tagRomanceA Perilous Journey Ch. 07

A Perilous Journey Ch. 07


The Ahlissan Chronicles

~ Novella 2 ~

A Perilous Journey

~ 7 ~


Lady Eryca sat with her back to the tree that she was tied to, her hands were bound behind her and her mouth ached from the gag the goblins had tied overly tight. She watched as the raiders sat around their fire eating what she thought was some form of traveling jerky although the smell told her otherwise. The red haired mage struggled against her bonds and when she was convinced that she could not break them she looked down at herself and saw that they had taken her belt containing her spell components and her dagger; her staff had been dropped on the deck of the ship.

She looked up and saw the big hobgoblin eyeing her; he wiped the grease from his mouth with the back of his hand and walked over to her. Wulfgut squatted down in front of her and spoke, his breath repulsing her.

"Don't struggle mage, you are bound tight. I have seen to that." He took her chin in his filthy hand and looked into her eyes. "Such a pretty one, you are lucky that our benefactor demanded that you be unspoiled or else..."

His words trailed off but the gleam in his eye insinuated what would have happened had that stipulation not been made. Eryca jerked her chin from his grasp and looked away from him. Smirking, Wulfgut stood and walked back to his place by the fire, as he sat he pointed to two other hobgoblins.

"You two watch the mage and make sure she doesn't try anything."

* * *

Lord Brion returned to his stateroom and sat down at the small table that was part of the simple furnishings. He unrolled the maps that he had brought from the captain's cabin and studied them committing the roads, trails and landmarks to memory. As he studied he felt his mind wandering back to the battle, replaying the sequence of events over again. He knew his father was right, they had all done their best but that did nothing alleviate the pain in his heart. He heard a soft knock at his door.

"Come in" he said.

He looked up as the door opened and saw Miss Karolyn step into his room. It was obvious that she had been crying, he walked over to her and hugged her.

"I am truly sorry Karolyn," he said "you have my word that I will do everything in my power to bring her back. I will let no man, beast or obstacles keep me from her."

Releasing Karolyn he looked into her eyes.

"I promise you Miss Karolyn."

Dabbing at her tears with a handkerchief Karolyn nodded that she understood. Drawing a breath she spoke, her words shaking.

"I pleaded with her not to go, I was so afraid that something would happen to her." Her shoulders shaking Karolyn began to sob again. "I can only imagine what they will do to her."

Taking a deep breath, Brion put an arm around Karolyn and squeezed her, trying to comfort her.

"Eryca is strong and spirited Karolyn; it did not surprise me when she joined the battle." Brion said. "As for what awaits her, they attacked specifically to take her which leads me to believe that someone else is behind this. I'd wager it's the same person who tried to have me killed in Luekish." He smiled down at her as he felt her shoulders stop shaking. "Whoever hired the goblinoids will not allow them to harm her."

"Okay" Karolyn said reassured by his words.

"The best thing we can do now is to focus our efforts on finding her." Brion said determined. "Have you seen William, how is he?"

"He is coming along my Lord. The wound is healing slowly; Kira and I have been tending to him." Karolyn walked towards the door and grasping the handle she turned. "Eryca really does love you with all that she has. My Lady is well aware that what you two share is very special."

"I know" Brion agreed.

Miss Karolyn turned and left, leaving Brion alone with his thoughts.

* * *

Brion rose before first light and went to wash in the river. The knot on the back of his head and shrank some more and now it was time to cleanse not only his body but also his feelings of guilt and failure. Upon returning to his stateroom he found Matthew waiting next to his door.

"Matthew you should return to bed and rest yourself." he said.

"I heard you wake sir, I could not sleep." The boy looked tired with dark circles under his eyes. "I prepared Armageddon while you were at the river. He is saddled and lightly armored for speed, like you showed me. So I thought I would help you into your armor."

Brion smiled at the boy's tenacity. "You are an excellent squire Matthew. Come, let's get started."

* * *

Just as the sun began to creep over the horizon the rescuers assembled on the main deck of the ship. The crew had already brought up Armageddon, as well as, Astinos' horse and Barnard's mount that Aizantius would be riding. The ships' cook supplied them with several weeks' worth of jerked meat, tack and dried fruit that they placed into their packs. The three men walked their steeds down the makeshift gangplank left by the hobgoblins and prepared to leave. Lord Barnard walked up and clasped his son's hand.

"We will be here waiting for your return Brion, god-speed."

"Thank you Father, we will be back as soon as possible."

