Spin Offs, Gella Part b

Spin Offs, Gella Part b

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The ambush had been horrifying. She and the girls had been riding in the house-wagon, reading books when the trees came crashing down behind them. Horses and people were screaming. Some man was shouting orders from near the back of their wagon, more trees were coming down and the wagon suddenly lurched forward. Myrtha fell to the floor, instruments tumbled from the wall and something hit the side of the wagon.

There was so much screaming and shouting. The girls were doing it, she was doing it, all at once, babbling at each other. Then the wagon started to slow and eventually rolled to a stop, while outside all around them the screams and shouts continued. Something hit the side of the wagon again.

Estrial stopped shouting and went to the window and opened the shutter, peering outside. Gella stopped screaming, Myr continued to wail.

Estrial went to Myrtha and slapped her, “Stop!”

Her sister stopped screaming, eyes huge with fright.

Estrial grabbed her by the shoulders, “Father is outside with some men, they are fighting in the woods. I’m going to see why the wagon stopped. Get your riding clothes on, help Gella, get the weapons. Nod if you understand.”

Myrtha nodded and went to Gella, Estrial opened the door and went out the back. Gella could see a big tree down across the road, further back. The road was churned by hoof and wheel, while the sounds of melee echoed around the woodlands, people were screaming and dying.

In a daze Gella followed Myr, was given a cloak and a small satchel of supplies, then the girl was pressing a long knife into her hand. The fighting had slowly been getting closer to the wagon.

There was no time to change into riding clothes. Estrial, returned with a look of triumph, “I hit one of them!” she had a crossbow and a wicker quiver. She grabbed the supplies her sister had pulled out, looked the two of them over.

“The teamster is dead. Father is nearly alone now, just a couple of caravan folk with him, we need to run. I’m going to load this and then I want you to stay close behind me.” She struggled for some time with the crossbow.

They became aware the fighting had stopped. Estrial finally manage to pull the string back on the bow. A half dozen bandits walked around to the back of the wagon, a couple of them were women, Gella was surprised to see. There was lots of blood splattered onto most of the bandits; the woman who stepped into the wagon seemed the bloodiest. She took the crossbow.

The three girls retreated to the front end of the wagon where the bed-box was.

“So, I’m going to need you to hand over your weapons and be proper young women. If you come along peacefully I won’t have to tie you up.”

The three of them gave nods of assent, Myr added a “Yes ma’am.”

“Good, now step on past me here and get out of the wagon.”

They moved past and stepped out to face the other bandits. The woman followed them out. “Pallax, I want the wagon and its contents, you’ll likely have to take it apart. Odda, take the girls to my loft, no one sees them, you keep guard.”

Odda was the other woman, she was only a couple years older than Gella. She seemed really nice and was talkative, she told the girls how much they were going to enjoy their new home and how happy she was that they had all come through such a horrible ordeal safe and sound.



The bandit camp was not what Gella had been expecting.

At the time of their arrival it had been much more a military encampment, a few hundred more people, in addition to the residents themselves which numbered around two hundred, had set up temporary shelters around the village. Everyone was shouting and moving cargo or livestock into the village. During the evenings there was wild partying, long past the setting of the sun.

Odda had taken them directly to the tree fort when they had arrived. Built around and in an ancient oak tree, the fort was true to its name. A large walled platform, had been built around the trunk of the tree, stairs led up to the next level, where another platform overlooked the ground area under the tree’s branches. There were four stations around the tree at that point where two or three people could shelter from attackers while being able to shoot anyone trying to approach. Access from below could also be cut off at this point with two heavy doors to either side of the trunk. The locals called the lower part of the tree, the barbican, whatever that was.

Above this area, accessible by climbing a combination or stairs and tree branches they had ascended to the house. Here, or so it seemed, lived Wol’s closest companions; a couple of wives, a couple of valuable hostages, the druidess, the grumpy old man with mean dogs and another half dozen others, including Odda, who were fighting companions. Gella would meet them all before she would see Wol again. In fact, for a long time she was very confused as to whom Wol the Fox was.

Above the house, accessed via a narrow ladder, was the loft. Wol’s private rooms. Her wives slept in one room and the other was a guest room as best as Gella could figure. Maybe the second room was Wol’s. Odda had brought the three young women to the loft and shown them the second room where they would be confined, until Wol returned.

