Chapter 13: Breaking the Siege

OOC: Barring any other reaction, I'll assume the group intends to continue to spring the trap rather than cut through the forest.

The big roan stallion in the lead practically senses the impending battle, and Rives can feel the change in Strider's musculature and gait as the animal steels itself for a fight. Steel-shod hooves dig into the soft turf underneath the forest canopy, rapidly chewing up the intervening gap but leaving little time for the former stable boy to prepare himself with any particular strategem. The other five horses follow in a tight line, weaving around the thicker parts of the forest as they make for the relatively free-running terrain--if the road can be gained.

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Rives was a stable hand, not a jockey. He could read the horses and got along with them in the stable yard well enough, but riding was a different thing entirely. Though he could sense the changes in Strider as he approached the gnolls, he himself was at a loss as to what to do in response to the impending threat. He tried to assess the situation as the trees and underbrush flew past. Avoiding the gnolls seemed to be the wiser move, but he wasn't sure how he could manage that.

The river, he thought, we are supposed to meet up with the rest of the unit at the river. He tried to steer Strider towards the water, which by his reckoning should be towards his right. At least perhaps he wouldn't have to run straight through the line of gnolls.

"Push through, crash the line!" Kenjin shouted to those in front. "If any fall, I will fall with you! To the end my friends, to the end!"

Kenjin allowed his horse to back off some, so that he would have sufficient time to observe his friends getting away. If the gnolls attempted to pull any from the saddle, and succeeded, he would throw himself at the violators with great fury. He was beginning to really dislike Gnolls!

Alelip looks ahead, seeing the gnolls in their current configuration. A brief moment of dawning appears in his face, and then he screams at the top of his lungs, "To the right! To the right! Go towards the gnoll to the furthest right!"

As he screams, he steers his horse towards the gnoll furthest to the right; once the horse is traveling in the direction that he wants him to go, he aims directly for the gnoll.

Seeing the gnolls, Marin blanched and for a moment she thought her mount would paralyze from her fear. But the orders from her superior and the words from Ken made her snap from it and she urged her horse forward. Taking her lance from the side and thanking the Skied that it was there she put it besides her mountīs belly and she leaned forward, as she had seen many men do, in the mansion and the main campment

Caedmon readies his own spear as he and Rives lead the charge, blasting through the edge of the forest and cutting to the right, toward the gnoll anchoring the end of the net. To say the hyena-headed beast was not the least bit intimidated by the determined warhorse bearing down on him would be a stretch, but he dutifully brings his axe to bear before the roan comes crashing through.

Rives cringes, expecting the worst, but the gnoll's stroke is clearly fouled by an instinctive desire to crouch away from the impact. He tries to brace himself, but Strider has the bit in his teeth and simply plows on through as though the gnoll wasn't even there. The beast goes crashing to the ground in a heap, and Strider rides on by at full gallop.

Caedmon, Marin, and Alelip come through next. The first two take spear runs at the next gnoll in line, hoping to open an even wider gap; unfortunately, both spears miss--apparently there is more skill required for mounted combat than it first appears.

As Ken and the last horse come thundering along, the five upright gnolls gather themselves to renew the chase. Strider's steel shoes are already clattering on the wooden bridge as he carries Rives to the relative safety of the far side of the river.

Rives reigns in on the far side of the bridge, looking back to see where his comrades are and how they fared. He himself was astounded that it had worked, and his big smile crossed his face as he saw the others heading toward the bridge behind him. He looked up stream and down stream... Which way now, he thought.

Alelip yells out, "Cademon, which way along the river?", while continuing to lead the horse along the road until he hears a response.

Caedmon points to the south, where several hyenas are bounding through the underbrush. "Not that way, even if we wanted to. I think we're going to have to head east, along the road--or north, there's a village some miles along the river." He tucks his spear back behind him so he can put two hands to the reins. "If we're going to be riding long, we'll want proper tackle," he observes quietly to Rives.

The gnolls have gathered themselves and are running up the road at full tilt now. It seems not to have occurred to them that the horses could outrun them fairly easily if it came to a sprint, but they are closing the gap with the group.

Alelip thinks for a quick moment. While easier to ride, the road would likely have more "patrols" on it. With luck, especially given the luck that they've had to date, they might even lose the gnolls in the woods.

"North, then. Quickly, let's find the village before the gnolls catch up with us. Ken and I will follow behind Rives; Marin and Cademon behind. If we find any more gnolls I want to either run them over or skewer them with these," he holds up his spear, "before we get anywhere in range of their axes."


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