STATE OF THE
readers on the state
of each of his projects.
Dragonsteel Prime Chapter 33: Bridge Four 5
This chapter comes from the 2000 draft of a book called Dragonsteel. Some of the settings, situations, and characters were repurposed into The Way of Kings (2010).
“All right, men,” Jerick said, scanning the piles of bones. “You know what to do.”
The members of the Fourth Bridge fanned out, scavenging as they had done dozens of times before. Today, however, there was a difference. They spoke to one another as they moved, joking and talking about their lives before the war. As they worked, they tossed rags and fragments of wood onto a fire they had built in the middle of the passage. A little illumination helped to push back the gloom of the grisly chore, not to mention providing warmth. Jerick would have never thought it possible to be cold here in the south, but these cracks were so far down that they were actually sometimes frigid.
“Kep, it’s your job to keep us entertained,” Jerick reminded, putting his hand on the shoulder of a young boy from Lallom. The Lallin was the youngest member of their crew—save, perhaps, for Jerick himself, though he knew the others assumed he was much older than he really was. Kep was a short, scrawny thing who had a difficult time fitting into the life of a bridgeman. He had to wear tall braces on his shoulders to carry bridges, and even then he wasn’t much help. In one area, however, he was invaluable.
The boy pulled out a small flute he had constructed of a couple reeds and began to play. Even in Rodis’s palace, Jerick had never heard a musician who was so skilled. Kep’s music was haunting and beautiful, and it conveyed all the passion of a storyteller. It seemed at times like an entire room full of pipers was playing, not just one boy. At other times, a single, solitary melody was all he gave. Whatever the style, every moment was engaging.
Today Kep chose a lively tune, and the music joined with the light, both pushing away gloom. Jerick walked over to the others, falling into place and pushing through bones and bodies in search of weapons. His heart, however, was not as joyful as those of his men.
The Fourth Bridge had been together for over a month now, and the group was beginning to feel an incredible sense of camaraderie. However, during that month he had lost three members to Sho Del arrows. Such a low percentage would have been considered fabulous by any normal bridge crew, but Jerick’s men would not be any normal bridge crew. Losing one man was too much—he had to find a better way.
After the second death, following their fourth run, Jerick had realized his selfishness. He had been forced to confront his own strange abilities, realizing that no matter how distasteful [REDACTED] was, he couldn’t justify ignoring it when men were dying. From that moment on, he had gone into battles [REDACTED]. Unfortunately, he had never been able to reproduce the extraordinary events of before, when he had destroyed the arrow. [REDACTED] It was almost as if a piece of him were holding back. He wasn’t certain what he had done that once, but he was beginning to feel that he would never be able to do it again.
Not that [REDACTED] wasn’t proving useful. “Don’t touch that one, Gathban,” Jerick warned.
Gathban, a squat, overweight Kaz’ch, looked up with surprise. He had been reaching to move a still-rotting corpse out of the way, trying to get to a glimmer of metal underneath.
Jerick looked at the body, [REDACTED]. He could sense small—but still intricate—[REDACTED] crawling across the corpse’s skin. He had seen the same things on the body of a man dying of the dark fever.
Not questioning, Gathban moved away from the body. Jerick quickly scanned the rest of the crack, but the other bodies had been dead long enough for their flesh to have rotted away, and he saw no signs of disease. Jerick followed Gathban, placing himself next to the larger man as they continued to search.
“Tell me about Kaz’ch, Rock,” he requested, using the man’s nickname—a tag he had earned half as a joke regarding his size, and half as a comment about his sheer toughness.
Gathban looked up for a moment, then shrugged a large shoulder. Jerick had never seen a Kaz’ch that wasn’t a little bit fat—like their Ke’Chan cousins, they were a large people, though they tended to be shorter. They carried their weight well, however; the bulk was spread around their entire bodies, instead of concentrated in the belly like it had been in King Rodis. Jerick knew from experience that beneath the flab was a set of muscles that could rival even the mightiest of soldiers.
“Honestly, sir, Kaz’ch is a pretty ordinary place. Our people used to be chariot warriors like the Ke’Chan but, well, they say we got too big for the horses to pull. Now most of us just farm or raise sheep.”
“And you’re related to the Ke’Chan?” Jerick asked, picking up a long-bladed sword that still looked usable.
