My arms were tired.
I sat in an old campaign chair by the last of the braziers, the flames burning low and soft. The hammer, its head chipped and the handle stained with ichor, stood by me. Mikkelsen passed over a battered tin cup, and I took it with both hands.
It took a moment for my limbs to calm down enough, so I didn’t shake the brandy from the cup, and when I brought it to my lips, the liquor was one of the sweetest I’d tasted.
“A bit of honey added,” the man explained when he saw my appreciative expression.
“Our thanks,” Mikkelsen replied. He gestured toward the men sleeping around us in the growing light of the dawn. They were exhausted and with good reason. They had worked the cannons and their rifles well into the night.
Pedersen joined us, sinking down and grinning up at me as he held his hands out to the flames. There was a bit of a chill to the air, and with it was the soothing scent of the ocean.
“Twenty-three,” Pedersen stated.
“Hm?” I asked as I handed the cup back to Mikkelsen, who added more to it for me.
“Twenty-three trolls,” Pedersen said again. “That’s how many you killed last night.”
“How many we all killed,” I argued, accepting the cup back from Mikkelsen. I took a sip.
“I think there’d be some argument about that,” Marius observed as he joined us. He wore a tired smile. “You were the hunter, Duncan Blood. You went out beyond the walls and put the trolls down.”
I grunted my rough agreement. “It doesn’t mean the others shirked their duty.”
“No one is saying they did,” Mikkelsen said. “We know, though, that we’d not have lasted through the night without you. It was your plan that brought us to the morning. No one thought of the bells. No one would have kept the other trolls back while someone else went out to finish off the wounded.”
“There’s a reason All-Father sent a Blood,” Pedersen observed, spitting casually onto the ground. “And that’s because the Bloods are hunters through and through.”
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