Gender: Male Age: 53 Location: Las Vegas, Nv
|Introduction: The Vast Plains|
I rode down the trail out of the pass and watched as the tall evergreen trees gave way to the trees with broad leaves. Many seemed to have nuts of some kind, the wolves stayed far away as I made camp that night in an old way station. I used ash from the fire pit to soften and tan all the skins. I was up early and moving as the sun rose.
A few times I got distant glimpses of the plains I was heading for. I was just entering the upper reaches of the foot hills when the bandits attacked. I had seen their scout a few times and was ready. I turned the stallion as they rode at me and brought the bow up. My first arrow took the leader in the chest. The second arrow struck high and hit one at the base of his throat.
The next I hit in the belly and the two behind him took arrows in the chests. I slipped off my horse, dropping my bow as the last two drew close. A spike slipped into my hand and I threw over the stallion as one reached for the lead to the horses behind us. The spike took him in the spine and then I pulled another spike as the last bandit turned to run. The spike flashed through the air before sinking into the thief’s back.
Silence returned and I moved to calm my horses before tying them to a tree. I went to each bandit and removed arrows or throwing spikes. I rounded up their horses and added them to my own before removing bridles and putting them on leads. I left the dead lying as I rode away. It was several hours before I came to a large log building with a corral beside it.
A large man stepped out wiping his hands on an apron. He waved to the empty corral, “Put your beast in there and come inside.”
I unsaddled the horses and put my packs and saddles into a three sided log enclosure. I walked in the open door and the big man glanced back and smiled, “Nice to have visitors.”
I nodded as I looked around what was plainly a trading post, “I had several men try to rob me a few hours ago.”
He glanced back sharply as I walked towards the table behind him. When I didn’t say anything else he turned back to the stove, “Chased them off did you?”
I sat down, “I killed them.”
He turned to look at me and then smiled slowly, “sidhe.”
He grinned, “Good riddance, saves me the trouble. Sooner or later they try me.”
I looked at another doorway as two young men and a woman came through. They glanced at the man by the stove, “He’s alone pa.”
I smiled slightly as the woman moved to take his place. The two young men joined him as he sat across from me. I watched them but looked at the older man, “do you have a map of the land west of here?”
He nodded and gestured to one of his sons before clearing his throat, “We been hearing a lot about wolves up in the pass.”
I nodded as his son brought a rolled parchment to the table, “A mage was commanding them.”
He shook his head, “Bandits and thieves we know how to deal with but magic…”
I glanced up as I unrolled the map, “He’s dead now and the wolves will probable move away in search of food.”
I traced the route over the pass and then across the plains before nodding and rolling it up and pushing it across the table, “Thank you.”
He had been staring at me and reddened before smiling, “Useful aren’t you.”
I grinned as I looked towards the stove, “Do you have enough or…”
He snorted, “My son Edward brought home a bison so we have plenty.”
I nodded and relaxed as his wife continued cooking. After a warm meal I went out to check the horses. I unrolled my blankets in the log enclosure and relaxed as the sky darkened into night. The trading post was two days behind me when I rode onto the plains. There was a narrow trail heading west that I followed. The plains grass was belly high on the horses and I went slowly so they could eat their fill.
I could see antelope and herds of large beasts the trader had called bison. The trail I followed led from one clump of brush and trees to another, winding its way across the plains. I picketed the horses inside the trees the first night and made camp next to them. I had just sat down when one of the horses snorted. I stood and glanced around before moving around the picket area.
The lion came out of the tall grass with a leap. I side stepped as I pulled a sword and cut up. The lion missed me and landed with a crash. Blood was pouring from the huge slice in its throat as it spun towards me. It shook its head and staggered as I shifted on the balls of my feet. When it dropped to its belly I knew it was over. I waited and watched as the large beast fell onto its side and a few moments later it was dead.
I moved back to reassure the horses and then skinned the lion and pulled the carcass out of the trees. I made a dinner of roast rabbit and roots I had gathered while walking. I started cleaning the lion pelt before it got to dark. In the morning I saddled the horses and swung up with the bow across my lap. With all the wild game there would be plenty of predators around.
