Tragedy of the Raven Part 2, Chapter 6
By Prince Nightmare
Liegh and Rennard had arrived in Guardia about the same time as when Lucca had left in the Epoch. Liegh was beside herself with pride as she rode through the town on Alheid. She wore her bronze armor, specially made for her small frame, and carried her saber at her thigh. The other children her age looked up at the young Hunter with envy as she rode past on the big gray stallion.
Guardia was so much bigger than Lenstahn that Leigh felt overwhelmed by the mass of people in the market square. Rennard watched the look on Lieghs face with amusement. The child seemed to be trying to take everything in at once.
Its huge Rennard! Liegh gasped as she looked at the row of merchant tents that spread a quarter mile down the main street. Rennard laughed but Liegh was too busy watching all the activity to blush in embarrassment. Alheid snorted nervously and Liegh patted his neck to calm him. Rennard had to admit that the young Hunter handled the stallion better than he would have ever expected.
Lad, why dont you have a look around as soon as we get settled in the Inn? Ill give you a gold piece so you can buy a gift for your uncle! Rennard smiled as the boys eyes lit up in glee.
Really!! Oh thanks Rennard! Itll take me all day to find something to get him, theres so much to chose from!
The Inn was three times the size of the one in Lenstahn. A stable boy rushed out to tend the horses. When he reached for Alheids reins, the big stallion snorted and reared in the air. Liegh rushed to calm him. She turned sheepishly to the stable boy. Im sorry. Ill have to get him for you. Hes kind of high spirited. The boy had nodded and backed away from the nervous stallion without a word.
After she had fed and watered Alheid, Liegh joined Rennard in the Inn for dinner. A big fat woman with jolly red cheeks ushered her to the big table where Rennard and several other knights were feasting on roast beef and mutton. There were side dishes too, like pudding and steamed vegetables. It all smelled so good that Liegh didnt know what to try first.
Rennard slipped a gold coin into her jerkin pocket and winked. Thats for the gift for your uncle. Liegh nodded as the fat woman placed before her a mug filled with some amber liquid. Liegh sniffed it and her eyes got wide.
Rennard this is beer! Liegh whispered to the Hunter, sure that some mistake had been made. Rennard laughed and slipped another gold coin to her.
Thats to keep you quiet about the beer. Krischtiahn would kill me if he found out I let his nephew have a mug of it! But youre a Hunter now, Liegh. Drink up like a man!
Liegh managed to choke down most of the beer, though it tasted strong. Rennard didnt mention that he had the Inn keep water it down so Liegh would get about half beer and half water. He watched the youngest of the Einderesch choke down the liquid with a smirk on his handsome young face.
After dinner, Rennard went to his room for a nap. You remember how to get back to the Inn, dont you Liegh?
Liegh nodded. Of course I do. I just follow the signs that say Inn, this way and keep away from the alleys.
Rennard nodded. Right you are lad. Now be back before supper and have fun. Dont let any of these sly city merchants talk you into buying one of their cheap swords made from potting iron!
Liegh snorted. She could tell a poor sword from a good with her eyes closed. I wont. Ill be back in a few hours then! Tell the stable hands to stay away from Alheid or hell bite them! she giggled and ran off towards the market place.
The first stand she stopped at sold household goods. That was no fun in Lieghs opinion so she darted off to a stand where they sold helmets and armor. There were all kinds of armor there even a breast plate with an ivory inlay design of a dragon! Liegh practically drooled over it and imagined herself riding Alheid and wearing the shining breastplate as she cut down foes. The merchant wanted 150 gold pieces for it! And she had thought the two gold pieces in her pocket a treasure. Nothing in Lenstahn cost over five or six gold pieces!
The weapon shop was just as interesting. They had every kind of sword she could imagine broadswords and bastard swords, rapiers and claymores plus they had war bows and battle axes from far to the east. Some of the weapons had intricate designs on the blades and hilts. Liegh knew most of the swords were still too big for her, but she wanted to try them all out anyway.
