An Excerpt of Chapter 25 of Dagger

~Book Two of The Hunted Mage Trilogy~

Aila’s sudden cry brought a surge of motion from the corridor as the guardsman pushed against Wyman’s weight against the door. Eyulf held firm for a moment, and then felt the king’s feet slide backwards against the younger man’s vigor.

With a tug on the iron ring that formed the handle, Eyulf stepped back and stretched his leg out into the widening gap.

The man had little chance to react. The force of his weight against the door was too great to slow him when Eyulf reversed his own efforts. Jalo stumbled and landed chest first on the rough stone of the floor.

Eyulf heard the rush of air leave the man’s lungs as he struck.

“This is a matter between your betters, Jalo! You should never have interfered.”

He thought, for a moment, about the man he had killed on the wall at the riverside.

Eyulf felt the Runes that held Wyman’s Spirit shudder as Eyulf knelt on the fallen guard’s back with one knee.

“What was the name of your man on the river that day, Aila dear?”

Jalo regained some breath and squirm beneath him. Eyulf reached down and wrenched the fallen soldier’s arm up. He looked at Aila with brows raised in a mockery of innocent questioning.

The queen was still sprawled where she had fallen from Eyulf’s shove, but had raised her upper body and supported it with one palm flat upon the stone. The other hand was wrapped about her belly.

“Gent,” she whispered. “His name was Gent.”

Eyulf smiled and drew Jalo’s sword from its scabbard with a silvery ring of metal.

“You should take more care with your husband’s men, my love,” he whispered.

She closed her eyes and shuddered at his words. Or was it pain. Her head drooped and Eyulf had to cock his ear toward her to catch her words.

“Please, Eyulf.”

“Please? Please for what, Aila?”

Her head came and her light eyes glowered at him with hatred.

This meekness is but a game, he crowed silently. I am glad of that. To have her once more, with none of her old fire left, would be unrewarding!

“Please do not kill him!”

The words came through clenched jaws and Eyulf loosened his pull on the younger man’s arm.

“There now. Was that so…”

With a growl, Jalo arched his back and threw his free arm back. With Eyulf’s grasp still firm upon his arm he could do little beside flail blindly at Wyman’s face.

With a dull pop that Eyulf felt through Wyman’s hands, the guardsman’s arm wrenched from its socket just as the elbow of his loose arm struck Eyulf’s jaw.

It was a solid blow. Eyulf felt the pain of it through the Rune’s link and the sudden impact made his own head roll back against the chair where he sat, leagues away.

He had released Wyman’s hold on the man when the blow struck. The warrior rolled onto his back and pushed with his booted feet to escape the king’s reach. He cradled his useless right arm as he slid away with a hiss of breath through clenched jaws. Pain sweat already glistened on his brow.

Eyulf reached up with Wyman’s hand to rub the swelling he could feel throbbing through the magic’s bond.

“You dare to strike your king, man?” The words came slurred from Wyman’s lips. He grinned at Aila and the fallen guardsman despite the pain.

Jalo struggled to rise to his feet and placed himself between Eyulf and where Aila still sat. He dropped the damaged arm with a wince and fumbled the dagger from the opposite side of his belt.

“Your devilry will not hold my King forever, Mage!” Jalo croaked the words through his pain.

Eyulf could see the lump of bone that jutted up through the man’s jerkin.

“You know of that, do you?” Eyulf glanced down at Aila’s pale face and shook his head sadly. “I tried, Aila, my love. I did! I can never let him live now.”

Eyulf swung Jalo’s weapon over Wyman’s head with ease and took pleasure in the casual grace of the king’s body as he used it.

He is just as much a tool as this sword, he thought. The flat of the blade struck the lump of bone at Jalo’s neck. The guardsman dropped his knife and fell with a hoarse scream.

“Who…else…knows?” He closed the distance between them with three careful steps at each word and struck at the injured shoulder once more.

Jalo moved away from the blow with an awkward roll and a hiss of pain, but the blade struck again under Wyman’s firm grip.

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