I have grown a little too fond of combat, methinks. The crossbows are a powerful, but slow weapon. Of the six brigands who had seized the wagons, three were on the ground screaming before I moved, only two others had crossbows and they were both shocked by Sparkle’s appearance, and poorly trained. My guess was that they used fear and intimidation to bully their way through most situations. Not likely they’d come upon trained fighters too often, if ever.
I roared as I ran forward, holding my mace high, ready to brain the closest man. He took one look at me, threw the crossbow in my general direction, and turned to run. Seriously, he had a quarrel loaded and could have just as easily shot me. He made it past the first wagon slipping and sliding in the muddy road, and went down with a squelching cry when one of the drovers leapt from the wagon and thrust a dagger into his neck. It was an impressive move, all in all.
That left two. The last man with a crossbow kept his head and fired. To my great surprise, not only did the bolt strike true, but it found a weakness in my armor and it punched into my right leg just above the knee. That was not a pleasant sensation, I can assure you.
Personally, I believe I fall down too often. Granted, a crossbow to the knee is nothing to laugh at. I could do without yet another face full of mud
Despite my desires, I stumbled and would have taken a sword to my neck by the leader who had kept his head. Luckily for me, the boy in chains flung himself off the wagon and fouled the brigand’s aim. My ears rang with the sound of steel striking steel as the blade skittered off my right pauldron in a shower of sparks. If it had been the left side, I may have very well lost a hand, as the blade drove forward with a formidable amount of force. As it was, the force of the swing drove the blade into the ground at my feet and I flipped over the brigand and landed sprawled on my back, knocking the wind out of me.
If only my opponent had been as lucky. Instead, I found a fighting fiend on top of me stabbing with a dagger, trying to get the blade within the creases of my armor. His blade bit into my right hip, wracking me with a sharp and wicked pain. I bucked to little avail. Interestingly enough, we were in a heads-opposite position with him on top of me, head toward my feet, and his nether regions hovered above my face. Not unlike one of Sparkle’s favorite ritual positions. I am not too proud to admit that I arched my neck upward and bit the man square in his pride.
He roared, attempting to drive a knee into my face. For one frantic moment, as his knee smashed my cheek, I thought I was done. Then he fell on top of me with a gurgling wheeze.
I lay there for a moment, panting and waiting for the next blow, but none came. I pushed him off and rolled to my knees, wincing as my wounds roared with a new-found level of pain. I had smashed the crossbow bolt against the ground, and my knee seemed to actually split away from my body.
When I returned to consciousness Sparkle stood over me grinning. “Welcome back, princess.”
I moaned in response, and she bent in to kiss me.
“Did you bite that man in the…”
I reached up and kissed her, ending her query. She didn’t argue too much.
Liz was going to kill us, I figured. Yet another delay, after she had arranged for Sparkle and I to lay about for so long. Sparkle helped me sit up against the wheel of one off the wagons and I started a moderate healing surge into my own body. The knee was a different situation, but the broken cheek and nose, along with the knife wound would heal up rather quickly. The crossbow bolt was a completely different level of problem. My knee was a mess. I gritted my teeth while Sparkle ripped the bolt out of me and staunched the wound, as I passed out again. Even knowing what was coming, my body opted to shut down rather than deal with that level of intense agony.
The next time I woke, I was without most of my armor riding in the back of a wagon crowded with boxes. I sat up, wincing at the pain in my knee, and looked around. We were clear of the mud, apparently, as all three wagons were rolling down the road without much hindrance. Liz sat beside me, applying some poultice or another to my knee and wrapping it tightly. That’s probably what woke me. I couldn’t be too sure as my head was rather muzzy.
“Hello, dry lander,” she said, showing her affection by the shifting of her colored frills. “I was assured that you did not start the fight, but did manage to distract the ring leader long enough for Sparkle to kill him.”
I grunted at her and flung my good arm over my eyes. My face hurt, but at least the bones had stitched while I was out.
“Where are we?” I mumbled.
“Riding with the fine folks you rescued. We’ll talk at dinner.”
Then she pressed some moistened leaves into my mouth, forced me to chew the bitter things, then stroked my hair until I slept again.
I woke to the smell of cooking meat. That is a pleasant way to slide back into the real world. Waking up next to a willing partner would have been second best, which should explain how ravenous I was.
We were off the road, in a small glen with the three drovers, the boy, Sparkle and Liz. The horses were picketed and a fire licked at a haunch of deer that rotated on a spit. My sigh drew the attention of the boy who ambled over to me and squatted at my side, grinning.
“You are an interesting fellow,” he said, his accent a bit different than I was used to. “But my sister wives and I thank you for your timely intervention.”
I glanced over and saw that the three drovers were women, each around twenty, with long black hair. I blinked a couple of times before I could be sure of what I was seeing. The three women were identical in every respect.