The night was quiet as was the early morning, but as daylight broke the night I could hear horses in the distance. It was too thunderous to be only a few. There was a tower in the village center, that didn’t take much damage when the Raiders pillaged the area. I climbed to the top of it swiftly. I was right, it was’t a few horses, by the dust cloud that was rising from the horizon, it was a few dozen. They were either coming for my head, or they were readying to raid another village.
I climbed down so fast, that it was nearly a jump from the top, while only touching a few of the spans on the way down. I kept my gear on the horses and had them all tied to each other, in a train. I only had to untie the lead horse which would be the one I was riding. I had to get them moving slowly so that there was no sudden stopping or starting that would surprise them or me. Once we were moving, I could get them all going at a fast run.
The first fiery glow of the suns orb broke the trees as we left the outer edge of the burnt village. I rode as fast as I could. At the pace I was going, I would burn out my horse in an hour. Unless I got a big enough lead on the war party, I wouldn’t be able to switch out mounts. They would suffer the same problem if they didn’t slow their horses either, and unless the extra horses were riderless, they would have to rest their mounts soon.
I was right, as my horse lathered at a rate that it was dripping off it’s hide. I turned to see where my pursuers were, I couldn’t see the dust cloud. A few hundred yards ahead of me, I could see a pond off the trail. I slowed to a trot, and headed for it. I would have to water the horses quickly and move the lead horse to the rear. I also had to move my pack to another horse, so that one wouldn’t get burdened by the wait of it for the entire journey, however long that would be. After the horses were watered and rested somewhat, we headed back along the trail. I left at a trot, to keep the horses fresh as long as I could. When I saw the dust cloud rise behind me again, I would run the horses. We had gained some ground, and I would take advantage of it as long as I could.
It wasn’t until the sun was at it’s highest point in the sky, that the dust cloud began to form at my south side. I pushed the horses to a gallop. The air was cool and they had been trotting for hours, so it would take some time before they lathered at a gallop. The dust cloud grew smaller as we were able to stay ahead of them. The sun was nearing it’s rest when I saw a village in the distance. It wasn’t much bigger than the one that I stayed the night in. As I got closer, it looked more like a fort than a village. It had a wooden staked wall, and some towers for archers at either corner. I could see movement in those towers, so I slowed the horses as I approached. A flaming arrow rose in the air from the tower nearest me, and landed a several yards on the trail in front of me. I dismounted and walked the horses to that point.
“I am Pitre. There is a war party of Raiders riding fast behind me. You need to ready yourself.”
“What is your business here Pitre.”
“I’m riding to the kingdom, but I would stay and help you fight the Raiders that are coming.”
“Walk your horses to the gate.”
I walked the horses the hundred yards to the gate, and waited. The wall stood about 13 feet high. It wouldn’t be enough to keep this fort safe from what was coming. The gates parted and four armored men came out with swords in their hands. Two stopped at the entrance and the other two approached me.
“Pitre? Is that what you said your name is?”
“Where is it you come from Pitre?”
“I’m from a small village in the mountains. It was destroyed by Raiders a few years ago.”
“How did you survive?”
“I hid in a cave. It was hidden from normal view. Once they were gone, I survived on foraging and goats milk.”
“What is your business in the Kingdom?”
“You did hear me say that there was a war party riding at my tail didn’t you?”
“Yes, we heard that, but we see no signs that that is true, so we need to see what you intentions are before we let you in.”
“What is your name sir?”
“My name is Sir Kendall. I am a Targen Knight.”
He didn’t have the colors or the sigil of the Targen Knights on his armor anywhere. I had seen the Knights ride into the Kingdom after a skirmish in the outlands before, and although they wore no tunics over the armor. The each had a sigil of the Targen Knights etched into the center of their breast plate. This man was lying.
“Sir Kendall. If you truly are a Targen Knight, were is your sigil? I don’t see the lion and the sword on your armor, nor do I see it flying over this fort. Why is this?”
“Do you question me?”
“I believe I do.”
“I can strike you down were you stand boy. Do you want to test me?”
“I have no desire to test you. I do want to help you fight the Raiders that are coming. I stayed ahead of them, but they should only be a couple of hours behind me, but if you do want to strike me down, I would advise against the attempt.”