It was just about then she noticed people staring at her. She looked down at herself, still wearing the simple bronze breastplate with the Knights Cross on it. Her small saber sheathed at her waist was not as big as most swords, but it certainly was no toy either. She wore leather pants and high riding boots with a black tunic under her armor. Liegh wore her hair in the tradition style of the Einderesch, in a bun held by a silver cross and a silver pin. There were few Hunters who still wore their hair in the old way, but Krischtiahn insisted Liegh did. She realized that she must have looked odd. Most children her age wore every day clothes, and none of them carried a sword.
The adults were polite enough to look once and then turn away, but the children Lieghs own age simply gawked. One big one, with red hair and an ugly scar on his whole face, started following her as she made her way down the street. Annoyed, Liegh turned and faced him.
Can I help you, sir? she asked politely. The Einderesch were taught to always be polite. The Hunters were a sect of paladins after all, and it would not do to be cursing at commoners who stared.
Are you really a Wizard Hunter? Youre just a kid. You arent even big as I am. Elmer said, the scar on his face twitching as he talked. Liegh tried hard not to be disgusted at it.
Yes, I am a Hunter. And it isnt size that counts either. Its how good you are with a sword and how fast you can think. There has never been a Hunter as young as me, so dont think I cant fight just because of my size.
Elmer didnt look impressed. Well, whatever you say. But I bet you couldnt kill the wizard who did this to my face. He pointed at his scar and went on. Hes just a kid too, and look what he did. Could you kill someone who can make fire shoot from his fingers?
Liegh stared at him. He had to be lying. There werent any real wizards left since Magus the Black had died nearly ten years ago. Her uncle sometimes ranted about his bastard son who lived with a Sir Glenn of Guardia Lieghs eyes widened. What did this boy look like, sir?
Elmer snorted. Like a demon! He had hair as black as night and eyes so blue they looked unreal. Some say he is the spawn of the Devil Magus!
Liegh nearly choked. It was true then! She had thought her uncle had just been blowing hot air for lack of a real foe. But Magus son did exist and he had hurt a commoner! A real wizard no older than herself! Where does this wizard live?! I will go and put him to the stake!
Elmers eyes widened and his scar twitched rapidly. In the forest with the famous knight Sir Glenn of the Masamune. It is said the young wizard has enchanted the knight into protecting him with the magical sword! You wouldnt stand a chance against Sir Glenn! There is none in Guardia who can fight as he does.
Liegh listened as a plan formed in her mind. Can you show me the way to the house? Can you meet me here tomorrow, early in the morning? I can pay you a gold coin. She smirked to herself as the boys eyes narrowed greedily.
Make it two and I will show you the way. Elmers face twisted up into an ugly grin as Liegh nodded. Good. Ill meet you here at dawn then, and I will show you the way to the cabin that is deep in the woods. And if the barbarian raiders dont get you, either Glenn or the wizard will.
Leighs eyes grew cold. Well see. She said under her breath. She could hardly believe her luck. If she could bring her uncle the son of Magus, she would surely win his approval and the respect of the older Hunters! Tired of the sounds of the busy market, Liegh left Elmer standing there and returned to the stable to visit Alheid. She told the stallion all about her plans. He nickered, as if agreeing.
They were waiting now. It would soon be day break and then the final raid would begin. Baluf sharpened his axe silently as the other men were doing. Little stood in their way now. His scouts had reported only three houses between themselves and the town of Guardia. One belonged to an old couple who kept a few goats and chickens. The next belonged to a young lumberjack who was gone away most of the time. The last one belonged to a knight that was said to be the most revered fighter in all the kingdom. He had two children with him. Baluf had listened solemnly. The knight would be killed, he said, and the children would be taken as slaves.
And then the town of Guardia would be their final stop before they went home. It sounded too good to be true. They had been in the southern land for nearly four months now and Baluf and his men grew weary of the warm weather. True, food was abundant here but he could see that it wouldnt take a man long to grow fat and lazy in such a land.
The sun would rise in a few hours. The raid would start, and by the will of the gods, Baluf and his warriors would set sail for home by nightfall.
