The Cuckoo by Leo Carew EPUB & PDF – eBook Details Online
- Author: Leo Carew
- Language: English
- Formats: PDF / EPUB
- Status: Available For Free Download
- Series: None
- Price: Free
- File Size: 12 MB
The Wounded Giant
Over the grass plains surrounding Lundenceaster rose the old sun of a tired
summer. Orange light capped the charred fortifications and warmed the backs
of two hundred and eleven men, kneeling in prayer before a pile of rubble,
which had lately been the city’s eastern wall. When they had last knelt, two
days before, there had been three hundred of them. But they were used to
losing peers. They had prepared for it from their earliest years.
We kneel before thee, Mighty One, mortal flesh in fear and silence, thy
servants in deed and spirit. Grant we feel near thee when we lay in
earth, receive peace in pain, be freed in death, and cede nought to
The ancient prayers would usually have been the captain’s responsibility,
but he was missing. Last night, he had charged alone into the darkness and he
had not returned.
Instead, the prayers were led by a man kneeling alone before the
guardsmen. He was uncomfortably lean: his knuckles and fingers swollen,
the tendons at his wrists and elbows tenting the skin, and his cheekbones
jutting out beneath steady green eyes. His name was Roper: often now Roper
the Daring to his face; sometimes Roper the Restless, or simply Old Mad
Dog, behind his back. And at that moment, the guardsmen were paying
homage to the ruins that had once been their enemy’s greatest settlement.
Lundenceaster was beyond repair.
The earth beneath it had charred. The
fire that had stormed the previous night had been frightening: a billowing
yellow mountain, hot enough to crack stone. From sunset to midnight, a
trickle of rats loped clear of the doomed city, and when the gates finally
collapsed into embers, a smog the colour of death tumbled from the
gatehouse and poisoned the grass beyond.
The city had stood more than a thousand years. Many of its buildings
were the remnants of a vast empire that had stretched over these lands in the
days before Sutherners spoke Saxon. It had been home, they said, to five
hundred thousand people: more by far than existed in the entire Black
Kingdom. It would never rise again, and Roper was responsible.
He had marched two hundred miles south, dragging sixty thousand
legionaries behind, with the monstrous ambition of subduing a nation. He had
travelled a country of warrior-giants, and bargained, flattered and competed
until they had agreed to join his quest. He had preserved the army from
disease, and driven them on when hunger and thirst threatened to overwhelm
them. He had been first of the Anakim over the formidable breach, and into
the city behind. And it had been he who had fought through the defences and
opened up a path for his men to sack the city.
Mighty One, grant us love in what life to us remains. Grant awareness
that this soon will end. Grant swift passage from this world to the
other. Keep us thy agents, until we walk with thee.
Roper had become used to being alone. So used to it, that when the
prayers finished and the others stood and stretched, he stayed kneeling, head
bowed in final prayer.
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