Jeff Wheeler – Livestream Interview – This Friday!
 

Jeff Wheeler

Livestream Interview - Friday!

 
Fantasy-Faction Turns 10! Help Us Spread the Love of Reading!
 

Help Us Spread the Love of Reading!

Fantasy-Faction Turns 10!

 
The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
 

The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Review

 

Selleuk’s Bridge: A Short Story by Nathan Hawke

Nathan HawkeGallow – Truesword, Griefbringer and trouble for anyone who crosses him – is a brand new fantasy ‘hero’ from author Nathan Hawke. The first book in his new Gallow series, The Crimson Shield, released in July. The second book, Cold Redemption, followed in the beginning of August. But what is the Gallow series?

I have been Truesword to my friends, Griefbringer to my enemies. To most of you I am just another Northlander bastard here to take your women and drink your mead, but to those who know me, my name is Gallow. I fought for my king for seven long years. I have served lords and held my shield beside common men. I have fled in defeat and I have tasted victory and I will tell you which is sweeter. Despise me then, for I have slain more of your kin than I can count, though I remember every single face.

For my king I will travel to the end of the world. I will find the fabled Crimson Shield so that his legions may carry it to battle, and when Sword and Shield must finally clash, there you will find me. I will not make pacts with devils or bargains with demons for I do not believe in such things, and yet I will see them all around me, in men and in their deeds. Remember me then, for I will not suffer such monsters to live.

Even if they are the ones I serve.

Sound interesting? Well, we’ve been lucky enough to be given a short story set in the world of Gallow! So without further ado, please enjoy the story of “Selleuk’s Bridge”.

“Selleuk’s Bridge”

Thanni Ironfoot poked a stick in the fire and tried not to hear what the two Lhosir beside him were saying about the nioingr who’d sided with the Marroc up in Varyxhun castle. Taking the damned place was going to be bloody enough without having to think about whether he was on the right side of the fight.

“Bloody nioingr.” They were laughing. And they were right that the Foxbeard was a traitor to his king. A traitor to himself, though?

“Probably turn and run and hide behind his Marroc friends,” scoffed the other.

Ironfoot let out a little snort. Hadn’t meant to, but the other two Lhosir fell quiet at once. When they didn’t speak, Ironfoot sighed. “You’ve heard of the Foxbeard then. What about Selleuk’s Bridge?”

The silence grew as thick as winter snow. Of course they had. Every Lhosir born had heard of Selleuk’s Bridge.

“What about Tolvis Loudmouth? Another nioingr to you, but Loudmouth and the Foxbeard were both at Selleuk’s Bridge with the Screambreaker that day and so was I. Do you want to hear the story of the Screambreaker’s one defeat?”

“The Foxbeard betrayed him,” murmured one of the younger Lhosir.

Ironfoot chuckled and shook his head. “Whoever told you that rubbish is an idiot. Selleuk’s Bridge. Well, there are three great rivers in the land of the Marroc and you’ve probably heard as much. The Rathsmar in the west which is their heart. The Beorth which was where the old kingdom came to an end and was as far as the Aulians ever reached. The mighty Isset beside us whose waters are spanned at Andhun and Issetbridge and nowhere in between.

“Most men suppose that Selleuk’s Bridge must once have crossed one of these three rivers, but I’ll tell you this: Selleuk’s Bridge is no great bridge at all. Most likely it’s still there. Go and see it for yourself when we’re done here if you like. Yes, go and see how unremarkable it is.”

He chuckled again and shrugged. “We’d taken Tyrhun. The Screambreaker had kept us from pillaging and everyone was in a surly mood. Bands of men vanished for days at a time, off into the countryside looking for some sport. The Screambreaker forbade it but even he couldn’t keep a check on everyone and the likes of Jyrdas One-Eye told him to his face to stuff it and then went and did as they pleased.

“He sent men who were supposed to be scouts roaming across the river but I’d say the truth of it was more likely that they found themselves a quiet Marroc farmstead or two, put the men to the sword and the women as well once they were done and then drank themselves stupid on Marroc beer. Often as not they came back slack-faced and red-eyed, saying they’d seen no sign of any Marroc. Didn’t even wipe all the blood off their axe-heads, some of them, and that’s how we didn’t see Neveric coming.

“Mind you, none of us thought they had another army in them after the beating we gave Yarric and then the fall of Sithhun and Tyrhun, not even the Screambreaker, but maybe Neveric the Black of Kelfhun just saw a conveniently tottering throne and us standing in his way.”