“Are you mocking me boy? I am not a novice with this sword.”
“Nor am I with mine. I really don’t think we have time for this, but if you insist. I’ll gladly give you a spar.”
“Riders approaching in large number!”
“Are these your fellow riders boy?”
“I told you already who they are. They are Raiders, there are at least two dozen of them, most likely more. You need to ready your men for a fight. How many men do you have?”
“I believe the boy Sir Kendall. That dust cloud is large. It is not a normal scout party. We need to get back behind the wall and ready ourselves.”
Sir Kendall looked at me a moment longer, before he gave in and tilted his head to follow him. We walked through the entrance and behind the walls. It was larger than the last village, but it was in no shape to defend itself. I could see wounded lying about, The few men that were in armor, were the ones at the gate with Sir Kendall. There were men with swords scattered about, but none look like they had any formal training with their blades. There were two archers to each tower. One at the top shelf and one below ready to climb up when needed. There were also runners for each tower that would fetch arrows from other towers if needed.
“Sir Kendall, where are all your men? If this is it, you are not going to defend this fort.”
“This is all that we have. We are waiting for reinforcements, but they have not arrived yet.”
“You need to get those wounded people to the center of the fort, to keep them safe for as long as you can. Get all the men that can fight, ready. Is there another way into the fort?”
“No, there is only the one gate in and out. All the men are what you can see.”
“Gather them up then, and bring them to the area in front of the gate.”
“You need to have a plan if you want to survive this. Do you have one?”
“Well, I thought I would let the archers take them down, and when the numbers are thinned, we would rush out and finish the rest.”
“That will not work. You will only have two archers in good location to fire upon them. They will not be able to target fast enough to take out the numbers you need. At best, they will take down a half dozen men before the host reaches the gate. Then it is just a matter of time for them to break through. The fort will be overrun in no time.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Get your men gathered and I will tell you.”
It took a hard stare from me, before Sir Kendall gathered all the men that could fight. The number totaled 12 common men, and the four armored men of Sir Kendall’s party.
“What is your fighting experience?’
The common men said that they had little to none. A few of them had fought at whatever village they were forced from. They were able to survive with the help of their blades, but they were no warriors. Sir Kendall’s men also had little experience. Sir Kendall on the other hand, said that he had fought in the skirmishes in the outlands.
“Bring all your archers to the two front facing towers. There is no need for them in the back. Raiders like to rush at things, so they will be useless on towers that won’t see any action. Have two on each platform at a time, with them rotating out one at a time. I want six men on either side of the gate, lined up to make an aisle. Sir Kendall I want your men to be the focal point when the gates come down. The Raiders will rush in at them, and not see the other men. The gate will be a choke point, if they remain on horse back, no more than one can get in at a time. If they are dismounted, only three can walk in side by side. You twelve men, will slash and hack at anything that rides or runs by you. Once they are all in, stab anything that doesn’t look like you. You armored men, are going to create panic. Even though Raiders like to rush in, they are cowards at heart. If you rush at them with blades raised high, they will cower and try to run. In that split second of panic, you will attack every one of them you can.”
“What will we be doing?”
“Well Sir Kendall, we are going to be on the other side of the wall.”
“Yes we are. We are going to be hiding in the trees about thirty yards beyond the wall. We will wait for them to pass, and then we will attack from behind. It will create even more panic and cause them to rush into the gate not only from bloodlust, but fear. While the archers are taking the ones in the front, we will be taking them from the back.”
“That is pure madness.”
“Probably, but that is the fun of it. Are you men ready?”
“Take your positions, if you need water, get it now. You will have no time for thirst when you are fighting. Archers? Can you see the riders yet?”
“Not in number, but in mass. They will arrive within the hour.”
“Time for us to get out in the trees Sir Kendall.”
A panicked mask fell over the man’s face, but he settled himself and walked out the gate with me. It closed behind us, and we made our way to a spot in the woods that was thick with brush to hide ourselves.
“How do you know this will work Pitre?”
“I don’t, but it is much better than waiting to die. This way, we will take a few them with us if we do, but I don’t plan on dying today.”
