor. The first time he’d seen the armor of the dead men, Khirro didn’t know whether the red splash was paint or blood, but now he was convinced it was sacrificial blood.
The undead warrior brandished his sword and Khirro could only stare, limbs frozen by the memory of the dead soldier who came so close to taking his life at the Isthmus Fortress. Then, the Shaman saved him with his magic, but Bale died along with the king, and Athryn’s magic couldn’t save him this time.
So many have died.
Khirro could do nothing but clamp his jaw tight and brace himself for the killing blow. But it didn’t come. Instead, Athryn’s sword slashed through the soldier’s neck, finishing the job Khirro’s dagger started. The half-rotted head tumbled off the man’s shoulders, bounced once as it hit the road, then rolled away. The limp body followed it to the ground.
“Khirro,” Athryn cried. “Move!”
Athryn’s words released Khirro’s limbs from the spell of the memory binding them. He lurched to his left, narrowly avoiding a strike he hadn’t seen coming from the second foot soldier. The tip of the dead man’s sword hit the dirt an inch from Khirro, flicked dirt onto his foot. The miss threw him off balance and allowed Khirro to dance away and strike a blow. His dagger sank deep into the soldier’s shoulder but didn’t slow him. His sword swung in an upward arc missing Khirro close enough he felt air gust against his face.
The soldier attacked again and again, forcing Khirro back and keeping his meager weapon at a distance. Khirro knew he needed to counter attack, but the man’s sword kept him wary. He eluded yet another slice and dared a look past his adversary at Athryn engaged with two undead Kanosee soldiers.
His magic is our only hope.
Khirro ducked under the Kanosee’s sword and lunged forward, hitting him in the midsection. If he’d been alive, the tackle would have knocked the breath out of him, but instead it made a crumpling noise and threw him off balance enough for Khirro to put the thing down to the ground. He wrested the sword out of the undead soldier’s grip and separated its head from its body. Khirro straightened, his breath coming hard and fast, and located Athryn again.
“Athryn,” he cried rushing toward his companion.
One undead soldier lay at the magician’s feet while he engaged two others. Khirro looked beyond him and saw the wagon had stopped; the soldier driving it peered around its edge to watch the fight. One mounted Kanosee remained by the wagon, horse prancing in place, as another urged its steed toward the fray. A third horse stood idle on the other side of the wagon, its saddle empty.
“Khirro! I must ready my spell.”
The magician glanced at him as he joined the fight, surprising one of the undead soldiers and knocking him to the ground. He finished him with a flick of his commandeered sword and turned to engage the other soldier.
“But there’s no one to kill.”
“Just be ready. I need your blood.”
Athryn felled the second soldier and Khirro attacked the undead warrior who had slid from his horse’s saddle to engage him. He rained blows down on the enemy soldier, forcing him back a step to allow Athryn to retreat from the fight. The other two continued watching but neither moved to help.
The undead Kanosee recovered quickly and counter-attacked, thrusting at Khirro’s belly, following up with an upward swipe. Khirro fell back, parried, danced away. This dead man was better with a sword than the others. They circled each other and, over the man’s shoulder, Khirro saw Athryn had