Blood and War

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Chapter 62 - Shock

Was there no end to this day? Catherine wondered as her sword arm tired. The strain of lifting the beautifully crafted blade with its silver and gold pommel, its white leather grip and gleaming blade, already partially obscured by blood and gore, became a chore.

It was rather humiliating to admit, but Aldrich was right, she was too tired. She should have taken a few hours to rest. It was her rage that drove her out here.

The fury that a snake like Hellenic should be alive and Dillon, a man of honor, respect, and dignity, should be dead.

Fate was not fair. Life was not fair, but that is a lesson she knew well. One Catherine was taught over and over again. In the end, though, it always managed to catch you off guard. Fickle fate, waiting for just the right moment to throw you a sucker punch.

She grimaced. She knew she was not entirely fair, but then again, she was in no mood to be fair. She needed her anger, grief, and grievance.

Without it, she would not have the strength to continue. She needed to continue for the sake of her unborn child, the people who loved her and whom she learned to love.

Her father would call them a weakness, a hindrance, but without them, she would be nothing. An empty shell, devoid of purpose.

These people taught her a lesson that more than a fifty years among her own kind never managed to impart, just being, wasn’t enough.

Existing wasn’t living, it was just another kind of death.... Even if it hurt, even if the pain tore her apart, she would not give up one second of her time with Dillon to go back to who she was before.

That Catherine, the cold, controlled vampire that fought at her father’s side, hosted his parties and played princess, that woman hadn’t been alive. She was asleep, waiting for someone to tear her from that slumber and teach her to live.

Catherine knew they all thought that she was crazy with her grief and that she fought just to avenge her dead husband, but that wasn’t all there was to it.

She fought so that others would not have to feel the pain she felt when Dillon died. No mother, no wife, no lover, no sister, brother or father, should have to feel that tearing pain... and yes, she hated these murderers. If Catherine could, she would kill every last one of them.

Yes, they too had family, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, but they were not the people they once were. It was as if they were all under some kind of spell or something, there was no sample of humanity left in them.

They were merciless and cruel to a fault, it was almost eerie at times. No, they would kill their own parents to reach their goals, and therefore she felt no pity for them, only cold, bloodcurdling, hatred...

Some small sound drew her attention and just then a noise like a ship running aground on the rocks was followed by a whistling whine.

The very earth exploded less than a hundred feet away and with it several Easterners and one of their dreaded chariots, which they were in the process of putting back on its wheels.

The battlefield stilled for all of twenty heartbeats as they all stared around in confusion. Again that sound she had heard before, was followed by a whining noise and this time it hit the ground right in the path of an attacking barrage of Eastern horsemen.

The ground seemed to explode, the horses screamed as bits of rock and shards of something sharp, ripped through them. The whole attack ended up being a jumble of dying, injured animals and men. The horses kicked and screamed, killing more than one rider.

This time Catherine had a better idea of the direction of the sound and less than half a league away, there were several wooden contraptions.

She recognized them from drawings and sieges in the past. They were catapults as was used to attack castles, but they were ten times the size of any trebuchet she ever saw, and whatever they were loaded with, it was not rocks.

Catherine ignored them as she spurred her men on. Whoever was firing was on their side, and the Easterners were scattering from their attack groups.

She whistled loudly as a group of Easterners ran into firing range of her archers and arrows crowded into the air, shrieking as they flew and then dropped down with deadly force.

The ground felt as if it were shaking under her feet, but Catherine had no time to even glance in the direction of the sound. She and her men ran into a group of enemies that hadn’t scattered.

They were outnumbered four to one, and they had to work hard just to stay alive. Catherine knew she was bleeding from several shallow cuts by the time the thunder seem to come upon them, but even as her flashing sword cut into the last of her own enemies, she ran to help Derrick.

An enemy had stabbed him with the broken shaft of an arrow just below his hip bone, and he struggled. She made it to his side, and he cast her a grateful glance.

Catherine caught him under his arm and almost immediately Priest and Gillian were there to take him away.

Gillian had changed so much, it was almost incomprehensible. Gone was the waif, gone the feral being and any of the men would trust her with his life. Their eyes met briefly, and Gillian smiled.

“Don’t worry mom, I won’t eat him,” she baited, and Catherine caught herself almost smirking. She suspected that Gillian had a slight crush on Derrick and she had no time to worry about that now.

Catherine turned, and this time the thunder became a cloud of dust so thick that you could not see through it. It was almost upon them.

Catherine caught the blade of an enemy on the pommel of her sword, casually deflected it aside and reversed his blow with such power that his own sword cut almost two inches into his brain. She didn’t even notice the surprised look on his face as he fell down dead.

She felt an itch at her nape and heard a whistling whine. She caught the first arrow with a frown, the second came so close that she had to bat it away with her sword. Something appeared from the cloud, and it was the most fabulous chariot Catherine ever saw.

She had no time to think as he swerved toward her, the sun was directly behind him and then his hand appeared as more arrows hit the ground around her. Just as her hand caught onto his, she looked up and almost hesitated.

He pulled her so hard that she stumbled onto the chariot and then she had to hold on for dear life as he veered away from the fight and deposited her at a safe distance. Without a word, he was gone again, and she could barely think or breathe.

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