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Empire’s End

Hunted Deserter

Brett P. S.

Copyright © 2018 Brett P. S.

Smashwords Edition

All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Table of Contents





Chapter 1

Gasps of Air

Flynn stumbled as he raced through the dark of White Shade Wood. His boots skimmed the dry, cracked dirt, and his heels kicked up dust and leaves. Flynn ran. He ran far away from his home, his family, and his country. A kingdom born in ashes and blood, soon to return to that primordial form. Branches lashed against his face, scarred his cheeks with red bruises as a hoarse voice called out for him.

“You can’t run, soldier!” the lieutenant cried, bitterness and salt in his voice. “You, carry the east flank! You, other side!”

Flynn’s heart thumped. His legs churned like mud, and his feet burned like hot coals as the deepness of night overtook him. He leaped over a log he’d nearly missed, but his eyes met the swipe of a thicket. He tumbled, his insides burning. He cursed under his breath and broke into a roll, barreling through a shrub to come out the other side. Flynn cursed again. The heat in his belly, it was more than flight. It was more than running. It was what he left behind.

He turned to look back through one half cracked eye, the other too swollen to peel away the flesh without aid. Ebony darkness swelled across White Shade’s canopy and deep down the path he’d traveled. Starlight no longer reached him, nor would he gain any more ground. Flynn stilled his beating heart, wiped the blood from his sobbing, throbbing eye, and drew his longsword.

Chapter 2

Brother’s Quarrel

Flynn breathed deeply. He waited. Quiet. The blood pumping through his veins raced like a storm, but he focused the waves into anger. Anger at his commander. Anger at the soldiers he’d once called brothers. Anger at fate and doom. Flynn tightened both hands around his hilt. Above all, anger at himself. Flynn widened his stance at the sound of steel drawn from a scabbard.

“It’s over, Flynn!” the hoarse voice called out from deeper down the path.

He turned as the blade struck, shifting his stance. A distraction. The weak and weary soldier, a pawn in Light Bringer’s Army, a friend. Flynn raised his sword and slashed him across the back. The deathblow tore through leather straps, glistened through the cloth of his gambeson, and ate through his flesh.

Flynn jerked back his longsword, the blade stained in red and chipped like a hacksaw where it collided with the man’s spine. He squinted through the dim of night, sans the glow of moonlight or stars, and watched as hands reached out to dig into dry earth but legs wouldn’t move. This one wouldn’t be hurting him anymore. No need to …

Shuffling shrubs. Flynn’s head perked up in time to catch the blade reaming down at his neck. He slipped away by a finger as the axe scraped against his dirt covered gambeson. A firm, meaty hand gripped the weapon in swift, crushing force. The axe tore the cloth as it ran down the length of his shoulder. He poised his stance, pulled back his sword, and ran it through the man’s gut.

A lumbering, mountain of a fighter, full of brawn and muscle, skewered. As the figure fell backward, Flynn reached to pry his weapon … then pulled again. It was … stuck? No time. He let go of the blade, letting the man hit the ground with a thud. Death would creep slowly for both of them, but not for Flynn and his …


Slicing steel ripped through the air so clean he wouldn’t have caught the faintest sound if not for the glimmer. Briefly shone and quick as lighting. Cassius rushed from the front, his other men in thrall to claim his prize. No sword. No sword and no time. No time to breathe. No time to think. Still, he breathed. Still, he thought. Not Cassius. Never Cassius. A thousand men could rot before he raised a single evil thought against … Flynn broke from the shock of his trance as the sword ripped through his shoulder.

He couldn’t dodge this time, so he pushed in. Cassius had thought Flynn a coward. The soldier drew his dogs in and knew that he’d run, but the brave brother barely expected the knock as Flynn’s skull met his forehead. Cassius lurched back, thrashing at wood and air as Flynn clutched his shoulder with one hand.

“Brother, wait!” Flynn shouted. “Let me explain. I promise you that I …”

“You are a coward!” Cassius bellowed.

The soldier slung the blood from his sword and paced to the side. He kept his distance, encircling Flynn, though inching closer as he gathered more resolve. All the while, Flynn watched. His brother was a good soldier. He was looking for an opening.

“A coward and a traitor to Lord Light Bringer,” Cassius said. His eyes narrowed. “And now that’s the last thing you’ll ever be.”

Chapter 3

No Good Reason

Flynn stepped away as Cassius encircled him. His brother inched closer with each step, however, leaving that a futile effort. He looked to his left and his right. He could reach for one of the other soldiers’ weapons, maybe the simple short sword from the one he’d paralyzed. The man’s hand still gripped the hilt.

