Part 6) Tipper
The day was bright and the sun had traversed three quarters of the sky, small birds flitted through the grass, using its cover as protection from predators. Tipper felt a deep empathy with the little birds. She drew her attention to the moment with a slow breath, she watched Dannos and his crew as they road up on Adwin’s position.
Mokha and he had turned to face the approaching horsemen, trying to look casual, the Aggedrah continued playing his lute. It seemed silly. Or, maybe he was using the music to focus his magic, that would make a lot of sense. Either way the two looked like they were going to be overrun.
She changed her position slightly, squatted on a modest size stone that protruded knee high from the ground. The grass was tall enough to be an inch or so above eye level. She had smudged her face with dirt and ditched the helmet in favour of a few clumps of grass stuck in her braids. Dannos led, riding a beautiful black horse, of a breed she was unfamiliar with. A woman with a crossbow road slightly behind Dannos on his right side. A few horse lengths behind them were three men armed with mace, axe and sword respectively, of which the mace wielder had a shield. The last of the crew was further back, leading a string of horses. The bow at her saddle was unstrung, short sword sheathed at her hip. All the horses with the exception of Dannos’ were the common Pwhanna ponies or a cross between the ponies and the southern work horse. From here she could have taken all six of the riders out, had her arrows not been messed up.
The big man leading the Wikkersak posse signalled for them to slow, then they started to spread out and moved to encircle her companions.
Tipper slowly rose, aware of her profile with horizon and grass, she fired her best arrow at the trailing rider. The woman only wore a halter and light baggy pants, the arrow would likely go right through her guts at this range. Tipper slowly lowered her profile, not waiting to see the arrow strike, she turned her attention back to the others.
Dannos’ horse was prancing around Adwin and Mokha, the man shouting down at them and waving his short sword about. He seemed to have a high opinion of himself and his authority. The other four had nearly encircled her companions. Mokha raised his lute and shouted something in Tannican. Dannos’ big horse danced around giving loud protest then stepped backwards on its hind feet, the other four horses became skittish and the riders struggled for control.
Tipper took advantage of the distraction; she had drawn the bow string to her cheek sighted in on Dannos and fired by the time she was standing. Before her arrow reached its destination she snatched another from her quiver and fired at the man with the mace, his back had been towards her and his shield was facing the wrong direction to offer any protection.
Then she jumped from the stone and darted forward through the grass. Drawing another arrow and assessing the situation; no sign of the girl in the rear, the half dozen horses she had been leading and the one she’d been on were milling about the area where she likely lay. Dannos had fallen from his horse and it had bolted through the grass, heading southward. The girl with the crossbow had spotted Tipper and was pointing at their assailant. Mokha ran in on the woman’s horse shouting in Tannican, somehow causing the animal to panic and buck. Adwin stood a few paces westward, staff held ready as the axe and sword regained control of their horses and moved in to attack him.
Tipper stopped, aimed and shot the axe man in the throat. That had been the last of her arrows with any semblance of flights remaining, the rest had been denuded of feathers by a barn cat.
She tossed her bow into the grass and ran on. As the sword man rode in on him, Adwin jumped to the side, stumbled in the high grass, he fell back and his staff flailed outward and managed to strike a glancing blow to the horse’s rump. The wide arching swing from the rider’s sword had barley missed Adwin’s arm.
She darted towards the swordsman as he spotted her, as they closed she threw her hatchet at the man and caught him in the side of the head, a glancing blow as he had attempted to duck aside. Somehow the man managed to stay in the saddle. She threw herself into the grass letting his horse run past. She rolled and stayed low.
She could hear Dannos bellowing in rage and Mokha shouting “Get the goat!”
The swordsman was shouting to Dannos, Tipper drew her knife and rolled up to her feet. Dannos was shouting back to his companion to ride for the tower. She rushed in on Dannos, caught a glimpse of Mokha reloading a crossbow. Adwin was also closing on Dannos, though his approach was cautious. She could see that Dannos had been hit by her arrow, though it had caught him in the right shoulder. Adwin was demanding his surrender. Tipper smashed into the big man, planting her knees into his left hip as they collided. Down they tumbled and Tipper scrambled for purchase with one hand and started stabbing with the other. Dannos right arm dangled uselessly and though he belted her in the face, a mighty blow struck with a swing of his left hand, she continued stabbing. He quickly lost strength and stopped fighting. She looked down at him, his jerkin was soaking blood from a half dozen stabs she had inflicted. He choked up blood and gazed at her as the light drained from his eyes. Blood dribbled from her nose mixing with the widening stains on his jerkin.
