8.

8.

A Chapter by Eddie Davis
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Luke and Kyara aid some merchants that are being attacked by bandits.

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8.

 

 

Kyara was greatly relieved to not have anyone try to break into her room that night.   She rose as soon as the sky grew lighter in color and debated checking on Luke first, but decided that she would get their horses ready first to give him time to sleep a bit longer.

She was very surprised to find the young cavalier sitting on his horse looking as drawn and pale as a ghost as he stoically watched the sun rise.

“Luke?”  She said, unsure how long he’d been there or what condition he was in.

“Good morning, Yara,”  He replied with a gentle smile and a bit of sparkle in his eyes, “How did you sleep?”

“Uninterrupted,”  She joked and he smiled, knowing what she meant.

“How are you?” Kyara asked him, “Can you ride?”

He nodded, trying his best to reassure her with feigned relaxed confidence, “We should eat before we get on the road.”

“I’ll see if I can get us something from the kitchen before we leave,”   Kyara said, but Luke stopped her.

“I checked a while ago - they don’t serve breakfast, so we’d best just stick with our own provisions, while we ride.”

“Oh, okay,” She replied, “Let me go get my horse saddled up-“

“I took the liberty of getting your horse ready; you’re set to ride.”

“Thanks, Luke; you seem to be stronger today,” Kyara commented as she went into the inn’s stable and untied her horse from where Luke had hitched him.   

“I hope so, Yara, I will certainly try.   We have a lot of ground to cover today.”

A minute later she emerged on her horse and they started off down the still sleeping street of the village, eating dried fruit and bread from their rations as they rode.

 

For the first four hours the sky was clear, but halfway to noon the clouds rolled in and a gentle rain fell, though they pressed onward.

Luke filled her in on what to expect from the places that they’d soon pass through, for they had to leave the main road and head down rougher connecting roads that usually were used only by local farmers and a few hardy merchants that visited the smaller villages.

“We’ve passed into St. Wemricshire now,” He told her, “You probably know a bit about it; the monks are good people and they accept elves, but don’t be fooled - the Archbishop has spies all over, so we shouldn’t let our guard down even here.   Copper Gate is on the border with Wheachester and it is a mining community and somewhat more secular than the rest of St. Wemricshire.   The monks don’t have as much influence there, so we’ll have to be very careful when we reach it.   Hopefully the fall rains won’t flood out the ford or we’ll have a much longer ride to get across the Brombrun River.    Too bad that the arcane train doesn’t head that direction.”

Kyara’s face saddened at mention of the train, for she knew that Avalynn would be on it, heading south toward an unknown fate with the High King.

“I hope I did the right thing,”   She said aloud and Luke somehow knew what she meant, though he didn’t comment on it and instead let her ponder it quietly for a few minutes.

The silence was suddenly broken when they came around a wooded bend in the road to encounter a lone merchant’s caravan stopped on the road with a broken wagon wheel.   But it wasn’t that which drew their attention, for apparently a group of highwaymen had stumbled on the stranded caravan and was in the process of robbing the three Halfling merchants.    They stood with their hands in the air in front of the wagon with three robbers guarding them with crossbows while five others pillaged through the goods in the back on the disabled caravan wagon.

“What do we do?”  Kyara asked, turning to Luke, but he was already in motion - his injuries forgotten as his chivalrous code as a knight overcame all pain.   He was in full gallop in an instant, charging down upon the startled bandits, not with his sword drawn as she expected, but instead a long horseman’s mace, with a corded strap slipped across his wrist.

The little Halflings dove underneath their wagon as their three guards quickly turned and aimed their crossbows at the charging knight.

The first Highwayman fired in a near panic and the bolt missed Luke entirely.   The second bandit’s aim was better, but it lodged in Luke’s wooden shield and he sustained no injury.    The third man could not fire due to his companion’s positions in between him and the attacking horseman, so he waited for a clear shot.

Luke did not slow down as he came down upon the three highwaymen on their horses.    The first one tried to use his crossbow as a parrying weapon, but Luke spun his mace at the last moment and slammed into the man’s side.    All three bandits wore only leather armor and the impact of this blow sent the first man tumbling off his horse.      Luke was a blur as he now attacked the second highwayman.   This man had raised his crossbow in an attempt to club at Luke, but that left his face exposed and Luke hit him squarely in the nose, the added momentum of his horse increasing the damage.   

The bandit’s skull was crushed and he fell dead from his horse.

The other man on his steed ducked slightly around the side of the disabled wagon, yelling for his companions that were still pouring out of the back of the caravan to assist him.