Ironfoot sniffed and spat into the flames. “There were three thousand of us marched into Tyrhun with the Screambreaker but we didn’t leave all at once. Lanjis Halfborn went ahead with four hundred. Jyrdas One-Eye? I don’t think we even saw him and his five hundred until after it was all done. Others missing here and there or wandering, so there weren’t much more than a thousand of us marching with the Screambreaker when we came to the bridge, and we were all stretched out, hours apart.

“I was in the vanguard and so was Loudmouth and so was the Foxbeard, though they both had different names back then. We could hear the sounds of fighting even as we crossed the bridge, coming from the trees not far at all across the other side.

“Like I said, it’s a piddly little bridge. Carts have to cross it one at a time and it’s barely two spear-lengths from one end to the other, but the river underneath was running fast and the banks were steep and muddy and maybe it was deep enough and strong enough to sweep a man away and maybe not, but none of us were keen to find out.”

He sighed and took a deep swig of mead from his horn. “We were hardly touching our feet to the other side when Lanjis Halfborn came running full-pelt straight at us and then a score more of his men and not a spear between them. They were barely out of the trees when the Marroc burst out after them.

“I saw dozens more good Lhosir men surrounded and cut down before they could break free. Halfborn had even lost his axe. And the Marroc, they just kept coming, more and more of them out of the trees. They stopped when they saw us and they formed up with their shields in a wall, a thousand of them and fifty of us and the Screambreaker still half a mile behind.

“We fell back to the bridge sharp enough and set to make our stand. The nioingr Loudmouth was there and Garran Fleetfoot and Galdun Surespear. Names you ought to know, every one of you. The Foxbeard was in the rank behind me and Halfborn snatched a spear and an axe off some young-blood too slow to stop him and sent him running off, made his stand beside us.

“We had no idea what we were facing and I don’t think most of us cared. All we had to do was hold on for the Screambreaker to come. Couldn’t be all that long. We formed up eight men across and six ranks deep and we locked our shields and lifted our spears and waited for the Marroc to come at us, and come they did.

“Fifty against ten thousand, and we held that bridge until our arms burned like molten lead and our skin was slick with Marroc blood and one by one we fell. Folgus Redbeard went first, then Sharptongue and Fasthand and still we stood firm. I don’t know how long. It felt like half a day, though I know perfectly well it was far less. The Foxbeard fought beside me for a good part, after Fasthand fell, and the nioingr Loudmouth screamed so loud at the Marroc as he killed them that he earned his name that day.”

Thanni Ironfoot shook his head and swigged at his horn again. “The Screambreaker didn’t come. We must have killed a hundred Marroc and given up half the bridge when the rest of them had enough of waiting. They started across the river, slipping and falling down the bank and sliding into water that turned out not to be deep enough to drown them after all.

“Halfborn called it. It was a hard thing, giving up that bridge and I tell you he didn’t much like it but he was never a fool either. There wasn’t a thing we could do about it. They’d come around behind us and most of them would pass us by and we’d hold that bridge for as long as we could but sooner or later they’d wear us down, and if we killed a dozen Marroc or a hundred or even a thousand, it wouldn’t make any difference.”

Ironfoot got up and stretched, then looked up the winding mountain road to the castle where the Foxbeard was waiting for them. “Loudmouth got his name from that day on the bridge with all his roaring and Fleetfoot almost lost his because Lanjis Halfborn and I had to grab hold of his arms to pull him away. If they’d pressed us, they’d have taken him, but they were happy enough to let us go. And do you know why?”

The Crimson Shield (cover)He chuckled. “But how could you? It was the Foxbeard and how he fought. He murdered them, one after the next, every one that came at him. Twice as many as any of the rest of us. The Screambreaker himself named him after that. Truesword. He was the most terrible thing you can imagine.”

He spat into the flames. “So there you have it. Selleuk’s Bridge. We lost a few hundred and the Marroc lost maybe the same and the Screambreaker turned back to Tyrhun and it was four years before he came back, and Tane had a chance to prop up his throne a while longer before we sent him packing to Varyxhun.”

Ironfoot stared up at the fortress. Varyxhun. He’d been here before, and the Foxbeard had been here too. “I saw the Foxbeard often over the years after that. He marched with the Screambreaker and he was always a bloody killer, right up beside the terror Jyrdas One-Eye. Well now, I’ve seen him a couple of times since we came back across the sea as well, and it’s true enough that he’s changed, but not in the way people say. He’s more measured now than he was then and not one bit less dangerous. Not to us, anyway. Run and hide behind his Marroc friends? You might pray for it, I suppose.”

Nathan Hawke is the pseudonym of author Stephen Deas. The first two books in his Gallow series, The Crimson Shield and Cold Redemption, are out now. The third book, The Last Bastion, is due out September 12th. You can learn more about this series on his website or follow him on Twitter.

Share

Leave a Comment