Friday, 24 July 2015

Hunter-Slayer

The shallow valley was gently lit by the light of the full moon. Stars glittered in the sky above the long, lush grasses that covered the sloping hillsides. On one side of the valley in the grass crouched six men. They were in a loose line, each man about twenty feet away from the next. Across the valley the seventh member of the team lay in the grass awaiting the command to advance. Fang could see his master clearly even through the dark of the night and he was eager to begin the hunt. Reven was furthest to the right of the line, to his left stooped Agrippa and beyond him the youngster Orwin, the man mountain Muldar and then the twins Kris and Bran. Before them lay their target. A make-shift camp that had been erected around a ramshackle hunting lodge. 

The camp consisted of two wagon's that had canvass lean-to's resting on their sides, these were drawn up either side of the lodge. The dying embers of a recently used fire flickered as they were kissed by the wind. Pots and pans lay at the fires side and horses were tied to a tree a short way from the main camp. The men in the camp are what the party were here for. Reven and his band had taken a job to rescue the daughter of a wealthy merchant. She had been abducted whilst travelling back to Blackcliff and a ransom note had been delivered shortly afterwards. The young woman's guards and driver had been slaughtered at the roadside and the bandits had disappeared into the night. The ransom was due the day after tomorrow but the merchant had no intention of paying it as he had no proof of life. Fang had picked up the bandits scent quickly and had led them to this valley which was well off the beaten path. 

The camp was quiet. There were two men sitting near the horses. They both appeared to be drunk. Others slept under the lean-to's or in the wagon's interiors. Until a moment ago the only noise from the camp had been the occasional raucous outburst of laughter from the drunk men who quickly hushed themselves with over exaggerated 'Shhhh' noises. Now they could hear screaming and gruff voices raised in anger from the lodge. The time to strike had arrived.

Reven indicated with two fingers, swishing them to the left. This move was copied down the line of men crouched in the grass and upon seeing it the twins broke off. Moving to the left to strike at the drunkards by the horses. In a matter of moments they were down, throats slit by Kris and Bran's blades. With another sweeping hand motion the rest or Reven's team were in motion. The men moved to the edge of the grass and then the silence of the night was further broken by the teams last member. Fang unleashed a deafening roar as he entered the camp. He rushed at the first parked up carriage and dived under the lean-to onto the sleeping men within. He tore them limb from limb as they awoke from their slumber into a nightmare. The other bandits in the camp woke ready to respond to the animal attack. Six men stumbled from their beds grabbing weapons and heading toward the beast in their midst. This was what Reven had been waiting for, he stood up, bowstring drawn. His men rose in unison a fraction of a second after him similarly ready. Reven let his arrow loose and it sailed through the air before punching through the unprotected back of a bandit who crumpled immediately. Other arrows also found their mark and as soon as they were fired Reven's band rushed from the grass ensuring the downed men were indeed dead. Each man ran to the bandit their arrow had struck and made a killing blow. All were economical with their kills apart from Muldar who crushed the skull of the bandit he had hit with a mighty swing of his two-handed warhammer. 

All was silent in the camp. Fang stalked into the heart of it to meet with the rest of the band, fresh blood still dripping from his mouth. Nobody had emerged from the old hunting lodge as yet and the team formed up in front of it. Reven's warrior's held still and silent as he showed them his palm to halt them. Weak light seeped through the windows of the lodge, maybe from a candle or low lit lantern. Shapes flickered across the light and Reven waited no longer. 'Fang' he said and the warhound leapt head first at the door shattering it with his head as he landed and bounded through. Reven and his team rushed in through the smashed door after Fang. Reven took in his surroundings in a second and appraised the situation. The lodge had three occupants, the first of which a bandit that had been flattened when Fang exploded into the room,  the man's broken body had been flung to the far side of the lodge. A second man, the bandits leader Reven assumed, stood with his trousers around his ankles and his arm round a woman's neck. With his other hand he held a dagger to her throat. The woman was completely naked and had been badly beaten. Bruises and cuts covered her body. She had deep gashes in her wrists from where she had been bound too tightly. Her most horrific wound showed the horrible abuse she had endured at the hands of these bandit scum. She sported deep bruising on her inner thighs and blood ran from between her legs. Reven's attack had obviously interrupted the latest savagery done to her. Reven's anger flowed through him and Fang let loose low rumbling growl as he sensed his masters displeasure.

'Stay back' the scabby bandit chief screamed as he poked the dagger into the woman's neck drawing blood, 'I'll kill the bitch, I swear'. Reven walked slowly in front of the bandit, drawing his attention and said, 'Bran. I want him alive'. No sooner had the words left Reven's lips than Bran, who still stood in the doorway, brought up his bow and sent an arrow deep into the flesh of the bandits shoulder. With a scream the wretch dropped his blade and Agrippa rushed him. The woman was pulled out of harm's way and the chief forced against the wall. 'Bind him, arms and legs splayed.' Reven said and Muldar and Agrippa went about tying the man to the wall making use of the same hooks he had used to secure the girl. 'Find us some breakfast and get some clothes for the woman. Leave us.'

The men moved outside with Fang leaving the the woman sitting on the floor. She was close to broken but she wore a look of pure hatred on her face as she watched Reven approach the bound man, dagger in hand. Fang stood sentinel outside the ruined door of the lodge as the band of warriors searched through the bandits belongings and made a fire.

The bandit chiefs screams were heard through the night until sunrise as Reven slowly peeled the skin from his flesh. He died when Reven invited Fang in and ordered him to remove the man's genitalia which the hound did with one swift bite leaving a gaping hole between the scum's legs. As Reven and the woman appeared from the huts entrance clothes were handed to her and a pale of water held out for him. Reven washed the blood from his hands and took his seat by the fire. 

The men sat together to enjoy their scavenged breakfast. The woman would eat nothing, she lay in the grass sobbing as they ate. Fang, preferring his food fresh, devoured a bandit. Before long the men were laughing and joking, their work done. The Hunter-Slayers had completed their quest and enacted the merchants vengeance.  It was going to be a beautiful day. 


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