At dawn Raven woke and wondered when he had fallen asleep. Glenn lay next to him on the bed, still snoring. A deep ache filled Ravens chest as he remembered all that had happened the day before. Lucca she was gone! Raven decided not to wake Glenn and let him have the comfort of sleep.
Aria was just waking. She pouted and looked ready to bawl when Raven motioned her to be quiet. He whispered in her ear. Are you hungry Aria? Aria nodded, a little confused at where she was. Where are Mommy and Daddy?
Raven was at a loss. He didnt know what to tell the child. He was thinking of a good thing to say when he heard a something from the woods that sounded like a war cry. Raven raced to the window to see a horde of savage looking men come bursting through the bushes, yelling. He ducked down as an arrow whizzed past his head. Glenn!!
Glenn sat up groggily. Huh? What is going on? The knight jumped as the door crashed in, several dangerous warriors standing in the entrance. WHAT is the meaning of THIS? He yelled at the warriors, who stood grinning. Raven had grabbed Aria and was shoving her up to the loft. Stay there! he hissed, looking over his shoulder at the barbarians. He nodded his approval when Aria bit her lip and didnt cry. Slowly, Raven reached beneath his bed and pulled out his sword. Glenn had already reached for the Masamune. No one moved for a moment. The barbarians were grinning, as if it were a sport.
Get out of my house. We have nothing for you here. Glenn said in a low, deadly tone. Leave me and my family alone. Go, or I will kill you!
The biggest of the savages laughed. I think not, small man. You will die by the hand of Baluf the Bloodbather. I myself shall kill you! Your children will be slaves to my tribe! If they fight, we will kill them too! He roared, and charged Glenn without warning. Glenn leaped aside and slashed at the big warrior with the Masamune. The sword seemed to sing as it sliced through the air. Baluf twisted out of the way just in time and stood chuckling. This might be fun for Baluf after all.
Raven! Glenn shouted. Get to town! Tell the knights there is a raid! Hurry! Dont delay! I can hold them off for now!
Raven didnt have time to protest because Glenn was fighting again with Baluf and the other barbarians were rushing to block the door. Raven shot up the loft and out the top window, jumping down and landing gracefully, though he had dropped a good twelve feet. He darted off past several more warriors, who bellowed and then gave chase. Raven was quicker than them and knew the woods so well he could walk it blindfolded. The barbarians werent too far behind, however, and they seemed to know how to track him very well.
Breathless, Raven jumped in the river and unto a low lying tree limb. He scrambled up far into the thick foliage of the tree. He peeked down to see the barbarians race past, swearing. For a few minutes he waited, and then quietly leaped down unto the river bank. Heading off in the almost opposite direction, he raced down the shortcut to town and prayed the barbarians hadnt figured out his trick.
He thought his lungs were going to burst by the time he hit the main path that led to Guardia. His head swam but Raven knew that if he stopped now he would never make it the rest of the way. Gritting his teeth he bore down and picked up his pace the last three miles to the town. He was nearly there when he ran smack into something hard and fell over backwards. He had been running so hard he hadnt even noticed the horse and rider!
The horse bucked and reared as the rider tried in vain to calm him. Raven regained his feet shakily, breathing so hard his throat hurt with the effort. He stood with his hands on his knees trying to regain himself enough to talk. The rider had recovered control and Raven looked up, startled to see a young boy on a huge gray stallion. The boy was dressed in a vaguely familiar attire and was staring wide eyed at Raven.
You have to get help! Raven gasped. Barbarians are raiding! Ride back tell the knights! He collapsed to his knees and trembled with weakness.
A wizards trick! the boy said, raising his saber. You are my prisoner, wizard! You will come with me!
Raven looked at him disbelieving. WHAT? No! You dont understand! The barbarians are raiding! Theyll be to Guardia soon! GO!! TELL THE KNIGHTS! He stood back up and snarled as the boy charged him on the big stallion. Raven leaped aside and rolled, springing back up on his feet. He didnt have time to mess around. If the boy wasnt going to ride and alert the townsfolk, hed have to do it himself. He sprung up quickly and knocked the boy off his horse. The stallion screamed and reared, but Raven managed to stay on. The horse bucked like a beast gone mad, twisting and biting at Raven. Raven felt himself losing his grip and he slid from the horses back onto the hard path, the wind knocked out of him. He rolled out of the way just as the horses hooves came down right where his head had been.
