Friday 17 October 2014

Scent: Part 3

Reven found that he wasn’t the only one trying to escape the city. As he made his way around the great wall that surrounded Rosholt he could see piles of furniture and wood had been stacked against the wall. Ladders had been precariously balanced on top of them that reached up to the battlements. The flight of the residents had obviously been hurried and desperate and they had used these piles as a means of escape from the madness within the city. He made his way to the bottom of the pile and started climbing. The pup at his back had ceased wriggling and even though Reven would have liked to have checked to see if his passenger was still alive the thought of self-preservation pushed him on. He clambered over tables, chairs, cupboards and doors to reach the tallest of the ladders. The ladder had been wedged inside an upturned cupboard to hold it steady and Reven made his way up, trying his hardest not to unbalance the ladder as he did so. He paused for a moment near the top of his climb looked out over Rosholt and bit back the tears that wanted to stream down his face. Soaking up the last of the horrific scenes below him he took the last few rungs of the ladder to the battlements. As he pulled himself over the edge he was amazed at his own courage. He had until this point lived an unremarkable life and had enjoyed his youth. He had lived 11 winters and it had been a fairly sheltered life up to this point. He stood on the battlements and looked over the wall into The Freemarch Forest that lay beyond. He had only ever left the city once before; for a fishing trip with his adopted father and brothers. It had been a great time and he enjoyed seeing the outside world but looking out over the forest filled Reven with dread. It stretched on for as far as the eye could see and it almost made him want to turn back and hide. These thoughts quickly vanished when he heard sounds coming from below. He peeked over the edge beck into the city and saw a rabble of fur clad men scrambling up wooden pile toward the ladders. Reven didn’t even think. He rocked the ladder he had climbed back and forth and let if fall into the neighbouring ladder. They both clattered to the ground and their fall was met with angry shouts and curses from below. Reven didn’t wait around to hear them. He raced to the other side of the battlements and grasped a rope that had been hung over the edge. He lowered himself down hand over hand as quickly as he could. The extra weight of the pup made it a difficult descent and left his hands and arms trembling with the effort. He dropped the last few feet to the ground where the walls met the forest.
A few of the refugees from the city sat gathered under the branches of the trees. Reven panted, exhausted from his efforts. He shouted a warning to the nearest group of people, “Men are coming……over the wall”. His shout was met by blank stares by most, a tall bear of a man stood and moved towards him, “Where boy? How many?” he asked in a deep booming voice. A woman seated under a tree called out to the man, “Leave it Bran, and let us move on”. The man ignored her, gesturing with his hand for the boy to speak up. “They climb the ladders….I pushed them away from the wall but…” Reven’s response was cut short as an arrow arced down and landed with a thump at Bran’s feet. Looking up he could see the fur clad men edging themselves one by one over the wall and down the rope. The big man reacted immediately, snatching the lantern that was tied at Reven’s waist he moved to the bottom of the rope and turned the flame up high on the lantern, opening the shutter. The flame licked at the bottom of the rope but wasn’t burning quick enough. Bran pulled the plug on the oil reserve at the bottom of the lamp and flicked oil up the rope. The flames chased the oil back to the lantern forcing Bran to drop it with a curse, smashing it on the ground. Tiny flames licked the front of his clothes and he beat at them furiously as the oil on the floor caught light with a great whooshing sound. The rope burned better now but some of the men that were descending were down far enough to try a leap. Three of the fur clad attackers made it to the ground, the third landing awkwardly, his ankle giving way as he hit the ground. Reven cried out as Bran unslung an axe from his back and moved forward with menace. The people under the trees starting gathering their meagre possessions and disappearing, with haste deeper into the forest.
Reven could see the attackers more clearly now. They all sported long unkempt hair and their faces had been smeared with what looked to be blue paste. They were wild and drew their weapons advancing. The men came on, swinging wildly with short swords as but Bran wasn’t deterred and swung at the first attacker knocking his sword aside. With his return stroke he cleaved into the next assailant, removing one of his arms just above the elbow. The man screamed in agony and clasped his bloody stump as the first attacker returned to the fray. He stabbed at the axe man only to see his blade parried. Bran reversed his grip on the haft of the axe and brought the flat edge of blade down the man’s head which split like a melon with the force. As the combat raged on Reven moved away from the fight to the other side of the subsiding flames. Bran had finished off the one armed man and was moving onto the third attacker who was backing away from him with a limp, still nursing his damaged ankle. Just as the big man hefted his axe high above him to strike a body fell from above crushing his assailant to the ground. It was followed by a second falling man that landed with a crunch in front of Reven. It appeared the fire on the rope had done its work and these two had not been quick enough in climbing back up to escape it. The second man that fell had died instantly, his head sat at a peculiar angle on his neck. The other two fur clad crazies rolled on the floor moaning. Bran and his axe made short work of the first man, easily parting his head with his shoulders. The second man lay on his back trying to wriggle away from that deadly axe. He held his sword up as if it would ward Bran off. The big man came on undeterred, he knocked the sword out of the man’s hand contemptuously and buried the blade of his axe in the man chest. The sword spiralled off only stopping once it had buried a foot of its length in Reven’s gut. Reven looked down disbelieving, eyes wide. He gingerly clasped the blade in his hands, then his knees went weak and he toppled to the side like a felled tree. As he hit the ground the recumbent form of the war hound pup slid out of the makeshift knapsack and tumbled limply, coming to rest over Reven’s head like a bizarre crown. Bran rushed over and knelt beside the boy. The colour had already drained from his face and blood had started to pool at his side. With a sigh Bran rose, “I’m sorry child, fighting is a man’s work. You should never have been here. May Sothayn guide your soul”. Bran pulled the short sword fee and tossed it aside. He positioned Reven on his back and folded his arms across his chest before disappearing into the woods.

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