Gathban smiled. “Partially, but they don’t like us much, sir. We’ve got as much Fallin and Rodain blood in our veins as we do Ke’Chan. I barely even know a handful of words in Ke’Chan—I was raised speaking Fallin, and that’s what I know.”
Jerick nodded. “Still they—”
“Sir!” a voice called from the other side of the cavern. “I found one.”
“Good,” Jerick called back. “Excuse me, Gathban.”
“Of course, sir.”
Jerick hurried over to where a small group of bridgemen stood around a particular corpse. It had long since lost its flesh, but the bones were draped with tattered remnants of clothing that had obviously not been human. The Sho Del wore armor that was made of hundreds of tiny steel rings, a method of construction that still baffled Yolish smiths, though he had heard the Tzends could duplicate it. The small rings rusted easily, leaving the metal unusable. The bones, however, were a different matter.
“Dente, you have that sack?” Jerick asked.
“Yes, sir,” the tall man replied, holding out a sack bearing a stalk of grain, which marked it as food supplies.
“Good, you know what to do.”
“Yes sir, Dent replied, reaching to put the skeleton in the sack. The first bone his hand fell on, however was a long, thin one that came to a point at both tips.
“Wait,” Jerick said, feeling a coldness about him. Though he was not looking [REDACTED], he could sense the pulses of energy coming from the bone. The Tamu Kek. “I’ve warned you about that bone, Dente. Leave it behind, but take the rest.”
“Yes, sir,” Dente said with a shrug.
As soon as they reached the top of the cliffside, Dente took on the slump-backed, customary posture of a bridgeman, then broke off from the rest of the group and slowly began to shuffle away. The sack of Sho Del bones rested plumply on his back. They had found several more Sho Del bodies during the hunt, and had harvested their skeletons as well.
Jerick watched the lanky Fallin wander away. His biggest fear was that someone would see Dente’s motions, and assume they were trying to take some of the scavengings for themselves. No cry arose, however, as the members of the Fourth Bridge made their way over to the collection station to unload their burdens. Though the semi-theft was starkly obvious to Jerick—Dente just wandered past the collection station, carrying a large and suspicious-looking sack—none of the regular soldiers even gave him a passing glance. It appeared that the assumptions about bridgemen could work for them as well as against them; since it was presumed that bridgemen were too dense to do much on their own, everyone just assumed Dente had orders to do what he was doing.
Jerick was so caught up in watching Dente that he completely missed what was happening on the other side of the collection station. When he heard the cry, however, he immediately realized his mistake. Young Kep had been pushed out of line by one of the weighing guards, and the boy lay huddled on the ground, cowering before the larger man.
“You call that a load?” the man demanded.
Jerick cursed quietly. They had given Kep an equal distribution of the gatherings, but no matter how much they brought back, it seemed that the weighing guards always found one bridgeman to pick on. Usually, it was one of the smaller ones.
Jerick dropped his own load, preparing to rush over and help. He slowed, however, as he realized someone else had beat him to it. Gathban stepped out of the line, tossing his bag of metal to the ground with a sharp crash. He stepped in front of Kep, planting his powerful legs on the ground and folding his arms. Another man, Kurt, joined him, followed by two more until the single guard found himself faced by four unyielding bridgemen. Jerick approached with a quiet step.
The guard’s face was shocked, as if he were seeing bridgemen for the first time—realizing that compared to these men, their muscles powerful from daily labors, their eyes hard and enduring, he was outmatched.
“Is there a problem here, soldier?” Jerick asked, joining the line of four men, folding his arms to imitate their stance. He made certain that the action raised the side of his shirt, revealing the glimmering Sho Del sword he had taken to wearing. He’d decided that they could try to take it from him if they wanted, but he would not be quelled. So far, no one had made any objections.
“Um, no,” the man mumbled.
“Good,” Jerick said. “Back into line, men.”
The men nodded, one of them turning to help Kep to his feet. Jerick laid a hand on Gathban’s arm as he passed. “Good job, Rock,” Jerick mumbled.
The large man smiled. “We’re the Fourth Bridge, sir. All of us.” With that comment, he picked up his sack and moved into line.
Gathban stirred the soup, adding spices from several pouches that rested on the ground beside the fire, and humming to himself a tune that Jerick didn’t recognize. It was amazing what the Kaz’ch could do with a few simple ingredients. It was probably a result of the slop he had been forced to eat for the last eight months, but Jerick thought Gathban’s soups tasted better than anything he had ever had in the King’s palace.
