The heart of the eternal

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Chapter 13: Death and vengeance

He doubted that they were patient, and he did also doubt that they were smart. If they were anything like their brother they would be brutish and stupid and convinced of their own superiority and the strength that comes from numbers. As the day passed they got closer to where the valley did narrow down and it ended in a rather narrow canyon. It was a perfect spot for an ambush and he did use his elven skills to communicate with nature itself and the things he felt in return told of disturbance. He stopped the front wagon when they had a mile left before they reached the canyon and told the driver that he ought to pretend as if he had problems with a wheel. Rhawan gestured to the guards and Nefhriel did show herself in the bushes. “I ride ahead”

He knew that he was putting himself in harm’s way but he was very confident and Nefhriel and Floth’bha would also be there, like hidden shadows. The half orc was huge but she was just as good at hiding as any elf and the mere sight of her ought to startle even the most tenacious human. The road did narrow down and it became less even too, the steep sides of the canyon was to blame for that, each spring rocks would come loose and sometimes they did harm the road and there were few present to make repairs. Other things were more important than fixing a damaged road in the middle of spring when the fields had to be prepared. Rhawan knew that there were someone there, probably hiding among the large rocks which formed the scree on both sides of the road. He pretended as if naught was wrong and rode slowly. These men he had been warned about were after all just human, they didn’t have any magic and he had fought humans before, he didn’t fear them.

Rhawan suddenly realized that these men were more vicious than he had expected, they were perhaps not the sharpest tools in the shed but they did fight like mercenaries, like the barbarians from the isles to the west. His horse did stumble with a groan and Rhawan did barely have time to get out of the saddle before the animal fell. The elf was a bit shocked, he hadn’t really thought of the possibility of them felling his horse to get to him. It wasn’t what people normally would do since horses were expensive. These brutes on the other hand did clearly think differently and he cussed as he dodged a crossbow bolt which hissed straight by his head. He had his swords ready and was on the move within the blink of an eye and he knew that the bolt had come from somewhere to his left, and above him.

He disappeared into the scree with the elegance of a weasel and moved so fast no human would be able to copy him. But no matter how fast he was, he groaned as another bolt sliced through his flesh just above the hip and he knew that there were two crossbows there, one on each side of the canyon. He broke off the bolt with a gasp and whistled, a thin birdlike sound which to Nefhriel and Floth’bha was a clear warning. He just hoped that they would be able to take the bow man on the other side down fast. Another bolt came flying and shattered against the rocks and he made a stiff grin, these guys were careful, they didn’t dare to face him in hand to hand combat, cowards.

He sniffed, his nose was almost as sensitive as that of a dog and he could smell them, there were at least three on this side of the canyon, maybe four. He had no idea of how many there were on the other side, the wind was going in the wrong direction for that. He did sneak forward but it did go slowly since he had to keep himself covered the whole time, then he heard something very welcome, a hoarse roar of fear from the scree on the other side and then the sound of steel against flesh. Floth’bha was hollering. “Two here, a bowman and some inbred looser”

Rhawan grinned, now he didn’t have to think about covering his back anymore, he could move forwards much more freely without being pinned down from both sides and he picked up his pace. The scree was a good place to hide, with lots of nooks and crannies but that also meant that it was easy to move forward without getting seen and he had sort of established where the attackers were. They were probably trying to move too now that the ones on the other side were gone and he stopped and listened with uneven intervals. They were still there, he could hear them, sometimes a foot would slip on a rock, a sleeve would brush against a bush. He on the other side made no sounds whatsoever and he did slide forth between the rocks effortlessly. The bolt did hurt like hell but he had been trained to ignore pain until he could deal with it safely. He saw the first one, a smaller man wearing rather good wool clothes and a hood made from tarp. He didn’t look like a wealthy person but he wasn’t poor neither and he was carrying a crossbow and a quiver filled with bolts. The man did look as if he was about to piss himself and Rhawan did sneer. This man had killed a good horse and put a bolt in him and he didn’t accept that.

Rhawan did slide around a huge boulder without a sound and plunged his dagger into the man’s neck just below the skull. The man didn’t even have time to squeak, he stiffened, the body jerked a few times and then he went limp and Rhawan did lower him to the ground, without a sound. The other men were near and Rhawan did listen carefully. He heard heavy breathing and felt the scent of fear and also sweat, ale and grease. He heard a faint whistling sound and knew that Nefhriel and Floth’bha was right behind him.

He got up on top of a boulder and took a peek around, he saw the other men right away. They were huddling up against a boulder which formed almost a small cave and he saw the family similarity with the one who had tortured the zahar right away. All three were large men, and rather hairy and he had to snicker to himself. The similarity between these men and some huge monkeys he once had seen was striking.

