FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 6b

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 3 Part 6b

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Tipper took a quick look around. There were no threats in her immediate area, the pavilion guards were her main concern at the moment. The supply wagons, just a few paces north of her present position offered her the best route out even though a number of them were engulfed in flames that were jumping unnaturally from one wagon to the next. Likely a fire mage had infiltrated the camp. She figured it was Mokha. The army’s horses suddenly broke free from where they had been corralled, adding to the confusion as they ran away from the fire.

From within the tent she heard the servants calling out in panic, while the guards demanded to know where Lady Sharlok was. Tipper crouched back down, picked Ethie up and slung her over her shoulder. She stood as one of the guards lifted the edge of the pavilion and stuck his head out to look around. Tipper kicked him in the face. She moved towards the burning wagons.

A moment later Tipper heard one of the guards from the pavilion calling for her to stop. Other soldiers had moved to the wagons to try and deal with the fire. Smoke was everywhere, over a dozen wagons were burning and the fire still leapt wildly to their neighbours. Mokha had to be fairly close. She looked back and saw both guards from the pavilion closing on her, the one with the bloody face looked angry, the other was trying to get the attention of some of the his nearby compatriots. The smoke was thick, her eyes stung, she held her breath.

Tipper stopped and let Ethie slip to the ground, turning, she drew her dwarven hatchet. The first guard came at her, sword raised. She stepped aside from her foe’s first thrust, punched his arm, then struck him in the head with a mighty swing. The hatchet went though both helm and skull, he made a shocked grunting sound, dropped his sword and fell against the side of the wagon. The second soldier, still calling to the others drew his sword and cautiously closed towards her.

She kicked the body of the first soldier and yanked her weapon free. A small group of men, initially responding to the fires spotted her, they called out. Her foe approached cautiously, his weapon held in a high guard position. Tipper obliged, swinging her hatchet high overhead. He parried the blow but she gave him no time to counter, pushing his sword aside with her weapon she slammed into him with her left shoulder. He staggered back a pace. Tipper removed the lower half of his sword arm, his armour offered little protection against her superior weapon. He screamed, stumbling backwards.

The other men shouted, shocked rage edged their voices, Tipper noted that many of them were not even in their armour. She ducked down, took a dry breath and shifted under the wagon as long flames leapt through the air. Dragging Ethie after her, she kept low and moved from one wagon to the next, southward. She could hear others fighting nearby but she could not locate the combatants. She kept moving south under the wagons, as quickly as she could.

Tipper had almost made it to the outer edge of the wagons when Ethie regained consciousness. She kicked at Tipper with her bound feet and tried to sit up, her head smacked the underside of the wagon and she collapsed, stunned. Tipper put her hatchet away and grabbed hold of Ethie with both hands, they made it to the last wagon in the line before Ethie began to struggle again. Tipper saw that she had not eluded the other soldiers. They were closing on her.

She briefly considered killing Ethie before she was caught. Suddenly one of the closing men cried out in pain and fell on his back, thrashing, with an arrow protruding from his throat. She thanked the gods for her luck, drew both hatchets and rolled out towards the men on the north side of the wagon.

She came out at someone’s feet, slammed her old hatchet into his knee and stood up. Someone on the other side of the wagon screamed in pain. She stumbled backward as the man she had struck fell against her, Tipper struck him again with the other hatchet. She kneed him in the face as he doubled over. The other two paused, both were wielding knives, one was nearly naked and the other was only in the his breeches and boots.

Tipper stepped forward while raising her weapons, they moved back a couple of paces. The last man on the other side of the wagon called out, “Fall back! The enemy is in the camp!” He turned to run and an arrow thwacked into his back, he staggered but kept moving, “Flee for your lives!”

The two she had been facing backed away, then ran. She let them go, taking a quick look around. Briefly she caught a glimpse of a dark haired woman moving away to the west, she had a bow and a nearly empty quiver. Tipper had not recognized her, though she had seen that style of armour on some of the folks from Lekas. Smoke obscured the woman as she moved off. Tipper saw a few soldiers moving in that direction and could hear others trying to fight the fire. It seemed she had a moment or two.

