Empire of Bones
there must be at least fifty. They wouldn’t all be in the open like that,” Bahr grunted. Fifty was a very large number. His best ally was the current. The barge would only move as fast as the river let it, giving them too much time in the kill box. He looked at Anienam and said, “I don’t suppose you have any spells that can speed us right along?”
    “Unfortunately no,” the wizard replied. “Our best option is to keep our heads down and hope for the best.”
    “I’ve never been the sort to rely on hope,” Bahr told him. “Groge, when I give the word I want you to blow on that horn of yours.”
    “Yes, Captain,” the Giant said.
    Satisfied that there was nothing else he could do, Bahr piloted the barge into the ambush.

     
     
     
FIVE
    Ambush
    “They’re not sure what’s going on,” Bahr said as the barge continued through the bend.
    Anienam agreed. “They expected to have torches lit and their captain delivering us without our knowledge. Running dark was a good idea, Bahr.”
    “For the moment. It won’t be long before they decide something’s not right. We’re nowhere near out of this yet.”
    As if on cue, a single arrow sped from the trees to strike the wheelhouse. Torches burst to life along the banks. The river Men popped up, weapons in hand. Bahr grimaced tightly. All of the river Men he could see were armed with sword and bows. That’s a lot of arrows. Heads down might not be good enough . “Groge, now!”
    The Giant smith put the horn to his lips and gave a mighty blow. The sound was deep, thunderous. It swept across the hills and fields, trembling the very earth. Men dropped their weapons to cover their ears before the pressure burst their eardrums. Bahr shied away. Even behind Groge the sound was incredible. The Giant gave another blow, followed closely by another. A scattering of arrows sailed back in response.
    Rekka Jel was the first to respond. Her aim was true. The dark shaft took the river Man in the middle of the chest. He dropped into the water. Incoming fire from the shores picked up. Dozens of arrows now peppered the barge’s hull. The battle began in earnest. Dorl and Rekka fired opportunistic shots, only doing so when they had clearly defined targets. Enemy fire increased as the bend grew tighter. Soon Bahr would have to be extraordinarily adept at maneuvering the barge or they’d run aground. Then the fun would really begin.
    “This is nuts,” Dorl snapped under his breath as he released another arrow.
    Nothol, stationed a few meters away, agreed. “We’ve been in worse. Keep your trap shut and keep up your fire.”
    Dorl checked his quiver. He had less than twenty shots left. Not much considering the enemy had seemingly endless amounts of arrows to draw from. He privately wondered how much longer they were going to last before the decision was forced.
    “Fire! They’ve got fire arrows!”
    Dorl wasn’t sure who shouted out but his heart sunk, just like the barge if enough of those arrows took hold.
     
     
     
    Bahr resisted the urge to kick the cackling river captain in the face. Instead he watched, helpless, as dozens of flaming arrows struck the barge. Maleela and Skuld raced to put the flames out. He knew it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened and they’d be forced to abandon ship. Images of the Dragon’s Bane burning taunted him. He vowed not to lose another boat, at least if he could help it.
    “I told you! You’ll never escape us,” the river captain snarled, having slipped the gag down to his neck. Wild delight danced in his eyes. “I’ll see to it you die last, Sea Wolf. You’ll watch every one of your companions die painfully first.”
    “I thought I told you to gag him?” Bahr snapped at Anienam.
    The wizard frowned, only now realizing what had happened. A handful of arrows struck the wheelhouse. Sparks and flame dripped onto the deck.
    “Can’t you do something? We’re going to burn to the water soon!” Bahr shouted

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