As Cassius and Eryn took the mouthy bandit to the ground, all five of his comrades recoiled in shock. Each let out a cry of alarm, but one in particular surprised Varlaine. “Gods…!” The bandit they’d called Henrik jumped back in surprise, pulling sword from shoulder to side in a loose stance. The shout that came from under his full helm was coarse; but it was certainly feminine. ‘Laine’s head wasn’t the only that turned, either. Two of the men jerked their heads to glance at the armored swordsman, while two others were already closing in on Cassius and Eryn.
The young prince had to tear his focus away from both his traveling companions and the curiosity that was Henrik’s voice to stay his horse. The beast panicked at the screech Cassius gave off when he charged, forcing Varlaine to grab at the reins with his free hand, rearing it back and squeezing his heels in against its sides in an effort to bring it under control. His other hand held his spell tome close; using the pages of the book as a catalyst, his hand had begun to ice over, numb with the chill of ice magic. By the time he was stable, he heard the sound of metal rending metal, and turned to look at the source.
Henrik had closed the distance to one of the two men who had noticed something was amiss. In a heavy, overhead swing, the fighter split the helm of the bandit, smashing through it and sending his confused ‘ally’ to crumple to the ground—dead. As he started to fall, the man’s killer planted a leather boot in his chest and kicked him away. ‘Laine flinched when he got a look at the damage caused by the swing, as Henrik stopped to assess the situation.
“Keep your head down and your eyes open. Help her.” That rough voice, even more feminine now that Varlaine was listening for it, commanded. After a moment, he grasped that it was an order for him, and turned his attention back to Cassius and Eryn, the former of whom was wrestling with a pinned highwayman and the latter was now swinging her fine steel axe at one of the two pike-bearing men trying to free their leader. He seemed to be struggling with getting in range, a long spear knocked away with ease every time it drew near enough to jab at Eryn. Similarly, Eryn, mounted on the back of Cassius, could not press the advantage and get in range to strike him down.
Varlaine’s stomach lurched at the thought of loosing a spell that might end someone’s life, but that was quelled by the fear that Eryn might face injury or worse if he faltered. In a bright burst of neon, icy blue, a frozen spire erupted from his palm like an arrow freed from a bow. It flew just as straight, headed for the man who was closing in on Cass’ flank and embedding into his shoulderblade from behind; with a yelp of pain, he stumbled and fell flat.
Off on the other side, Henrik was crossing swords with the other who’d taken note of his betrayal. Steel met steel in loud crashes, but it seemed fairly one-sided from where ‘Laine was watching. Henrik’s steps were like a dance: in, and out, blocking swings with harder ones to meet, sending his partner more and more off balance, until a flick of his wrist slit his notched, scratched blade against the other bandit’s forearm. His cry of pain was silenced quickly; both of Henrik’s hands gripped the hilt of his sword and crashed it upon the man’s neck, slicing diagonally into it and leaving him dead on impact. Without stopping to take the damage in, he was already moving to assist Eryn.