Men sat around the fire talking, a usual occurrence now in the Fourth Bridge. Jerick had long since run out of stories to tell them, but it didn’t matter. Sometimes he retold their favorites or even made up new ones, but mostly the men liked to just sit around and talk. For some reason, they didn’t seem as tired as they had before.
To augment their nightly sessions, Jerick had taken to spending half of his pay—two coppers now, because of his rank—on ingredients for Gathban’s soups. It wasn’t much, but it seemed to do a lot for filling the men’s stomachs.
“Where’d you learn to cook, Rock?” Jerick asked as one of the men accepted a bowl full of soup from the Kaz’ch.
“My Hami taught me,” Gathban replied, seating himself next to Jerick.
“Hami?” Jerick asked.
“My grandmother, sir. She was the best cook this side of the Atads. Could turn rocks and twigs into a feast not even a king could refuse. She said a boy who couldn’t cook wouldn’t be able to appreciate his wife.”
“Sounds like quite the woman,” Jerick noted.
“She was, sir,” Gathban said with a sigh, eating his own soup. “And she was right too.”
“Rock got a woman waiting him, sir,” Kurt said in broken Fallin—the accepted language of the fireside chats.
“And I hear she’s as big as he is, too,” another man, Vessin, snickered.
“Bigger,” Gathban huffed. “Not like these scrawny things you Fallins chase.”
The men laughed at the Kaz’ch’s indignation. “How long do you have now, Rock?” Dente asked, helping himself to some soup.
“I’m almost halfway there.”
Jerick raised an eyebrow.
“Rock’s Tez . . . Tech . . .” Dente stumbled on the foreign word.
“Tez’ch Del,” Gathban corrected. “It’s something like a Kalord over here.”
“Anyway,” Dente continued, “his chief won’t let him marry unless he can come up with three hundred coppers.”
“That seems a little extreme,” Jerick noted.
“It’s complicated, sir,” Gathban said. “I don’t much understand it myself. Roshel—that’s my girl—she belongs to a separate Tez’ch Del. I can only marry within my area, and so my Tez’ch Del has to buy her before the wedding can take place. He said if I came to the war and sent him the money, he’d do it.”
“You see,” Vessin said, scratching his short beard. “It’s much easier here. The women may be scrawny, but we don’t have to work so hard for them.”
“No, Vessin,” Kurt put in. “Instead of paying nobles, you just give money directly to girls.”
Vessin blushed as the men laughed.
“I’ll bet Hook has a girl,” Dente said, flopping down on the ground beside the fire. “How about it, sir? You probably have some gorgeous thing waiting for you.”
“She won’t be waiting long after she hears about that nose,” Vessin quipped.
Jerick smiled, setting aside his bowl aside. “I have a woman,” he admitted as the laughter died down. “Though I wouldn’t say she’s waiting for me. In fact, she’s engaged to someone else.”
“That’s why you came to the war?” Dente asked.
“That’s part of it,” Jerick said.
“Who was she?” Kurt asked, his Meleran accent showing through. He didn’t speak much of his past, though Jerick guessed he was a runaway servant of some sort.
“The daughter of the King,” Jerick said off-handedly.
There were several whoops of surprise at this. “Hook certainly knows how to set his sights high,” Vessin chuckled.
“Were you a nobleman?” Kep asked, his voice reserved.
“I was a lumberman,” Jerick said. “I’ve told you that before. However, I was raised in the palace.”
“A servant?” Vessin guessed.
“No,” Jerick corrected. “I was part of a bet. The King and one of the Kalords had a competition—they wanted to see if a peasant boy could be trained to learn as well as the son of a nobleman.”
“That was you?” Kurt asked with surprise, sitting up so quickly he dropped his bowl.
“Unfortunately,” Jerick admitted.
“How did it turn out?” Vessin asked, his thin face intrigued.
“Well,” Jerick said, leaning back to look up into the clear night sky. The stars looked different here in Fallamore; they were slightly off. “Let’s just say I got too accustomed to life in the palace. I started to think I was an aristocrat; I even assumed the princess would choose me over a member of the nobility. In the end, she didn’t, and I ended up here.”
“You didn’t win, then?” Kep asked with disappointment.
“Oh, I won,” Jerick said. “We never finished the bet, but my essays danced circles around those of the nobleman’s son.”
