Home > Most Popular > The Witch Collector (Witch Walker #1)

The Witch Collector (Witch Walker #1)
Author:Charissa Weaks

So much fire.

The Eastlander doubles back, his silver eyes focused. He’s important—one of the four leaders. Modest armor covers his shoulders and chest, and his horse is barded, the red and gold flag of his land hanging beneath his saddle. I shake off my daze and charge toward him, cutting down any enemy I can manage along the way.

He exchanges his short blade for a sword and, when we meet, slashes it in my direction. I block his attack, but the hilt of my blade turns in my hand. Still, I land a hard blow with the flat of my sword where I know he’ll feel it.

The back of his head.

He jerks forward and falls from his horse. I should dismount and kill him, but there isn’t time, and he’ll be trampled soon enough.

I spin Mannus around, only to come face to face with another Eastlander—a red-haired beast of a man who stares at me so pointedly that I almost feel a hint of familiarity. His sword is raised, but the blade bears no blood. Yet.

My pulse pumps in my veins. I’m certain we’re about to clash, that I’ll be his first attack, yet the warrior does something most unexpected.

He turns and rides away.

I start to drive my heels into Mannus’s sides so I can take the man from behind, but the peoples’ cries for help swallow my attention. We’re so outnumbered. Villagers of all kinds fight, and Witch Walkers sing, but I fear it’s too late to turn the situation in our favor.

In the chaos, the woman from earlier tries to enter the shelter of a small cottage. She shields her little boy all the while, but two Eastlanders trap them. I point Mannus in that direction.

We race through the crowds, and I slash my sword across the first warrior’s neck. Blood splatters and his head topples, kicked away by a fleeing elder. The second Eastlander falls just as quickly, only because the elder finds his bravery and runs the enemy through with a blade.

Fearful that she won’t accept, I reach for the woman. She hesitates a single second, then grabs hold of my forearm. I don’t know what I mean to do with them, but I lift her and the boy onto my horse and nestle them in front of me. I cannot leave them in this disaster.

The elder seizes my wrist and points to the east. “My lord! You must warn the others. You must!”

“I’m not leaving you! It would be better to die here than to abandon the innocent.”

“You are abandoning two thousand more if you do not go! Now!” He chants magick into Mannus’s ear and smacks the animal’s hindquarters. The stallion flees the village at a rapid pace, ignoring my commands to turn back. The elder controls Mannus now.

The wind rips angry tears from my eyes, and devastation crashes through me. Once such a comfort to me, Hampstead Loch is being destroyed to ash—its people with it—while I head toward Penrith, carrying a weeping mother and child in my arms. Have I saved them? Or only extended their execution?

As Mannus storms across the vale, I grow cold with knowing.

This is the rumored attack. This is why Colden couldn’t look away from the fire.

I’m in his nightmare.

The Eastlanders did come, and they will not stop until they reach Winterhold.

Hampstead Loch and Penrith’s watchtowers are empty because it’s Collecting Day. I’m sure that every watchtower across the valley sits unoccupied.

When I arrive in Penrith, I send a young messenger to the other villages in warning, along with a herd of women and children, including the mother and child from Hampstead Loch. They’re guided by a group of guardians to see them safely to Littledenn.

One group of Witch Walkers still patrols the forest’s edge, singing magick, attempting to keep the barrier strong, but I command another group to form a protection around the village. Because of this, Penrith is prepared, though barely, when the Eastlanders breach the boundaries of their lands.

It’s not enough.

The Eastlanders’ arrows—and their ruinous crows—penetrate the Witch Walkers’ veil of magick like it isn’t even there. The people, at the sides of their wardens, must fight.

It’s a valiant effort, one that cuts the enemy’s numbers, and for a short time, I have faith that we might survive. But soon, I’m riding with a band of villagers toward Littledenn—Eastlanders and that flying flock of death on our heels, Penrith burning in our wake.

Mannus’s strides eat the ground, and I glance over my shoulder. Dusk has fallen to full dark now, but the sky behind us glows, the horizon aflame. The Eastlanders’ torches are everywhere, scattered across the valley, chasing us like a raging fire through a dry field.

Some drift north toward the wood, a thought that sends a chill down my back. The Witch Walkers manning the barrier are about to be slaughtered. Frostwater Wood will be left vulnerable.

And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

With a racing heart, fury lights my blood, and I tighten my grip on the reins. Go or stay. Colden and Winterhold? Or the innocent people of the vale?

I mutter a prayer to the Ancient Ones, hoping with every fiber of my being that Nephele and the others have done as Colden asked, and that it’s enough to prevent the Eastlanders from breaching the wood. I must believe they have. I know their power and determination. I know their hearts.

And I know their magick.

Littledenn is ready when we arrive. Its children, along with those from Penrith and Hampstead Loch, have been hidden in the village’s root cellar. However, my messenger from Penrith and a stray Eastlander lie dead in the middle of the village green.

I grab the hood of a passing elder. “Did you send someone to warn Silver Hollow?”

He pales as awareness strikes him all at once. “We didn’t, my lord. We…” He scrubs his face, tears falling. “We were too overtaken. We had so much to do. We failed them!”

It’s too late to send anyone now, because the second I look away from him, Eastlanders descend.

Littledenn’s numbers are small in comparison to the other villages. Still, they hold their own, setting fire to any savage crows that dare cross their path. Highly skilled archers—perched atop cottages—shoot arrows into enemy hearts while others fight with swords, spears, and even reaping hooks. They edge up enough of an advantage that I glance eastward, Raina Bloodgood heavy on my mind.

At this rate, the people of Littledenn might annihilate the remains of this army, but I can’t take the chance they won’t. The Eastlanders are here to kill, though they may also take prisoners, and the possibility that a Seer could fall into enemy hands is too dangerous a thought. The Prince of the East has larger plans of destruction than this. He must. I won’t make it easier for him.

I want to save everyone in Littledenn, but I can’t. I can save the loved ones of a dear friend, a friend who has rescued me from my own darkness so many times before.

So I wrench Mannus around and head for Silver Hollow and Raina Bloodgood.

The problem is, I am not alone.



previous 1.. 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 ..94 next