Jorund rode alongside Brandt and Rurik, but he could not push back the rising tension during this journey. The men had trusted Hilda's information, and they traveled together with the intent of subduing the raiders. It was what Jorund had always intended—to face those who had killed his family and gain vengeance.
But with every mile, he was filled with more doubts. Why would Hilda bring the information instead of Sigurd? Why would she not send them later, after the wedding ceremony? It seemed as if she were trying to make them go.
His mood darkened at the thought of leaving Kirsten behind. The warrior who had threatened her was still there. Although there were many men who could defend her, Jorund felt as if he'd abandoned her. The urge to turn around and ride back was strong. He was torn between the desire for revenge…and the desire to keep her safe.
Killing his enemies would not bring his family back. He had spent the past few weeks training among the best fighters in Maerr, but instead of strengthening his purpose, it made him question it more. If Kirsten were hurt or killed while he was off fighting nameless raiders, where was the purpose in that? She had come to mean a great deal to him, even more than his need for revenge. He wanted to see her again, to see those brown eyes warm at the sight of him and to taste her lips.
This journey felt wrong. Even Brandt seemed to sense it, for there was no sign of a raid anywhere. The land stretched out before them with hills on either side. There was no smoke, no echoes of screaming. One of the older warriors had been telling stories to pass the time, but it had done nothing to alleviate the tension.
"I don't like this," Jorund muttered. "Something's wrong."
The sound of a shout calling for Brandt came from behind them. A warrior was riding hard to reach them. As the man drew close, Jorund recognized him as one of Alarr's men.
"King Feann attacked!" the man called out. "Other warriors joined in."
Brandt let out a roar of outrage, and they turned their horses around to head back to the settlement. Jorund's pulse hammered in his veins as they rode hard toward the village. They wouldn't make it in time. He cursed himself for not heeding his earlier instincts. He never should have come, not for this.
He urged his horse faster, afraid of what he would find.
When they finally reached the settlement, the stillness was otherworldly. The only sounds were those of women wailing. Bodies lay scattered across the clearing, and Jorund couldn't tell whether they were living or dead from this distance. The warriors had struck and then swiftly found their ships, leaving bodies in their wake.
Was Kirsten still alive?
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