We rode for hours. We knew Markida would be hot on our heels, and we wanted to get as much distance between us and the village as possible, but by the time the sun was in its downward slope, our stomachs were rumbling, and neither of us had thought to bring food.
Karina stirred on my shoulder, and sat up, just as Telion started.
“Look! Smoke. It looks like a campfire.” He exclaimed. I frowned.
“I wonder who’s out here with a fire.”
“Does it really matter? They might have food!” He spurred his horse forward.
“Wait! What if they’re bandits…. or something?” I sighed, and set off after him. Maybe we’d be lucky, and they’d just be friendly travellers. Somehow I doubted it though.
We stopped just outside the clearing, and watched them through the bushes. Around a campfire was a group of fifteen or so mean looking men and woman. I turned to Telion.
“They may have food, but I don’t think I want to go ask for it. Come, let’s go. I’m sure we’ll be able to find a village or something.” I whispered, pulling on his arm.
The bushes behind us rustle, and I loosen my knives in their sheaths. A man stumbled out, swaying like he’d had too much to drink. He stopped short when he saw us.
“Oh look, a couple of peepers… Hey! Donn! Come see what I’ve found here.” He called. One of the men by the fire staggered to his feet.
“This had better be good.” He muttered as he crashed through the undergrowth. He stopped short when he saw us. “Well, well, well.” He smiled slowly.
“I’m sorry.” I said, watching them warily, slowly moving backwards toward the horses. “We were hungry and saw the smoke from your fire.”
“I’d give a pretty thing like you something to eat.” The first man leered, and they both laughed. I felt Telion tense beside me.
“We’ll be going now.” He said coldly.
“Oh, I don’t think so.” Donn said, drawing his sword. “You’re not going anywhere.”
Karina leapt out of the bushes, embedding his teeth and claws into the man’s arm. He cried out, and I quickly silenced him with my knife, but it was too late. Shouts came from the camp, and footsteps thudded closer.
I turned to the first man, but Telion had already dealt with him, sending him reeling back with a swift stroke from his axe. It was small, a mere woodsman’s tool, but deadly enough. We turned to face the oncoming enemy.
I charged in, knives flashing, slicing through skin and leaving bodies in my wake, but they were strong and used to battles. I caught sight of Telion from the corner of my eye, and he shouted.
I hit the ground just in time, and those around me went flying. I jumped up.
“Thanks!” I yelled, but he’d already turned his attention elsewhere, firing his magic at another group of attackers.
I turned my attention back to those lying around me. Many were either dead, or knocked out, but a few staggered up. I dodged their blows, embedding my blades into their necks. There were so many though, and I felt myself being pushed back.
All of a sudden I felt a sharp sting on my arm. I turned to see a man armed with a beautiful dragonstone sword, my blood dripping from the tip. I spun, kicking the man in the throat, and sending him flying into a tree. I picked the sword up from his limp fingers. It was a single edged, slightly curved blade, supple and strong. I took a moment to check the wound on my arm. It was shallow, a neat line across my elbow. It would be fine for now. The tables had turned, this was the weapon I’d been trained in, and this is how I could win the fight.
I almost danced as I whirled around, the weapon a mere extension of my body. The weight was comfortable, and the size perfect, and soon we’d defeated the enemy, painting the ground red with their blood.
I retrieved the saya from the man I’d taken the sword from, and after cleaning it off slid the sword in easily. The feeling of it against my hip felt like an old friend.
I could feel the eyes of the wounded staring at me in fear as I helped Telion search through the boxes around the camp. There were bags of gold, and various strange and exotic items.
“They were bandits!” Telion exclaimed after a couple of boxes.
“Yes,” I replied, “but not just any group of ruffians. These thugs worked for Tunsel Bruntok.” I pointed toward the swirled dragon insignia on one of the crates.
“Leader of the Black Legion?” Telion asked
“The very same. Not someone we want to cross.” I frowned, “We should take what we need and then leave. We don’t want to be anywhere close when they’re discovered.”
We helped ourselves to the gold, a variety of different weapons, and Telion took a spell scroll he found. We were packing it all into the saddlebags when we heard a rustle in the bushes, and the sound of hooves. I jumped up and peered through the trees.
“Hey Telion!” I called. He joined me, and gasped.
“Horses!” He exclaimed. “Hold on. I need to see these close up. If they’re what I think they are…” He trailed off, pushing his way through the undergrowth.
“I’ll join you in a minute.” I said. One of the lesser injured thieves had been quietly reaching toward a small knife that had been dropped during the fight, and was starting to get worryingly close.
I walked over to him and picked it up.
The bandit before me cowered as I ran my finger across the blade. His tattoos symbolized his involvement with the Black Legion, and I knew if I just let him go I'd be missing an opportunity. I needed to send Bruntok a message, to warn him who he was dealing with, and to leave us alone. We don't have the time for small battles. Telion needs to learn the spells, and soon. I smiled at the bandit and he recoiled.
"P-please don't kill me! I'll do anything! Anything my lady!" He pleaded, stuttering. I shook my head slightly.
"Oh, I'm not going to kill you." I said. He look relived, the poor fool.
"You're not? Thank you! Thank you so much!"
"Of course not," I replied, "I need you to send a message, and you're not going to be very good at that when you're dead, are you?" He shook his head.
"What's the message?" He asked, "I have a very good memory, I can pass it on exactly as you say!"
I leant forward. He seemed almost childlike in his want to please. It's truly amazing what a knife at your throat can do for your attitude.
"I'm sure you can." I replied, almost amused. "Here's my message." With a quite flick of my knife I carved three neat lines into his chest, to form the T rune of Tamir. Bruntok would understand.
The bandit screamed, his hands flying up to his now bleeding chest.
"Put pressure on it and you'll be fine." I told him, "It's barely a scratch. Just a flesh wound."
He stared up at me, a mixture of anger and fear in his eyes, swearing as I turned away to join Telion investigating the horses.
"Oh." I said, glancing back after I'd taken a few steps, "Send my regards to your master."
I walked off, leaving the man nursing his wounds.