Blood trickled from her lip after the warrior struck her. Kirsten fought against him, slashing him with the dagger, but her wound was barely a scratch. He disarmed her easily, tossing the weapon away.
He spoke in a language she didn't understand, but there was no doubting the lust in his eyes. He intended to subdue her and take what he wanted. But she would fight him with every breath in her body.
When he reached for her, she used her forearm to strike hard against the man's throat, just as Jorund had taught her. The warrior appeared startled by the impact, and she followed up with a hard punch to his lungs. She didn't wait to see if her motions had been effective, but instead ran as hard as she could toward one of the longhouses. The scent of smoke was rising in the air, and she faltered, knowing the women were inside.
Freya, save me, she prayed, not knowing where to run. Bodies lay everywhere, and she knew that her chances of survival were slim. The doors were bolted shut, the smoke and fire consuming the longhouse. The screams of the dying surrounded her, and she was startled to realize that her cheeks were wet with tears.
Kirsten tried to find a hiding place, but there was nothing. She picked up another fallen blade, keeping it clenched in her palm. In the distance, she saw the Irish king ending the fight with Alarr, brutally slashing his legs. She watched in horror as the man she had once cared for dropped like a stone. Was Alarr dead?
You cannot think of that now, her mind warned. She had to think of her own survival. And that meant finding a place to hide.
She saw a small grain shed near the stables and hurried toward it. Her lungs burned from the smoke she'd inhaled, and she coughed hard as she pushed the door open. The space was tiny, but she could wait here until the invaders had left.
Coward, she chided herself. She had wanted to train to defend herself, and what good had it done? Dozens of men were dead, possibly even Alarr. His wedding had become a massive slaughter, and Maerr would never be the same.
She swiped at her wet cheeks, her body trembling. Jorund was gone now. He had not hesitated to leave, seeking his vengeance. It broke her apart to realize that she might never see him again. Even if she survived this attack, he might not.
Perhaps a part of her had sensed what was to come. She had welcomed him into her arms, wanting to feel loved for one night in her life—even if it was their last night.
The door opened, and she gripped her weapon, staring at the shadowed entrance. The tall warrior stood there, his expression smirking.
Then he closed the door behind him, cornering her.
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