The Barbarian: 3

Mock’s hands were still wet with blood by the time the Paleskin fighters came for them.

‘How many?’

‘Sixty mounted, maybe more,’ Beltho answered.

Mock slithered along the ground, using his elbows to push himself along. He settled beside Beltho and thrust aside the long grass, squinting. Breastplates glinted. Shields gleamed. Helms glared. Here and there were flashes of red and white uniforms. A formidable force and as pretty as maidens in their colourful dresses and coward’s armour. Mock dug his fingers into the earth. But let me peel them bare as babes and let’s see that squishy, pink flesh beneath.

Mock licked his lips. ‘That all?’

‘They equal us man for man.’

‘You are wrong. We are the Quarthi. They are the Paleskins. One man of ours is worth two of theirs.’

He pushed himself to his feet in full view of their enemy. Beltho looked up at him warily, then did the same. Though his sight wasn’t as sharp as Beltho’s, Mock imagined those pretty helms turning his way one by one.

That’s right. Look at me. To see the great Mock is to see death made flesh. Come for me if you dare.

4.