Luke rushed around the wagon, but the highwayman had anticipated this and fired his crossbow at point blank range, hitting Luke’s right arm just above the elbow and disabling his weapon hand.    His arm fell limp to his side, the mace now dangling from the cord around his wrist.  

Kyara heard him cry out in pain, but he didn’t break off his attack, slamming his shield into the face of the third rider, and then bashing him twice more in the head and shoulders until he too fell from his horse, dead.

But now the other five bandits surrounded him, grabbing at his limp arm and trying to pull him off his horse.   Luke hung on with his left hand, but this gave the bandits on the other side of his horse a chance to stab at him with daggers or slash at him with the curved sabers that these types of robbers preferred.

It was only then that Kyara thought to act, for the sudden events had temporarily stunned her.

With a loud yell that she hoped would sound like a whole company of riders advancing, she spurred her horse forward with her sword drawn, toward the ring of bandits attacking Luke.

As she closed in on them, they spread out to face her, three of them standing their ground before her while the other two cut, slashed and pulled at Luke.     He clubbed one of the men over the head with his shield, which sent him to the ground unconscious, but the other one stabbed him deeply in the lower leg with his dagger, then with a bold grab, yanked him off the horse and fell on top of him with his bloody dagger raised to strike again.

Kyara had no choice but to spur her reluctant horse to run over the three highwaymen in front of her so she could get to Luke.

They dove out of her way, but one of them gave a wicked cut to the right flank of her horse.    He whinnied in pain and bucked just as she came upon the bandit posed to kill Luke.

The man saw the horse and dove backwards, thinking it was a trained warhorse that would rear up and use his hooves against anyone on foot in his way.

The horse fell from the attempt, onto his injured side, but Kyara had leaped free and managed to land on her feet with her sword still in her hand.     The four remaining highwaymen rushed at her from different sides.

She swung her sword in a wide circle, keeping them back for a moment, though one of them worked his way behind her to attempt a rear attack.   Incredibly she saw Luke weakly getting to his feet using his left arm, out of the corner of her eye.   

But she couldn’t focus on him as the bandits were determined to neutralize her as a team.    She heard one behind her moving and was prepared to try to ward off his attack while the others came at her from the front, but there came a whistling sound and then a cracking sound and she heard the bandit behind her fall to the ground.     She and her attackers turned to see one of the Halfling merchants standing near the wagon quickly loading another stone into a sling.

They also saw Luke regain his feet with a grim expression on his pale face as he stiffly unfastened the cord of his mace from his limp right arm and began advancing with it in his left hand.

The odds now were even and one of the three remaining bandits broke off his attack against her and rushed to finish off Luke before the Halfling could fire another stone from his sling.

The other two turned back to her, but she didn’t wait for them to attack.   With amazing quickness, she suddenly leaped forward with her shield in front of her, ramming one of the Highwaymen praying that the unexpected move and her momentum would unbalance him.

He kept his footing, but it did surprise him and he forgot to use his saber to block her, instead using his weaponless left arm.   She cut savagely at the exposed arm, her blade going through the leather deep into his muscle.   He screamed in pain and dropped his weapon, clutching his other arm as a severed artery spewed blood everywhere.

Her other opponent took a slash at her head, but she managed to get the rim of her shield between herself and the blade and it was deflected.

The bandit spun and slashed wildly at her again, but this time she ducked under his stroke and thrust her sword point into his gut.   His leather armor kept him from being run through, but the impact of the blow knocked the wind out of him and caused him to double over in pain.     Without thinking about what she was about to do, Kyara saw his exposed neck and she chopped at it.    A spray of blood splashed in her face as he fell dead in front of her.   

The princess cried out in disgust and dismay as the warm fluid burned her eyes and she dropped her sword and hysterically rubbed it from her face.    Sinking to her knees, her stomach rolled and a moment later she was vomiting up breakfast.   As she threw up she could see the last Highwayman  charging at Luke.    He slashed savagely, sensing Luke’s weakness, but he used the mace to parry his blows.   He was driven backwards and sank to his knees, but as the Highwayman raised his saber to strike, the Halfling sent another sling stone into his jaw, shattering the bandit’s teeth.  

Stunned, he forgot Luke for a moment as he spit out teeth and blood and the young knight took the chance offered to him.    He swung the mace upward into the bandit’s face, breaking his jaw, then with a quick reversal, into his temple as the man slide to the ground.    By the time his body rested on the muddy soil, he was dead.