The night grew silent. Jerick looked up to find the bridgemen looking at him with solemn eyes.
“You can . . . read then, sir?” Gathban asked.
“Of course I . . .” Jerick paused. There was surprise in the men’s eyes, surprise he recognized. He had felt the same emotion the day he had realized that Martis was no better than the bully back in his home village. To these men, reading was a sign of nobility. They had been taught it was the divine right of the upper class. “Yes,” he said, “I can read. The King was right—peasants can learn to read. In fact, they can turn out just as learned as any nobleman.”
It was a heavy load for them to bear, and Jerick could see the uncertainty in their eyes. One comment, even from a man they respected so much, was hardly enough to battle an entire lifetime of contrary teaching.
Jerick smiled. “I’ll teach any of you who want to learn.”
They didn’t get an opportunity to make use of the Sho Del bones for another two weeks. They went on a number of runs, but each one proved to be easy and relatively safe, with no Sho Del shooting at them. The strain of luck only served to enhance the Fourth Bridge’s growing reputation. It was whispered throughout the camp that the crew that had once been the least lucky had been taken under the protection of Oren the White himself.
Eventually, however, the day came.
“I see them, sir,” Gathban said. “They’re waiting for us.”
“Well, our luck couldn’t have lasted forever,” Jerick said, taking a deep breath.
Gathban nodded. Ever since Jerick had named him as his second—a rank that wasn’t officially endorsed by the camp, but was considered law to the Fourth Bridge—the Kaz’ch had decided to take the place next to Jerick at the front of the bridge. It was his privilege as second, he claimed.
“Run!” Gaz yelled from behind. The Sho Del were lining up to fire.
“If this doesn’t work,” Jerick said under his breath, “carry my body back to camp when Gaz is finished with me.”
Gathban snorted. “You think we’d let him touch you?”
“All right, men!” Jerick yelled. “Let’s give this a try!”
Jerick let go of the bridge. Ducking to a running squat, he slowed slightly and let the bridge pass over him. There, tied to the bottom of the wooden structure, were four large rectangular shields, each one wrapped in cloth. He pulled them loose, then dashed back to the front of the bridge, handing one to Gathban and two others. They brought the shields up just as the arrows began to fly.
Jerick held up the large, cloth-covered shield. Shafts began to snap against its surface, but it held. “Let’s move!” Jerick cried. The men behind, rearranging slightly to compensate for the four missing bridgemen, broke into a dash. Jerick and his shield-bearers ran at the front, blocking the arrows.
“There, sir!” Gathban yelled nodding toward the quickly approaching plateau. One of the Sho Del archers, angry at Jerick’s ploy, was jumping across the chasm in front of them.
Jerick cursed—he hadn’t considered this. Yelling loudly, he dashed forward and rammed his shield into the surprised Sho Del. Then, without pausing, he dropped the bulky rectangle and whipped out his sword. The archer had barely recovered from the first blow when Jerick’s sword took him in the stomach.
White blood pulsed forth, and Jerick brought his foot up, kicking the Sho Del off the end of his blade, toppling the creature into the chasm, its dying black eyes utterly shocked. Jerick immediately rolled, dropping the weapon to recover his shield—and none too quickly. Three arrows cracked against its front just after he brought it up.
“Drop the bridge and move into place!” Jerick yelled.
The men complied, moving with practiced efficiently. Jerick jumped onto the bridge itself, holding his shield to protect the men pushing behind. He walked backward as the bridge slid across the chasm, careful not to let his weight topple it into the black gulf.
Jerick jumped off as the bridge fell into place. Men galloped across the structure, engaging the retreating archers beyond. Looking around quickly, Jerick offered a silent prayer to the Nine Lords. Had they been quick enough? His tension faded as his eyes found the other bridge crews. Several of them were just placing their bridges. The members of the Fourth hadn’t just kept up, they had moved even faster than their companions.
Jerick turned to confront what he knew would come next. Sure enough, Gaz could be seen trotting across the white-rocked plateau, his face dark.
“Where in the name of the Lords did you get those!” he demanded. “You’ve been stealing!”
Jerick reached out his hand as the Kaz’ch approached, pulling the cloth off the front of his shield, revealing the wall of white beneath.
Gaz stopped, looking at the collection of bones. It had taken most of the leather from the men’s vests to strap them all together, but the three-layer construction of bones had been worth the effort.