Cassius would afford him little chance to rip it free, and the proud brother would give no quarter to a traitor like Flynn. Fire burned in Cassius’ amber eyes. His head of short cut blonde hair fluttered in the passing breeze. The veins of his hand pulsed, and his teeth ground as he narrowed the distance between them.

“Yes, Cassius,” Flynn pleaded. “I abandoned my post. I admit that, but I did so for good reason.”

That set him off. Cassius lunged with blade outstretched. Flynn swept his legs and tripped his foe but not before Cassius planted a fist across his jaw. He staggered back, clutching two wounds now. Each seemed to hurt more in different ways. A gust of wind blew the scent of family to him, mixed with blood and tears as two soldiers bled out and his brother sobbed.

“I’m glad the commander sent you,” Flynn said. “I am glad, you see.”

Cassius spat on the ground and widened his stance. This would be the last strike. Flynn’s legs were like pillars of stone. It hurt to move them, burned to stand at all. His chest ached. His shoulder bled rivers across his gambeson and soaked the cloth. His one good eye saw Cassius in sparse starlight that crept in through faint rays. He was a good soldier, better than Flynn. The commander was right to send him, if only for the wrong reasons.

Flynn’s legs buckled from the weakness that ran rampant though his body, growing by the second and feeding from his anguish. He took a knee and lowered his head just enough to gaze upon the man who would lay the killing blow. Cassius cursed and tightened his grip. If fingers could bleed from such a thing, he’d have done it ten times over.

“I don’t believe you …”

Flynn’s head perked up. Soft rivers flowed from his brother’s puffy eyes, eyes red like the bruise on his jaw, tears gushing more than the wound across his shoulder. Flynn had cut more than flesh, reaped more than lives this night. As his vision blurred and his head grew foggy from the shock of his would … as his world grew dimmer, consumed by the night and his dread, Cassius begged him.

“We would be heroes, brother. You and me, storming the battlefield against their weapons of wonder.”

“There is no wonder in what the Thoraxians have wrought. If you only knew what was coming, you would …”

“Enough!” Cassius ended his moment of compassion. He lifted his sword once more and drew a wide stance. “You have no honor. You have no pride. You threw it all away! And for what? Does your Lord mean anything to you at all?”

Flynn lifted his head, and the words scratched his lips as he spoke them. Heavy words. Terrible, truthful words.

“Light Bringer is already dead.”

Chapter 4

Weapons of Wonder

Cassius’ emotions flared. The pit welling in his stomach now churned with fire and envy. Hate flowed through his broadsword. Hate and blood. He dashed forward, poised to lay the killing blow. He struck with every sorrowful thought that rattled in his mind. Dreams of glory, of conquering the Thoraxian war machine. Bitter friendships hard won and the favor of his Lord desired like a hunger deep in his bones. Bonds of blood weren’t thick enough to stay his wrath from a heart that ached of betrayal. With one cleaving swipe, he laid to rest …

Cassius stumbled mid-swing as the earth trembled beneath his feet. Gusts of wind lashed out like torrents whipping through the stiff branches as the canopy of the Wood rocked the fervor and rage. A bright, almost blinding light consumed the sky above, faintly visible through sparse cracks in the leaves. Cassius gasped and dropped his weapon. It clanged on the ground. The rumble of the earth still churned in his heart, though the air lay silent moments afterward. Like a flash of fire, the wind had died down. The soft chirping of birds vanished from the canopy. His toes still shook in his boots.

“I am glad he sent you, Brother,” Flynn told him.

Cassius tightened his fists and bolted. He took a turn through the Wood, leapt across the log that his brother had stumbled over with the grace of a cow. He pushed through branches and guarded his face with his bracer. Cassius huffed breaths of air and felt a fire searing his lungs. A fierce heat struck him the further he ventured until he halted at a cliff’s edge.

Cassius gazed onward across a sea of woodlands to his country and his home. Fire scorched a charred plains and the keep, his post, lay a shattered pile of rubble in the wake of a weapon he’d only glimpsed in afterthought. Cassius caught the visage in the sky, saw the clouds parted as a craft sailed through them high above anything a soldier could reach.

Cassius cursed his stupidity. There was neither magic nor wonder in his eyes as he watched the craft continue towards another keep and another kingdom. He spat on the ground and kicked a patch of dirt from the ledge. Hopeless. Futile. It was over and … Cassius cocked his head back, staring through the Wood behind him.

“You’re glad the commander sent me,” he said. “I see that, because now, no matter what, one of us will live.”

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