Silence enveloped Avice, Grayson, and Phoebe as the news sunk into their skulls.
Avice waited for a response, her chin tilted up giving a challenge and defiance feel, although her moist eyes gave way to how she was truly feeling.
Unfortunately, mourning for her witch master would have to wait.
Phoebe was the first to break the silence. “What happened?” Sadness laced her voice.
Just as Avice opened her mouth to answer, shouting came from behind them.
Grayson turned his head and squinted at the distance. The militia had found them.
In the front, was the three that Grayson eavesdropped on earlier. They were leaning forward on their horses in a full gallop with their rifles strapped to their backs and swords sheathed at their hips.
“Shit,” Grayson glared at them as he put two fingers to his lips and whistled.
Grace trotted over to him as he yelled at Phoebe. “Get on!”
Looking over at Avice, he said with acrimony, “you can fly.” Then without making sure she shifted, hoped on the horse with Phoebe in front.
Grayson grabbed the reigns and kicked Grace’s side as he yelled “YAH!” by Phoebe’s ear, making her cringe.
Not bothering to apologize, Grayson leaned Phoebe forward as Grace launched into a gallop.
“Why are we heading towards them?” Phoebe asked in a panicked voice.
Just as he was about to look over his shoulder for Avice, he heard a loud croak close to his head. Looking up, he saw a raven.
“Lead the way!” Grayson shouted to the raven, hoping it was Avice and that she knew which way was to Eleanor.
The raven croaked again and flew in front of them. Coincidentally, it was the way Grayson had chosen, towards the militia.
Now that he had a better idea of what way to go, Grayson started forming a plan.
He kicked Grace harder, urging her to go faster as he leaned against Phoebe’s back.
“Stay forward, we are going to break their formation.”
Phoebe nodded in agreement, clutching the horse’s mane in her hands.
As they got closer, Grayson put the reigns in one hand and gripped the handle of his sword with the other. He could see that they were already faltering at this head on escape, looking at each other in hopes the other person knew what to do.
As Grayson and Phoebe broke through the first line, making eye contact with the short stout man from the town, Grayson pushed Phoebe’s head down further and withdrew his sword. With one smooth motion, he sliced through the next man he passed.
Another man on the opposite side of him attempted to cut down at Grayson with his sword, but Grayson parried the attempt by blocking it with his sword horizontal to them.
The sword slicing was quick and barely lasted a second as Grace continued to race through the formation. After a minute or two, Grayson and Phoebe broke completely through the formation, not stopping to assess the damage that was done.
Grayson and Phoebe looked over their shoulders to see if they were still following.
Unfortunately, the militia was.
Those that were not wounded or dead, had turned around and continued to follow them.
Avice croaked again, near Grayson’s head. He looked at the raven, narrowing his questioning eyes at her. This time, she let a shrill craw sound as if warning him. Hearing the urgency of the craw, Grayson looked back.
The three men were holding their rifles up while still riding their horses. Grayson’s eyes widen at this.
“Shit!” Grayson yelled, grabbing Phoebe, and curling his body around her to shield her from the oncoming bullets.
The first rifle fired; the bullet hit the ground near the horse’s feet. Grace neighed nervously.
The second bullet whizzed past Grayson’s ear, producing an annoying ring for several moments.
The third struck Grace in her hind leg. The action sent her to flip over her head as she tried to stop running.
Before Grace flipped, Grayson let go of the reigns and, in midair, pulled Phoebe to his chest, taking the blow of crashing to the ground.
The collision of the ground on his back and Phoebe’s weight crushing on his chest knocked the wind out of him, causing him to gasp for air when they sprawled on the torn up grass.
Time seemed to slow down as Grayson tried to regain his composure.
‘Hmmm. Does this seem…familiar to you Grayson?’ The demon ask, curiosity mixed in his voice.
Grayson shook his head, trying to clear his confusion.
‘Perhaps this is not the same situation as the battles you have been in, but it is a battle. Blood has shed, screams have sound. Do you not find this scene…’ The demon paused, making a sound like he was inhaling. ’Exhilarating?”
