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The Ogre Wars – Jess M.
Kadryn surveyed the carnage of the battlefield. Nothing could prepare him for the gruesome scene, though it was a familiar sight what with the war against the Ogres already three months in. More men than he dared to count lay in the bloodstained grass, either dead or soon to be.
Turning from the field brought no relief. The images were seared into his mind. He made his way back to his tent, weaving between the campfires, tents and bedrolls of his men and calling out greetings. The men knew the danger they faced, yet they continued to fight. Whether it was a testament to their loyalty to the crown or because they refused to allow the Ogres to win, he couldn’t tell, but whatever the reason, Kadryn was thankful.
By the time he reached his tent, Kadryn was exhausted, but not in the physical sense. Having to talk to his men knowing that most of them would die weighed on him. The fact that he now knew a lot of the men personally made it even worse. War had a way of bringing people together, only to have them ripped apart by the death that loomed over everyone’s head. It was an undeniable fact that the man one had been talking to the night before was likely to end up dead the next day. The acknowledgement of this led to a dampening of spirits that refused to be lifted.
And the truth of the matter was, they were losing. Badly. For every Ogre that fell, hundreds of Kadryn’s men fell with it. The Ogres were practically unbeatable. The only reason that the Ogres hadn’t won yet was because men kept joining the army. But if things continued the way they did, soon there would no longer be any men left to join.
Kadryn’s page met him inside his tent.
“The Ogre Slayer has been delayed.”
Kadryn sighed. “Again?” He had contacted the Ogre Slayer when the war began and there was still no sign of him three months later.
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“What was the reasoning this time?”
Kadryn turned to face the page. “My father?”
“I was notified that he was on his way here when he met the Ogre Slayer on the road. He insisted that the Slayer join him.”
“You jest.” Why would his father be traveling to the battlefield? He had made it sound as if Kadryn would be on his own, that his family was entrusting the war to him. His father coming didn’t make sense.
“No, Your Highness. A messenger came while you were out with the men and departed after delivering the news.”
“There was no note?”
“No. Only word of mouth.”
Kadryn went and sat on one of the cushions that littered the ground. “Peculiar that he sent a message that way.”
“It is likely that he did not want the missive intercepted.”
“Maybe so, but one would think that he would not let a messenger run around with that kind of information. You are sure that the man was one of the king’s?”
“For the sake of being blunt, Your Highness, yes, I am certain that it was.”
Kadryn stood. “Very well. Did the messenger also say when they would arrive?”
“You may go.”
The page bowed before leaving the tent.
Kadryn rubbed the back of his neck. There was really only one reason that he could think of as to why his father would come: fear of failure. If Kadryn failed, there would be no stopping the Ogres. They had already captured one kingdom on the island. If they were to succeed here, they would control the whole thing and from there they would expand on to other islands. Who knew how far they would be able to get.
The sound of someone clearing their throat pulled him from his thoughts. Apparently his page had returned.
There was no answer.
He turned and reached for a sword that wasn’t there.
A hooded figure stood facing him, their face shadowed. They jerked their head to the entrance of the tent before stepping into a dark corner, fading into the places where the light didn’t reach.
He opened his mouth to call for someone when the tent flap moved aside and his father and two of his brothers crowded inside. Kadryn hadn’t wanted a bigger tent until that moment.
“What are you doing here?” he blurted out.
King Rieve frowned. “Is that any way to greet us?”
“My apologies. Hello, Father. Narsis. Maverick.” He nodded to each in turn. “What are you doing here?”
A snorted laugh came from the corner and Kadryn was reminded of the figure’s presence. For a second he wasn’t sure which he was more worried about: the figure who very well might be there to kill them all or his family.
He focused on the figure. “And who are you?”
“That, Kadryn,” his father interjected, “is the Ogre Slayer.”
Kadryn glanced between the figure he could barely see and his family. “You are the Ogre Slayer.”
He saw one of the shadows nod. “And why are you hiding?”
“Not hiding. I believe ‘biding my time’ would be more appropriate.”
Kadryn took a startled step backwards. “You are a girl.”
“Will that be a problem?”
He opened his mouth to answer and Father held up a hand, cutting him off.
“Now is not the time.” Father turned to the supposed Ogre Slayer. “Leave us.”
Kadryn was almost positive he could feel the hate rolling off of the girl as she quit the tent. Okay, so the dismissal was a little harsh, but Kadryn didn’t think that it garnered that much hatred. What had Father done?
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