Chapter Twenty-One: The Witching Hour

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Chapter Twenty-One:

The Witching Hour

There's a moment in every archer's life when they realize that their chosen weapon has a fatal flaw. As a horde of goblins came down upon me, I finally reached that moment.

Skadi gave me extra arrows after I'd slain the Draugr. But even with thirty-some arrows in my quiver, there were fifteen goblins not including Lydian, and in the havoc my odds were pretty dim.

The bow was a hunter's weapon; used on animals, not for melee combat. I was understanding more and more why Soren carried a knife and two swords along with his bow and quiver. The stiletto was strapped to my side and the short, slender blade would be my only defense from a close attack.

Smoke from the fire burned my eyes as the wind whisked it up into the air. Inhaling, I tasted iron and copper on my tongue. The billowing darkness around me would've made a lesser hunter blind, but not me. Behind me, the sound of Soren and Lydian's fighting dwindled into the distance as their battle brought them farther and farther away.

When the first goblin descended upon me, I shot an arrow through him before he got close enough to strike. Whipping around, I let the arrows fly, two in one go, then three, using the maneuvers my father taught me long ago and Soren perfected.

Soren and Lydian disappeared in the blinding smoke. My eyes were streaming with tears but there was no time to wipe them away. Somewhere in this kilometer, Lydian and Soren were fighting. Somewhere in this kilometer was the Stag.

The sky would fall before I let Lydian get to it first.

Blood splashed on the back of my neck and I turned, arrow nocked to see a goblin with a blade sticking through its mouth. From behind the long staff, Seppo smiled grimly. "It seems like my plan isn't going to work very well."
I laughed, surprising myself. "It's about time these crazy plans caught up to us! We'll figure it out," I said, aiming above his head at a goblin in the trees.

Another goblin swung at him, but he caught his blade with the metal shaft of his staff. The air stirred around me and I turned, ducking just in time before another goblin sliced my neck open.

The fight was almost like a dance. I wasn't as in sync as I'd been with Soren, but we were good enough. He slaughtered the goblins close enough to use their short-range weapons and I picked off the ones who stayed behind, one by one, until they were falling out of the trees.

We stood back-to-back, the sharpness of his bones pressing into my skin, as we fought off the every-growing horde.

"I thought he only had fifteen men left!" I shouted and cringed as a goblin's sword swiped at my side, tearing apart my tunic and leaving the skin beneath it warm and bloody. Before the man could do any worse, Seppo's blade was in his chest and the man's body was flung into the distance.

"I thought so too!" Seppo shouted. I aimed another arrow over his head just as one of the creatures jumped down from a tree.

Deep in the forest, a shriek pierced the dawn. Following that was a large crash and the sounds of power twisting and rebelling. The shriek, though I'd never heard such a thing before, could only be Soren's.

"I have to find him!" I eyed the remaining goblins. Dead bodies littered the ground, some full of puncture marks and deep gashes were Seppo'd disemboweled them, some riddled with arrows from the shots I took. Blood was sticky underneath my feet and the air was tinged with the scent of copper and iron, both burned my lungs just as much as the smoke. There were still eyes everywhere, peering from the trees and the bushes, from the harsh starkness on the other side of the boundary. If I left Seppo, he'd have to fight them all.

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