The thundering of horse hooves vibrated the ground under Grayson, reminding him that the fight was not over. Deciding to ignore the demon, he looked over and saw his sword laying several yards away, closer to Phoebe than him.
Grunting, Grayson stood up and faced the oncoming men.
He cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders. He knew he could not beat all of them, but all he needed to do was beat down one man on a horse, maybe two, then they could escape.
Grayson breathed in through his nose and out his mouth. His sword would help him tremendously in this time of defense, but he did not want to appear weak. He did not want them to see him scrambling to grab his sword, a weakness they no doubt would exploit.
Instead, he wanted them to fear him. He wanted them to think twice about coming after him and his group again. He wanted them to practically shit their pants when they hear his name. And that was what he was going to do.
The corner of his lip turned up into a smirk as the first man on a horse came to him. Without a second thought, Grayson ran towards him. Grace was laying on her side in front of him, giving Grayson an advantage.
Without a second thought, Grayson stepped on the horse and launched himself towards the man.
Grayson grabbed the man by his arm and swung himself to sit behind him. Before the man could react, Grayson grabbed his head and snapped his neck.
The horse slowed down to a trot as another man caught up to Grayson. This man swung a sword at him, only to miss as Grayson leaned back, narrowly dodging it. Then, Grayson sat up as the man lifted his sword and brought it straight down. Grayson caught it with his hand easily.
Pain and blood poured from his hand as Grayson growled. Instead of releasing his gripped, he tightened his hand around the blade and pulled the man towards him. The man’s eyes widened as he was caught off guard by Grayson’s action. As the man fell forward from the pull, Grayson collided his head with the man’s head. Instantly, the man’s eyes rolled to the back of his head.
Shoving the man off the horse, ignoring the thud his body made, Grayson shouted at Phoebe. “Take this horse!” He slapped the horse on the rear and sent him trotting over to Phoebe.
Phoebe was cradling Grace’s head when Grayson shouted at her. She raised a tear-streaked face in the direction of Grayson and nodded in understanding. She lightly kissed Grace’s nose, before gently putting the horse’s head down and standing up.
Deciding Grace was on her own until they could escape, Grayson turned back to the militia to see what was left.
There was nine men left, including the three men that seemed to be leading the assault. The three men were on the ground with their rifles aimed at Grayson. Flanking the outer two, were three men on horses, all holding their swords by their sides.
“Grayson!” The stout man in the middle yelled. “You are wanted by a high lord and need to come with us! If you give up now, we will spare that whore you have tailing around you!”
Grayson gritted his teeth at the stout man’s words.
‘He is lying!’ The demon yelled angrily. ‘Release me so I can rip his fucking throat out!!’ Grayson wince as he felt the demon start to claw inside his head.
‘No, we need to be smart about this. I know what to do…’ Grayson responded. As he climbed off the horse, he watched Avice fly above him. The demon growled unhappily, but reluctantly allowed Grayson to lead.
Shaking his head at the raven, he snapped his fingers and pointed to Phoebe. Avice changed her directions, seeming to understand that Grayson wanted her to watch after Phoebe.
Raising his hands high above his head, Grayson turned around and slowly started walking towards the militia. Their stances were tense. Heightening his senses, he could see their hands shake and hear their hearts beat rapidly.
Suppressing a grin, Grayson spoke. “Who is the high lord that wants me? I have done nothing wrong.”
The stout man snorted loudly. “That is not your concern. You will find out when you are supposed to find out.”
Grayson lifted a brow, “Will I?”
In response, the stout man lowered his weapon to the ground and started walking to meet Grayson.
“Wait, what are you doing?” The tall man asked.
“He’s not stupid enough to try something when there is one of him and nine of us, so I’m going to subdue him so we can get him back to the lord.” The stout man answered, not bothering to hear their protests.
Grayson stopped several feet away from the stout man, letting him trek the rest of the way to him.
Pulling out a piece of rope, the stout man looked Grayson over for other weapons. “Turn around.” He demanded.
Grayson put his hands down and slowly turned around.
