Jorund fought his way through the carnage, striking down the remaining fighters. So many had returned to their ships, leaving only smoke and fallen bodies behind. He was trying to find Kirsten, but there was no sign of her anywhere.
Hilda was kneeling beside Alarr, trying to bandage up his wounds. Jorund paused a moment, grateful that his friend was alive—but there was no doubting that Alarr might never fight again. It had taken only one battle to change everything.
He continued searching for Kirsten, and with every step he took, his fears tripled. So many had died…including King Sigurd.
The charred wood of the longhouse captured his attention, and he was about to investigate, when another motion caught his eye. It was the warrior who had been following Kirsten, and the man was walking toward a grain shed.
Jorund kept his sword in his hand, silently tracking him. Then when he passed another dead warrior, he seized a second sword from the victim.
There was no way to know if Kirsten was inside the shed—not until he attacked.
Jorund made his way toward the grain shed, careful to remain unnoticed. Silently, he crept closer, and then he saw the warrior enter the shed, closing the door behind him. The tribesman was physically larger, and Jorund suspected it was one of the Irish invaders.
Kirsten's voice commanded, "Get away from me."
The warrior's low laughter revealed his disdain. It was time to act now, before he could hurt her. Jorund pulled at the door, but it was barred shut. He cursed silently, realizing that he had only seconds to act.
One of the wooden boards was loose, and he reached in with his sword blade. He lifted upward, and the blade acted as a lever, unseating the wooden bar. A moment later, he threw open the door and found the warrior in front of Kirsten.
She was holding a dagger, but the warrior appeared unconcerned. At the sight of Jorund, he struck hard, and his arm reverberated from the impact of iron on iron.
"Be careful!" Kirsten cried out, but he centered his mind on the fight ahead. He attacked with speed, using one blade as a shield and the second to strike back. Over and over, they fought, and the warrior's blade slashed with strength and force.
Jorund started to doubt himself, wondering if he could defeat this enemy. But then he realized that there was another way. He backed out of the shed, continuing to strike blow after blow.
"Kirsten!" he called out to her. When she stared back, he tossed one of the blades, hilt-first, toward her. She reached down to pick it up, and the warrior doubled his efforts, using brute strength to hammer punishing blows against Jorund.
He met Kirsten's gaze, letting her know that he had faith in her. She picked up the heavy sword with both hands and caught her balance.
Just then, the warrior swung, but not at Jorund. His blade caught Kirsten's, and it struck so hard, she stumbled. For one terrifying moment, he saw her trying to regain her footing while the warrior's blade came down.
But Jorund blocked it, defending her. And a second later, Kirsten plunged her blade into the warrior's heart. There was a moment of shock before the man fell forward and died.
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