This is part five, be sure to catch up on parts 1, 2, 3, and 4! # I stared up at the three warrior women. The one in front held her sword pointed at my
I stared up at the three warrior women. The one in front held her sword pointed at my chest. Her skin gleamed like bronze around the patches of her armor. Behind her, the other two were similarly garbed, but one had skin like alabaster and the other like ebony.
“See, he stirs.” Bronze said. “Can I kill him now?”
“If he’s waking, we should question him.” Ebony replied.
“And then return to the rest of the pack.” Alabaster said. “We’ve wandered too far already.”
“Then, we’ll have to make this quick.” Bronze pressed the tip of her sword against my chest. “Who are you? What brings you to these lands?”
I raised my palms toward them. “Good ladies, I wish no trouble from you, nor any in this land—”
“Mince no words with us, fool.” Bronze pressed her sword harder into my ill-fitting leather armor. “Speak plainly or I shall lose my patience with this conversation.”
“I am merely a traveler. A poor man displaced by the wars to the west.” I tried to back away from the sword point, but the tree roots I’d rested against refused to give way.
Alabaster lifted my sack with the short sword still strapped to it. “Awfully well armed for a refugee.”
“A thief then.” Ebony said.
Bronze used the tip of her sword to flick aside my cloak, revealing the longer sword at my hip. “Or a mercenary.”
Alabaster tossed my sack to the ground. “Lie to us again and by Ishtir we’ll gut you where you lay.”
Panic drowned my coherent thoughts. Ishtir’s war dogs. Found me. How? Run. Fight. The old man. Shadow wolves.
Bronze struck the side of my face with the flat of her sword. “Speak, fool, we’ll not wait for more lies.”
“Please.” I held my hands higher. These three could not have been involved with the events in the village, they had no supplies save their blades, and Alabaster had said they were part of a larger pack. A large group couldn’t have mobilized as quickly as a single man on foot.
“You trust my patience too much, stranger.” Bronze glowered at me.
I remembered the final image of the shadow play, the wolf and the snake crowned together atop the mountain. It was a potentially deadly gambit to play with an unknown opponent, but I had to try. “Good ladies, I think there’s been some mistake. We’re all on the same side here.” I carefully removed my right glove to show them my tattoo.
Ebony spat as she and Alabaster drew their swords.
Bronze laughed. “By Ishtir, I thought you serpents were supposed to be clever.” She raised her sword for a killing blow.
So much for diplomacy. I kicked the side of Bronze’s knee.
It felt like iron, but she stumbled and her stroke went wide.
I rolled away and jumped to my feet, drawing my sword. I expected them to be on me, but instead they had fanned out, getting ready to surround me.
Their movements seemed off, slower and stiffer than I would’ve guessed. In contrast, my motions were swift and fluid, though I had no idea where that skill came from.
Ebony lunged at me from the right. I parried and countered. Our blades crossed twice more but her oddly encumbered movement gave me an opening to strike her exposed stomach. She gasped and doubled over, but as I pulled my sword free the blade was bloodless. Unsure how she was still standing but desperately needing to even the odds, I pressed my attack; this time striking her back.
There was the distinct clang of steel on steel, followed by the clatter of metal rings as the force of my blow knocked her to the ground.
I turned to face the other War Dogs. They were advancing in that same stiff manor, but watching them now, I could tell why. Despite all appearances to the contrary, they were wearing heavy armor.
Armor that I couldn’t see.
I circled away from Ebony. I wasn’t sure how long it would take her to get back to her feet, and I needed to keep all of my enemies where I could see them.
I considered running. I doubted the three of them could chase me down encumbered as they were. But for all I knew they had horses nearby. Or the rest of the pack. I’d revealed myself to them, whatever that meant, and they seemed intent on killing me for it. Better to end this here and now, before all the War Dogs were hunting for me.
I lunged, feinted, lunged again. Mobility was my advantage, but only as long as I could keep them from surrounding me. Ebony was back in the fight, which forced me to keep my attacks short so I could keep moving.
I landed light blows to chests, arms, and legs, all of which went largely unnoticed. But as I did so, I learned that they were far more cautious protecting their heads than their bodies.
On my next pass, I knocked Alabaster’s sword aside and slammed my left shoulder into her chest. My shoulder ached as it connected with metal, but the maneuver brought me close enough to strike her face with the back of my fist.
She staggered back, blood spewing from her nose.
I dodged Ebony’s wild attack and brought my blade down into her skull. She crumpled to the ground in a pool of her own blood.
I backed away from her and circled Alabaster, who was still staggering.
Again I knocked her sword away, and struck. She gurgled as I pulled my sword free of her neck.
I barely had time to block Bronze’s furious assault. With each blow she shouted new curses at me.
I backed away from her attacks, trying to regain my mobile advantage, but she pressed on following me step for step, until her awkward movements left me an opening.
She died still cursing me.
I took a deep breath and collapsed to the ground. My body ached and my blood-soaked sword was now bent beyond use. I tossed it aside and took up Bronze’s, which was clearly made of better steel. Looking down at her, I could now see her mail, scratched and dented in places, but unbroken.
Still, it was her face which surprised me most. Gone was the gleaming bronze skin and sculpted features. I checked the other two and found the same thing. While they’d been alive there’d been striking differences between them, but in death they looked so similar they might have even been sisters.
If I’d known the rites of Ishtir, I would have said words over them. Maybe I did once, but no words came to me then.
A dog howled in the distance. The rest of the pack would come looking soon, if they weren’t already. Better I wasn’t standing over the fallen when they arrived.
So I took up my possessions and continued my journey east, toward Tirradon.
To Be Continued….