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Excerpt: The Conqueror

Excerpt: The Conqueror

Debut Book

…Fad­ing into uncon­scious­ness, Gwyn didn’t realise the weight was gone until the war­rior stood above her, sword dan­gling in hand, blood streak­ing down the side of his face.

Beside her lay the bloody-headed sol­dier, rather more blood­ied now. His skull was split in two. Already his innards were ooz­ing out, a pulpy mass, mix­ing with the mud.

Gwyn’s mouth began mov­ing but no sounds came out. In the dis­tance, the sounds of run­ning foot­steps faded away. Her sav­iour spun as if to give chase, then, with a few muf­fled words, turned back.

“Is he dead?” she whis­pered, as if some­one might hear her and some­how not have noticed the com­bat of a moment ago. As if the hacked body might still, some­how, hold life and be awak­ened by her words.

Dark, shad­owed eyes flicked to the prone body. “Quite.” He kicked the body away and stretched out a gloved hand. “Come.”

“Com­pletely?”

“All the way.” He held his hand in front of her nose.

“Truly dead?”

“Nay, he’s but half dead, and will haunt you for years to come. Now, come, get up.”

Flat on her back, Gwyn frowned. A gnash­ing pain crowded into the back of her head. “I am more afraid of being haunted if he is fully dead, sirrah.”

This brought a moment of quiet. “Are you get­ting up or not?”

“Have you killed so many men, that one more means naught?”

He straight­ened and glanced around the deserted road. When he turned back, she could see only the gleam of his teeth as he smiled grimly. “And you, lady, have you been on so few high­ways that you know not the dan­ger of rid­ing on them alone?”

She opened her mouth, shut it again.

“Know you so lit­tle of men that you would think one such as he is not bet­ter off dead?”

Again he ges­tured to the man’s body. His smile receded as he ran his fin­gers through his hair, ruf­fling the dark locks into damp spikes.

“Know you how weary I am, and that I wish only to be home?”

He tow­ered above her out­stretched body but she was not afraid. Certes, he’d just saved her life. Why­fore be affrightened?

Her mind cat­alouged the var­i­ous and per­sua­sive rea­sons: per­haps because he was such an impos­ing fig­ure, all hard slabs of mus­cle and pierc­ing eyes? Per­haps because he’d just killed four men in less time that it took to de-feather a chicken? Or per­haps because he held in his hand a sword that still dripped with raw blood.

“Get up.”

“I … I–”

“You,” he reached down and grabbed her hand, “do not lis­ten well.”