The horses took their time and snatched grass as we slowly made our way along the trail. That evening I killed one of the bull bisons that came to close and threatened the horses. That night I ate a huge steak and hung several in a brush made smoker. I went back to work on the lion pelt and then the bison’s. Over the next five days I had to kill two more bisons, one because it charged me.
It was mid afternoon when I saw the smoke ahead. I heard the distant yelling and screams even before I rounded the clump of trees and saw the wagons. There were twenty men riding around them shooting bows or throwing spears. I dropped off the horse and tied the rains to a nearby tree before nocking a arrow.
The range was extreme but easily within reach. I took the one raider that sat back from the others through the body. It was awhile before the rest noticed. I took three more before they even realized they were being attacked. After the fifth man they saw me and headed towards me fast. By the time they were halfway to me another five were dead. I took another five before tossing my bow aside and pulling two throwing spikes.
The first two men fell from their horses choking in their own blood. The last three turned quickly and leaned forward over the neck of their horses as they ran. Throwing spikes hit two men in the spine and they slid off their running horses. The last man was looking back when his horse stumble and threw him. I turned and walked to my bow, he was running after his horse when the arrow took him in the back.
I looked around and moved to the men with my throwing spikes in them. I didn’t bother with the arrows and gathered the loose horses grazing nearby. I swung up into my saddle and rode out to gather several other horses before heading towards the wagons. There was a small crowd waiting with maybe a dozen men in front.
I swung down by the leader I had shot and looked at him moaning with the arrow in his gut. I knelt and cut his belt to remove the long bladed knife with the jeweled hilt before standing and tucking it behind my belt. I headed towards the crowd and one man stepped out, “We thank you stranger.”
I nodded and turned to gesture to the spare horses behind mine, “I’ll keep a few of the mares. You might as well catch the others and take them with you.”
He smiled and nodded, “We will.”
I looked back the way they must have come, “How far to the edge of the plains?”
He looked back, “It took us three weeks to get this far.”
I sighed and shook my head, “I might as well stop early then.”
He grinned and the next thing I knew they were making camp too. I went through the horses and picked three of the best mares to add to my own. It felt strange to have all the people around me. The women seemed nice and tended the four men with minor wounds. As I started cleaning the bison hides others came to talk about the trail behind them.
I had the leader stop by with his wife. He was carrying six bison hides and set them on one side of the fire, “These may come in handy after you leave the plains.”
I glanced at them and looked back to him. He smiled, “They make a nice ground cover.”
I nodded, “Thank you.”
When I rose in the morning they were moving around getting ready to leave. I saddled my horses including the three new mares. The young stallion had been sniffing around them and was a little frisky when I put his saddle on. I swung into the saddle and glanced at the other camp as they waved and smiled before starting off.
It was the next night when I heard a slight noise in the middle of the night. I stood drawing both swords before moving into the darkness. The first lion that came out of the night was huge with two long fangs. I slid sideways as it leaped and stabbed behind the ear as it passed me. I dropped and rolled as another suddenly leaped towards my back.
I came to my feet quickly and spun to face the now crouching lion as the one I stabbed convulsed and died on the ground. I could hear my horses screaming and moving around as I began moving towards the big cat. It leaped again and I side stepped and slashed up and across its throat. I turned as it landed and then stood to walk to my horses to calm them as the lion bled out on the ground.
It took awhile to calm the horses down and then I built the fire up. I skinned the two lions and pulled the carcasses out of the trees and into the tall grass. I wasn’t going back to sleep and started scrapping and cleaning the two hides. It was late morning when I rode around a large group of trees to find a dozen men waiting.
I had seen a couple of them watching so I was expecting it. I pulled the horses to a stop as they started forward, “That’s close enough.”
They stopped but one man with a ragged looking beard grinned, “We’ll be relieving you of your belongings.”
I smiled, “What are they worth to you?”
