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Excerpt from Thorn Changer by Christy Reed
Kotua squinted against the glare of the late afternoon sun. He hoped they were in time. He wouldn’t miss a chance like this for anything. “How much farther?” he asked the young soldier who rode by his side.
“Only a few more miles, Your Highness,” Keo replied, his face covered in sweat. Did he fear a run-in with those dark hawks he’d been talking about? “It should be just up ahead.”
The soldier, no matter how crazy he was to believe those tales of the Arilians, was right. The city wasn’t more than two leagues distant, surrounded by the enemy army. His heart sunk. Then he whooped. The stronghold in the center still stood.
“On, men, we’ll save it yet.”
Hooves pounded like thunder as they narrowed the distance. Kotua leaned close to his horse, urging him on. One and a half leagues…one…one half…one quarter…
“Farer, stay here and get ready to sing. A few of you stay to guard him. The rest, after me. To the city,” he spurred on his horse, taking a deep breath of earth and sweat, throwing back his head into the wind. “Yeah!”
Within ten minutes they were on top of the enemy army. Though he couldn’t make out the words, Kotua could hear Farer’s voice swelling above the battle roar. He urged the soldiers on. “They’ll be weakening soon. To the stronghold. Make way. Clear the enemy scum from the streets.”
He drew his sword, and struck down the nearest soldier. The Iezoman staggered back before swinging his sword at Kotua. The song was having an effect. Blood rushed through his veins. This was much better than state papers.
“Clear out. Out,” the cries of his soldiers carried on the wind. “Miagulo. Miagulo.”
“Onward, my blood hounds,” Kotua threw back his head and howled. Wait until his uncle heard about this. “Let’s clear this city of these miscreants once and for all.”
“Miagulo. Miagulo. Yeah!”
Keo stopped short. His face had gone ashen. “There.” Three dark figures loomed up ahead of them. “There. The dark hawks.”
Kotua halted as the huge creatures came toward him, eyes piercing green, beaks as sharp white spears. His spine stiffened. His uncle hadn’t mentioned how large the beasts were.
He spurred his horse on. “Onward. Are we going to let some over-grown chickens stand in our way? Never. Miagulo. Yeah!”
Horses pounded after him. “Miagulo. Miagulo. Yeah!”
Kotua charged straight at the center creature, sword gripped in his hand. He pulled to the side as the beak lashed out. He caught it on his blade, and was shoved back. He needed a clear shot of the heart. And he’d only get one chance.
He smiled. He almost burst out laughing. What would his uncle say if he could see him right now? It’d be something like, Kotua, you’ve more brawn than brains. Though I’ve known that for quite some time now. Rushing in to be eaten alive isn’t exactly what I’d call good strategy.
Kotua’s smile widened as he shook his head. No, his uncle wouldn’t approve at all. Good thing he wasn’t there to say so.
There was no time to think about it. Forest wouldn’t go any closer. Every time Kotua tried to urge him on, the horse took a step backwards. “Fine then,” he jumped off his back, and slapped his sweat-slicked rump hard. “Get out of here. I don’t need any distractions.”
As the horse galloped off, the wind whistled. Kotua sprang aside just as the beak of the hawk tore through the air. He grasped the hilt in both hands, and lunged at the monster, driving the point in between its eyes.
The bird screeched. With a swipe of a wing it threw Kotua to the ground. He picked himself up. He clamped his hand to his throbbing sticky side. He glanced down. Three giant claw marks oozed there. Since when did hawks have claws on their feathers? This bird just kept giving him more reasons to dislike it.
The bird shook its head. The sword tumbled to the ground. Kotua caught it right before it landed. Not dead yet? This was no normal beast. He slashed at the bird’s neck as it lunged for him, the blade biting deep through the feathers. It shuddered, and fell to the ground. A long shriek. Green mist flew from its beak. Then it didn’t stir.
The soldiers had taken care of the other two. Kotua grinned. He was pretty good at this kind of thing. “Onward. Let’s free the city. Miagulo.”
“Miagulo.” The doors of the stronghold burst open. A rush of soldiers poured out. “Your Highness,” Keo shouted. “They’re breaking out.”
“Charge the enemy. We’ll run them out the gates.”
Farer’s voice filled the air. The enemy army wavered. “Go on,” Sodoma’s shout arched over those of the soldiers. “Attack them.” The Iezomen stood still, and then started to retreat back to the Darklands. Some of the Iezomen pressed towards Kotua and his men. But Farer’s song made them weak enough to battle with.
Kotua struck an Iezoman down, grinning as he caught a glimpse of the general through the fray. “Not even you can make them stand up to the song, Sodoma.”
The Mekain glared at him, his long hair streaming out behind in the wind. “Next time will be different. Lord Foaie will crush this worthless kingdom.”
Kotua threw his spear at him, but Sodoma jumped aside. “At least we have one prize to take with us.” The glove on his right hand began to glow orange as he disappeared over the top of the hill. “To the Iezo.”
The Iezomen stopped fighting as one, and followed Sodoma. Kotua seized the bridle from his footman, and swung up onto the retrieved horse’s back. No, he wouldn’t let him get away. He wouldn’t let any of them get any. “On, soldiers. On.”
A flash of orange filled the sky. Kotua dashed up over the hill, his heart pounding. No, they couldn’t escape. Sodoma couldn’t do this…
Not one Iezoman was in sight. And of course Sodoma wasn’t either. He drew his horse in. “No. Confound it, no.” That cursed magic…
He sighed as he sheathed his sword, and started to turn back. Only the remains of the old outpost that had been abandoned when Mokayi was built remained on the other side of the hill.
But it looked different, somehow. Could Sodoma have been using it as his camp?
“That must be it.” He grinned. Now he’d get to plunder a camp as well. Forget Sodoma, and whatever nonsense he’d been spouting. He could deal with him later. This chance was too good to pass up.
“To the camp,” he pressed the heels of his boots into his horse’s sides. “Onward, my men. To the camp.”
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That's the end of Chapter Four Part One. I hope you enjoyed it. For right now, Thorn Changer is available exclusively on Amazon. Feel free to share this excerpt, just please include all text between the asterisks (* * *), as well as a link to Thorn Changer's Amazon page. This will give your viewers a link to where they can purchase Thorn Changer if they're interested. Thanks.
Chapter Four Part Two will be available tomorrow.