Howdy and welcome back to Wednesday Character Stories where I share bits of short stories I’ve written on various characters from my books! Today we’re picking up right after a mysterious person appeared to help Liam escape his captors. If you’ve missed any previous installments, you can find everything neatly arranged in the Character Stories tab!
The man charged the five other soldiers who had dismounted to face him. Liam threw back his head, catching the captain square in the face. Cursing the manacles that hindered his hands, he managed to grab the knife and dispatch the Captain. Hoof beats alerted him that his rescuer was in danger. The remaining mounted soldier was spurring his horse towards them, javelin poised for the kill. Liam saw another spear lying on the ground. He scooped it up and ran towards the horse, kneeling in its path and setting the javelin at the perfect angle. By some miracle he was not crushed as the horse and its rider tumbled to ruin.
He was helped to his feet by his rescuer.
“Any get away?” Liam asked.
“Two took off south on horseback. The nearest village is still half a day’s ride if they even know where they’re going,” he sounded disappointed that any had escaped. “Let’s get these off you, if the keys didn’t run off.”
“The captain had them,” Liam told him. The stranger stalked over to the body and ripped the keys away from the belt, retrieving his knife from another Calorin on his way back.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said as he unlocked the manacles. Liam rubbed his wrists gratefully.
“What about them?” he gesturing to the bodies.
“They left plenty of our people to rot. I don’t see that they deserve to be treated any different.” His hood had fallen back, and Liam saw that his grey eyes were a hard as his voice.
Liam unbuckled his weapons from the saddle of the horse that had been killed. The outlaw did the same with the other two horses that remained. He stripped the packs from the saddles, as well a bow and quiver. He nodded wordlessly and Liam followed him from the path. After almost a mile, they halted at the entrance to a shallow cave. The last thing Liam expected his guide to do was drop the bags and stagger and half collapse. He caught at him.
“You’re hurt!” he exclaimed.
“My leg. It’s an old wound,” the man gritted. Liam helped him into the cave and helped him sit on the rough pallet against the wall.
“Let me see it,” he ordered. The man almost too grateful to argue and he began unlacing his boot. Liam had to help him pull it off and he quickly saw why. There was a dirty bandage wrapped around his calf, and dried blood down his leg was dampened by fresh blood oozing from under the bandage.
“Don’t move,” Liam ordered unnecessarily. He still had a pouch hanging at his belt holding some medicines and needles. He collected the water skins and found a clean shirt in the Calorin’s packs that he tore into strips. Wishing his own hands weren’t still covered in dirt and blood, he began to work away at the bandage. The man stared grimly at the ceiling as it came slowly off. But it stuck firmly to the wound itself. Liam poured water over it to loosen it, and tore it away. The man cut short an agonized cry and uttered a rough oath that caused Liam’s hair to curl a little.
“You could’ve warned me!” he said.
“How old is this?” Liam asked in return, pressing a fresh cloth against his leg.
“Almost two weeks,” came the reply.
“Arrow wound?” Liam probed again.
“Aye, I got shot as I made it into the forest. It was too deep, so I stopped eventually and pushed it through,” he said.
“Eventually?” Liam raised an eyebrow. Wishing for hot water, he began to wash it again with water from the water skins. The wound had broken open again during the fight, he guessed. He found needle and thread and began to stitch. “It’s a wonder you could even walk at all,” he said.
“I collapsed here a few days ago,” the man admitted. “I must have even been sick for a day or so. But food was in short supply so I had to move again. That’s when I saw you and that patrol. As much as it hurt, I hate them even more.”
“Where were you two weeks ago?” Liam asked.
“Fighting at Carnedd with the last of the coastal warbands and Prince Darrin. I’m the only one who made it here,” he said. The implication stung Liam. The Prince was captured or more probably dead. “You from Lynwood?” the man asked and Liam nodded.
“It fell yesterday.” The admission felt bitter on his tongue.
“Where were they taking you?” he asked.
“Darkan Village,” Liam replied shortly. He briefly touched his cross belt. “I was supposed to be an example.”
The man swallowed hard. “I’ve seen it. At a small garrison we got to too late. The men were gone but the captain’s body was left. That was the first time any of my men saw me get sick.”
Liam saw the belt and silver buckle across his chest. A lieutenant as well. They shared the same look.
“What happened to your men?” he asked.
“Most were still alive, but by now,” Liam let the thought go unfinished. “Yours?”
“Dead,” was the only reply.
I hope you’re still enjoying! We only have about two weeks left in this story. Help out by sharing it and telling your friends. If you want to tweet about it, use this, the longest hashtag ever – #wednesdaycharacterstories (Unless it’s easier for me to keep the hashtag in the title, just let me know what you prefer!)