16 Nov 2018

The Elf's Prisoner - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

A Knight of the Realm of the Seven Dominons took up a quest for the Count of Varin.

Wilderness borders, County of Varin, Seven Dominions
Nyssa called for a stop as the sun reached its peak in the sky.  Leomund brought his horse up to join hers  "Is there a problem, ma'am?"

"Just time for lunch, Leo.  Get a fire going."  Nyssa regarded her young squire as he dismounted.  Her own joints creaked as she got off her own horse.  Of all the enemies she faced in her life, time was turning into her most relentless opponent.  Old injuries long healed ached as she stepped away from her horse.  She worked her shoulders, rotating them to loosen the muscles.

As she groomed her horse, she heard the popping of Leomund's fire.  "Good.  Get the small pot out.  We're having soup."

"Soup, ma'am?"  Leomund retrieved the pot from his saddle bags.  "Shouldn't we be using our rations?"

"Nonsense.  We have decent food now.  It'll go bad and we'll rush to use it instead of preparing it properly.  Life's too short for bad cooking."  Nyssa got out a package wrapped with waxed leather.  "And I paid the innkeeper for this morsel.  He said that all the spices we'll need are already in the meat."  The old knight tossed her waterskin to her squire.  "We'll find a creek to fill this later.  And we'll get proper rations in the elven city."

Leomund fumbled with the waterskin but was able to keep from dropping it.  "Are the elves going to welcome us, ma'am?"  He filled the cookpot with water then set it on the fire.

"Probably not."  Nyssa unwrapped the meat, a small side of already cooked pork sliced into strips,  She took a whiff of the spices added to the meat.  "This will be worth it, Leo."

Leomund took the pork from the knight.  "Yes, ma'am.  But, ma'am?  The elves?"

"What about them?"

"If they won't welcome us, what happens?"

"The usual posturing, threats on both sides, some hothead draws a weapon, and someone wiser steps in to lay down the law."

Leomund eyed Nyssa.  "Should I stop you if you draw your sword, ma'am?"

Nyssa's stern glare was ineffective with the twinkle in her eye.  "Get the meat on, scamp."  She flashed her squire a smile.  "Nothing will happen with the elves.  They keep to themselves, but they're good people.  Usually."

"Yes, ma'am."

Nyssa grabbed the wineskin from her saddle.  She took a swig of the wine, a crisp white.  The warmth of the alcohol flowed down into her.  One more swig, then she put the wineskin back.  Nyssa sat down near the cooking fire.  Leomund was learning; the fire was just big enough to cook without burning the people around it.  In the late spring day, the heat of the fire wasn't needed, but Nyssa appreciated the drying effect it had on the air.

The soup didn't take long once the water boiled.  Leomund waited for Nyssa to start eating before he ate, but once he began, he made sure that little, if any, was left over.  For her part, Nyssa didn't mind.  Leomund was still a growing boy, even if he was being trained to take on a heavy responsibility.  Once again, she wondered what the boy had done to be assigned to her.  Nyssa was well aware of her reputation; after all, she had worked hard to create and maintain it.  As long as His Majesty saw use for her, Nyssa could continue being the thorn in the side, the pain in the ass.

Nyssa had Leomund clean up as she prepared the horses to continue the journey.  Her sword buzzed in its scabbard, a warning of ill intent approaching.  "Leo, keep packing but stand ready," she warned.  She kept getting the horses ready, but her attention was elsewhere.  Nyssa listened, trying to pinpoint where the fools were going to attack from.

Four men emerged from the long grass in the field, weapons drawn.  Two had knives, but the other two held axes.  In a smooth, well-practiced motion, Nyssa had her sword out and in hand.  She slapped the haunch of her horse, getting it to move away from her.  "Gentlemen, you are very much making a mistake."

"No mistake," one of the men said.  Nyssa made note of the scar along his arm, too straight to be made by anything but a sword.  The axe he carried gleamed in the sun's light.

"The penalty for attacking a Knight of the Realm is death, if you survive long enough to reach the King's justice."  Nyssa settled into a defensive stance, never taking her eyes off the men.  "If you flee now, I can forget I ever saw you."

One of the other men, a tall one with dirty blonde hair, spoke up.  "An old wench and a kid.  We have them."  He stepped towards Nyssa.

"That isn't fleeing."  Nyssa clucked her tongue.  "Leomund, behind me."  She heard her squire running to obey her order.  "Last chance.  Flee now."

The scarred man laughed.  "Kill her."  The other three men moved in, weapons in hand.

Nyssa had a brief thought about retrieving her shield, but ignored it.  The men charged in, the knife men first.  The knight adjusted her grip, giving herself room for both hands on her sword.  The weapon vibrated, almost singing in anticipation.  With a swing, she batted the first knife man's arm away, throwing him off-stride.  He pulled up short, giving room for his own comrades to step in.  Nyssa reversed her swing.  Her sword bit deep into the side of the second knife man.  She drew the sword back.  Blood filled the wound.  The knife man clutched his side with his free hand.