I could now hear the thunder of the hooves as the war party approached. It was large, more than the two dozen that I estimated. It looked more like 40 or even 50 men. They had swords drawn as they rode past. They wore dirty brown leather armor that looked thin at best. Their horses were running, but they appeared to be near complete exhaustion. They would not be much in the fight.
The arrows began to fly, and the first four riders fell taking their horses with them as their weight went dead. The falling horses took out two more apiece, and I could hear the cry of riders as they were falling to broken bones and potential death. As the last rider ran past our point, I signaled to Sir Kendall to follow. I broke the brush in a full sprint as I entered the Swordsman’s Euphoria. I reached for the aether as I neared the final rider of the party. They had slowed as riders ahead of them crashed into their fallen comrades. I jumped onto the back of the horse, and wrenched the riders neck until I heard it break. The bones crunched and his body went limp. I threw him off, and dismounted the horse, allowing it to run away from the battle that lie before it. I drew my sword and jumped onto the next horse. I pulled my blade across the neck of the rider, and he fell from the saddle. I leapt from that horse to the one beside it. The rider saw me at he last second and raised his sword to block my descent. I kicked the sword out of the way, and stabbed down trough the mans torso. His eyes went blank as his heart stopped beating. We fell to the ground together, but he never felt the impact.
When I stood up, I searched around quickly for Sir Kendall, but he was nowhere in sight. I ran to the next man. The riders were all dismounting and hiding behind their horses, to avoid the archers arrows. I made my way through five, then ten, then 15 men. I heard the crash of the gate as it fell. A tribal yell went up from the riders in the front. That yell turned to screams within seconds. The first of them were tasting the blades of the village men that they had upset from what homes they once lived in. I heard the rally cry of the armored men, as they were clearly making their rush towards the onslaught of Raiders, that were bearing down on them. I had finally made my way to the first of the fallen Raiders, the ones that had fallen to the archers. Raiders, were now turning to face me, as they finally heard the cries of the men behind them. I stopped my advance, placed my sword in my left hand, and drew my father’s from my belt. I reached even deeper for the aether. I could see auras from the men in front of me. They were week, but they were there. A feint glow of gold surrounded each of them, with a slight bluish glow around the archers that I could see above them. I hadn’t seen anyone else with a glow around them, besides Arial and my father. It caused me to pause for a moment. Not long enough though. I went through the men in front of me as if they were standing still. They fell to the blades in my hands with screams. I lost count of the men that I killed as I weaved through panicked horses and Raiders. I did notice an archer at one point with his jaw wide open, and arrow knocked but not drawn. I saw him shake himself out of the trance that he was in, and draw. he was aiming at me. The arrow flew, but I could see each rotation as it neared. I ducked at the last second, and I heard a guttural sound behind me. I turned and saw the shaft and fletching of the arrow sticking out of the neck ofa Raider who had snuck behind me. He was the last of them to fall.
The bodies of men and horses scattered the ground in front of the gate. Only 5 horses lost their lives in the battle. The rest had run to greener pastures. I cleaned my blades of blood and put them back in their sheaths. I wiped sweat from my brow, but it was pointless, since it was replaced with blood. I ran into the fort to see how the men faired. All of them were standing, with a few cuts and scrapes on them. The armored men were unscathed, but their armor was coated in a thin layer of blood and dust.
“Where is Sir Kendall?”
“I haven’t seen him since he left the gates with you.”
“Archers, have any of you seen Sir Kendall?”
“He never joined the battle. I never saw him leave the woods. We all saw you, but never him.”
I walked back to the area where we had hidden ourselves. I found Sir Kendall still sitting behind the brush.
“You can come out now. The Raiders are all dead.”
“I can’t face them. I failed all of them.”
“You never fought in the outlands did you?”
“No, I’m only the son of a nobleman that had enough money to buy armor and a few hired fighters.”
“Come on. There is no telling if that was an advanced war party, or if that was the full threat. Either way, we need to get that gate back up, and ready this fort for another attack.”
Sir Kendall walked out of the woods with me, with his head held low the entire time. I told the archers and their runners to retrieve as many arrows as they could and had the other men repair the gate as best they could. We would have the night to rest, but there was no telling what was going to happen in the morning.
For Chapter 28 follow link below.