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Part 2 - The Ruins

 
Part 2 - The Ruins

Continued from Encounter 1: The Ruined Hut.

When it was clear that the battle was finished, Tristan slung his hunting bow over his shoulder and moved to join Rikard behind the still-smoldering hut. The man who was badly wounded by Emeric was still sobbing on the floor, but his fervor had diminished some. The horses neighed and flicked their tails, eager to be away from the scene of death. Indeed, it was clear that they were well-trained horses, for they did not run despite the sounds of pitched battle.

The sun was waning in the west and a crisp breeze blew through the small valley and tousled the stunted grass. The sheep that were about had run at the first sounds of battle, but a few could still be seen on a hillock to the south. The small fire made by the bandits had devoured a skewer of meat that was left over it to cook, but there were still a few more skewers stuck into the ground nearby. The ragged wooden door creaked on its iron hinges and banged loudly against the frame of the hut each time a gust of wind came by.

Tristan looked at Rikard, then at the half-naked woman on the ground and shook his head.

"Welcome to Stromland?" he said simply.

Emeric blinked, barely registering Cuthred's blow to the leader as he kneeled to the ground, holding his eyes in raw terror. Tristan ended the man's misery quickly, sending an arrow shaft into the man and finally quelling the sounds of battle. The young Velian looked around, searching for his next foe, but their surroundings were quiet. Under control. Walking over to his horse, he patted its side reassuringly and the mount seemed a bit better for it, shaking off the adrenalin that had come watching the men clash. Emeric bound his long-axe to his horse, then stepped towards the house, contemplating the damage. If this was a dragon's work, it was but a wyrmling. He knew Rikard had had the right intuition about these people, but he did not yet see what had prompted him.

As the warrior turned the corner, he stopped in his tracks. There they were, both Tristan and Rikard, watching over two motionless shapes on the ground. One was a woman, fair-skinned but pale as death. The other one was obviously part of the band they had just subdued. His mind pieced the information together, and as the situation grew clearer, the mask on his face grew grim. His chest heaved with each breath with barely controlled anger. "You are too kind to even ask to capture these men, Rikard, they would serve everyone better in death." he growled, stepping away and making his way to the remaining bandit. Grabbing him roughly and pulling him off the ground so the man would look into his icy blue eyes, Emeric barked: "Who are you? Where do you come from? What happened here? Answer me!"

When the bandit leader fell with Tristan's arrow in his chest, Cuthred shuddered with the sudden release of tension. He wiped his bloody sword on the dead man's furs and sheathed it, careful not to look too closely at the mangled gash he'd made of his eyes.

He stood there, gathering his thoughts a moment. When Emeric returned from examining the scene behind the ruined hut, he raised his head. "That was. . ." before Cuthred could finish, Emeric was snarling at the man, demanding answers. Cuthred bit his tongue, slowly walked back to see whatever it was that Emeric had seen.

Cuthred surveyed the dead woman grimly a moment before returning to stand by Emeric.

"What's it matter who they are and where they come from? Burners, rapers, house breakers; I say we cut his throat and leave him for the birds."

When Emeric seized the outlaw, he cried out in anguish and pressed a hand to his side in an attempt to soothe the pain in his ribs. His first few words were inaudible groans and growls as he tried to cope with the pain. The scars in his face were evidence of past battles and he quickly regained his composure as best he could.

Through gritted teeth he responded scornfully to the young Velian in the thick language of the Lindens. "
Something in Lindish." Then he spit on the floor.

"
Something in Lindish."


Braithe relaxed and slid her spear back into its harness, patting the horse on the back and picking her way round. She watches the men abuse and berate their captive, noting with that faintest smile how Cuthred conveniently leaves 'killers' off the list of offenses -- she supposes it would not do for her compatriots to be lumped in with such unsavory characters.

She slips past Cuthred, Emeric and their captive, moving toward the ruined hut. Drawing her spear again, she stands back and pushes the door open, watching the frame and listening for a telltale crack or creak. She peers inside, looking for any sign of the hut's other inhabitants.

Cuthred stiffened at the man's words. His fists balled, then loosened. He pressed his boot to the man's wounded side.

"He wants to cross blades again, Emeric. Apparently he thinks taking an axe to the ribs in a face-to-face fight counts as being 'surprised'."

Cuthred bent, bringing his face close to the other Lindener. "
Should have kept your mouth shut, worm, and we'd have given you a clean death. Tell me about this Toli Brandsson and I might still give you the courtesy. He's a Lindener too?
something in a foreign language"

"You're right, though," he says to Emeric, trying and failing to keep an edge of tension out of his voice. "I was a bit hasty. Let's see what we can find out from this one."

The smoldering heaps of wood and debris are difficult to tell apart without closer examination, but it was clear to Braithe the woman was not alone. Straight across from the door lay the figure of a body, shrunken and blackened from the fire and grotesque beyond belief. Its eyes had burst, leaving two empty sockets staring out as if from the depths of hell. It would appear that the bandits may have been waiting for the building to cool down, for it seemed as though nothing was out of place, aside from what damage was done from the fire.

The prideful outlaw looked up at Cuthred, spite written across his worn face. But, when the young man spoke in Lindish, he smiled. "
Something in Lindish."


It took a moment for Emeric to understand what language the man was speaking. The sudden switch had caught him off guard and he could not tell if he had understood it right. Thankfully enough, Cuthred soon confirmed the words he'd heard and the Velian's scowl grew more evident. His anger urged him to silence the man permanently, especially after the mention of his mother, but the young warrior had more sense than this. Perhaps he had learned from his time with the Quadans. Instead, he released the man and let him drop back to the cold hard ground.

He wasn't worth the effort.

"
Something in Lindish" he replied harshly. "
Some more Lindish" he said with more than a hint of sarcasm. Some of the man's words, however, did stick. "
More Lindish"


Rikard watched the goings-on with a face of stone and a heart of lead. It had been the right thing to do, exacting the vengeance of the dead on these barbarous cretins, but the fact that they spoke in the tongue of Linden troubled him almost more than their deeds. If they were mere outlaws in the land of Strom, that was one thing. But...

"Invaders...?" he mused to himself, almost inaudibly.

For the first time since the shipwreck, Rikard was no longer looking forward to his return to the mead-halls of his kin.

Cuthred said nothing, momentarily stunned by Emeric's use of his mother tongue. But then he recalled that the young man had practically grown up in Linden.

He regarded the man on the ground. Murderer and house-breaker or not, he had the grit of a Lindener. Pain wouldn't draw any answers out of his foul mouth. And unless I've missed my guess, I already know the answers. Time to try a different tact.

"
I knew a Toli son of Brand back in Linden. A housecarl in the service of Ealdwolf Dagobertsson. A backstabber and oathbreaker who betrayed his sworn lord and left his son to die before he fled across the sea.
something in a foreign language" He glowered down at the wounded man, tapping the hilt of his sword absentmindedly. "
But Toli Brandsson is a common enough name, so it has to be a coincidence. I'm sure this Toli son of Brand you call lord is a noble and forthright man. He must be to have attracted such fine warriors into his service.
something in a foreign language"




 

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