 

For a long moment there were only the pitiful moans of a couple of the Highwaymen that were bleeding to death nearby.   But Kyara could do nothing but let her stomach heave and tremble violently as she realized that she had just killed someone.   Luke sank back down to the ground, and then fell on his back, gasping from his injuries.   The Halfling with the sling yelled to his companions while rushing over to assist his rescuers.

“Sir knight!   Are you alright?”  The Halfling asked Kyara, not knowing her gender due to her disguise.

“I’m…alright…go…check on… Luke,”  She answered, gulping down air after aggressive vomiting.

He did as she requested and was joined by his two companions.   They knelt by the unconscious Luke, worriedly murmuring over how to help.

“Cass, we’ve got to do something!”   One Halfling said to the one who had used the sling.

“Theo, he’s badly injured; go get the balm.”

“The balm!   Cass, that stuff is rarer than diamonds!   It’s about gone!”   The Halfling named Theo protested.

“Theo!”  The third Halfling chastised, “He saved our lives and our gold as well.”

“But Sirpo!  Replacing the Balm would cost a King’s ransom - if it even can be replaced!”

Sirpo and Cass just glared disapprovingly at their protesting friend and so with a frustrated sigh, Theo jumped up and climbed into the wagon.

Kyara had regained her composure by then and rushed over to check on Luke.    For a horrible moment she thought he was dead, for he had no color in his skin and she could not see him breathing.

“He’s in a bad way, sir,”   Cass said to her, still thinking she was male, “We’ve got a small bit of healing balm but I don’t know if that will be enough to fully heal him.   Hopefully it will keep him from dying, though.”

“Thank you,”  Kyara replied, the Halfling looking up in surprise upon hearing the feminine tone of her voice, “I’ll pay you for the balm.”

“It’s the least we can do,”  He replied, trying to discretely look at her to verify that she was actually a woman and not a young human boy as he’d first thought.

Cass looked over to the wagon and called out, “Hurry up, Theo, he’s hurt bad!”

“I’m coming, I’m coming!”   The other Halfling grumbled, racing back to his fellow merchant with a small jar, which he somewhat hesitantly gave to Cass.

“That’s all we’ve got, Cass!”

“Stop worrying about it, Theo!    This man saved our lives; show some charity!”

Theo just hung his head and pouted, letting his companion care for the injured knight.

“Sirpo, we’ve got to get his armor off so we can apply the balm,”   Theo said to the other Halfling and immediately he began working on the straps on Luke’s armor.

“Let me help,”   Kyara said and together they quickly unbuckled Luke’s breastplate and other pieces of armor.

Soon they had the half plate removed and the chainmail pieces, then the padding.    The crossbow bolt wound in his arm and stab wounds in his legs had drained him of a lot of blood.

“That’s odd; I thought he had other injuries,”   Cass said to Kyara as they examined his bare chest.   It was bruised and had terrible half-way healed scabs and scars from where he’d been tortured by Reddric’s men.

“Oh!  Cass, look!”   Sipro had began pulling down Luke’s padded trousers to get to his leg injuries and noticed that the entire front half of the trouser’s groin area was soaked in blood.

Before Kyara could say anything, they had quickly pulled down his pants, thinking that the bandits had stabbed him there.

The sight that greeted the three Halflings and Kyara caused them all to cry out in dismay and disgust.  

Luke had been brutally mutilated - it was a festering mass of flesh that reeked of septic odors.    Though he had clearly tried his best to clean and bandage the area, something was keeping it quite infected.

“My Lord, what happened to him?”   Cass asked, gagging involuntarily from the sight.

Reluctantly, Kyara told the mortified Halflings about Luke’s situation.

“I don’t mean to intrude on your business, but he really shouldn’t be on a horse!  In fact, I’d say he should be kept in bed and looked after by healers.”

Kyara nodded, feeling incredibly remorseful for not fully understanding the extent of Luke’s injuries, “Can you help him?”

Cass slowly shook his head, “We barely have enough Balm for his crossbow bolt wound.   Oh, the Balm will help his body heal a bit faster, but most of the healing will occur at the sight where the balm is applied.   It isn’t enough to close up that wound or to… um… well… to restore what he had… um… cut off.”

Sipro touched Kyara on the shoulder, “Listen, ma’am… you are a ma’am, aren’t you?”

She nodded.

