- Pages: 320 Pages
- Series: Loresmith
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Imprint: Philomel Books
- ISBN: 9780525954132
An Excerpt From
Bound by Sword and Spirit
The Hawk watched the Loreknights fall, one by one. Though he’d expected the war would end like this, the sight of it still speared his soul. The king’s ten chosenwarriors had ridden to meet the Vokkan army without fear. Armor of silver and gold, ornamented elaborately, threw brightrays back at the sun like coins carelessly tossed from a treasure chest. By contrast, the Vokkan imperial troops were an endless sea of black-and-red tabards, highlighted by glints of silver that crested like waves when the light struck their blades.
Imgar marveled at the way they charged toward the oncoming force. Somehow, the Loreknights still believed they were the invincible heroes of legend. That they were chosen by Saetlund’s gods instead of agents of a corrupt king. They had embraced the lie and rode eagerly toward death.
The Hawk—as Imgar’s followers had taken to calling him—had long known otherwise, as all those who still honored the gods did. Those who pledged themselves to fight at Imgar’s side followed the old ways.
And yet, though he despised King Dentroth and all who toadied to him, in his heart of hearts he’d hoped for a miracle. That the Loreknights might somehow wield the power of the gods and drive away the enemy as they had in battles long ago, and serve the very purpose for which they were created.
But Imgar knew the history that made victory this day impossible. Decades of corrupt monarchies had transformed the Loreknights from legendary warriors to courtiers.
Emperor Fauld had a special fate awaiting Dentroth’s favorites.Champions picked from his own forces to meet them. The gargantuan warriors—the famed giants of Morvadin, one of the empire’s earliestconquests—wielded weapons taller than the average man. The firstLoreknight to reach them was swept from his saddle by a Morvadin’s halberd, then literally pounded into the dirt by another’s war hammer. The second Loreknight to fall was caught by two other Morvadins and ripped to pieces.
To their credit, the eight remaining Loreknights didn’t balk. They entered the fray, a fury of shouts and steel. A third Loreknight fell. Afourth. Saetlund’s champions managed to take down one Morvadin before they finally floundered, fear overtaking any bluster or bloodlust. The fifth Loreknight went down. The sixth. The seventh.
Imgar shook his head, gazing at the bodies broken like toy soldiers on a child’s play battlefield.
He watched as the three survivors attempted to flee. The Morvadins let them run. Imgar could hear the Loreknights shrieking as the Vokkan infantry engulfed them. A long groan of horror spread through the lines of Saetlund’s small remaining army. Most stood their ground as the Vokkans marched on them; others broke ranks and fled.
Some would call those who ran cowards, but Imgar didn’t condemn them so. They’d been led into this war with lies. Why should they be expected to throw themselves on Vokkan swords and spears?
Of course, there were those who would likewise call Imgar a coward—a traitor, even—for what he was about to do.
The Hawk didn’t care. History would judge him with its long gaze, but in the present he cared only for the lives and futures of his followers.
Imgar had never thought of himself as a warrior, much less a leaderof warriors, but he had also never let a weapon nor a piece of armorleave his shop without thoroughly testing it himself. Over the years, he’d become proficient in the use of daggers, swords, and shields, and more than proficient with war axes.
His smithy sat at the center of town and had become a gathering point of friends and neighbors. Imgar had gained a reputation forshrewd and fair judgment. Disputes were brought to him. In the beginning, they were petitioners from his own village or nearby homesteads. Over time, his reputation drew visitors from across the Fjeri Highlands and even the Lowlands, too. When the call came from King Dentroth to form a militia in Fjeri, Imgar was named their commander. He acceptedthe position humbly, but not reluctantly, because he went to warexpecting the fall of the kingdom. He trusted no one else to do what was necessary to prevent the slaughter of his people.
At a signal from Imgar, his gathered warriors melted back down the hillside. This open plain would be a sea of slaughter. The only place to meet the Vokkans and survive would be rugged terrain, where numbers couldn’t overwhelm with sheer force. Even there, the Hawk knew victory wasn’t possible. Only resistance. Only survival.
But that was enough. For now.
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