From the corner of his eye, Rune saw the scythe blade swing down. As he watched, horrified, it cut into Hwala's calf. Everything happened at once: Hwala yelled; Skoll turned, puzzled by the sound; and Skyn's mouth dropped open as he realized what he'd done. Then came the blood.
"Father!" Skoll cried, catching Hwala as he stumbled.
Skyn's scythe dropped to the ground.
Rune rushed forward to kneel beside his foster father.
From between clenched teeth, Hwala grunted, "Get Amma."
Almost before the words had been uttered, Rune was running, racing toward the farmhouse and the hut beyond it that he shared with Amma. Gods, let her be there, he prayed, his arms pumping as he skirted a boulder and pelted through the homefield, not taking the time to go around it. "Lady of the Vanir, I beg of you," he whispered as he burst through the hay. He skidded to a stop, but not fast enough to keep him from colliding with Amma.
"Sorry," he said, panting as he steadied her. "Hwala's hurt."
"I know. Where is he?"
In his sixteen winters, Rune had learned not to question how Amma knew the things she did. "The west field," he said.
She picked up the basket he'd knocked from her hand. "I'll need water."
Rune nodded and took off for the hut. When he caught up with her again, she was only halfway there. He took her basket in one hand, her arm in the other. The image of the blade hitting Hwala's leg, the blood welling around the wound, made him want to pullher into a run, but she was already moving as quickly as her age would allow.
How had it happened? They had come to the end of one row when Hwala had turned. Had he walked directly into the path of his son's blade? How had Skyn not seen him?
After what seemed an eternity, they reached the edge of the field. Across the stubble and the shocks of grain, Rune could see the curve of Skoll's shoulders as he bent over his father, who lay on the ground, fallen stalks of grain around him. Skyn stood a little distance away, his face gray, the fist of his shorter arm beating into the open hand of his longer one, over and over again, as if he wasn't aware he was doing so.
Rune helped Amma to sit on the ground beside Hwala. She shooed Skoll back and reached out to probe the wound with her fingers.
"Water," she said, and Rune crouched beside her, handing her the waterskin.
"Get away from him. I'll do it." Skoll's voice was as icy as his eyes.
Rune opened his mouth, then closed it and handed his foster brother the water. It sloshed and gurgled inside the leather bag. Skoll gave him a look that made his meaning clear. Rune rose and backed away.
"I need goat wort," Amma said, and Skoll rifled uncertainly through the basket until she snapped, "Give me the whole thing." With one hand on Hwala's leg, she reached for a leather pouch and opened it with her teeth.
Rune clenched his fist. He would have had the bag of goat wort open by now and the leaves crushed between his fingers. Instead, Amma had to do it all herself, taking precious time. He turned his head so he didn't have to see the pain etched into Hwala's face.
Finally, as she finished tying a bandage tightly around the wound, Amma spoke to Hwala for the first time. "If it doesn't fester, you won't die."
He nodded wordlessly.
"How will we know if it festers?" Skoll asked.
"You'll know." She gathered her pouches and jars and placed them back in her basket. "You two." She gestured toward Skyn and Skoll. "Take your father home. Don't let him put any weight on it." Then she turned back to Hwala. "Bed for a few days at least. I'll come in the morning." From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Coming of the Dragon by Rebecca Barnhouse. Copyright © 2010 by Rebecca Barnhouse. Excerpted by permission of Bluefire, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.