As the Riftwar tears Midkemia apart,
enemies trapped in the frozen Northlands
must trust each other to stay alive '
In the sprawling, embattled land of Midkemia, fate can form strange alliances. Nine years into the bloody and ongoing Riftwar, Dennis Hartraft ' s Marauders are cold, hungry, and exhausted.
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June 27, 2006
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Excerpt from Honored Enemy by Raymond E. Feist
The ground was frozen.
Captain Dennis Hartraft, commander of the Marauders, was silent, staring at the shallow grave hacked into the frozen earth. The winter had arrived fast and hard, and earlier than usual; and after six days of light snow and freezing temperatures, the ground was now yielding only with a grudge.
So damned cold, he thought. It was bad enough you couldn't give the men a proper funeral pyre here, lest the smoke betray their position to the Tsurani, but being stuck behind enemy lines meant the dead couldn't even be taken back to the garrison for cremation. Just a hole in the ground to keep the wolves from eating them. Is this all there really is in the end, just the darkness and the icy embrace of the grave? With his left hand his sword hand he absently rubbed his right shoulder. The old wound always seemed to ache the most when snow lay on the ground.
A priest of Sung, mumbling a prayer, walked around the perimeter of the grave, making a sign of blessing. Dennis stood rigid, watching as some of the men also made signs to a different god mostly to Tith-Onaka, God of War while others remained motionless. A few looked towards him, saw his eyes, then turned away.
The men could sense his swallowed rage and his emptiness.
The priest fell silent, head lowered, hands moving furtively, placing a ward upon the grave. The Goddess of Purity would protect the dead from defilement. Dennis shifted uncomfortably, looking up at the darkening clouds which formed an impenetrable wall of grey to the west. Over in the east, the sky darkened.
Night was coming on, and with it the promise of more snow, the first big storm of the year. Having lived in the region for years, Dennis knew that a long, hard winter was fast upon them, and his mission had to be to get his men safely back to their base at Baron Moyet's camp. And if enough snow fell in the next few days, that could prove problematic.
The priest stepped back from the grave, raised his hands to the dark heavens and started to chant again.
'The service is ended,' Dennis said. He didn't raise his voice, but his anger cut through the frigid air like a knife.
The priest looked up, startled. Dennis ignored him, and turned to face the men gathered behind him. 'You've got one minute to say farewell.'
Someone came up to Dennis's side and cleared his throat. Without even looking, Dennis knew it was Gregory of Natal. And he understood his lack of civility to the Priest of Sung was ill-advised.
'We're still behind enemy lines, Father. We move out as soon as the scout comes back,' Dennis heard Gregory say to the priest. 'Winter comes fast and we'd best be safely at Brendan's Stockade should a blizzard strike.'
Dennis looked over his shoulder at Gregory, the towering, dark-skinned Natalese Ranger attached to his command.