Part 7) Loden
Since the attack earlier in the night Loden had been agitated and on edge. The bandits had launched a three pronged attack against the encircled caravan. They had thrown a burning ball of oil covered sticks and cloth into one of the wagons, the conflagration had ignited the wagon and its contents instantly and the wagon was ablaze before most of the caravan folk had awoken. The second prong of the attack had been a sortie to free their captured companions, it had been partially successful, leaving two of the captured bandits dead and still chained while costing the life of the guard that had been left on duty near the camp fire. The third prong was a move against the caravan’s horses, the bandits had managed to roll one of the wagons out of the way, they had made it to the horse line within the camp, chaos had followed with panicked horses running around with people shouting, fighting and dying.
Loden, with his years of fighting and running from the Tannican armies had been one of the first to respond to the situation. He had grabbed his boots and swords and had sheltered under Mr Dahlah’s wagon as he put his boots on and tried to figure out what was happening. Flint had also been fairly quick to respond but had ran to the other side of the camp where the burning wagon had drawn most peoples attention. As Loden had come out from under Dahlah’s wagon he had spotted three of the bandits sneaking around the horse line, he had closed quickly and cut one of the men down from behind, badly wounded another and then fought a chubby cheeked woman who was very good with a staff. Flint had run in and grabbed the woman from the side, lifted her bodily into the air and the two of them had slammed to the ground. Then the panicking horses were running around the camp, the chubby cheeked woman had managed to get away from Flint during the confusion.
Many of the horses had managed to get loose during the attack, some few had been blocked from escaping but over half the beasts had escaped through the gap in the encircled wagons. A number of them had been retrieved, Loden had been quick to help with that task. He had managed to get Rouge and BigNose back and a dozen others over the next few hours.
During the efforts to recover the horses Flint and he had spotted what was most likely the bandit’s camp a couple yat from where the caravan was. They had spotted light through the trees and heard the cries of the wounded. Without exposing themselves to discovery they had decided to fall back to the caravan and report the situation.
When the two of them had returned to the caravan camp they found Mr Dahlah keeping folks calm and most were charged with keeping a look out for trouble, while a handful were tending to the remaining horses and Asta, priestess of Mercy, was doing what she could for the wounded.
Two of the caravan folk had died in the bandit attack, another half dozen had serious wounds. Including the deaths of two of the previously captured bandits, a total of five bandits had been killed and an unknown number of them had been wounded. One of the teamsters, a large woman named Downer, or some such, had managed to roll the burning wagon away from the others and although that wagon and its cargo had been lost to the fire, her actions had likely saved a few of the other wagons. The biggest loss was the horses, with nearly a third of their teams missing or broken up, it was questionable whether of not the caravan could proceed to Carskot.
Loden and Flint had a quiet conversation with Mr Dahlah and it had been quickly decided to go after the bandits, since they seemingly had not managed to make a clean get away. Loden was happy with this decision as he wanted to get Tingy back. Dahlah had calmly moved through her people and found ten of them who were willing to go after the bandits. Oddly Ander had decided he was joining the counter strike, the big woman was there as well, mace in hand eager to get some payback.
They were soon heading down the road in the direction of the suspected bandit camp. The trees of the Linklow Forest were close to the road through this area, recent growth had begun to encroach on the road. Above, the occasional cloud obscured the stars. Animal noises were minimal, likely scared off by all the commotion, though distant coyote yips could be heard from the west. The woodland smelled of rotting leaves and the flowers of spring.
It became obvious that Mr Dahlah intended to march her people down the road and with her alchemical weapons, intimidate or overwhelm the enemy. It was not long before Flint called a halt and asked to have a word with Dahlah, off to one side.
Ander approached Loden and offered him a swig and the two of them stepped off to one side as well, a bit closer to where the other two had gone off to speak. Loden took a couple swallows of the booze Ander had offered him and then the two of them stood quietly listening to the conversation between the other two.
Mr Dahlah’s voice was clipped with anger, easy enough to hear, “… thinking, we are not soldiers. We likely also don’t have time to get fancy with this.”
Flint spoke softly, Loden strained to hear him, “Alright, if we proceed as we have been they will surly hear our approach half a yat before we get there. Giving them plenty of time to prepare for us, or more likely leave if they are able.”
“These people are not hunters Flint, sneaking through the wood in the dark is going to be a noisy affair as well. Truthfully, it’ll likely be worse than approaching along the road.”
“Well, if I took Loden and one or two of the others we could flank them through the trees. Ander seems like he can move quietly when he chooses. I’ll initiate the attack from the woods, then you and the others can come in along the road and hit them from the other side.”
Loden thought it was the better plan, but given Dahlah’s dislike for him, he decided to keep his mouth shut. Ander though had no such compulsions, he spoke up, seemingly oblivious to the fact he was interrupting a private conversation, “I agree with Flint and would be happy to go with them. Dowmer would likely be a good fourth, she’s a sneaky one when she needs to be.”
Mr Dahlah looked over at the two of them, Loden could not see the expression on their face but expected Dahlah was frowning at him. Flint moved towards them, “Thanks Ander.” He glanced back over his shoulder, “Should we do this Mr Dahlah?”
“I prefer the direct approach, but if the three or four of you want to try this, I’ll give you a chance.”
“Ander, talk to Dowmer and see is she is willing. Mr Dahlah, when Kallen rises above the tree line proceed along the road. You will not regret this.”
Loden found it strange that Flint was always so self assured but assumed it came with living and travelling alone on the land. What would kill many others was just another day for the big ranger. He was a bit boring at a party but great to have around in a fight.
Dahlah gathered the caravan folk and let them know what was going on. Loden thought he should see if anyone had a crossbow he could use, it might help the ambush if someone else, other than Flint, was shooting the bandits.
Loden walked over the main group that had come this far, “There’s a small group of us cutting through the trees. We’re going to try to sneak up on the bandits. I was wondering if any of you could spare a crossbow?”
They looked at him for a moment or two, talked amoungst themselves for a moment, then one of the older men stepped forward and pulled a small crossbow off his shoulder. His accent was fairly thick, “This one small, loads fast.”
“I’m not too fussy.”
“Yes. But I keep strap, lady friend of GreensBridge made for me.”
Loden spat to one side, waited for the fellow to untie the strap from the crossbow. The weapon looked like a FreeHolds design, simple but effective. He also received a small quiver with a handful of bolts. “Thanks.”
“Good and yes, you kill them.”
“You can count on it.”
A short while later he and Flint with Ander and Dowmer, not Downer, moved off into the forest. Their pace was modest at first and they followed Flint, trusting his better eyesight to lead them over the least noisy terrain. After a while their pace slowed considerably, Flint had them fan out a bit and as quietly as they could manage they crept through the woodland towards the bandit camp.