Chapter ten: Battle on the marsh, Minas rescue
The Slorlan marshes, it had been left to the Minotaurs in the treaty that had ended the Territorial Wars, mostly because no one else wanted it and it was close to Tarzarn. The Minotaurs never objected and for a while they were able to benefit from the mineral deposits, but in time they abandoned it all together. If anyone ever tried to take the marsh chances were that the Minotaurs would willingly give it over with out even batting an eyelash. As such they left it unmanned and unguarded.
The vegetation that grew there consisted of strange, spindly white trees, tall thriving marsh grasses and thin reedy flowers. The air was heavy and clouded with the vapors released from the bogs so that seeing more than a few feet ahead was difficult. The only animals that called the marsh home were snakes, amphibians, and insects (particularly mosquitoes). The ground was so spongy that any footprints made there would still be recognizable for weeks to follow. There were however no foot prints here or those to indicate a horse or cart which surely they would have needed to carry all of their treasure and supplies. Drell reasoned that they must have rode around the marsh for some distance and then abandoned their horses to enter the marsh on foot, there by not leaving a clear trail right out in the open that any persuers could follow and nothing to hinder them. The soft ground and poisonous snakes were hazardous for horses so the group, like the bandits no doubt, thought it wise to leave them behind. But with no tether to secure them the knights were hesitant.
“Never fear, Neroehain will keep them in check” said Drell as he led the way into the marsh. Because of their training Drell and Loroedor managed to find a safe path through. They didn’t go far before the hazy glow of fire’s light alerted them to the bandit camp. Drawing their swords and using the tall grasses for cover the elves the the Knights moved closer. The bandits numbered fifteen including their leader Blood Fox. They sat about a roaring fire finishing off what remained of their bread and ale. There were tents set about, the largest one reserved for Blood Fox himself. They were a shabby looking bunch despite the riches of their resent plunder. All were thin or at least reletivly lean except for one man, who looked like he weighed in at close to three hundred pounds. At the head of the fire sat Blood Fox, he was easy to spot out, with his arms folded across his chest. He was a tall man at about six foot five or four with short cut red hair. His eyes were green and slightly almond shaped (he had some elvish blood in him), long nosed and thin lipped, he certainly looked the part of a fox. He wore a simple red vest, black pants and boots. At his left side lay a set of twin blades.
“Fan out, surround them” whispered Drell keeping a close watch on Blood Fox. Loroedor nodded and led a few of the Knights away with him, the others followed Redtree. A few moments passed, the bandit chief stretched and yawned.
“I grow bored Draykell fetch my entertainment” The eyes of the fat bandit lit with a lustful and savage light as he stood up and walked to the largest of the tents. He emerged moments later holding a rope. His eyes flashed cruelly, he gave the rope a powerful tug, there was a shriek and a woman stumbled out of the tent. It was Mina, nude, dirty and covered in bruises. Her eyes revealed pain and fear but her face was defiant. Upon her arrival all the bandits stopped what they were doing to stare in lustful aw. Blood Fox smiled lewdly,
“Bring her here Draykell,” he motioned with his hand. Draykell snickered, grabbed Mina by the shoulders and shoved her into his master’s embraces.
“Get your filthy hands off of her!” cried Drell leaping to his feet, his bow drawn, his blood boiling. Blood Fox laughed
“ Well, well look what we have here another hero or is it that you’re a bounty hunter? Either way you are sorely out numbered boy and unless you run now you’re a dead man,” the bandits rose quickly to their feet.
“No Blood Fox it is in fact the reverse” no sooner had Drell said this when Loroedor and the Knights appeared from behind the grasses with their bows drawn. The bandits looked about in shock and lowered their weapons; Blood Fox’s hold on Mina became slack.
“Come Mina,” said Drell with his bow still trained on Blood Fox. Mina took a startled look around before running as fast as her shaky legs could carry her to Drells side where she collapsed, shivering. Blood Fox regarded Drell coldly for a few moments and then a shadow of recognition passed over his face.
