Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Trollbane - Part 12

The copse of Silver Birch trees nestled on the side of a hill, 200 yards away from the denser woodland. Moonlight played across the bark of the trees as a gentle wind swayed their branches back and forth, caught in an invisible tide. Death crouched in the copse; patient, silent, ready.


The peace of the night was disturbed by a carriage that bolted along the road that passed the copse and disappeared into the woodland. Drawn by four horses as black as the night itself and richly adorned with ornamental carvings, it’s oil braziers blazed a trail through the darkness. In hot pursuit came a dozen horseman. Riding hard and gaining on the carriage as it sped toward the wood. The carriage driver frantically snapped at and whipped the horses and he urged them to greater effort. They were flagging though, the chase sapping their stamina. The horsemen would catch the carriage between the copse and the woodland.


As the horseman raced passed the copse the scent of impending doom assailed the horse's nostrils. They tried to pull away from the copse, riders reining them in, but it was all for nought. The trap was sprung and the jaws of Reven’s Fang snapped shut. Arrows whistled through the air felling three of the riders as a mass of fur and muscle exploded from the copse into the midst of the onrushing riders.


Reven sat atop Fang as bolted into the horsemen, hewing his way through the first two riders he met. Fang felled the horse of another, sending the rider cartwheeling through the air. He landed with a dull crack, neck broken. The woodland now came to life as Kris, Bran and Mulder ran from the gloom of the trees, war cries being shouted. The horsemen were in disarray. More arrows were loosed into the mix as the twins got their eye in. Mulder was joined by Orwin and Agrippa who sprang from the carriage, as he raced to box in the panicked horsemen. As they joined the fray, Reven leapt from Fang’s back slashing at another horse bourne bandit with Bloodthirster. His blow landed, neatly removing the man's arm at the shoulder. Hot blood sprayed across Reven’s chest and bloodthirster drank in a storm of crimson rain. Fang was putting his unladen freedom to good use, knocking riders from horses and tearing at equine necks. Muldar crushed a man's skull with his mighty Warhammer as Agrippa disembowelled another, spilling stinking guts across the road. 90 seconds of screaming death and the horsemen were undone. Broken bodies and mewling pleas for mercy was all that remained of them. Fang ate man-flesh whilst the rest of Reven’s mercenaries gathered at the roadside awaiting the arrival of their employer.


The carriage that had sat stationary at the entrance to the woodland turned around and the horses were gently guided toward the massacre. It stopped short of the bloodshed, the driver jumping down to open the door for his master who had been ensconced within. As his master, Alderman Barrowthorne, stepped free of the carriage, the driver turned his attention to his heavy breathing horses.


Barrowthorne was elderly but still stood strong and proud as he addressed Reven, “Your gambit paid off” he stated as he settled in front of them. “I must admit the thought as putting myself up as bait did not sit well with me but my misgivings have been proved false in the most wonderful way. Your men are a credit to you, sir”. Reven gave a shallow bow, “Thank you, lord. We are well versed in dealing with bandit scum. I was confident you were never at risk”. A sideways smile cracked the old man's lips as he stepped forward to drop a heavy purse of coin into Reven’s outstretched hand. “Quite” he remarked as he stepped back. “Engleheart is in your debt. I hope you will enjoy our hospitality again before you continue your travels?”. “I believe these men have earned a drink m’Lord. We’ll escort you back into town and stay another day before pushing on”. Reven bowed again as Barrowthorne nodded, before heading back to his carriage.


Business concluded, Reven mounted Fang and led the carriage back past the copse, his men trailing behind it. The dead and dying were left for the wolves and crows.