Before we get started on today’s #BlogBattle, I have a quick announcement. The Rise of Aredor is being featured today on Inspired Writers as part of Fantasy Month. Stop by to check out the feature and help me spread the word on Facebook and Twitter!
Now please welcome back Clancy and Tanya and the pesky word of the week, Horde!
Two riders cantered down the dusty road, casting occasional glances behind them. After the successful retrieval at Lord Brooke’s house, the company had split, taking as many different roads and highways as they could to throw off pursuit.
Tanya felt her gelding beginning to slow beneath her and urged him on. She had elected to stay with Clancy as he still had the letters in the satchel at his side. She had come into contact with him several times since their first meeting two years ago and knew he was trustworthy but she was loath to let Isabelle’s freedom out of her sight. He was unusually quiet as they rode. When they first met and he had obligingly helped her out of her predicament she had no idea how deep he was in the whisperings of unrest in Verica.
The kingdom was entering its seventh year under King Malcolm’s rule. Once he was finished establishing his law, decrees began to be made against the other races that inhabited Verica. Manach dragons, already rare enough, were hardly to be found. Prevyrn, little different from humans other than their pointed earlobes, and the Drafn who grew no more than five foot tall, were forbidden from holding any other employment than that decided by a local magistrate. The Giants had almost fully retreated to the mountains, only sending out their nobles when summoned. Tanya shook her head at the injustice of it. Verica, who once throve on the combined strengths of its races, was now slowly being segregated.
“You all right?” Clancy broke into her thoughts.
“You look like you got stung by a walla wasp again.”
“I’m blaming you and that ridiculous “short cut” for even knowing what I look like when that happens.”
Clancy laughed. “I told you, we needed to get those soldiers off our tail and that was the quickest way to do so.”
“No more detours, please,” she frowned at him.
“I can make no promises,” he replied. “How about a restful night in that forest ahead?” he pointed to a thick line of trees in the distance.
“Anything’s better than sleeping in a wasp infested swamp,” she grumbled and spurred her gelding on, missing the quick grin that flashed over her companion’s face before he followed.
The sun had begun it descent when they reached the fringes of the forest. The scent of pine was everywhere as thick trees clustered together about the path. Clancy showed no signs of stopping and rode deeper into the forest. Tanya had no choice but to follow. She notice him casting furtive glances about and began to house more than one suspicion.
“Who dares to trespass in my woods?” a bellow caught her off guard and her mount shied. However, Clancy seemed more than a little amused.
“Only two adventurers who dare to brave the horrors of Hallowell Forest!” he shouted back.
“Fool! Turn back or the horde shall scatter your bones to the four winds!”
This time Tanya caught a few smothered giggles from the trees surrounding her. She glanced around to see figures crouched in branches and camouflaged by the path.
“Are you just going to chunk them in different directions or do something more impressive like grind them to dust first?” Clancy asked.
“Um…” there followed what must have been meant to be a whispered conversation but what was amplified by the horn the speaker was holding. Tanya felt her own smile spread at the argument and the increasingly loud chortles from the trees. “Just attack!” the speaker decided and figures of all sizes leapt out onto the path with variant shrieks of “Mc’Clarrah!”
Clancy dismounted and greeted fifteen children ranging from ten to seventeen years.
“I’m sorry, Mc’Clarrah, Micah said he could do it this time!” A human boy of about seventeen said. A young Drafn looked crestfallen until Clancy clapped him on the shoulder.
“I was near scared off my horse with that first shout,” he said.
“I’ll do better next time,” Micah promised with a grin.
“Can I take your horse, Mc’Clarrah?” A Prevyrn girl asked.
“No, can I?”
“I want to!”
Shouts piled on one another until Clancy loosed a shrieking whistle.
“Oi! There’s a lady in your midst, savages!”
Tanya was suddenly the center of attention.
“Can I take your horse, miss?”
“I’ll take your packs!”
“I’m Rose. Do you like flowers?”
“What kind of a question is that? That’s not helpful!”
“Actually I do like flowers.” Tanya shielded her ears from another one of Clancy’s whistles.
“Introductions first!” he declared. “Savages, this is Tanya,”
“Ooh, Mc’Clarrah has a lady friend!” came a loud whisper. Clancy glared in its direction.
“I heard that, Kay! And Tanya, these ragamuffins are the Horde of Hallowell Forest!”
“Not really, he just likes to call us that.”
“I like it. It makes us sound scary!”
All conversation ceased as Clancy warningly raised his fingers to his mouth a third time.
“Now, please duel among yourselves for the honor of taking Miss Tanya’s horse because I do believe we made it in time for dinner.”
Micah took Tanya’s horse with a charming smile and they were escorted into the forest. She noticed that the “horde” fell into a loose formation around them, some scouting behind and covering their tracks as others flitted in and out. She saw that they were all well equipped with bows and staves and seemed fully capable of using them.
“Where are we going?” she nudged Clancy’s arm.
“To meet the leader of the horde himself,” he winked.