Thursday, 13 November 2014

Scent: Part 12

The next morning the set off just after sunrise, their bellies full of the venison and bread they had for breakfast. Fang had been rewarded for the provision of the food by being allowed to rip the remnants of the deer’s carcass to pieces, the best cuts of meat having already been removed and stowed in saddle bags. Reynard had told Reven that they should reach the gates of Vardenfell by nightfall if they made good time. And make good time they did. The day passed with little in the way of distractions. They stopped for lunch as they had done the previous day and continued on, passing more and more travellers as they did so. The road they travelled seemed to be the main route to Vardenfell and as they travelled other roads started meeting it, winding out of the forest. The people they passed were many and varied. Mounted men on mighty warhorses, whose armour gleamed in the sunlight, merchants with carts laden with goods or empty and heading away from Vardenfell, farmers pulling hand carts to sell their wares at one of the many markets in the city or just common folk. Many times Reven and his companions would be travelling alone for a while with only the rustling of the trees and bird song for company but then a new road would appear and along with it more travellers joining the march to Vardenfell. It was on one of these occasions that Reven was reminded just how dangerous the forest was.

Evening was creeping on, and soft dusky light lit the road. Fang trotted along next to the horses as he had done for the last few days. Reven was watching him run tirelessly along when he suddenly ran ahead of then and then froze in place, his hackles rising. Reynard and Aisha slowed their horses and came to a stop behind him. Reynard jumped down and crouching low came up to Fangs side. The hound’s lips were pulled back in a snarl and he sniffed the air. Reynard stalked passed him and moved to the tree line. ‘What is it?’ Reven asked, Aisha only responded by bringing her forefinger to her lip to hush him. Then Reven heard it. In the distance he could make out the sounds of conflict. Metal clashing on metal. Reynard ran back to his horse and spurred it into a gallop as soon he was in the saddle. Aisha followed suit and they steered their horses off the road through the trees. The sounds of battle were clearer now and Reven could hear harsh shouts and cries of despair. Very quickly he saw another road in front of them that had been running parallel to the one on which they had travelled. He still couldn’t see the source of the commotion but he knew he soon would as they raced toward the tree line. They burst out of some bushes at the roadside and turned the horses toward a scene of carnage that unfolded before them. A carriage sat in the middle of the road surrounded by armoured men. They faced out from the carriage and were beset on all sides by what Reven assumed were bandits. Many of the defenders were already down with arrows sticking out of them or lying in puddles of their own blood. The fight had not been completely one sided, many of the bandits lay motionless around the men. The armoured defenders were outnumbered by at least three to one and were being pinned in place by bandits armed with swords, clubs and wood axes whilst several of their number stood back and fired arrows through gaps at the defenders. Aisha turned her head and shouted ‘off boy, stay out of sight’ with that she pulled Reven to the side and he fell roughly to the ground. Fang rushed to his side as Reynard and Aisha spurred their horses forward once more roaring wordlessly as they sped to enter the fray. Reven got up and raced after them for a moment but his run tapered out as he watched the fight unfold. Aisha headed straight for the bowmen, jumping from her horse and drawing her long slim blade as she did so. The first man she met fell without even managing to block her swing and she advanced to the next side stepping the arrow he fired at her as she did so. Reynard headed for the carriage, dropping to the ground, sword in one hand and his long curved dagger in the other. He set about the bandits, attacking two at once, piercing one through the neck as he hacked at another with his sword. The defenders raised a ragged cheer at this and fought even harder to push back the attackers. Some men had broken off from the assault on the carriage and charged at Aisha as she despatched her third archer, responding to the new threat. Reynard had fought his way into the defenders line and now stood shoulder to shoulder with them screaming challenges and insults at the bandits as he thrust and parried. It was too much for Reven to take, his body shook as it responded to the violence that was being done before him. He drew the short sword from his side and looked down at Fang who leaned forward as if straining against an invisible bond. He didn’t know what drove him to do it but he charged to the left of the carriage where two archers still stood pumping arrows at the defending troops. Fang roared ahead of him. Despite the hound being young he was already the size of most grown dogs and already had a viscous aspect to him when his blood was up. The bowman recoiled at Fangs advance and reacted too late. The hound leapt and crashed into the man’s midriff as he turned towards him, smashing the man to the ground and then tearing his throat out sending great spray of crimson through the air in a wide arc. Reven ran on leaping over the man’s thrashing legs and through the curtain of blood that shot into the air. The second archer was almost ready, rushing his shot he fired at Reven almost point blank and the arrow left a bloody trench in the boy’s side as it parted the flesh on Reven’s ribs. Reven crashed into him, sword raised. The man reached for his dagger as he stumbled back. Reven’s blade flashed down at the bandit and missed. Despite his zeal Reven was no swordsman and the unfamiliar weight of the weapon in his hand over balanced him, his sword striking the hard packed mud of the road sending vibrations from the impact up his arm. The man sneered at him, shaking his head he said ‘stupid lad’ and lashed at out with his dagger. The blade cut a shallow stripe across Reven’s chest as he tried to get out of reach of the weapon. The man reached out and grabbed Reven by his oversized jacket and raised his arm up to strike. The blade came flashing toward Reven’s neck and would have connected if Fang hadn’t intervened. The hound blurred past Reven his jaws clamping down on the bandits arm, his weight dragging the man to the ground as he let go of Reven’s coat and flailed his free arm desperately trying to keep his balance. He screamed as Fang pulled him across the floor by his arm, tearing through skin and muscle. Reven recovered himself and looked down to see the blood flowing down his side from the arrow wound. His face a rictus of anger as he strode after the man, raising his sword high he brought it down on the bandit. The man put his free arm up trying to ward off the blade but it crashed into his forearm with a sickening crunch as his bones shattered. Reven didn’t stop, he raised his blade again and again hacking at his opponent. Reven’s blade was not keen but his repeated blows were enough to cut a bloody trench in the man’s chest until at last Reven got to see the man’s heart stop beating. Fang released his hold on the man and Reven stood over him, sword held loosely at his side and breathing hard from his exertions. Blood was splattered up his front, a mixture of his own and his fallen opponents.

