Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 9e

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 9e

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It was mid morning when they came in sight of the Teight River again, shortly after that they could see the town. The wall was not overly high, maybe twice the height of a person, with a wide ditch around it. The land had been kept clear out to about thirty paces, but with only a handful of larger trees, dulmak and scrub brush, most of the lines of sight from the wall were open. Loden insisted on watching the village for a while.

The sun was high in the sky when he finally conceded the fact there was little they were going to learn by hanging back. There were two men on the wall, certainly Tannican slavers and the gate remained closed. He looked over to Asta, “Ready?”

“Just waiting on you.”

“Alright. Let’s do this.”

They rode onward at a leisurely pace, trying to maintain a casual attitude. The slavers took note of them and by the time they had moved up to within twenty paces of the gate another dozen or so Tannicans had manned the wall. They reined in and Loden gave a friendly wave.

One of the men, wearing better armour than the others, barked an order in Tannican. Six of the men raised crossbows, Loden noted that two of the crossbows were the bulky repeating type. He was certain they were going to die in the next few moments. The man in charge appraised their reaction then said, “Dismount. Place your weapons on the ground. Step to either side of the road. Lay face down on the ground.”

“What’s the meaning of this? We’re just looking to pass through.”

“Do as I say, or die.”

Seemingly from out of nowhere a single small arrow flew through the air. Narra, somewhere in the brush to the right of Loden’s position, shouted, “Die! Bastard!”

The arrow struck the leader on the left side of his chest. The man looked down at the protruding projectile and brushed it aside, “Kill them!”

Half the crossbows were turned on Narra’s position, the two repeating weapons were fired a second time before the first volley even reached their targets. Reflexively Loden and Asta ducked behind the dubious cover of the horses. None of the bolts found their mark however, the repeating crossbows fired a third time and then a fourth. None of them struck true. Loden dropped off of CoalPile and stayed low. What was happening?

He glanced towards the wall and started to move off the road towards the nearest bushes. He caught a brief glimpse of the men on the wall pointing excitedly into the sky, shouting. Then a tremendous bolt of energy arched down from above, a rending noise, dazzling light and a powerful tingling sensation overwhelmed Loden. He dropped to the ground and covered his head.

The flaring light persisted for only a few moments, he heard screams and shattering stone, a concussive wave passed over him, the noise deafened him. He smelled thunderstorms and the inside of his mouth tasted metallic. The flare faded, he could hear nothing. His limbs twitched, he was vaguely aware he had shit and pissed himself. He gasped for a breath he could not draw.

When he regained a bit of control over his body he drew air into his lungs, coughing from the acrid taste. He managed to turn over, through random bright flashes he briefly caught a glimpse of two people flying over him. One of them wore a fancy blue dress and sat astride a broom, the other was the Eldra man they had rescued. They descended towards the village, from which a ball of fire streaked towards them. The fireball reversed its trajectory and slammed back down into the village. The Eldra man made a broad gesture with his staff and another great bolt of energy arced down into the village.

Loden cried out and covered his face. He felt another concussive wave pass over him, though not as powerful as the first. He lay there with an arm thrown over his eyes, gasping short uncontrolled breaths. Exploding bursts of colour played across the backs of his eyelids.

A long while passed, the dancing lights in his head faded, his breathing regulated and his rapidly beating heart slowed. He smelled thunderstorms and charred flesh. He struggled to his hands and knees then vomited. He tried to stand, stumbled a couple of paces then collapsed to his knees.

The gate and the wall, many paces to either side of where the slavers had been was a blasted ruin. Part of it had been slagged, while pieces of various sizes littered the ground. The horses were gone, Asta lay motionless near the side of the road. He could hear nothing. Half stumbling, half crawling he made his way to Asta. She was pale, unresponsive, he feared she had died. He held her head and buried his face in her chest weeping.

Suddenly his hearing returned, his vision cleared and the jarring, tingling sensation coursing through his body receded. Asta gasped and tried to sit up, Loden sat back as relief flooded over him, she had not died. He looked up to see the Eldra man and his companion nearby. He helped Asta into a sitting position, keeping an eye on the other two.

“Seems I might have come on a bit strong. I had not considered the fact you had no elemental protections.”

Asta grabbed Loden and hugged him tightly, he returned the embrace, “Wha- what, what are you doing here?”

“Well, I wanted to check in with you. Sorry about the mishap with the gate. Things have changed rather drastically over the past few millennium. I was on my way to Swampdon and was wondering if the two of you wanted to come along?”

Loden blinked and could not think of how to respond. After a moment the Eldra continued, “At the very least I was hoping to repay the debt I owe you for rescuing me.”