He looked around at the other men and then back at me, “Your life.”
My hands flicked out and I was pulling two more spikes as the leader and another man fell. I twisted and threw a spike into a man running towards me from behind before throwing the other spike into a man’s throat that was reaching for the rains on my horse. I slipped off my horse, dropping the rains and pulling my swords. I moved into the men, blocking a chipped and rusty dagger and gutting him with the other sword.
They realized they had made a fatal mistake in stopping me and turned to run. I stabbed one in the spine and another through the back of the neck. I let the rest go and watched as they ran. I turned to clean and retrieve my weapons before swinging back into the saddle.
Late that afternoon I came to a group of trees beside a wide stream. Around the trees was a mud brick wall eight feet tall with sharpened wooden spikes angled out on the top. The thick wooden gates were open and I looked around before riding in. The group of tree only held a large roofed shed with signs of many camp fires. I unsaddled the horses and walked out to close the gates.
I left everything under the roof but put a bed roll by a tree. I woke in the middle of the night as the gate opened and several men slipped through. I stood in the shadows of the trees as they snuck towards the roof. There were only six men and they each held drawn blades. They were a dozen feet away from the shelter when I moved and one of the men seemed to stumble and fall.
The others hissed but he didn’t move and they stood frozen. Another spike sank into the neck of a man and he gargled as he grabbed his throat and went to his knees. They knew something was wrong and started to rush the shelter when two more spikes struck two more men. One was hit in his stomach and the other in the chest.
The last two turned to run and one fell with a spike through the back of his skull. The other tripped as a cord wrapped around his feet. I moved forward pulling one of my swords. The last man was struggling with the cord and never even looked up as my sword swept out to cut his throat. I moved to the man that was screaming with a spike in his guts and a moment later it was silent.
I pulled my sword free and looked around before kneeling to remove my spike. When I rode out in the morning the six bodies were hanging outside the gate. It was midday when I noticed the pride of lions heading towards me. I lifted the bow and aimed, one lion rushed towards the back of my line of horses and I released the arrow to strike it behind the shoulder.
It screamed and the horses panicked. I dropped off the stallion and stepped on the rains as I aimed and fired at another lion stalking towards me. I put another arrow in a rushing lion headed for the middle of my line of horses and then another in the lion behind that one. I drew and fired into a lion that was almost on top of me.
The rest of the lions had stopped and turned away growling. I moved to calm the horses before skinning the lions I had killed. The rest of the day I passed through several large herds of antelope. Late that afternoon I came to another stand of trees with a wall around it. A small group wagons was already there and invited me to share the protection with them. They were surprised and impressed when I started cleaning and preparing the lion pelts that evening.
I told them about the last walled stand of trees and the attack in the middle of the night. That made them think and they set guards. Every night for the next week I found a walled stand of trees. I killed two more of the bison but mostly I was living on the smaller antelope. I had stopped early at a walled stand of trees and planned to spend an extra day.
I killed a large bull bison and cut it up before making a smoking hut. The walls around this stand were higher than the others had been. There was a second wall around a smaller area for the horses that was higher with more sharpened stakes at the top. That should have warned me this was different.
It was dusk when the large band of men walked through the gate. A huge man with a graying bread smiled with rotting teeth, “Look what fell into our trap.”
I stood leaving my bow on my bedroll, “I will give you one warning human.”
He laughed as he looked at the twenty men, “The sidhe is warning us.”
I nodded and started moving as my hands flicked outward. Two men jerked, (one was the huge man) and then they grabbed the small darts in them, “What the hell is this!”
Two more jerked and then four. Two men fell with spikes in their throat as they all finally reacted and attacked. Two more spikes killed two more men before my swords were suddenly in my hands. I brushed a descending sword aside and gutted a man before stabbing another through the neck and ripping his throat out. The men that had been hit with the darts began screaming in agony as they fell to the ground.