The boy leaped to his feet and petted the horse, which immediately calmed. The boy mounted and raised his saber for another charge. Raven shook his head. The horse and the boy must have a devil in them he didnt have time to fight with them. He shot past the rider but took no more than a dozen steps when two barbarians leaped from behind the dense shrubs and caught him.
Look what we have here! Well, I knew wed get him, Rygnar. The bald one said, holding Raven high into the air by the collar of his jerkin. Raven bit at his hand, but Rygnar only swore. He swung a heavy fist and it caught Raven in the stomach. Raven felt like the punch had gone through him, and he gagged. The barbarians turned to Liegh.
A little knight, is it? Rygnar said. Goroth, what should we do with him?
Goroth tossed Raven to the ground and kicked him hard in the ribs. Take him too. Thats a nice horse hes got.
Liegh scowled and raised her saber. You wont take me. Not on your life. She dug her heels into Alheids side and charged, screaming. Rygnar and Goroth leaped out of the Hunters way, falling to the side of the path. The horse thundered past, heading towards Guardia.
Stop that kid! Hell warn the town!
Goroth pulled a long bow and arrow from where they hung on his side and aimed carefully. He let go the string and the arrow whizzed through the air, sailing harmlessly to the right of the horse and rider, who were now well out of range. Rygnar swore.
Raven, meanwhile, had managed to crawl towards the bushes. His side and stomach hurt so bad they made him sick, but he was determined to get away. Goroth spotted him and grabbed him by the hair just as Raven sprung to his feet.
You arent going anywhere, boy. Rygnars heavy fist plowed into Ravens face as blood spurted out his nose. He coughed hard to clear his throat of the taste of blood, and the barbarians laughed.
This ones touched by Loki. Look at his ears. Goroth sneered, pulling hard on Ravens slightly pointed hear. He twisted it hard until Raven snarled and tried to kick at him. Hes a trouble maker. Hand me your axe.
Rygnar handed over his heavy double edged battle axe. Ravens struggle increased. They were going to kill him! Cut his head off with that axe! He couldnt break free from that iron grip that held him suspended in the air! Raven closed his eyes and waited to die.
Goroth gripped the axe firmly and with a swift stroke, hit Raven upside the head with the butt end of it. He tossed the unconscious boy to the ground, chuckling. What a fighter. We could train him to fight that damned Vahryiah! Send him out there and see if he can kill the wolf boy!
Rygnar chuckled. Thats one child that is from Loki himself. Wed better head back now. Baluf should be finished with the knight and we can go on to the town before theyve had time to really mount their defenses. Wed better hurry though! That kid is going to warn them that were coming. Were going to have a fight on our hands!
Goroth scooped Raven up and slung him over a shoulder. They turned to go when several warriors came hurtling down the path. They halted when they saw Goroth and Rygnar, their eyes wide. A few were covered with blood. One was missing a hand.
What in the name of ..? Rygnar began, but was interrupted by a warrior named Ugel.
Baluf has been slain by the knight! Hes dead and so are several others! The knight took the girl child and escaped! Nagar has lost his right hand trying to stop him. The knight had a sword that made him invincible! Goroth, Rygnar! We must get to our ship and set sail now! That knight killed half our ranks. There are only ten of us left, we cannot take on the town now! Goroth and Rygnar nodded in stunned agreement. Baluf, their fearless leader, had died. The gods had punished them for proclaiming victory before it was so they must leave this forsaken land now or they would all die!
Taking Raven with them, they quickly skirted the town and made their way to where the boat was hidden in an obscure cove. The sails billowed outward as the remaining men forced their captives to carry onboard the stolen food and goods. Before the sun had set, the ship with a dragon head carved into its tall mast was sailing quickly for the North.
Raven had been tossed with the other slaves below deck, still unconscious.
Go To Part 2, Chapter 7
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