The Hussar’s Duty
Poland’s most valiant winged hussar is called to fight in a campaign ripe for disaster. But he must also protect those he loves from jackals waiting to pounce. How does he choose between duty and devotion when death is on the line?
When Sultan Osman II sends Poland’s envoy packing, the Commonwealth must prepare for war against one of the largest armies the Ottomans have ever assembled. Tasked with repelling the invasion is Grand Hetman of the Crown Stanisław Żółkiewski, and he knows who to turn to: Jacek Dąbrowski, the Commonwealth’s most valiant Polish winged hussar.
Jacek has been idle far too long, and the call to arms is a siren’s song he can’t resist. But he has built a life far from the battlefield with his wife, Oliwia, and their children. If he pursues his quest for glory, who will safeguard them?
Oliwia knows her husband is restless. In fact, she’s been sending Jacek on cross-country errands for years in the hopes of quelling his lust for battle. When she realizes her efforts are futile, she resolves herself to letting him go—after hatching a scheme to accompany him.
Honor. Obligation. Devotion. These forces push and pull Jacek in different directions. His country needs him, but so does his family. Where does his duty lie? His choice will cause catastrophic ripples no matter which path he follows … and could very well bring the loss of his loved ones or his life.
Will the cost of defending king and country prove too steep for this warrior?
This is a standalone continuation in The Winged Warrior Series.
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Universal Link: https://readerlinks.com/l/3336453
Enjoy an Excerpt from Chapter 15: Silnyród
On the third day after they had detoured toward Silnyród, the nightmare become real and the Tatars’ cruelty revealed itself. They came upon the blackened skeletons of structures where men, women, and children had once lived, toiled, and loved. An entire settlement had been wiped out.
Jacek and several guards dismounted and crept toward the ruins, ever vigilant, while Henryk and Dawid lingered behind to watch over her and Nadia.
When he returned to his mount, his face was grim. “This happened long ago.” Yet he was visibly shaken—the entire party was shaken. A pall descended over them, and each step seemed to grow more weighted than the last, as though a heavy shroud had been dropped upon them and was entangling them within its folds.
Jacek rode apart from them the rest of that day, and she left him alone to wage war with the ever-present demons haunting his soul, demons that had lain dormant for years and had only sprung to life since leaving Rzeszów in their wake.
Why, oh why had she insisted on this journey? All of her yearned to turn and flee. Instead, she drew her cloak tight about herself despite the sunbeams shining down and warming them on this fair May day.
The burned-out settlement overwhelmed her thoughts. It brought to mind the ghosts of Vyatov, the village where she had lived before Jacek had saved her and Filip. So much violence had befallen their home that day, with her and Filip the only survivors. That horrible destruction had been wrought not by Tatars or Lost Men, but by Polish soldiers. Lost Men, sometimes called the Forlorn Hope or Elears … the Lisowczycy.
How could man be so cruel to fellow man?
The party ate their meager meals in silence and camped rough. She found herself longing not for her soft bed, but for protective walls and simple straw pallets to rest their aching bones upon.
More days of riding passed until, at last, Jacek twirled his arm in the air. “Silnyród ahead!” He had been stock-still astride Jarosława, the looker to his eye as he had surveyed the landscape.
A whoop rippled through the troop, and her heart leaped in her chest when she made out a dark, symmetrical shape on the horizon she had first mistaken for a hummock like those so plentiful in the Jura Highlands where Biaska lay. Far off yet, but the fortress began to take shape in the open landscape where it sat, its looming stone walls promising shelter.
As they drew closer, the fortification appeared larger and sturdier than she had envisioned, its stone walls forbidding and unscalable. The surrounding flat ground was broken up by breastworks and spiked trenches and a dry moat spanned by a wooden bridge. To the right, on the fortress’s eastern flank, thatch-roofed houses huddled together, the smoke from their chimneys drifting into the sky. Beyond them lay a crescent of dark woods that swept east to south.
The promise of shelter soothed her after days being exposed on the steppe. But now a new concern swam through her mind: she would soon come face-to-face with the woman Jacek had once asked to marry him. Perhaps Silnyród would not be so accommodating, after all.
She had little time to ponder the wayward worry, for a fresh buzzing undulated through the column, this one lifting the hairs on her nape and arms.
At the front of the line, Jacek unsheathed his sabre with lightning speed. Stabbing it at the sky, he bellowed, “Tatars! Make for the fort as fast as you can!”
Off to the right, at as yet a distance from the fortress, a thick, locust-like swarm was emerging from the woods on the south side. The trajectory would bring the enemy right into their path!
Jacek spurred Jarosława into a spin. Horse and rider flew to her and Nadia, even as guards were urging them forward.
“How many, Jacek?” Henryk shouted.
“Three score. You and Dawid protect the women.” In her peripheral vision, Henryk nodded and dropped back, drawing even with her and her maid.
Oliwia’s mount, Apolonia, danced in place, no doubt absorbing Oliwia’s own distress, and when Jacek reached her, he took the reins and brought the horse under control.
Intensity blazed in his sapphire eyes when he looked directly into hers. “Liwi! Take Nadia and run like the wind. Do not delay, and don’t look back.”
Panic swelled inside her, choking her, stealing her breath. “What about you?” she squeaked.
“I will be with you shortly. Now go!” He whacked her horse’s rump with the flat of his sabre and repeated the motion with Nadia’s mount. The horses vaulted into motion, racing ahead with guards flanking them like a protective wall. Too short a wall. Behind her, Jacek yelled, “Run as though Lucifer and the hounds of hell are at your heels!”
Because they were.
Griffin Brady is an award-winning historical fiction author with a keen interest in the Polish Winged Hussars of the 16th and 17th centuries. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Her debut novel, The Heart of a Hussar, was a finalist for the 2021 Chaucer Early Historical Fiction Award and a 2021 Discovered Diamond.
The proud mother three grown sons, she lives in Colorado with her husband. She is also an award-winning bestselling romance author who writes under the pen name G.K. Brady.
Social Media Links:
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/griffin-brady
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/griffinbrady