I came to while bumping along in the woods.
It took me a moment to remember where I was, and why I was in so much pain.
“Agh,” I managed to get out.
“Would you stop whining?” Anna said.
“Anna?” I asked still working things out. Why was Anna here? Why was she carrying me? Why was I in the woods? Where was Morgan?
Suddenly, I remembered what happened.
“Anna stop!” I called.
“Oh good, I could use a break. You’re heavier than I thought.”
“Anna we need to go back. We left them. Morgan, Eric, Ben, the whole town was back there.”
“I realize that but I could only carry one. Believe me, if I had a choice I would have saved Morgan.”
“Why didn’t you? YOu should have left me. At least she would live.”
“If I left you then you all would have died. At least if you’re gone they’ll keep them alive as bait.”
“You don’t get it, do you? Morgan isn’t a threat. They don’t care about some runaway priestess and rogue werewolves are all over. Neither would make Ravengard send Skein to deal with it. But, you got a whole town to fight. You stood up the soldiers. You worry them. What if all the other towns start thinking the same thing. Ravengard has his eyes on the south. He can’t afford to worry about the northern border too.”
“So he won’t stop till he gets me.”
“Yes, you need to be made an example of.”
“This is all you fault Anna. Don’t think I haven’t forgotten that.”
“I didn’t think you did. But we have bigger priorities now.”
“Like getting you somewhere so we can deal with that,” she said pointing to the knife in my thigh.
I looked down, the black steep blade was sticking out and the skin around it was turning dark. I grabbed the hilt and pulled. The pain was excruciating. That’s when the bleeding started, thick and black.
“That’s not good,” I said.
“What did you do that for? It was keeping you from bleeding.”
“I don’t think I’m thinking straight.”
“I’ll say,” she said and ripped the sleeve from her shirt and fashioned a bandage around the wound.
The vampire popped up.
“We have company,” she said.
“Skein,” I asked trying to put weight on the leg.
“No, I got him pretty good. He sent a party after us.”
She sniffed the air, “Eight? Half of them are demonspawn.”
“Great,” I said and hobbled through the trees, realizing that I only had the knife on my belt.
“Where’s my staff?” I asked.
“You know, there wasn’t exactly a lot of time to get you out.”
“What are you doing?” she asked while picking at her fingers. Her nails came to points and were too often covered in blood of some kind.
“I need a weapon,” I said cutting a solid branch from the tree.
“You’re going to use a tree?” she asked.
“No, but I read once about these bandits chased into the woods. They cut cudgels and used their knives to fight off the soldiers.”
“What’s a cudgel?”
“It’s like a club,” I said as I hacked at the piece of wood until it turned into a decent club, “See?”
“Whatever works for you,” she said, “just don’t die I’ll handle most of them.”
“I was counting on that.”
“If hadn’t wasted so much energy carrying you I’d handle all of them.”
“I know. Just keep the demonspawn busy.”
“Just don’t die Owen.”
It threw me off. That was the first time she called me Owen.
I heard rustling in the woods as the king’s men approached.
Anna disappeared into the woods and I heard screaming.
Two men worked their way into the woods. I hefted the club and my knife in the other. They had swords and shields and I had a carved stick.
If I hadn’t been stabbed, I wouldn’t have worried. But I was moving slower. The two men approached and there was really only one option when fighting two men. I leaped forward. My leg nearly buckled and I wanted to scream.
I crashed into one of the man’s shield and we both tumbled to the ground. I got up and the other man closed the distance. He stabbed at me but I parried with the knife and brought the club down on his shield. We traded blows for half a minute. But he overcommitted and I dodged and crept in and brought the club down on his hand.
He dropped the sword and then I popped him in the chin with the knife-hand. He dropped and as I advanced on the other soldier I took another step. The pain raged through my body.
I went to one knee and the soldier raised his sword.
This was it.
I failed everyone.
Until the soldier dropped and blood-covered Anna stood there.
“One? You took out one? That’s all?”
I tried to laugh but passed out again.