Gaz growled. “I’m not certain if I should beat you for insubordination or pure morbidity,” he said with a curse.
“They’re Sho Del bones, Gaz,” Jerick informed, setting the shield aside. “They’re much lighter than human bones, but they’re stronger as well. I once heard someone tell me that there was Dragonsteel in them. Last I looked, there is no rule forbidding us from using Sho Del bones.”
“You must have used camp time—time when you’re paid to be working—to gather them,” Gaz challenged.
“You could make that assumption,” Jerick said with a shrug. “However, if you check with the overseers, you’ll probably find that our crew has produced more metal while scavenging than any other. That makes a poor case for us being loafers.”
Gaz paused again, less certain. “I don’t have to answer to anyone,” he finally decided. “I could have you hung just for looking at me wrong.”
“That would be a bad idea,” Jerick said, holding out his hand. Gathban brought him another shield, and Jerick held it out toward the Kaz’ch sergeant.
“What’s that?” Gaz demanded.
“Your shield, Gaz,” Jerick informed. “We made five. My crew will carry them to and from the battlefield, all you have to do is come get it when you want a little extra protection. And,” Jerick said, nodding to the battlefield, which was littered with the bodies of dead and dying bridgemen, “I think only a fool would reject it. I’ve seen some arrows come pretty close to you Gaz, no matter how far back you try to hide. Sooner or later those Sho Del are going to realize you’re the one who gives the orders, then you’ll suddenly become their prime target.”
Gaz scratched his beard. The Kaz’ch had always disliked Jerick, but the first lesson a man learned in the Eternal War was that of self-preservation. All prejudices were cast aside when it came to survival. “All right,” Gaz finally decided.
“Not so quickly, Gaz,” Jerick said, handing the shield back to Gathban. “I’ll give you the shield, but you’re going to have to give me something in exchange.”
The Kaz’ch’s eyes grew suspicious. “What?” he demanded.
“Men,” Jerick said. “I want more men. The other bridge crews are constantly getting new recruits, but I haven’t gotten anyone new in months.”
“You never lose any men,” Gaz protested. “The last time one died was a month ago, and I sent you a replacement.”
“Nonetheless, I want a few more. It’s only fair.”
“It only takes twenty men to carry a bridge,” Gaz said. “What would you do with them?”
“That is my business. I am, after all, the bridgeleader.”
Gaz ground his teeth, his face growing indignant.
“Look, Gaz,” Jerick said, stepping forward, and looking down at the man’s eyes. He only remarked briefly on the fact that eight months ago, when he had arrived at the war, he had been forced to look up to meet Gaz’s eyes. “If you’ll apply your brain to it, you’ll realize more men for me is a good thing for you. Don’t tell me you haven’t received reports telling you that our crew is becoming more productive than any other in the camp. We scavenge better, we build better bridges, and we even clean latrines faster. I’ll bet our success has brought you praise.”
Gaz looked up. He suddenly looked very tiny—had Jerick ever considered this man large and frightening?
“If I have more men, we’ll work even better. No one will realize I have a few extra bodies—in fact, it will just look normal, because we’ll be receiving replacements just like the other crews. You’ll be praised, I get what I want, and we both are safe from Sho Del arrows.”
Gaz took a step backward. “I’ll think about it,” he mumbled.
“You’ll do it,” Jerick replied.
Gaz paused. Jerick could see the battle going on his mind—this was the crucial moment. Either Gaz would get enraged at Jerick’s question of his authority, and Jerick would probably end up disappearing from the camp one night in an unexplained ‘accident,’ or the Kaz’ch would take the offer and say nothing to his superiors. It was pride versus self-preservation.
“All right,” the man finally agreed, grinding his teeth. As much as he wanted to see Jerick punished, the prospect of being shielded during battle was more enticing. “But just be glad I didn’t beat you seriously for today’s stunt.” With that rather pathetic attempt at saving face, the Kaz’ch retreated to begin yelling at another crew.
Jerick turned to find Gathban’s smiling face, and beyond him a group of quiet, and respectful, bridgemen. Not a single one had been injured in the approach. Kep walked up to him slowly, holding out the discarded Sho Del sword. Jerick accepted the blade, and slid it back into his sheath.
“We’re Bridge Four,” he said simply, and the men let out a cheer.
