the smuggler’s bible

Dromond of Frisia

They advance through the churning tumult of the skirmish, all sound fading beneath the rumble of their own heartbeats rushing against their eardrums. At four paces, Dromond yanks free his last pistol and shoots the Gallowglass in the chest.

“You shouldn’t have stabbed me in the back.”

The big man touches the wound, smiles weakly and coughs. Then he collapses. “Fair play. You owed me one,” he mumbles. “I guess that settles it.”

“Nothing is ever settled. Not for good,” Dromond says to the corpse. He pulls the baldric over its shoulder, clasps Sharp Jenny’s worn hilt. “Not for us.”

The Gallowglass

The Gallowglass is smeared with soot and mud. His eyes shine brightly and his mouth is open, laughing.

“I knew I just had to wait,” he says. “All this time, I knew.”

“You sound pathetic. I came for Jenny. Nothing else.”

“That’s why I kept her safe. And you’re wrong, this is destiny. Still, I’m amazed. Your timing is impeccable.”

“I simply followed the sound of cannons and a braying ass.”

“What if we’d ended up on the same side?”

“That part was easy,” Dromond says. “You never passed up a chance to throw northmen out of someone else’s country.”

Dromond of Frisia

Dromond’s men—Swedes, mostly, with a few Saxons—collide with the imperials in a thicket about a mile off Gustav’s right flank. He spreads them out in two ranks and points with his sabre. No bugles, just thirty-odd horse panting and digging in to tear up great clumps of soil.

And then the shouting begins. Hard to see in the haze of pistol smoke. Cannons rumbling in the distance as the main event gets started back at the crossroads. Dromond hears a voice bellowing over the din. Terrible German, in an accent the big man never could quite shake convincingly.

Dromond of Frisia

The door is locked, but this is only a formality. He pulls the splintered boards away and steps into the dim hovel. Dust swirls in the thin light of dawn which seeps like water through the cheap paper window coverings. Someone is in the corner, shivering, with bedsheets pulled around them. Two dark eyes stare sullenly at him from between the folds.

He stops and breathes deeply, listens. Outside, the horses are whinnying. Insects crawl beneath the floor.

“He’s gone?”

The head in the corner nods slowly. “Gestern.” A woman’s voice. “Zu kampfen.”

“That’s fine,” Dromond says. “That’s just fine.”