It was nearly a week before they would meet Wol, Odda was with them most of the time. During the first few days Odda turned away many curious, would-be visitors. When they were alone with Odda she was friendly, even kind, she made sure they were comfortable. When either of Wol’s wives were around she was quiet and kept her distance.

Myrtha wept often, especially late at night when she thought the others were asleep. Gella wept during the first few days, between constant fear and not knowing what had happened to her father, crying was the only relief she could find. Estrial remained quiet and watchful, she was friendly with Odda and polite to the wives.

In the early afternoon of the fourth day of their captivity, while Odda and Wol’s wives were out, a goat clattered up into the loft. The girls were at first surprised and then amused. Who knew goats could climb trees? Certainly Gella would never have thought so. However, the amusing situation soon turned horrific as the goat gave a loud bleat and then started to morph, limbs twisting, neck stretching and the head was briefly half goat, half woman. The girls screamed, all three of them. Myr peed herself as her sister grabbed her arm and dragged her into the other room. Gella backed up a few paces, fell into a chair and saw a woman take form where there had once been a goat.

The goat-woman laughed, Gella ran to the other room. Myrtha was still screaming, the appearance of the woman following Gella into the room made her scream all the more. Estrial had thrown wide the balcony door, her sister collapsed to the floor. Gella grabbed a chair and turned to fend off whatever fiend had come to threaten them.

The goat lady was still laughing, she brought a finger to her lips, “Shhh. It’s alright. Shhh.”

Gella put the chair down, the other two also calmed, though Myr remained on the floor weeping softly.

Smiling, the goat woman asked, “What’s all the fuss ladies? You’d think you’d seen a monster.”

Gella stammered, “Wh-wh-what are you?”

“A woman.”

“Bu-bu-but, you were a goat.”

“I was, it’s true. The nature spirits have blessed me with that transformation ability. Any time I want, I can be either a goat or a woman. Now settle down and let’s see you all proper. Stand up sweet-one.”

The three of them lined up, side by side, Myrtha stopped crying. The goat-woman looked them over, “My, my. I have a couple of friends who would be very happy to meet you ladies. Especially you, young one.”

Estrial, who seemed to have recovered quicker than the other two from the frightening transformation, asked, “If you are able to change like that, you must be a druid.”

“Sure honey, that’s correct. Though I prefer druidess.” She laughed, though the others were at a loss to see the humour of her statement.

Odda and a half dozen others clattered up, into the loft. The was a lot of shouting. Odda came around and placed herself between the girls and the druidess, “You were told to leave them alone.”

“No harm, little Odda. Fear not, I meant no harm.”

Odda was obviously very angry, her hand grasped the knife belted to her side, she was shaking and there was a quaver in her voice, “Get out! All of you. Anyone who shouldn’t be here needs to leave.”

The oldest of the group, a grey haired, weather worn man said, “Come on woman. That’s enough trouble from you today. Get your ass down here or I’ll sick my dogs on you.”

The druidess laughed, but she did leave and the others followed behind. Soon it was just Odda and the girls. Odda looked them over, asked if they were alright, then she told them to strip out of their clothes, “I’ll get someone to launder this for you. There’s clothing you can borrow in the wardrobe. Are you hungry?”

Three days after the scare from the goat-lady, Wol returned. She came up into the loft, dismissed Odda and walked into the room where the girls were. She stood with hands on hips regarding the three of them. Gella noted that Wol was the same woman who had first stepped into the house-wagon and taken Estrial’s crossbow. She was still in her leathers and carried numerous knives on her person, she also smelled strongly of damp horse.

“Right, then. Word is the three of you have been well behaved. Thank you, for that.”

The three of them said nothing, but Wol had their full attention.

“Given your good behaviour, I’ll be letting you have the run of the tree fort, and if you have an escort and ask Remder for permission you can go down to the village or around the lake.”

Estrial asked, “Who is Remder?”

“The old bastard with the dogs. He’ll be in charge while I’m gone.”

“But you’ve just arrived.” Gella said.

“True, but I’m a busy woman. I’ve people still out in the woods and related loose ends to tie up. After that I have to see some folks about a king.”

“A king?”

“Yeah, some prick took my job. I need to see for myself this Forest King, who would rule us.”


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