The mission was straightforward. Rescue the scholar Harius’ daughter Angela from the clutches of the Duke of Granfel. He suspected the foul nobleman wished to offer her as bride to his demon-god, a ceremony in which no woman ever survived the consummation. Getting into Granfel would be easy. They left the gate open and invited barbarians to trade. Women such as the trio often carried more gold and silver than merchants, something the Duke craved. Finding the young woman would also be easy. She would be kept in the tower of the Temple of Dakon, the largest structure in the city. From there, the job would become more complicated.

The task became more complicated the moment the trio stepped foot beyond the gate. The portcullis slammed down behind them. A dozen armed guards and a grinning captain stepped from behind the gate tower. The women were pinned between point and plank. Drawing their weapons, they faced their opponents.

“You are late,” the captain said. “Nevertheless, you are here. You three will comfort my men before being offered in the fires at Angela’s wedding to Dakon on the morrow.”

“Someone tipped them off,” Amber whispered to Sasha. “And I know who.”

“We’ll cut his throat later,” Sasha replied. “That is a promise.”

“If Harius learns of this, he will do the deed himself,” Lindsey muttered.

Sasha quickly sized up the situation. Thirteen men against three women. The women were backed up against wood, and wore the minimal garb of most barbarians. What metal they had was in their hands. The men had room to maneuver. They wore chest plates, carried spears, and thick swords dangled at their sides. There, the guards’ advantages ended. Even from a distance of fifteen feet, she smelled fresh ale. These men, while well dressed, were civilized city constables, not warriors from the wilds. They spent their days breaking up donnybrooks and by night coerced harlots into free services. Their well-fed bellies protruded over their wide leather belts. Only the captain looked fit enough to put up a good fight. That would be against three agile warriors born with swords in their hands to mothers who fought alongside the toughest men in the north. Sasha would have pitied them, but Harius paid her well enough to be ruthless.

She looked at the captain and snapped, “We’ve been in worse than this.”

“It isn’t the first,” Lindsey snarled.

“It won’t be the last,” Amber added with a growl.

“Didn’t your mother tell you never to corner an angry cat?” Sasha asked. Then, with a shout, the women charged.

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