“Well, listen, ma’am, I used to work for a Practical Magician that dealt with healing devices like staves and potions.    He knew several old wizards and clerics that could still cast powerful healing spells and one time they were telling us about a potion that some assassins in the eastern lands would give a victim that would mimic a healing potion, but would actually keep the person that drank it from ever healing.     The wound would remain open and the magic of the potion would keep the victim going, though suffering greatly, for a week or two, then, slowly, cause the wounds to fester and eventually kill him.    It was a slow acting magical poison that would greatly neutralize any healing magic applied against it.   I’m not an expert and I never saw anyone who actually drank this poison, but I would guess that your friend here may have had this magical poisonous potion given to him.”

Kyara closed her eyes in dismay, “They gave him a magical potion before they released him - they said it would keep the effects of his castration from showing for several weeks.”

Sipro shook his head, “I’ve never heard of a potion like that - I think they played a cruel joke on him.”

“So he’s… dying?”

“Yes, I’d say that he hasn’t probably got a week left.”

“Yesh help me!    What can I do to help him?”   She nearly pleaded with the Halflings, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“We don’t have any healing magic, ma’am; those are rather rare now and quite expensive,”   Cass answered, looking at his companions.

“There aren’t any healers for probably a week’s ride,”   Sipro added.

“Dear God!”   Kyara groaned, covering her face with her hands and weeping.

The three Halfling merchants stood by awkwardly, until finally Cass began applying the tiny bit of healing balm in his jar, to the bolt wound, after Sipro skillfully and gently pulled the wicked crossbow bolt free.

“There has to be someone that can do something!”   Kyara exclaimed from somewhere behind her hands.

“Um… ma’am?”   Theo said, tapping her arm hesitantly, “I may have an idea… if you are brave enough to risk it.”

She looked up at the little Halfling man’s face, which had softened from his earlier coldness, “What is your idea?”

“Well, in Copper Gate… or rather, about three miles outside of the city… there is an old woman… who… well, she’s basically a... she’s more or less… a witch.”

Cass and Sipro looked up in alarm, and Cass said, “No, Theo, not old lady Hazzle!”

“Well, I know, but she has a lot of potions they say and the people there say that some of them are magic.    She removes hexes too… so they say.”

“She’s just a crazy old woman, Theo!    I wouldn’t drink any potion she offered me!”

“Cass, it is all I could think of!   This young man hasn’t got long to live!    She’s close enough; she might know what needs to be done to remove a curse on him.   Maybe she has some real healing potions or something!”

“Too risky, Theo,”  Cass dismissed the idea, but Kyara grabbed Theo’s arm.

“Can you lead me to her?”   She asked him and the Halfling hesitated to answer, giving anxious glances to his two companions.

“Ma’am, you don’t want to mess with Ol’ lady Hazzle.   She’s as wicked as she is ugly and I wouldn’t trust anything she says.”

“Yet if I don’t, Luke will die soon,” She replied, then turning to Theo, “So you were heading to Copper Gate?”

“Yes, to pick up copper ore for the Jewelers Guild.”

“If I help get your wheel fixed and put back on your wagon, will you let Luke ride in your wagon to Copper Gate?”

Theo glanced to Cass, who immediately nodded.

“Then, when we reach Copper Gate, just show me where this witch lives and I’ll decide if I want to try to get her to help Luke or not.”

Cass and Sipro frowned, but nodded.

“Just who are you, ma’am?    I can tell by your ears and from your friend’s as well, that you are elves.”

“It is best that you don’t know too much, so for your sake please don’t ask too many questions.   You can call me ‘Yara’ and this is “Luke’.

“We owe you our lives, Yara, so we will help you, though I’d advice you to avoid that old witch.”

“Is your caravan wheel broken?”   She changed the subject.

“No, it just fell off after we hit a deep hole in the road,”  Cass replied, “I’ll bet those bandits dug that hole for that very reason.    It should go right back on, but we were accosted before we even jumped off the wagon.”

“Let’s get it back on at once and set off immediately; I don’t think Luke has enough strength for us to delay much.”

“I’d agree with that,”   Cass responded, “Come on, it’ll take two of us to position it and the other two to lever up the axle enough to slip it back on.”

Sipro gently covered Luke’s wounds and the three of them hurried to assist Kyara, all of them driven by a sense of Luke’s need and dire situation.



© 2018 Eddie Davis


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Added on July 8, 2018
Last Updated on July 8, 2018
Tags: Albyia, Synomenia, fantasy, elf, magic


Author

Eddie Davis
Eddie Davis

Springfield, MO



About
I'm a fantasy and science-fiction writer that enjoys sharing my tales with everyone. Three trilogies are offered here, all taking place in the same fantasy world of Synomenia. Other books and stor.. more..

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