I blocked an axe and stabbed through the man’s eye before spinning to slap a thrown dagger away. I parried a sword and blocked a dagger before stabbing both men in the gut. I moved away, never staying in one place. I side stepped a descending axe before slicing the man’s throat and moving towards the remaining men. The four were better dressed and carried high quality swords.
They moved apart and I shifted to face the man on the far left. He lunged and I knew they didn’t have experience as I brushed the sword towards another other man and took his hand. He screamed and fell back as I spun and blocked a descending blade with one sword as my other parried another. I turned the high block into a lunge as the tip of my sword dropped lower and took the man in the throat.
I moved towards the other man as the last one turned to run. The man I faced was wide eyed as he turned to follow and my sword stabbed through his spine. I left my sword in his back and pulled a spike before throwing it at the man running for the gate. After that I moved through the screaming moaning men finishing them. I was surprised when I took their purses to see they had both gold and silver.
The quality weapons I kept but I pulled all the bodies out the gates and went looking for horses. In the moonlight I found them not far from the walls, they were well cared for with good quality tack. I added them to my horses before closing the gates and relaxing by the smoking hut to think. I was up early and saddled my horses before tending to the others. I put them on long leads and swung into the saddle after packing the meat away.
It looked like wolves had been at the bodies I had left outside the gates. It was noon when I came upon a large party of armed men on foot. I drew up short and waited with my bow ready. A neatly dressed man came forward with a hand raised. He stopped in front of my horse and glanced down the long line of horses behind me, “Where did you find those horses stranger?”
I glanced at his companions, “Outside the walled way station where I was attacked by a party of men.”
He looked at me closely, “What happened to the men?”
I just looked at him and he finally nodded, “They stole the horses from my party.”
I smiled and glanced back at the horses I had found, “Go ahead and take them.”
He turned to gesture to his men and I cleared my throat, “You take them.”
He looked at me for a moment and then smiled and bowed, “Of course noble sidhe.”
I bowed my head, “Quirrin.”
He froze as he took a step, he looked back at his men and I laughed, “It’s to late young noble.”
He looked at me sharply and I swung off my horse and headed back to the first horse that I had put on a lead. I undid the knot and led the string of horses back to the noble and held out the lead rope, “If you continue east you will find the bodies outside the walls of the next way station. Beware the lions and wolves.”
I swung back into my saddle and looked down, “fare well and good hunting.”
He smiled and bowed low, “And good hunting to you.”
I started forward and moved past the men as they turned to watch me. I stopped by the last man as I recognized the hilt crest of his dagger. I gestured to the last mare in line, “There’s a bundle of swords on the last mare. You’ll find your sword with the others.”
He was young and blushed before nodding and giving me a bow, “Thank you.”
He walked stiffly to the mare and took the swords down before looking at me and nodding again, I started off and didn’t look back. Another walled stand of trees waited that afternoon and I sat by the small fire. The small man slipped through the gates after it got dark and moved slowly towards the fire. I kept working on the bison hide, “What took you so long?”
He squatted across from me, “I wasn’t riding a horse.”
I smiled, “You’re getting old Edger.”
He grinned, “What’s your target kid?”
I shook my head, “I left the clan.”
He grunted, “So there are two of us.”
I glanced at him, “You’re hunting the trade route?”
He laughed, “No. I was heading towards the coast.”
I shook my head, “Not wise. They’ll send at least one master if not the Quirrin Master.”
He jerked, “You pissed them off that bad?”
I shrugged, “I killed Master Jim.”
He sucked in a breath, “Not good youngling.”
I smiled, “He didn’t give me much choice.”
I turned and pulled a large pouch close before tossing it towards him, “Swarm Stones. I would go north or south.”
He looked at me and then grinned and stood, “Good hunting youngling.”
I watched him walk away and smiled. Edger had been a minor master that had taught me all about working with animals. He had just disappeared one night and left no trace of where he had gone. I finished what I was doing and let the fire die. I was up early and riding away before the sun was completely over the horizon. Every night for the next week I used walled stands of trees.
When I rode off the plains and into foothills a large town with tall wooden walls was my first stop.
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