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Excerpt from Raider’s Curse

Jonmarc hurried to do as he was bid as Anselm banked the fire. The two swords caught Jonmarc’s eye as he was setting tools back in their proper place, and he ran a finger down the smooth, cold flat of one of the blades.

“They’re both beauties, if I say so myself,” Anselm murmured, standing behind him. “Some of my best work, I think.”

“I want to learn to forge swords like these,” Jonmarc said.

“Keep at it, and you will,” Anselm replied. “Go on, pick one up, but mind you don’t swing it around. It’s been sharpened.”

Jonmarc grasped one of the broadswords and let his hand close around the grip. He lifted it, marveling at how well-balanced it felt. He turned it so that the firelight glinted off the blade, and he caught a glimpse of his own distorted reflection in the polished steel. He extended his arm, pointing the blade.

“No, no. Not like that.” Anselm stepped closer. “Put your feet so,” he said, kicking at Jonmarc’s heels until he adjusted his stance, “and hold your arm thus,” he added, reaching around Jonmarc’s shoulder to position his arm. “There. That’s how to hold a sword.”

Jonmarc stared at the glittering steel. “You learned in the army, didn’t you?”

Anselm gave a heavy sigh. “Aye. And I like forging swords more than fighting with them, to be damn sure. War’s a business for fools and madmen.”

Jonmarc let his arm fall and returned the sword to the table. “All I get to make are barrel hoops, shovels and bridles.”

“They’re good, honest pieces,” Anselm said, and his large, heavy bear-paw of a hand clapped Jonmarc on the shoulder. “No shame in that. If we didn’t need the money, I’d just as soon turn down orders for swords.”

“Why?”

Anselm did not answer right away. His left hand rested on the grip of the nearest sword and his expression grew far away. There was a haunted look in his father’s eyes that Jonmarc had rarely glimpsed before. “I wonder, sometimes, how the Lady sees it,” he murmured. “All the blood that sword will spill, and mine the hand that forged it. Will it count against me, I wonder, when the Crone reckons my fate?” He shook himself, as if to change his mood.

“No more of that,” he huffed, turning away. “We’re done here for tonight. Let’s go eat.” He headed for the path, but Jonmarc cast a last glance at the swords, still thinking about his father’s words.

Late that night, screams broke the midnight silence. Jonmarc roused from his uneasy sleep to see Neil sitting up in bed, his hand closed around the boning knife.