The assailant with the axe, the tall blond man, swung with all his force.  Nyssa stepped back, letting the axe pass in front of her.  The axe man stumbled from his effort.  The knight skipped back in, closing the distance enough to kick at the man.  The first knife man slipped inside Nyssa's guard.  He slashed down with his blade, cutting a through Nyssa's riding leathers and leaving a blood red trail on her thigh.  Before he could bring his knife back up, the old knight punched out.  The pommel of her sword connected with her foe's cheek, sending him flying to the ground.

The wounded knife man backed away from the battle.  Still holding his side, he hefted his knife.  He let fly, throwing the dagger.  The blade hurtled through the air, not at Nyssa, but at Leomund.  The young squire ducked away, bringing up Nyssa's shield to protect him.  The old knight heard the clunk of the knife hitting something solid, but she did not dare to find out what happened.

Instead, she kept her attention on the tall man with the axe.  He recovered from being off-balance, and returned to the fight, thrusting with his weapon.  Nyssa deflected each thrust, becoming aware that her foe was directing her towards the second knife man.  Nearing the other opponent, feinted another deflection, then twisted around.  She brought her sword up, extending it out.  The knife man, already moving in, couldn't stop himself before Nyssa sliced through his throat.

The leader of the attackers stepped into the fray, pushing the dying knife man out of his way.  Unlike his comrade, he seemed to know how to use his axe.  A series of short, swift swings forced Nyssa back, off the meagre trail and to the edge of the field.  The pair of axe men fell into a rhythm, not giving the knight an opening to do more than defend herself.  Nyssa swept away one blow, then brought up her sword to parry the next.  The force of the blow travelled up her arm, deadening all feeling in it.  Only through sheer will did Nyssa keep hold of her weapon.  She could not keep her arm up.

The tall man sneered at her.  "You had some lucky shots, old woman."

Nyssa noticed movement behind her foes.  She smiled at the tall man.  "More than I can say for you."

The blond axe man raised his weapon.  He gasped, then looked down.  The first foot of a spear's tip poked through his shirt, covered in his blood and viscera.  The tall man's axe fell from his grip, then he collapsed to his knees.  Behind him, Leomund stared at the man he ran through.

Nyssa wasted no time.  She barrelled into the leader of the bandits, bowling him over.  His axe bounced off the ground and out of his hands.  The two grappled each other, rolling over the ground as each tried to get on top.  The axe man used his bulk to keep Nyssa beneath him.  He wrapped a hand around the old knight's throat.  Nyssa clawed at the hand, trying to remove it so she could breathe.  As her breaths grew shallow, she reached to her belt, to her dagger.  With one last effort, she thrust the blade up into her assailant.

For a moment, Nyssa's foe remained still.  Incredulous, he looked down at the hilt of the dagger; the blade buried deep into him.  Nyssa twisted the blade, tearing up her opponent's insides.  Her foe collapsed on top of her.  The old knight fought to regain her breath.

Leomund ran to his liege's side.  He pushed the dead man over, off Nyssa.  "Ma'am, are you wounded?"  He offered a hand to the old knight.

Nyssa took the help her squire offered.  "Winded."  She took the time to slow her breathing.  "Just winded."  The fight over, she looked over the field of battle.  The dead knife man lay on the path, his blood splattered several yards from him.  The axe man Leomund had run through now lay on the ground, dead or dying, Nyssa didn't care.  The wounded knife man was hurrying away despite his wound.  Seeing the fleeing man, Leomund started to give chase.  "Leo, no, let him scurry away," Nyssa said.

"But he attacked you."

"If we catch him, we'd have to bring him to His Majesty's justice."  Nyssa knelt down to retrieve one of the fallen axes.  "We don't have the luxury of time to deal with him."  She held up the axe.  "This, however, adds to the mystery.  Leo, what do you think of this?"

Leomund knelt down beside Nyssa to examine the axe.  "Is it magical?"

"Could very well be."  Nyssa turned the axe over.  "What else do you see in it, Leo?"

"It looks well made, ma'am.  Like your sword."  Leomund shrugged.  "That's why I thought it was magical."

Nyssa smiled.  Her squire was thinking.  "Have you ever seen a dwarven made weapon, Leo?"

"Can't say that I have, ma'am."  Leomund peered closer at the axe.  "Is that a dwarven axe?"

"It is, indeed."  Nyssa pointed out a smith's mark on the axe's head.  "That's a dwarven rune, from the Realm Below the Mountain."

Leomund looked over at one of the dead assailants.  "Where did folk like these get such a weapon.  They don't look like they can afford anything more than their daggers."

"There's the mystery, Leo."  Nyssa tried to get to her feet, but her right leg gave out on her.  She reached out with her left arm to keep herself from falling completely over.

"Ma'am!"  Leomund noticed the ragged cut in his liege's pants.  "You have been wounded.  Lie down."

"Leo, it's nothing.  Barely got through the leather."

Leomund stared at the old knight.  "Lie down, ma'am.  Let me look."  Knowing she wouldn't win the contest of wills, Nyssa laid down on the ground.  The young squire peeled the edges of the tear in the leather back, revealing a far deeper wound than either he or Nyssa expected.  "You need to see a healer.  I can bandage your leg for now, but you can't walk on it."

Nyssa looked at the wound for herself.  "Bandage it, then, Leo.  The elf city is just a few days ride from here.  I can survive until then."

Next Week:
Kazimier returns home with his prisoner.

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