“About a dozen I say!”, Søren cried out. Since he had preferred to walk next to the horse that had been provided for him, rather than riding on it, he had been able to react quickly, drawing his glaive from under the saddle bag, and finding cover behind the fir tree against which he was leaning now. The slim trunk was not in the slightest wide enough to shield his back completely, and would have made a poor cover, had it been his intention to remain there for long. His muscles were tense, ready to leap out against the attackers, as soon as they showed their faces.
Selas noticed, as he carried himself behind a log, that all the other arrows seemed to be shot aimlessly, as not one of them hit any significant spot.
After the first wave of arrows ended they heard one of the attackers shout. “Surrender yourselves, and nothing happens to you. Leave your valuables on the ground and leave this forest.”
Selas looked with a puzzled face over to Taberlin who had joined him behind the dead tree. “There is something wrong here. I don’t think we’re fighting against more than one guy. What do the treetops tell you?” he winked at the Elf. Taberlin was already halfway up the nearest fir tree before the question was finished. He felt safer up there anyway.
After Halvin successfully dodged the arrow that was supposed to hit Selas, he gave the horse he was leading a signal to lay down so it wouldn’t be hurt. Immediately he ran towards the arrow, pulled it out of the tree, and vanished into the wood. While he was silently moving in a wide arc around the bandits that were surrounding the group, he wondered that he didn’t hear any sounds of them. He stood still for a moment to look through the trees and shrubberies at the group, as he saw Taberlin starting climbing a tree and a rather odd look on Selas’ face.
Without further ado Halvin quickly moved into the direction where the arrow he dodged came from whilst he took his composit bow from his back and nocked the very arrow.
“Where’s Halvin? And where’s Jill?” Clayton asked. In the sudden pandemonium of the attack they had lost sight of them both. The saddle of Jill’s pony, where she had been sitting reading her book just seconds ago, was now empty, her little horse just standing there paralyzed.
Jill heard Clayton ask for her, but she didn’t dare to respond. For now she deemed it safest to just stay where she was, leaning against the back of her pony, waiting until the men had dealt with the peril.
She felt her heart hammering her chest like a woodpecker. Damn you tiny heart! she thought. Keep it together! Her fingers wrote some words into her hand, but it didn’t help. She had never been that good in the arts of handwriting, as she had to admit once more.
An arrow whistled two feet above her head. Jill didn’t know much about archery, but these bandits surely were some terrible marksmen.
When he noticed that none of the arrows had a chance to hit any of his companions, or himself, Søren lept out from behind the tree, and started running towards the bushes from which some of the projectiles were coming. Dodging one or two of the arrows he quickly reached the treeline and raised his glaive. The blade cut through the thicket with ease.
Søren was ready to strike again, this time at the person behind the leaves, when he paused. Instead of the dirty thief with a bow that he had expected, before him stood a strange wooden box. On each of its side it had strange arms that moved in circular motions. On top and bottom there stuck out the vibrating ends of what looked like a bow.
“What in the name of…?”, Søren was so paralyzed by his amazement that he almost got struck by an arrow that suddenly came flying out of a little hole on the frontside of the box. Only in the last second he moved to the side and so being wounded fatally in his stomach.
Quickly he looked around to check if the others had made similar discoveries as he had.
The instant Halvin saw the single man standing underneath a big oak tree, he began to slowly move in from the side. But upon hearing a very silent, unique noise that was somehow familiar, Halvin dropped his bow and himself to the ground and rolled aside, just to see a shadow passing by the very spot he stood moments ago. Did that just happen? Picking up his bow, Halvin quickly crawled around the next tree, stood up again and headed deeper into the forrest, his eyes scanning for any unusual signs or traces, his mind racing. Knowing the group being able to deal with the fallacious ambush, he rushed through the woods to reach higher grounds to find out if his mind only tricked him.
Selas had crawled into the bushes from where one of the bow-traps had fired arrows at the group. Neatly hidden behind a short yew tree he found one of the strange looking boxes. Without further investigation he kicked and smashed the device until the vibration and the rotating motions stopped. What a coward. Looking up from the trashed thing he saw Halvin moving in a certain direction. As Selas looked that way he suddenly recognized an odd looking man standing by a large tree, moving his arms and fingers in a way as if he would control a marionette.