She ducked back down and looked under the wagon. Ethie was no longer there. The young woman had managed the get her head out of the blanket and was squirming towards one of the dead men on the other side. Tipper cursed and moved around the wagon, two other men had been hit by the archer, one dead and the other dying with a bubbly froth of blood across his mouth. Tipper saw that one of the mounted scouts had spotted her, the man struggled to get his horse to approach the fire and he called out to her.

Tipper put away her hatchets and shouted to the man, “The enemy is in the camp! Help me with her!” She scooped up Ethie and headed in the man’s direction.

His horse shied away and the man fought to control the animal, “Who’s that?”

“Someone’s trying to abduct Lady Sharlok. Help me get her out of here.” Tipper moved further south, she noted some of the tents west of her had started to burn, at this rate the entire camp would go up in flames.

“Is that Lady Sharlok?”

“Yes man! She’s been injured. Help me with her.”

Ethie struggled and tried to shout, despite the gag.

Tipper moved between a couple of the tents, set Ethie on her feet and then back handed her, she toppled over.

The man’s horse was still edgy but had calmed a bit as they had moved off from the flames, the rider appeared confused, “Why did you hit her?”

“She’s in shock. We have to get her to our rear position. Let me help with the horse.” Tipper calmly took hold of the horse’s bridle and said soft words to the animal. She looked to the rider and then pointedly to where Ethie lay bound.

The man dismounted, picked her up then slung her across the back of the horse. After the man had looped a second length of cord around Ethie and tied it off he gave Tipper an appraising look, “It might be best if I took her back to the rear position myself.”

“Yes, likely.” Tipper agreed calmly and moved to turn the horse around, the man staggered away to avoid being knocked over.

He drew his short sword, “I won’t let you get on that horse.”

“Alright, but consider those people over there.” She indicated the dead and dying men on the ground, “They thought they could stop me. Do you really want to die for a spoiled princess?”

Ethie thrashed and tried to shout.

Tipper waved the man back, “Step into that tent.”

He looked towards the tent, Tipper could see that part of him wanted to take her offer, yet just as clearly the man was torn between his own safety and his duty to Lady Sharlok. There was a commanding shout from the other side of the pavilion, “You men, move the tents! Drag them south, now!”

Tipper could not wait any longer, Lord Magon was rallying the soldiers and they were heading her way. She swung up into the saddle. The scout leapt forward as Tipper took up the reins and grabbed Lady Sharlok with one hand. The man swung his sword as Tipper dug her heels into the animal’s flanks. His blade stuck her across the hip, she felt the bite of his blade as the horse surged forward. She ignored the pain, and encouraged the mount to greater speed.

They thundered past the burning wagons where a small group of women were trying to fight the fire, they scattered to avoid the horse. Their shouts and curses followed Tipper as she moved into the west end of the camp. She spotted more bodies, other soldiers who had been wounded and a few people trying to help them. As best she could tell most of the men had been slain or hit by arrows. She wondered if the dark haired woman she had seen earlier was responsible for all of this. Perhaps the Omdin twins were here as well.

As she approached the western edge of the camp she could see that the picket line was in disarray. There were a handful more bodies, soldiers were scattered across the plains, in three loose groups, at least a few of them were wounded, the Lekas crew must have retreated this way but she did not see them out on the plains. The soldiers took note of her hasty exit from the camp and most moved to intercept her. Tipper shouted at the horse, kept a tenuous grip on Ethie and angled towards the road leading to the west. The closest man threw a spear as she rode past, it had been a quick toss and the projectile was too high. Tipper ducked low across her mount, hoping no one else found their mark.

When she made it to the road she kept heading west. Once she was out of sight she would head north and eventually to Lekas. Tipper hoped she would be able to join up with Sefla, Mokha and the others. It would be good to see them.

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