Adwin was shouting at her, “Tipper!” She rolled clear of Dannos and came to her feet.
Mokha had his foot on the back of the woman Tipper had not shot. The woman’s crossbow was loaded and Mokha seemed comfortable with it. Adwin was alright, though he seemed very shocked by the fight, his eyes huge. She could see the swordsman riding away towards the tower.
“Mokha, shoot that guy!” She sprayed spittle, snot and blood, her own voice sounded odd.
“Right! Okay.” He aimed and shot, striking the fleeing man in the back, toppling him from his horse.
Then she saw the goat. It stood impassive, unmoved by the bloodshed and commotion. It eyes were not those of a goat and a shiver ran up her spine, “Can you doing anything about that?” She asked Mokha.
He looked at the goat and nodded. “I should be able to negate or break the witch’s control. Can you watch her?” He said pointing to the woman at his feet.
She nodded and walked over to the woman who still lay face down on the ground, she kicked her leg and asked, “You still alive?” There was a twitch from the leg she kicked and the woman groaned. “Can you move?” Another kick to the leg. The wounded woman twitched again and let forth a low moan, it sounded a lot like no. Tipper nodded and pulled the woman’s head back by the front rim of her leather helm. She stabbed her knife into the woman’s throat and cut outwards to the ground, “I return your blood to our first mother, Pryma mother to us all.”
Adwin shouted from behind her, “Tipper, what are you doing?”
She let the body’s head drop back to the ground and turned to Adwin, “Giving mercy to our enemies.” Her voice had sounded calm but he looked horrified. Maybe because of her face. She continued, “These folk road out after us and raised their weapons against us. They fought, they lost. There can be none left to tell this tale, none to bear witness against us.”
“But Tipper, it’s not about anything!”
“You are wrong Adwin. It’s about a mistaken identity, a friend protecting his companion and the wounded ego of the man you had embarrassed in front of witnesses. It’s also about the law and the privileges that come with being higher born than others. This here,” She gestured to the dead bodies and the nearby horses, “This is a natural result of that kind of hierarchy and the egos that go with it. There might have been many other ways that it could have been resolved. This is the way it was resolved.”
She turned and walked over to Mokha who had Nan by the chin and was staring into the goats eyes, which no longer had an unnatural appearance. She stayed quiet and let the wizard do his thing. Somewhere behind her Adwin was vomiting.
Mokha was chanting quietly, gaze locked with the goat’s. She could not speak his language but she recognized it well enough, Tannican had a harsher sound than the Andalee.
After a long while Mokha let the goat go, Nan backed away from him and looked about, blinking a couple of times, shook her head and started eating trampled grass along the edge of the road. Mokha nodded, “She is free of the witch, though I could glean nothing further about your foe. Her reach is beyond mine.”
“Can you be sure she won’t take control of the goat again?”
“Highly unlikely, but no, unless I was to ward the goat from such magic there is a chance she may be powerful enough to regain some connection. Though if the witch is in Aramy, as you two say, then she is likely too far away to even consider such a casting.” Vaguely she was aware that Adwin had stopped vomiting.
“Can you ward the goat?”
“Yes, but if we leave it behind that should be that.”
“I’ve no intention of taking it with us. She’s way too gnarly to eat, bitter old nag that she is.”
“I’ll ward it for the short term, but first I need to check my lute.”
“Alright, I’ll gather the horses. Do you ride?”
He nodded as he walked away, “Fairly well, one of my first major employments was with a young Freeholder lord, he liked his music and his women and tended to take me with him on his travels or hunts. To be fair though it has been a while since I sat a horse.”
“Likely not as long as I. I was Adwin’s age when last I rode. It should come back fairly quickly though.”
She wandered around a bit until she found her hatchet in the grass, retrieved her bow and the rest of her gear.
Tipper checked on the man she had shot in the back, he was still alive though blood loss or his fall from horseback had rendered him unconscious. She finished him and gathered the reins of his horse which had stayed close by. She picked up his mace as well but left what was on his body as it was. She gathered another horse on the way over to check the first woman she had shot, the string of horses she had been leading were nearby. The woman had bleed out quickly, Tipper’s arrow was lodged in the woman’s lower ribs. She retrieved that arrow, one of the iron wood shafts, and left the rest. She put the horses she had already had on the lead with the pack horse and spare mounts then returned to where Mokha and Adwin were standing. Mokha had a hand on Adwin shoulder and was obviously comforting him.