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Page 4 of 7Carthago trod along as I chewed a piece of grass, thinking. Suddenly the old beast whinnied and reared up, tossing me right out of my saddle. I had little time to be angry at the horse, as I soon discovered what had scared him so. Wolves!
Grinning like a labourer being served his yearly portion of meat, I drew my sword and without missing a heartbeat carved a path into the pack of snarling fur, claw and teeth. Somewhat worse for wear, I soon reappeared victorious, breathing heavily in the middle of a pile of corpses.
In need of some rest, I turned my horse to the old mill to talk to the miller. He had little to say to me, except to explain where he knew the robbers to be. Any questions about why he knew this were soon fended off. Odd fellow.
No time to think on it, as my keen sense saw from a distance that the next junction was held down by two robbers. Unsheathing my sword, I spurred on Carthago and stormed towards the two, sword a-waving. A somewhat lucky swing nearly sliced off the face of the first, and the unlucky fellow tumbled to the ground. But an all-too-familiar twang behind me reminded me I just made a rookie mistake, as an archer was hiding in the bushes waiting in ambush. A microsecond later, an arrow was sticking painfully out of my shoulder.
Enraged, I wheeled Carthago around in a dangerous U-turn and stormed at the archer, who soon thought better of it and tried to turn his heels and run. A blind blow caught him in his neck, and as he tumbled forward he smashed his face into a tree with a resounding crack. I halted Carthago and turned to greet the approaching final robber. A few quick slashes from up high soon removed his cap. And more!
Damn blast their eyes, these fights were starting to hurt. I rested and ate to recover some strength, which suddenly made me aware the first robber was still alive and, amazingly, crawling towards me.
(Cows. I will give you all the cows you need!)
(Really?) The man was clearly delirious. What would I need cows for?
(Yes, just over the bridge,) he mumbled. And it clicked. What an uncommon stroke off luck, I thought, as I absentmindedly sliced his head off with a lazy stroke of my sword. That's Empire quality steel, right there!
I could hear the wolves on the other side of the river, so I tied my horse down at the spot. Cautiously crossing the bridge I could spot the clearing in the distance. My training in moving quietly was really good but, so it seems, not good enough, as all of a sudden those howls appeared to be right next to my ear. Kicking one unfortunately positioned wolf straight into the river, I used the hesitation of the other two to hack clean through both of them in one fell swoop. Mickey, I was getting good at this!
Storming on with the courage of the foolish, I again ran right into a trap, as two archers shot at me from one end of the clearing while two club-wielding maniacs managed to catch me from behind. Thinking fast on my feet (finally), I ducked low into the shrubbery, sweeping the robbers' feet out from under them in a full-body tackle. As they were dazed, I unarmed and sliced the throats of both of them in seconds. Victory is mine!
An arrow sticking out of my rear end reminded me of the reality of the case. No matter, they were just archers. A bow will never be a match for a sword!
The cows would not budge, though. Shame, so I rode back to the herder to inform him where his cows were, and that he could pick them up if he hurried. And miracle upon miracles, he actually gave me a reward: a handshake and a thank you. Mickey if I don't feel good about myself now.
Deciding to leave the miller's problems for the long term, I dressed up as a thief in the hopes that this would give me save passages through these robber-invested roads. And I lucked out, as I reached the tavern without further problems. And as Don Mayshi had predicted, the moment I entered, one man looked up and immediately beckoned me over.
(How did you know it was me?) I said, and it didn't take me long to realise that is a weird way to start a conversation.
(Ah, novinki. I could pick you out of a crowd, no problems. On the other hand, we do have some others problems.)
(Problems, what problems? You were paid good gold to direct me where I need to go and you will do so!)
(I was paid in silver, but yes, Chuba came out alright. That's not the problem. The problem is those three men lounging outside. They're Bald Magoo's men. I can't risk my hide by undertaking anything. You take care of them, I'm staying right here.)
I angrily stomped out of the tavern, hand on my sword. Then I spotted one of Bald Magoo's men. Easily a half-leg taller than me, he was a heavy-set, brawny man. And he had a club about as big as my torso. I swallowed hard and decided that perhaps the miller should take priority after all.
Moving safely past a number of now-friendly thieves, I moved into the swamp, spotting three men huddling around some loot. From their conversation, I soon gathered they weren't the brightest candles in the alcove.
(Friends!) I walked up to them.
Hands on their weapons, they turned to me, but soon recognised me as one of them. (What is it you want?)
(I come to warn you! You have done well lately. Too well. The law men are angry and planning to comb this area. Better hurry up, pack up and leave, they'll be here soon.)