Sacrifice (The Snow Queen #2)(8)

“Get ready; they’re regrouping!” Phile shouted. She was back on her horse and had three daggers clenched between the fingers of her free hand as she pulled her mount’s reins with the other.

“Charge!” General Halvor barked.

Verglas troops leaped from their sleighs to attack the mercenaries with swords and pikes. When the two forces met, the air sang with the clamor of blade meeting blade.

Rakel kept most of her focus on the resistance fighters. They were well armed, but they lacked armor, so she did whatever she could to shield them. Oddly, the resistance fighters reminded Rakel of Phile and the way she worked with Rakel’s magic instead of around it.

If Rakel raised a protective wall, they chipped arrow slits in it and shot the Chosen soldiers down from behind the safety of the ice. Several of them had swapped out their spears, trading them for one of Rakel’s ice swords, and some of them lobbed snowballs when they ran out of weapons.

More than once their reindeer and snowflake banner caught Rakel’s eyes. Phile said the common people considered me a hero, but I thought she meant they held me in high esteem—like Pordis and Tryggvi. I didn’t know she meant this.

In spite of being cut down on two sides, the mercenary forces started to stabilize. Verglas Troops had succeeded in driving them back, but only a few horse lengths—just past the foothills of the mountains.

Frodi’s fire shrank as he lost energy, but Eydìs pushed forward with rope snakes, dragging Chosen soldiers down, tying them together, and immobilizing them.

“Make them budge,” Oskar shouted. “They have to go deeper. The pass is too wide here!”

“Eydìs is almost out of rope,” Frodi said.

“That is far from being so.” Eydìs sniffed. “But Frodi is about to pass out.”

“No I ain’t!” Frodi protested.

Rakel slipped from her sleigh. “I’ll get them out.”

“Princess?” Oskar leaped out after her. “Are you certain?”

Rakel offered him a smile. “It’s fine. I trust you, Phile, and General Halvor to guard me as I rest,” she said.

“What about me?” Frodi piped in.

“As she didn’t list your name, I believe that implies that she doesn’t think your presence is necessary during her convalescence,” Eydìs said.

“She didn’t list your name either,” Frodi snarled.

Eydìs cut a short length of rope and flung it at a Chosen mercenary. It wrapped around his head, blocking his eyes. “You are correct. But I had the good sense not to draw attention to that.”

Rakel smiled at the pair’s bickering. “I entrust Oskar into your care,” she said.

Eydìs waved her hand. “Of course—though I suspect Phile will be disappointed to hear you did not offer him to her.”

“I’m coming with you, Princess,” Oskar said.


Oskar frowned.

“I’m not going into battle,” Rakel promised.

“As you wish,” Oskar said. “Be careful.”

Rakel offered Oskar a small smile, then walked across banks of untouched snow—freezing it beneath her feet so she wouldn’t fall through. Instead of entering the path that cut its way between mountains and cliffsides, Rakel climbed the embankment, stopping when she was high above the battle and could get a good view of it. She peered over the sheer drop into the path, then studied the side of the mountain and felt it out with her magic, exploring the nooks and crannies of the mountainside. When she found a large pocket of snow, she pulled on it. It cascaded down the mountain, marked by large puffs of snow tossed into the air like a cloud.

It roared, but Rakel kept it leashed as it fell, keeping it away from Verglas troops and resistance fighters. She couldn’t reach all the Chosen soldiers—many of them were in combat with Verglas forces—but the back layer she wiped out with a surge of snow, knocking them off their feet. She carried some of them down the path, as if they were bobbing on water currents instead of snow from an avalanche.

The resistance fighters cheered—a few of them almost got injured they were so distracted and delighted with Rakel’s display of power—but when General Halvor barked, they returned their attention to the battle.

With their numbers cut in half, the Chosen mercenaries edged backwards down the path, moving to rejoin their fallen comrades.

Rakel stabilized the mountainside as Verglas forces gushed past her. She moved to follow them when she realized that a pocket of snow on the mountain on the other side of the pass had been loosened. It tumbled down the mountainside farther up the path. Rakel extended her hand—prepared to stop it if it fell in the direction of Verglas troops—but froze when she realized it was going to fall on top of a Chosen soldier and bury him alive.

The soldier stared up at his oncoming doom, knowing he wouldn’t be able to outrun such a massive downfall. His black hair stuck up at funny angles and was a stark color against the white of the snow.

Rakel knew anyone else would have let him die, but she recognized him as the mercenary who had saved the Begna villager. This invasion has wrought enough death!

She threw her arms out, thrusting her magic from her with a wild rush. She formed a slanted shelf of ice above the soldier, and used it to funnel the snow snug against the mountain, where it would harm no one.

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