Asta pushed away from him and stumbled to her feet. She glanced around, doing a bit of a double take when she noted the woman in the fancy blue dress carrying a broom. She pointed a finger at the Eldra, “You can start by helping us help these people. Then we can talk about Swampdon.”

“Sure, I can do that.”

“Goddess only knows how many you’ve killed and wounded.”

“Give me a moment.” Loden said, then went to find Narra.

She was sprawled along the edge of some nearby bushes, none of the crossbow bolts had hit her, she was unconscious. Loden scooped her up and carried her back to the other three. The Eldra met him half way and lay a hand on the young woman’s brow. He eyes fluttered open, she scrunched up her face, “I shit myself.”

Loden carefully set her on her feet and informed her, “You’re not the only one.”

“Who’s this?”

“Our rescuer.”

“What happened?”

Asta came to them, looked Narra over and then spoke to the Eldra, “Since you can heal, go do what you can for the others. We’ll be along shortly.”

“Very well.” He and his companion headed to the village.

Asta lead Loden and Narra to the river’s edge, on the way she said, “I’m not sure I can deal with the damage that man might have done to the others. I’m also not sure we should not just run away. But, the Goddess lead us here, so I suggest we clean up, then go deal with situation as best we can.”

The three of them stripped down, bathed and rinsed their clothing in the shallows of the river. Narra was confused and having troubles sorting out what had happened, “Who are those people?”

“Eldra, the ancient ones, guardians of the realms.”

“Oh. Really? Wow. I thought that was just all stories.”

Loden nodded, “I wish that was the case.”

Asta encouraged them to be quick about cleaning up, she put her robes back on and left most of her stuff at the river’s edge. Loden struggled into his wet clothing as did Narra, then with no small amount of trepidation Asta lead them to the village.

There was certainly collateral damage from the elemental fury that had blasted the slavers. Besides the damage to the wall and a half dozen buildings within, there were charred bits and pieces of people scattered through the village. Most, but not all, of the strewn body parts were from the slavers. The two Eldra were healing people, at least those that had stayed, many dozen had fled to the east. Another group of ex-captives and villagers were making an exit across the bridge. Many cowered in fear or were immobilized by shock and trauma, while some few seemed jubilant and offered their praise to the ancient ones for their impressive rescue.

Asta started healing people as she came to them, the Goddess was strong within her and many people were miraculously healed from severe wounds. Loden and Narra helped out as best they could. The sun was low in the western sky before Asta was too exhausted to do more. While Loden and Narra set up a camp on the village green with the help of some of the freed slaves, the Eldra continued to heal people.

Loden had retrieved their belongings from the rivers edge and sat near where the two women were sleeping. Many people were sheltering on the green and, like him, there were a number who could not find sleep. When the Eldra approached, Loden stood to confront them.

“I believe we have done what we can for these people. Are you and the priestess ready to talk of Swampdon?”

“She’s resting. I think I can speak for both of us though.”

“Very well.”

“I want to know something.”


“That place we rescued you from, where was it?”

The ancient one pointed to the northern horizon, “The moon you call Kallen was my home. That is where you were.”

Loden thought about that for a while, before asking his next question, “What is your business in Swampdon?”

“I seek my people. Those that remain.”

“You believe them to be in Swampdon?”

“No, but there is someone there who may know.”

“What of the war? Swampdon has been fighting the Tannicans for a couple of years now. Are you going to help?”

“I may, if I see the need.”

“Who is this?” He pointed to the woman in the blue dress.

“Seemingly the woman who will become my mate.”

“Ah… So now what? The two of you are just going to hop on your brooms and fly away?”

“I do not have a broom, the key of enchantment that allows me to fly was placed on this cloak by my mother.”

The woman spoke up, “The broom is the Grand Magus’ idea of a joke.”

“Oh… well, that’s amusing, I guess.”

“What about Swampdon? What do you seek there?”

“Asta has been directed to go there by the Goddess of Mercy. We had been riding there, until you scared our horses off.”

Tanfardi closed his eyes briefly, “You animals are not far to the east.”

“Good to know.”

“Will you come with us?”

“We don’t fly.”

“This is understood, we are willing to travel with you.”

“I’m not sure that’s going to work out. We may have deviations in our planned travels. As the Goddess wills.”

“Who is this Goddess of Mercy?”

Loden had no real answer for that, “Someone who cares about the small people.”

“Ah. Well, until I find my own people I can not join you in your adventures. Fear not, I shall remember the debt that is owed.”

“Perhaps we’ll meet up in Swampdon then.”

“Very well. Safe travels.”

They flew off into the night, Loden sat back down, relieved they had left. Beside him, Ander’s hat lay ready for the dawn, which seemed very far away.

Loden wondered how Flint was doing…


​End Cycle 2

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