He turned away from the corpse to see the last of the bandits being driven off. Reynard and Aisha had taken a terrible toll on them. Bodies littered the ground near the woman, her bloody dance done she was cleaning her blade on a dead man’s jerkin. Reynard was trotting off after the fleeing bandits but obviously thought better of it and he pulled up before breaking into a proper run. Reynard made to march over to Reven but was brought up short by one of the defending troops. ‘Thank you friend’ said the man extending his arm to Reynard. Reynard grasped him around the forearm and the man responded in kind. ‘Well met’ said Reynard, ‘what happened here? What precious cargo do you carry that would make this scum risk their lives so?’, as he spoke the curtain of the carriage was drawn back by an elderly gentleman. ‘Is it safe Siegfried? Is all well?’ said the man. ‘Aye lord, all is well. We had some help from these good folk.’ The old man stepped out of the carriage using Siegfried’s arm to help him balance. He cast an appraising eye over Reynard and then Aisha who was now standing at her companions side, ‘Fortunate indeed that we would run into two members of the Black Veil’ he almost spat the last few words out as if he had a bad taste in his mouth. The guards around them started to move back, wary at their lord’s announcement. ‘And who might you be?’ asked Reynard with a sneer on his face. The old man had started moving round the carriage and he spoke without looking at Reynard, ‘Lord Vol.’ Reynard flashed a glance at Aisha in recognition. It was obvious the old man didn’t need to say anymore, his name was known to them. Reven stood with Fang at his side as Lord Vol made his way over to them. The old man stared at them and then started waving his hands in the air in front of them as he muttered. Reven could see streamers of light trailing the man’s fingers. Magic! Reven had never seen it worked so close up and found the movement of Vol’s hands quite hypnotic. Vol balked slightly and stopped his mutterings and stared long and hard at Reven and eventually let out a ‘Ha’ and spun on his heel a smile playing across his lips. He made his way back into the carriage and before closing the door behind him said ‘Tell your master you bring his doom to his doorstep.’, laughing aloud he shut the door and drew the curtain.

Reynard and Aisha collected their horses leaving Lord Vol’s troops to see to their wounded. ‘Ungrateful bastard’ whispered Reynard as he mounted his horse. Aisha was looking at the wound on Reven’s side, ‘I told you to stay put. Now look’ she said gesturing at the gash on Reven’s side. It had stopped bleeding and a scab had already started forming at each end. Aisha inspected is closely, ‘It doesn’t hurt Miss. I’m fine. Sorry for rushing in…I…I don’t know what happened’ Reven said apologetically. ‘It should hurt though’ she said prodding at the wounds edges. She took off one of her gloves and placed her bare hand over the gash. Closing her eyes she murmured a few words and Reven felt a tingling warmth in his side. She took her hand away and Reven looked down to see the flesh knit back together. Even though the wound didn’t seem to trouble him the healing of it hurt mightily. Reven stared at Aisha in wonder clutching his side. ‘A simple spell….don’t stare’. She put her glove back on and mounted her horse, ‘Come on Reven, we can still make Vardenfell before midnight if we hurry. With that she offered her hand and helped Reven up onto the back of her horse before setting off at a trot back the way they came.

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