The clouds overhead had not broken as predicted. The storm grew stronger throughout the day as Ama’yen’s party traveled away from the coast’s beaches. Rain drizzled and spat on them in flurries but nothing substantial. It was like the storm was taunting them for its own perverse sense of humor. The party’s spirits waned and grew dark as well. Damp hair, feathers, and fur under soggy clothes weighed upon them as much as the seriousness of the quest.
Rivyen and the Private Sloan took the lead and scouted a bit ahead while Lyndasia stayed next to Ama’yen. The other three ex-guardsmen were on the perimeter while Scars trailed behind them all.
Lyndasia leaned over and pulled the reins closer to Ama’yen’s hands. “It will help with the control if you hold them snug but not tight. The horse will sense the direction you want them to go in easier.”
“Oh.” The Yuul looked nervously down at the back of the animal’s head.
“You are not too familiar with horses, I take it?”
“Uh. No. I mean, they roam in the grass plains of our land too, but I was usually taken by cart. I guess I had a privileged upbringing.” She laughed.
“If I think of any other tips I will let you know.” Lyndasia smiled warmly at her.
Several hours later they broke through the tree line, spotting the raging waters of the Nestermaryn River. They grouped together to discuss their options. A rickety wooden bridge rose up and over it in a long arch. It’s condition damaged by the raging storms in the region. Several planks were missing in the middle. The horses were eyeing it, anxious about crossing.
“We are going to have to go in a line. The horses are too broad to go side by side,” Scars advised.
“You think it is safe though, right?” Ama’yen asked, concerned by the bridge’s rough appearance.
Rivyen twisted in his saddle and scanned the length of the construct. “She has taken a beating and could use a little care but I would say she can hold us.”
Rivyen waved for the accompanying soldiers to join the four of them. When they gathered about him, he gave them instructions. “I want the three of you to lead while the two of you to join me in the back. Scars will ride in front and the women in the center. Everyone clear?”
Overhead, the storm flurries erupted and rain pelted them with a vengeance. “Hurry!” Lyndasia exclaimed, pulling a yellow hood over her head.
As they prodded the horses in line onto the bridge, lightning and thunder rumbled over the entire valley.
“We will have to find a shelter on the other side. We cannot travel in this weather,” shouted Rivyen.
Scars nodded. “Agreed. Two of us can scout, one north and one south.”
The first of arrows came out of thin air and struck the lead soldier’s horse in the left shoulder. The poor animal bucked in sudden panic and pain, the rider was flung backwards. He landed hard on his right shoulder then rolled off the bridge.
More arrows came buzzing past like angry bees or were striking into the boards of the bridge. The party was neatly trapped in the middle of the bridge. More arrows were coming from the thick shrubs along both sides of the river.
“The Beleardea! They have found us!!” screamed Lyndasia.
The wounded horse leaped back and forth still terrorized. Scars bolted from his own mount and tried to grab the beast’s reins. From below, hanging from the side, the horse’s rider called out to him as he clung to a post. “Help me! Help!”
Another soldier jumped off his horse. “Get him, leave the horse to me.”
Scars knelt down as the other man snagged the reins and tried to calm the animal. He steered it closer to one side.
“MAKE FOR THE OTHER SIDE! CHARGE PAST THEM!” Rivyen commanded.
As one, the rest of the party leaned in close to their horses and surged forward down the remaining length. However, on the other side, men in black wrappings emerged from the thick scrub bush on the opposite side and poured out onto the bridge . They wore red hoods that covered their heads and faces . They had black scimitars in hand.
Lyndasia somersaulted off her horse and landed in a roll. Her serrated daggers were in hand as the hooded men approached her.
A silver-tipped arrow caught one of the hooded men dead center in the face. Rivyen targeted another man and took him down before he made another step toward Lyndasia.
Muffled thumps from heavy boots alerted the Yuul. Ama’yen hauled roughly on her reins, stopping her charge. She moved around in her saddle to face the rush of warriors coming from behind them. Waving her hands back and forth in unique movements, she gathered her magical energies.
A blast of red stars shot from the Sorceress’ hands, ripping two more hooded men off their feet and into the river. The two ex-Wyvernguard with Rivyen ran ahead and engaged the assassins charging Lyndasia.
A scream came as two arrows peppered the man with the wounded horse. He collapsed in a heap under its feet.
Scars shouted to the frantic man holding on to the bridge’s post. “Take my hand! Come on, hurry!”
“I am slipping! I…I…Grab me!”
Ama’yen screamed as she grappled with two of the hooded men who were trying to pull her off her horse.
“Please, Scars! You have to grab me first. I cannot let the post go or I will fall i–“
“–Take my hand now! Do it!” Scars screamed in anger.
Three men had gotten past the ex-Wyvernguard and were trying to corner Lyndasia. She outmaneuvered them and jumped to the bridge railing to get the “higher-ground advantage” on her attackers. One of them made a grab for her legs, but yelped as she scored a blade strike along his neck and shoulder.
Rivyen fired again, taking one down with a shot to his thigh, but his next arrow flew past. The last man took advantage, lunged forward and impaled her threw the hip. Her scream pierced the valley and echoed louder than the thunderclaps of the storm.
Ama’yen’s scream followed Lyndasia’s as she was pulled free of her saddle.
Scars looked the man in the eyes, shook his head and stood back on his feet. He raced to help the desperate mage. The Flohki removed his broadsword and charged the men wrestling with Ama’yen.
The first man fell hard as Scars’ blade took off his left leg cleanly. The sword continued its arch and embedded in the side of the man next to him. Before the man reacted, Scars whirled around to plunge a dagger held in his right hand into the man’s neck. Blood exploded from the man’s mouth and sprayed over the remaining hooded man and the sorceress.
He leaped at Scars and plowed him backwards. They rolled along the ground, pummeling each other.
Suddenly the hooded man was lifted off Scars as Rivyen swept him up in arms and threw the man over the railing.
“GET ON YOUR HORSES! WE HAVE TO GET HER HELP!” The man screamed. Behind him, barely able to keep herself on the saddle, Lyndasia held onto the scimitar which was still in her side. She was shaking and visibly pale.
Scars leaped to his feet and glanced back down the bridge. He saw only the wounded horse and bodies laid sprawled on the wood. No one remained clinging to the post.