Chapter (I): Fleeing The Nest (Part 4)

Varlaine welled up another spell, palm numb with the frost that had covered it. His hand outstretched, aiming towards the remaining spear-bearing bandit, the other still flat on the ground with a shimmering icicle in his back, but the prince faltered before he could let the spell release. Everything was moving so fast, too fast, that he had barely grasped where all of the attackers were by the time Henrik had dispatched of most of them; the stench of blood in the air left him feeling queasy, stomach churning with bile. By the time he was ready to unleash another spell, their armored, helmeted savior was already engaging the last standing enemy. Varlaine’s fingers twitched as he dismissed the spell for fear of misfiring.

In this battle, ‘Henrik’ seemed a little more matched. While skill was evident in the ease with which the swordfighter had struck down the others, it was countered handily by range. The long haft of a spear trained on him kept Henrik at bay, jabbing out in quick, conservative thrusts that he was unable to maneuver around. Despite his footwork, he was not fast enough to get in range safely, but also refused to disengage. The two circled one another, while Cassius and Eryn continued to struggle against their leader, the griffon’s claws wrapped around his axe and having to relinquish his edge in the grapple often, else find the edge of that blade in a claw instead.

Faltering, Varlaine tried to find his voice. If he could warn their ally to pull back, perhaps he could unleash another spell and put an end to this; but he could not bring himself to interrupt, to take charge, to command. So he watched in awed silence as the heavy footfalls of the swordsman carried him just shy of in range before being driven back, then again, then thrice. One of his hands had abandoned his sword, held up and open, prepared to grab. Whoever he was, the young prince was convinced that he knew what he was doing, if they were indeed a ‘he’. When the circling, strafing pirouette of steps in and jumps back placed the warrior directly to his front, Varlaine spied a braid of red hair that slipped from under the bottom of the full, disguising helmet and disappeared down its owner’s back, tucked neatly inside of armor.

Finally, either spotting an opening or growing tired of the game, Henrik launched forward. A hand outstretched, prepared to grab at the haft of the spear aimed at his chest. Laine saw the mistake a moment before the swordsman did, though; the spearman was also trying for a gambit, shifting his aim up, towards the smaller but less protected target of his opponent’s head. Henrik’s open, swinging palm was just a moment too slow to stop the jab in time, and his sword was poised at his side for a strike, not up in a parry: the spear thrust rang true, striking against the armored brow of the swordsman and sending him tripping backwards. He landed on his back, grunting in pain, struggling to come to his feet before the advantage could be pressed.

“Eryn!” Panicking, Varlaine called out to the rider, who was already yanking on Cassius’ reins to pull him off of his first target. He reared up again and screeched, turning and beating his wings against the air to carry him forward the few giant’s paces he needed to close the gap between himself and the spearman. The bandit, in shock at Varlaine’s cry and looking in his direction instead, didn’t see the great beast coming down on his back from behind. One massive, birdlike claw gripped his head, then his full weight came down, flattening the human to the ground with a heavy, dull thud. He did not rise.

Behind Eryn, the leader she and her mount had been struggling with was quick on the draw. He left his ax on the ground, instead pushing himself onto his feet unburdened, hands and arms bloody with the clawmarks Cassius left as proof of their encounter, and sleeves ripped and stained dark. Without even a word, a curse, or a threat, he began to flee; something metal and round hurtled after him but flew past a shoulder, and the distance between he and the victors in the skirmish grew and grew. Varlaine was hesitant to follow, instead looking over his allies.

Eryn was sitting unhappily on Cassius’ back, who was still standing over the body of his kill. She was staring at the stranger in their midst, who they owed their life to, and who was back on his feet. Rather, she was back on her feet; having thrown her helmet after the escaping bandit, her face was plainly visible. Long, auburn-red hair put back in a braid disappeared down her back. Of its length, ‘Laine was uncertain, only that it was surely past her shoulders. Her face was that of a woman old enough to be mothering children his own age, with the onset of crow’s feet at the edges of her eyes and a firm purse to her lips. Neither the wrinkles nor the set jaw attracted his attention as much as the scars that marred her face: while she had the look of one of the fine play performers who would put on shows back in the castle, it was buried beneath a thin, curved line that extended from near her left ear, crescentic across a cheek bone and stopping just shy of her mouth’s corner. Beneath that, in much thicker lines across a tanned, well-traveled chin, a pair of marks like claws ran vertically across the cleft, wider than their cousin over her cheek but less prominent, hidden beneath the shadow of her lip.

(Part 5 is up, and can be found here!)

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One thought on “Chapter (I): Fleeing The Nest (Part 4)

  1. Pingback: Chapter (I): Fleeing The Nest (Part 3) | Mercenary's Log

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