Sevry ignored Odigar and the confusion he was causing. The last of the largest enclosed wagons started up onto the ridge. The raiders came close enough that he could count them; there were eleven of them to his nine, plus the wagon and camel drivers. The pounding of their horses’ hooves grew louder. Sevry waited, sword drawn, his heart beating hard, his horse dancing beneath him in nervousness and excitement. At moments like this, all the times in his life when he’d waited, sword in hand, for the enemy to come blended into one. He was twelve years old again, holding his first sword, awaiting the invasion of the Royal Holding at Yiz by the Madrinan army; he was twenty-three, watching as the Madrinans approached the Convent of Azara; he was a mercenary, a guard, in countless skirmishes against countless, forgotten foes.
The last wagons were still trying to get into a secure position on top of the ridge when the raiders charged up the slope and barreled into the guards without checking their horses’ speed. Sevry and the other mounted guards were forced back against the wagons by the raiders’ onslaught. Sevry’s horse slipped a few feet down the gravelly slope; he brought it under control just in time to strike at a yellow-haired raider whose sword was swinging down towards his head.
A knot of fighting men on top of the ridge jolted the last wagon in line, just above Sevry. With a heavy thud, the wagon’s load of smuggled jade shifted. Sevry heard the sharp crack of the wagon’s front axle as it broke, but he didn’t have time to move out of the way.
Dragging its horses with it, the wagon tumbled down the slope, crashed into Sevry and his horse, and landed on its side with Sevry’s legs trapped beneath it. Excruciating pain exploded through his legs, and his scream drowned out the noises of the fight and the cries of injured horses and men.
In spite of the agony flooding his senses, he remained conscious throughout the rest of the battle. Finally, the few surviving raiders turned tail and rode away, and Sevry’s men were free to turn their attention to him. He was glad to see that none of them had fallen, though most of them were injured. They freed the horses from the broken wagon and put the poor beasts, along with Sevry’s badly-injured horse, out of their misery, unloaded the jade, then moved the wagon off of him. Bliss at the disappearance of the crushing weight nearly made Sevry forget about the pain for a moment. Speaking to each other in harsh, urgent whispers, the men carefully lifted Sevry and laid him down on some blankets. Each movement brought further waves of fresh agony. He tried to bite back his cries, but they tore their way out of him anyway. One of the men poured herbed wine into his mouth. Desperately thirsty, Sevry swallowed it.
Even the strong sleeping herb in the wine barely won out over the pain. Sevry dozed uneasily, only to be jolted into consciousness by new pain as his crushed lower legs and raw, scraped arms and back were being cleaned and bandaged. Finally, his caretakers finished their tasks, and he was able to sink into undisturbed darkness.