He stayed out of sight and waited, they probably knew that the archer was gone now and they had to rely on their skills with a blade. He saw that two of them had swords, rather short stubby weapons more alike a cutlass than a broad sword and he saw that the weapons were old and worn. The third of them carried an axe and it wasn’t much to brag about. It was perhaps perfect for chopping up wood but it was not made for use in battle. The head of the axe was too heavy and the wooden handle too long. A skilled axe wielder would be able to use it well nonetheless but this man was no warrior and Rhawan did see that the three men were slightly overweight and all had the same floating features and bad skin. A whistle came from the left and Rhawan did signal back, it was Floth’bha and she signalled that she was ready to attack. Another whistle came from the right and Rhawan smiled, all three of them were there and he signalled that the two women were to show themselves when he did but it was his fight.

Rhawan did pull both of his blades and took a deep breath. He jumped up onto a rock and the three men flinched at the sight, they grasped their weapons and Rhawan sent them a nasty grin. He was angry now and he knew that the beauty of the eternal sometimes made humans ignore the fact that they are superior warriors. “So, it wasn’t enough that one of your wretched kin did capture and torture a sacred beast, you have killed a good horse and you tried to kill me too, I see that common sense and wisdom has fled the petty excuse you have for a brain”

The men let out a roar to encourage themselves but then Floth’bha showed up on another rock, baring her impressive teeth and Nefhriel was showing herself on the other side, wielding a short bow and she was aiming for the three men.

Rhawan almost growled. “So, I will give you the chance to fight for your honour, but expect no pardon, you have signed your own death sentence now humans!”

The men stared at Floth’bha with disbelief and Rhawan did to his disbelief see that one of them was confident enough to leer at Nefhriel. The audacity made him gape, and when the man grinned at the elf and perched his lips as if in a kiss Rhawan did snap. That sort of disrespect was just ghastly. It would not be tolerated by his people at all and he jumped down and attacked. His first move was a very nasty one, he was going to let these men suffer and he did slide along the ground and his first cut was a very low one. He cut the leg out from underneath the man with the axe and he fell with a howl of shock and agony and the blood was spurting from the stump. The other two yelled and charged forth and he kicked one of them between the legs so he crumbled to the ground with a hoarse shriek and the other got an elven steel blade straight through his chest.

Rhawan did swing the other blade and did decapitate the one on the ground clutching his aching balls, then he plunged his blade through the skull of the axe man. It was just done out of rage, the man was already dying from blood loss. Floth’bha grinned but she did look disappointed. “You should have left some for me”

Rhawan nodded. “It was just three sister, no match for a fighter of your calibre. We will need your strength again later for sure”

Floth’bha did grin and nod and Nefhriel stared at him. “You are hurt”

Rhawan nodded. “A bolt, but it isn’t a serious injury, I hope.”

Nefhriel did look as if she doubted his words and Floth’bha did check the scree, she just ran from one rock to the other with a sort of brutal elegance. She returned after just a few minutes. “They were no more than six in all, I see some horses tethered in a holt of trees a farthing from here. I’ll go get them.”

Rhawan sighed. “Yes, bring them along. I fear that this isn’t over yet.”

Nefhriel did frown. “What do you mean? We killed them?”

Rhawan sent her a sort of tired grin. “Yes, I know, but they have friends for sure, and such brutes does often leave an impression on the ones of an equally weak mind. “

The she elf rolled her eyes. “Oh, typical, so someone may try to avenge them? That is just silly!”

Rhawan nodded. “Yes, it is. But if this area really harbour those who spits on the laws of the realm I wouldn’t regard it as impossible. These humans make their own laws and rules and they are often very hard to understand.”

Nefhriel scoffed. “Humans are hard to understand, and that is that. Period! They are such…odd creatures”

Rhawan sighed and walked over the rocks back to where his horse fell. He felt a sting of rage yet again, he had been fond of that animal and to the elves a horse was a family member. He wished that he could have let those men suffer much longer than they had. He removed the tack and then they pulled the body out of the road and covered it with branches. Rhawan felt depressed and angry and Nefhriel did let him mount one of the horses the men had left behind, they rode back to the caravan and Sefa did approach them and she did gape. “They killed your horse Rhawan?!”

The dark elf nodded and jumped off the horse he had taken with a groan, the wound was starting to hurt now and he tried to smile. “Get Ahnriel, I need her help”

Sefa did run off and Nefhriel and Floth’bha did take the horses and tethered them to one of the wagons. Ehbrial and Thokan did ride over to Rhawan and both did look nervous. “So, what are we to do now?”

Rhawan made a grimace. “We will continue, do not let this hinder us.”

Ehbrial looked down. “We can shorten the path a little, if we use the old dwarven roads.”