‘Take down the leader, and the rest will follow,’ Grayson thought as the stout man touched his wrist.
As soon as he felt the skin-to-skin contact, Grayson quickly grabbed the stout man’s wrist and twisted the both of them around, so his back was to Grayson’s chest and the Stout man was facing his militia. His arm was behind his back, so Grayson pulled the stout man’s wrist up until he heard a loud, sickening pop!
The stout man screamed, making Grayson’s eyes widen slightly and a foul smile to spread across his face. A snicker slipped past his lips at the stout man cries of agony.
Ducking down behind the stout man, Grayson peeled his gaze from the dislocated shoulder to the rest of the militia. The tall man and the younger boy had their rifles up and were about to fire, causing his cruel smile to fall.
“This is what happens when you fuck with me! This is what happens when you threaten the people I care for!” Grayson yelled, his voice deep and rough, making the two men pause their trigger finger.
Not feeling satisfied just yet, Grayson turned the man around and hit him with a solid fist across his face. Then, brought the same fist back, hitting the man on the other side of his face. He stumbled, but Grayson held onto his shoulder as he used the heel of his hand to strike twice to the man’s sternum, the second one releasing a loud crack!
The stout man wheezed, but Grayson’s thirst for vengeance was not satiated.
He let the man fall on his back as Grayson threw three quick punches to the man’s face, hearing the sound of his nose crack sent a pleasant chill to crawl up his spine. Blood stained his knuckles as it poured out of the open wounds. The man’s breaths were shallow and strained, indicating the rest of his time would be spent in agony.
Grayson looked up at the rest of the militia. Blood dripped down his face, tickling his cheeks and tangling in his beard. Before he could stop himself, Grayson’s tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth and licked some of the blood. The young man pissed his pants at the wickedness.
Noticing a tooth stuck in his knuckle, Grayson peeled it out and flicked it to the men. They did not move, too shocked at the scene that unfolded in front of them.
Feeling like his point has been made, Grayson turned around and walked to the horse. He never looked back to see if they were following him or readying to attack him again. There was no point, he scared them into submission, showing them who to truly fear.
He pulled on the reigns of his new horse to walk with him to pick up his sword. As he grabbed the pummel, Grayson heard a soft snort.
Grace was laying on her side, her nostrils flaring and ears flipping back and forth in pain and fear. Grayson could practically feel her anxiety.
Leaving the new horse, he walked quietly to Grace. As he approached, she tried getting up, only to collapse back down heavily.
Grayson looked her over, taking note of the bullet wound in her hind leg and the broken front leg, most likely from her fall.
The fur around her eyes were damp, as if she had been crying. Grayson sucked in a breath, trying hard not to feel the crushing pain in his chest at what he had to do.
Kneeling, he stroked Grace’s mane. “Grace… you were a wonderful horse. Eleanor’s absolute favorite, she practically treated you like a child.” Grayson paused as his throat started to burn. “You will be missed.”
Continuing to stroke her mane, he kissed her face lightly.
Then, as he stood, he positioned the tip of his sword over her head, just behind her eye.
“Goodbye Grace,” Grayson murmured as he thrusted his sword into her brain, giving her swift death. The horse twitched once, twice, thrice before going completely limp.
Grayson pulled his sword out of her head and flick it, freeing it of blood before sheathing it.
He stared at the body for a while, unable to comprehend that his wife’s favorite horse was dead. And he killed her. She will not forgive him for this.
Powerless to do anything else, Grayson left the dead horse and climbed onto his new one.
He kicked the horse to a light trot, noticing that in the distance, Phoebe had actually listened to him and was far away. He did not care, his mind was muddled with the feeling of sadness, regret, anger, and bliss.
The last feeling did not bother him, perhaps it should have just after killing his best horse. But he knew it was not because of that. It was from the fight if you could even call it a fight. That part upset him. He did like his challenges, and the stout man barely gave him one.
As he was deep in thought, Avice flew down and landed on Grayson’s shoulder, croaking gently next to his ear.
Grayson did not turn his head. “You will tell me what happened to Alice or you will meet the same fate as that man.”
Avice stayed silent.