Jerick sat contemplatively as he watched the battle proceed, thinking about his easy victory over Gaz and the success of his shields. He had found a way to get his men to a defended plateau safely, but he was still worried.
“You look troubled, sir,” Gathban noted, sitting next to him.
“It isn’t enough, Rock,” Jerick confided. The Fourth Bridge lounged around them, congratulating themselves on their victory.
“What do you mean, sir? I’m just a simple man, but it looks like we won to me.”
Jerick shook his head. “What if a couple more Sho Del decided to attack us like that archer did?” he asked. “They’ll realize that this change in bridgeman techniques is dangerous, and they’ll try to squash it quickly. Next time we might find ourselves facing an entire squad of warriors.”
Gathban shrugged. “I don’t see what we can do about it, sir.”
Suddenly, Jerick’s eyes fell on the short sword at Gathban’s waist. “Rock, have you ever even drawn that thing?”
The Kaz’ch looked down. “This?” he asked, pulling the diminutive blade out of its sheath. In his massive hand it looked even smaller. “It never seemed to be of much use to me.”
“I think we underestimate the usefulness of those swords, Rock,” Jerick mused. “If we knew how to use them . . . That’s what we need to do! We need to train ourselves to fight.”
“But when?” Gathban returned. “At night?”
Jerick shook his head too slowly. “No, that time is too important. The men need a chance to relax.” Then, he looked around him, realization striking. “We do it now, Rock.”
“Now, in the middle of runs. We just sit here, watching the battle. We should be preparing, training ourselves. These runs take hours.” Jerick smiled to himself. “That’s the answer, Rock. It’s the time we need.”
The Kaz’ch nodded slightly, agreement in his eyes. “Today?” he asked.
“No,” Jerick decided. “Let the men celebrate first. We’ll start next time; I know some basic fencing techniques, and the men are already in shape. If we can teach them to hold together in a fight, and not scatter, we’ll probably have all the edge we need. . . .”
Jerick trailed off. Something was wrong—very wrong. He stood suddenly, his body tense and alert. It was coming from the center of the fighting plateau. Something very powerful, like he had never felt before.
“Sir?” Gathban asked with concern.
Jerick scanned the conflict. The Sho Del had pulled back momentarily, regrouping before they tried one last time to take the well from Ske company. There were the usual horrors and floating monsters, which gave off a slight pulsing chill, but Jerick was used to that. This was something much more powerful.
“There,” he said out loud without realizing it, pointing at the back of the Sho Del group. A new arrival had joined their ranks.
Jerick could distinguish little from such a distance. It wore armor—full body armor like the Tzend warrior that had come to the palace back in Melerand—but it wasn’t silver like steel, it was a dull grayish black. On its head was a wicked helmet that pointed down in a ‘V’ shape, with twin, knife-like protrusions at the top, like spiked ears.
“It’s the Lord of War,” Gathban breathed, rising beside him. “I’ve never seen him before.”
Jerick nodded slowly. He had heard stories, but never seen the creature for himself. The Lord of the War, they called it, leader of the Sho Del forces. It was supposed to be a wicked monster, a horror even the illusions couldn’t match. Looking at his armor, Jerick could believe the stories true.
In a moment of curiosity, he [REDACTED]. The creature’s armor was nothing more than painted steel—not Dragonsteel. Jerick couldn’t be certain the creature itself wasn’t an illusion—he had tried looking at illusions [REDACTED], but they looked the same as anything else, [REDACTED]. The illusions were detailed enough to fool even his abilities.
Jerick switched back to regular vision as the Sho Del attacked again. The strange warrior rode at their front, astride one of the reptilian jumping beasts that had become increasingly common over the last few months. The Lord of the War slammed into the human ranks, laying about him with an enormous weapon that was some cross between a sword and an axe—a construction that was short in length but at least four handspans thick and covered with wicked barbs and spikes. Jerick didn’t need [REDACTED] to know the blade was forged of Dragonsteel—its edge sheared through men’s armor like an oar through water, splitting soldiers completely in half with nearly every swing. Within a few minutes, the battle was over, the men retreating across their bridges.
As they left, the monster reined its beast in and paused, looking at his fleeing opponents. His face seemed to pause on Jerick, staring at him, though no eyes were visible beneath the dark helm.
“Come on,” Jerick said distractedly, his eyes still focused on the Lord of the War. “Stow those shields. Let’s get moving.”