“I do believe I know you. Yes you are the one who waylaid my men back at Narisden forest, I was told of you. I will have you know that it was a shame to lose two of my best men”
“I did not kill them”
“No but I did, after you sent them back to me useless cripples”
“Why did you attack the Temple of Second Life?” this came from Loroedor who shifted his stance and got a better grip upon his bow.
“Why? Money of course! What other reason does a bandit need?” replied Blood Fox with a mocking smile on his face.
“That Temple had almost nothing of value,” hissed Drell through his teeth.
“Ha! You must be joking! That temple had more money in it than the merchant waggons in Hain Oringard! We would have taken the whole building if we could”
“But why did you feel the need to kill the Clerics? They were peaceful people you could have left them alive! You know they would not have retaliated; you could have robbed them without killing them! How do you explain that?” this came from Redtree who moved in closer, freeing himself from the shadows.
“Sir Knight those people could have bent down on their knees, kissed my boots, given me free run of the temple, and offered me flowers and I still would have killed them. Rule number one of being a bandit, you don’t rob someone and then leave them alive tell about it. The fewer people who know who you are and what you look like the better. If I had allowed those priests to live that would have been a lot of mouths to pass on the information that the Blood Fox and his band had been by. So you see I was merely following procedure and besides that was the most fun I’ve had in years” an evil smile spread across Blood Fox’s face as he said this, making him take on the appearance of a grinning demon. Drell couldn’t stand to look at that face any longer.
“Fire!” In less then seconds it was over all the bandits were slain, but even death could not wipe that evil grin from the face of Blood Fox. As Loroedor and the Knights went about the unpleasant task of disposing of the bodies Drell took Mina into one of the tents to search for a lady’s gown. But finding none Drell instead gave Mina some light colored leather armor, a pair of boots, and an unadorned sky blue tunic lined with white and then left her so that she could compose herself.
Once the last of the bandits had sunk down into a muddy grave Loroedor set about to the task of preparing the evening meal while the knights went about the tents looking for any items they felt may be of use later, items such as new weapons to replace the old or thick blankets for when the nights became cold. While all this was going on Drell set him self near the edge of the fires light. He built up a small fire and then sat before a smoldering pit of coals with his sword in his lap and a small bag of tools at his side.
“Drell?” the elf looked over his shoulder and saw Mina standing behind him. Smiling Drell turned back to his work.
“What are you doing?” she asked settling her self down beside him.
“My sword is in need of some light repair. I wont be able to do much but it will do till I can take it to a proper smith” said Drell simply, selecting the tools he needed and sliding the sword into the coals.
“Where did you learn to do this?” asked Mina staring intently at the elf as he worked.
“My father taught both my self and Loroedor a great many things” Drell replied as he pulled the sword out, set the blade upon a flat rock and began to tap it with a small hammer, sparks flew off the hot metal.
“What happened to him?” Drell stopped hammering and looked at her out of the corner of his eye. Heaving a sigh he said,
“He was murdered”
“By who?” Drell shoved the sword back into the coals.
“I would rather not talk about it if you don’t mind” Mina flushed
“I’m sorry” Drell nodded, removed the sword and began hammering lightly again. A few minutes of silence passed until Drell held the finished sword up.
“What do you think?”
“It looks perfect” Drell nodded his thanks and placed the sword in a near by puddle of almost clean water to cool it before placing it back in its sheath. Suddenly Mina leaned over, wrapped her arms around Drells neck, and forced her lips onto his. Startled Drell tensed but then relaxed. He griped her tightly; he never wanted to let go. He wanted to stay like this forever with her, with Mina. MINA! The sound of her name echoing in his head brought Drell to his senses and he shoved her away.
“Name of the Shade Mina!” he said turning his back on her.
“I love you” said Mina. Drell shuddered hearing her say that made his blood stir.
“You are human it would never work, both of us know it”
“We don’t know and does it really matter that much?” she asked. Drell looked over his shoulder
“To me it does” with this he rose to his feet walked away leaving her with her disappointment.