At the same moment Taberlin rushed down from the tree, overwhelming the old man by holding him a short blade to his throat.
Selas, a bit confused, hurried toward the oak tree. He was sure, that this was the only foe they were fighting so he started shouting to the group. Suddenly something appeared in the corner of his eye, but it was to late. The young boy had tightened a rope over which Selas fell, completely unprepared. He hit the ground pretty hard with his already injured shoulder and cried out in pain. The young boy tried to overpower the older warrior, but despite the pain in his shoulders, and the numbness of the fall, he had no chance. Eventually Selas stood up and grabbed the rascal by his ear and dragged him to the old man.
As everyone gathered around this unlike couple Selas remembered that Halvin was missing.
Selas pushed the boy towards the old man. He was clothed in a long orange robe that was sewn together rather randomly. On his head there was a pointy leather hat, decorated with several foreign runes and symbols. The boy was wearing short brown pants and a white tank top which was quite dirty and tattererd. His hair was hidden under a dark brown bonnet.
Søren made a step forward and took a close look at the old man and the boy. Then he turned around, and looked at Selas, “What is this?”, he asked with slight annoyance ringing in his voice.
“I’m not quite sure.”, he replied looking at them with squinted eyes. “Let’s ask them!”, he said, raising his gun and pointing it towards the old man.
The young etelä shrugged his shoulders and turned back to the attackers, “What is this?”, he asked again, barely changing the tone of his voice.
The boy had hidden himself behind the old man who stood proud, with arms crossed, in front of the big oak. Without looking at the warrior who asked the question he replied harshly, “That’s none of your business!”
Selas couldn’t stand it anymore. He considered himself patient, but if someone dared to talk back to him in an arrogant manner he could lose it instantly. With two big steps he reached them and pushed the old one to the floor. With his gun pointing to the old mans temple he shouted: “Listen you old fart! You better talk, or you and your boy can…”
“Stop it Selas!” Halvin said, emerging from the bushes laying his hand on to Selas’ weapon. “They are harmless.”
“Harmless?” he said without turning his eyes from the old man. “They ambushed us! Did you forget that?”
Without answering his question Halvin stepped to the odd looking captive and grabbed his hand. On the back of it, there was a circular shaped symbol. It appeared to be carved into the flesh. “These two belong to the order of the new sun. Have you heard of them?”
Selas lowered his eyes to think. “You mean the rebel group who refused to surrender, after the great loss in Gelminan? They kept on fighting for weeks until they suddenly disappeared. If it’s really them, they are a huge threat to the Council and Algaman.” Again he pointed his gun at the captives head, still ignoring the pain in his shoulder.
“That’s over fifty years ago Selas. The group only consists of old, disenchanted and tired people.”
“Hey! I’m not disenchanted! Tired at best…” the old man protested mumbling.
Ignoring him Halvin continued, “Most of them don’t even believe in anything anymore. They meet in taverns to drink, rant about the government and puzzle out subversive ideas which are never actually realized. And obviously from time to time, there’s a particularly bold member who tries to intimidate travelers and get some money out of them, just to waste it on drinks.”
Selas lowered his gun. “I’m not sure if I still know how to grant mercy…”
Halvin lowered his voice and added “… but we have something way more important to do than to play judge in this minor crime drama. We should keep going.”
Selas looked down on the ground lost in thoughts. “Yes. You’re probably right. And you two,” he snapped at the two vagabunds, “let this be a lesson to you.” With a hefty kick in to the old man’s bottom he chased them away.
“Are we ready to move on?” he asked, grinning roguishly.
“I don’t know”, Halving answered, “what’s your shoulder telling you?”
Selas waved the pain in his shoulder aside. “Ready for action!” He waved around with his injured shoulder to test the mobility. His pain contorted face indicated, that he was far from ready to battle again. “Well… maybe just moving on with the travelling should do it for now.” he admitted.
“Selas, let me help you”, Halvin said, while he walked around him. With a quick movement he relocated Selas’ shoulder. “Ha-”, Selas suppressed a painful scream, using all his willpower to not show his pain and grasping for air.
“Listen, everyone!” he shouted in a brisk tone, trying to conceal his pain. “We’re done here. Let’s get moving!”
The group packed their belongings, retrieved their mounts and set off in the direction of the great passage of Luthel, the massive bridge over the Ishon Ren.