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EXCERPT: “You dumb bastard,” Ralph muttered disgustedly, pulling his warm hood closer around his head as he heard the rush of mail and leather followed by a loud ‘thump.’ His horse jerked impatiently at the reins in his hand.
He looked back at the empty saddle which had been draped with Meffridus’s body since he’d found him in the Wasteland.
With a disgusted sigh he patted the neck of his horse, and the loyal animal, so skittish since the body had been placed across the saddle, bolted, ripping the reins out of his hand, and dashed westward.
“What the hell?” Ralph stared after the animal racing across the gray frosted landscape of sand, dirt, and pebbles, through never ending flurries of snow and dust. “Come back here! DAMN!”
He turned around and Meffridus, swaying as if unused to standing, stared at him with sunken eyes gleaming with an unholy light above emaciated cheeks and bloody mouth.
* * * * *
“What rises in the Wasteland, remains in the Wasteland,” Duc Wulfhere said before the chevaliers, foot-knights, mounted archers and swordsmen, and foot spearmen, swordsmen and axemen marched for the River Loire that marked the western border of the haunted Wasteland.
Twenty-four years after the Conquest the rebellions against Norman rule appeared to be over, though Scotland continued to raid the northern lands. It was reason enough for the Duc to gather an army to punish the Scots with an eye to seizing his own kingdom if the opportunity presented itself. Thus, on a soul shocking gray morning, the Norman army with vassals, adventurers, and camp followers, after a nightlong display of booming thunder, dazzling lightning, and howling winds, found themselves in an unknown world rather than campaigning in southern Scotland.
Ralph was only three years old when the Crossing happened, but he knew some of the whispered stories of the Wandering, as the desperate journey was called, before the people found their way out of the Wasteland to the shores of the Inland Sea. Afterwards they generally regarded the Wasteland where so many people perished with a frightened silence.
Even Duc Wulfhere rarely said anything until he chose the first frontier guards. For three months, scattered in small groups of warriors every 15 miles, they would keep watch until new warriors replaced them…