Rhawan sighed and tried to ignore the pain but the wound was throbbing and he hissed and hoped that Ahnriel could fix it fast. “Yes, but only if they are maintained. There ought to be someone who knows what condition they are in. But you are right, it will save us many days of travel, check the maps”

Ehbrial did grin and took off and Ahnirel did appear and she was waving her hand at Rhawan. “Come, the wagon is ready, I don’t want to do anything out in the open”

Rhawan followed her to the house wagon, careful not to reveal the severity of his injury, he was rather proud and didn’t want the others there to know of his weakness. Wenja and Sefa were already in there and Ahnriel did smile at them. “We need to use this wagon for a few moments, it is the only one with a decent bed”

She grasped some extra sheets and threw them onto it and Rhawan did hesitate. Wenja stared at the blood on his clothes and she was pale. “Is he hurt?”

Ahnirel nodded. “Yes, but I will fix it. Off with them rags Rhawan”

Rhawan did moan but pulled off his jacket and tunic and kicked off his boots. The injury hurt more by the minute now and he allowed her to lay him down on the bed. Wenja stood by the door gaping and Sefa did seem to enjoy herself. Rhawan bare chested was a sight to behold. The healer did touch the remaining piece of bolt and wiggled it around a bit, it made Rhawan hiss and groan and she grasped a knife and cut away his pants, then she pulled them off him and he sighed and laid an arm over his face, he didn’t want to look at the injury. Wenja just stood there, gaping even wider. She had never seen a naked man before other than her baby brothers and this was…different. She couldn’t pull her eyes away from his mid section and Sefa giggled. “Oh yes, he is a sight to behold. Just feast your eyes on that Wenja, it is good for you. When you become a wedded woman you will get used to that sigh for sure”

The bolt sat lodged in his flesh and it had caused a lot of bleeding and swelling too and Ahnriel was swearing. “You have moved way too much with that thing in you, it is nasty”

She found a bottle of something and Rhawan saw it and let out a deep groan. “Oh have mercy on me Ahnriel, can’t you just heal it?”

The healer shook her head and the green braids were shaking. “No, I need to disinfect the wound whence the bolt is out, and this will do the trick”

Rhawan just sighed and Wenja tried to avoid staring at his manly parts, the wound was so nasty she couldn’t bare to look at it at all. “What is that?”

Ahnriel did grasp a set of thongs, she felt the skin and tried to determine how deeply the bolt was lodged. “It is a strong disinfectant, it takes away any impurities or poisons but it has a sting to it, I cannot lie”

Rhawan growled. “Sting? Try burn! Like hellfire!”

Ahnriel did grasp the bolt shaft with the thongs and then she pulled, rather swiftly and Rhawan let out a howl of agony and blood gushed from the wound. Ahnriel did wipe it off with a rather calm expression but Wenja felt as if she was about to pass out, she felt so sorry for Rhawan, it had to hurt terribly. Then Ahnriel did uncork the bottle and poured from it into the wound and they heard a sizzling sound and it did bubble and hiss. Rhawan did go stiff, his body arching and he let out a keen and bit his teeth together, so hard it almost broke them. “The goddess damn you woman, you could have…warned me!”

Ahnriel did shake her head. “That would have been no good, you would have tensed up. Look, the wound is clean now”

She wiped fluids from it and Rhawan was panting. “Oh you owe me, you owe me so much…”

Ahnriel did giggle. “I know, but you will have to wait for a few days, you need to recover first”

Sefa snickered. “Hear that Rhawan? You have something to look forward to”

Wenja did frown, what were they talking about? Sefa did nudge Wenja in her flank. “She’ll bed him, when he is good and well again!”

Wenja did blush. “Oh, I…see”

Ahnriel did find a needle and some extremely thin thread and then she put some stiches in him, he didn’t even flinch as she sewed him up and then she smeared a sort of thick cream over the wound and wrapped a bandage around his hips. “Two inches to the left and down and it would have gotten stuck in your pelvic bone, that would have been way worse. This was just a flesh wound so quit whining”

Rhawan was growling. “I am not…Whining!”

Ahnriel giggled and finished the job. “Alright, you can get dressed again, it is no good spoiling Wenja here”

Rhawan just scoffed. “As if that is possible, Ahravan is larger than me, in every manner!”

Sefa had to laugh. “Hear that Wenja? Your future husband is a stud, I bet he will bring you immense joy”

Wenja felt her face burn and she had to turn around, oh gods, that was information she didn’t need, at all. Sefa did look rather smug and Rhawan did manage to get his clothes back on, he sighed and pulled his boots on. “I think we may rethink our original plan, we have to reach the plains as fast as we can, I don’t want to spend more time in the valleys than absolutely necessary.”

Sefa tilted her head. “Really? But how are we to travel faster? “

Rhawan did get up and Ahnriel did remove the soiled sheets and took them with her, the wagon was already moving again and Wenja saw that they had reached the canyon. Here they had to slow down since the road was narrow and uneven. “We may have to use the old dwarf roads”

Sefa did look rather surprised. “Really? I have only heard of them”

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