I stood at the edge of the ledge, cloak pulled tightly around my armored body as the wind screamed past me.
Before me, thirty longships were being pulled from the water below, warriors flooding from their wooden bellies and building massive bonfires on the rocky beach.
Behind me, on our shelf of stone halfway up the cliff, one man sat calmly at a flickering little fire, slowly dragging his whetstone over the blade of his great sword.
The odds were not in our favor.
“This looks like the end of our rebellion,” Joran said, setting aside his sword. Using a thick branch, he struggled to his feet and limped over to join me at the edge.
“Not how I expected to go out,” I said.
Two days ago, thirty of us had been clustered on the shelf, preparing to make the journey though the soaring peaks at our backs. Twenty eight bodies now lay rotting in a cave further along the ledge. Among them was the corpse of Vaeron IV, the late emperor.
“You’d think they would give up after we fought of the first two attacks, or after they killed Vaeron.”
“Houd doesn’t think like that.” I thought I could see him on the beach, the hulking usurper directing his warriors with frantic gestures. “He won’t rest until everyone loyal to Vaeron is dead.”
Joran limped back to the fire and lowered himself gingerly. “He’ll be able to rest soon, then. The two of us—well, the one and a half of us—” he lifted his maimed leg “won’t be able to hold them off.”
“We’ve done all we could.”
Joran snorted. “We’ve done nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
“We must have killed two hundred of those damn rebels. Twenty eight men died! It counts for something.”
“Those men died so that Vaeron could live, but now he’s feeding the same worms.” Joran lay back onto the rough stone, setting his blade his chest and his hands on the cross-guard. “Believe what you wish, if it makes your last night easier.”
He closed his eyes, leaving me to stare bleakly at the men massing below.
“Wake me up when it’s time to die.”