Monday, April 13, 2015

A Swordsman's Duty - Part Five

Rylan kept her head down, telling Anaya to do the same.  She glanced behind her at the Princess. There was fear in her eyes, but she wasn’t panicking.  Your mother would be proud, I just have to make sure you see her again, she thought.  There were riders behind them. She hoped they didn’t have bows.
“Faster!  Go ahead of me!” she yelled.  She moved between the Princess and their pursuers.  Rylan looked ahead and just barely saw three new riders charge in from their left.  One collided with her, but the horses kept their feet.  Rylan stayed upright and grabbed the enemy rider and yanked with all her strength.  He didn’t fall, but he had to right himself and Rylan was free of him.
“Keep going!  Don’t stop for anything!” she yelled at Anaya.  Another rider pushed into Rylan, and the woman on the horse leaned over and grabbed Rylan’s shirt in both fists.  Rylan clamped her thighs around the saddle and held on, punching her attacker as much as she could.  She hit the woman a few times, but one of the other mercenaries had come up on the other side.  A blade slid along her ribs eliciting a sharp pain as it cut into her.  She felt that same blade against her throat a moment later.
“Don’t stop, Anaya, don’t stop!” she cried.
“Don’t be a fool girl!” the woman mercenary called after the Princess.  “Come back or we’ll cut your maid’s throat right here!”  Rylan watched as Anaya stopped and slowly turned to face them.  No no no!  Go! Run! She wanted to yell at her.  She couldn’t move without being cut.  She felt a trickle of blood down her neck as she tried to keep her balance above the blade.
“We don’t have all day girlie.  Come back over here and you’ll both live.”  The woman said.  Rylan knew they were lying.  There was no way to get out of this alive if they were taken. 
“Run.” She whispered.  She felt the blade dig deeper into her neck. 
“I’ll stay, but you let her go!” Anaya yelled.  Rylan watched as another man came up behind the Princess on foot and yanked her off her horse.  She yelped and tried to fight him but the man grabbed her by the torso and threw her to the ground.  Anaya hit the dirt and Rylan heard her grunt.  The man pulled Anaya up and wrapped a rope around her, cinching her arms to her body.  Then he smashed his fist across her face.  The Princess collapsed and Rylan nearly leapt off her horse onto the sword in front of her.  Only the woman’s grip of her shirt kept her in place and her throat uncut.  The woman pulled out some rope to bind Rylan’s hands. 
*   *   *
            Erros followed the tracks made by the Princess and her pursuers.  He was no Queen’s Ranger but the trail was easy to follow.  Not far from where he had fought the three men he saw signs of a scuffle on the ground.  The dirt was churned up and hoofprints were all over, facing in all directions.  More than two horses for certain.  At least one person had been thrown to the ground as well.  Had they managed to take the Princess and Rylan?  There was some blood on the ground, but not much.  They had likely been alive at this point.  He looked for the others, but the Queen’s party was out of sight.  He looked back down, then around again.  No one else was near. He was on his own and the only one with any idea of where the Princess and Rylan had gone.
            The trail was not difficult to follow, save that Erros was going as fast as he could without losing it. He also tried to keep aware of his surroundings.  It wouldn't help if some rearguard ambushed him before he reached the Princess.  He backtracked at least once, cursing himself the whole time.  The trail finally ended at a road.  More of a cart track than a proper road, it was one of the small tracks leading away from the Coast Road into the interior of the Barony of the Shore Lands.  Erros dismounted to get a closer look but couldn’t tell on the hard packed dirt and wiry grass which way they had gone.  He stood and looked both ways on the road, but couldn’t see any sign of them.  He felt he was close behind, but if he chose wrong he could lose them completely.
            “If I were kidnapping someone, someone who I wanted to keep away from the Queen, I would not go back to the Coast Road.” He mused to himself.  His horse made a sound.
            “What would you know?” he asked the beast.  He remounted.  Most likely they had gone further away from the main road, and he turned inland. 

“Sweet Ancestors, let me be right.” He said.

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