* * *

Eryca sat behind the large hobgoblin, she was closer than she would have liked but the rope that encircled them both was tied tight. The goblinoids had refused to untie the mages' hands so that she could hold on as they rode; they feared her magik and refused to untie her for any reason. The movement of the warg beneath her felt strange for the giant semi-intelligent wolves moved differently than horses did. That movement combined with the smell of her guard helped to keep her stomach in a perpetual state of upset.

In the beginning she had tried to twist and work at the ropes that held her wrists but when the goblins saw the fresh blood from her efforts they only cinched them tighter. So she occupied herself by watching the changing landscape and by studying her captors. Eryca had learned that the leader was called Wulfgut and she overheard enough to piece together that they were taking her to someone else. The red haired mage wondered if her kidnapping was related to the attempt on her betrothed's life earlier in Luekish.

As Eryca looked over the shoulder of her escort she saw the trees begin to thin and give way to the foothills of the Abbor-Alz highlands. As she watched the horde of goblinoids and wargs slowed to start their ascent. Eryca forced herself to recall all she had ever heard about the highlands, hoping to be able remember anything that could help her.

* * *

Lord Brion carefully stepped into the clearing that had been the hobgoblins camp the night before. He found the remnants of their fire which was still smoldering, indicating the goblins had only been there a few hours earlier. Slowly walking the perimeter he found the tree Eryca had been tied to, the ropes had let marks on the tree, evidence of her struggles also left impressions in the grass and several red hairs clung to the tree bark. He walked back through the trees to his two companions and mounted Armageddon.

"How fresh are the marks my Lord?" asked Aizantius

"Only a few hours Aizan," Brion said "they are still headed due west and with their numbers tracking them through the forest will be easy. If we ride hard as we have been we should be able to gain on them. Come!"

The three pursuers spurred their horses and began to ride through the forest as fast as the thick elms and oaks would allow. Late in the day they broke free of the dense trees and underbrush following the warg tracks across a grassy expanse before coming to the foothills of the highlands. They slowed their mounts as they approached the foothills careful not to disturb the tracks of their quarry. Following the warg prints in the short grass they began riding up into the foothills. Suddenly out of nowhere an arrow thudded into the ground next to them and it was followed by the sound of more arrows whizzing through the air.

"Ambush!" Brion yelled. "Find cover!"

Aizantius muttered the magikal words that created an invisible dome over them as the three men galloped under the hail of arrows toward a rocky outcropping. Once under the rocks the wizened mage dropped the shield and they quickly dismounted, tying their horses up under the rocks.

"How many do you think Brion?" asked Astinos readying his mace and buckler. The rotund priest was wearing chainmail under his robes and a breastplate displaying the symbol of the Arch-Paladin. He clearly knew that he would be doing more than healing on this journey.

"With the amount of arrows they've loosed, I would say four or five at the most. Most likely rear scouts watching for a rescue party." Brion left his helm and shield strapped to his saddle preferring to be able to move quickly. "Can you two hold their attention and I'll cut up to the left around those rocks and get behind them?"

"Consider it done my Lord." Said Aizantius as he cast his own volley of green magik missiles at the rocks the arrows had come from. Meanwhile Astinos made the show of attempting to climb to the ambusher's position under the cover of the wizard's magik.

Brion ran to their left toward a rocky outcropping that would hide his ascent from the goblinoids perched above them. The goblins had chosen a poor spot from which to launch their ambush, there were too many easy routes up to their position.

'They probably thought that they had so overwhelmed us at the ship that we would not be able to pursue them as quickly as we did.' Thought the ebon knight as he scaled the rocky incline, it was times like these that made him thankful for the special enchantments that had been laid on his armor. He watched as another volley of goblin arrows was loosed toward his friends. He knew Aizantius was safe behind the rocks and Astinos had his shield to protect him. He looked for another volley of the wizards' magikal green arrows so that he could run the remaining distance and close on his foes. As Brion heard Astinos' battle cry he ran as fast as possible to an outcropping up and to his right.

As he crouched behind the rocks he peered over the edge and saw three humanoids about fifteen feet below him. They were goblins dressed in dirty leather armor and as such were smaller than their hobgoblin cousins, the unpleasant job of rear scout had probably been pushed off onto them. Brion waited until they stood to release another volley. As they stood and drew their bowstrings he leaped over the rocks into their midst. Aiming for and using the momentum of his jump Brion cleaved the skull of the nearest goblin splitting it clear to the neckline.

Pulling his sword free he turned on the other two, the second goblin tried to hit him with its bow but to no avail. Brion deftly knocked the bow aside and ran his blade through goblin's chest. The third green skinned humanoid had tried to nock an arrow but in his panic to shoot, the arrow flew off harmlessly at an odd angle. Lucky for him the warrior wanted information so he received an armored gauntlet to the face which immediately darkened his world.

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