Posted: Nov 30, 2018, 4:02pm
Sisters of the Old
Majvoc lined up the shot. He stared down the arrow shaft, focusing his attention on the point of the arrow’s head and his target. He breathed slowly, his muscles confidently holding the bowstring taught. He could feel the amount of raw power being held at bay by nothing more than his fingers grasping around the nocking point.
Then he let go.
The arrow flew through the air, snaking across the forest in an elegant dance.
But splashed and bounced off a rock.
‘Bugger,’ cursed Majvoc as he watched the fish in the river dart away downstream.
Majvoc thought about heading down to fetch the arrow but he decided it was ultimately not worth the effort to retrieve a smashed arrowhead and a shattered shaft.
That left him with just short of a dozen arrows. Which was a fancy way of saying ten.
He had left the motley band of heroes only a few hours ago, with every intention of returning with food. Or fed. He hadn’t quite decided which. Majvoc had mostly occupied himself with what he liked doing best, which was generally pissing about and doing little, if anything, productive. He thought it might have been easier to do that without Balar breathing down his neck.
Majvoc hopped onto a nearby rock and looked out at the dark night that loomed over the green plain. From his vantage point, he should have been able to see right across to the next town. It was a clear night, and he could count the stars with his naked eyes. But there was something thick and heavy bearing down on the plains. A shadow.
Through that thick blurry barrier, he could pick out tiny little bright spots of light. Upon the sloping hill was the little copse of trees, the trunks of which were illuminated by Balar, Tiella and Luna’s fire. Which was good, because it meant he had a way back.
But there was something else to see. And to hear because they were loud.
Coming up the hill was a row of smaller lights, like torches carried by men. Even from here, Majvoc could hear them singing. A merry tune. Well, they sang it merrily, but the lyrics of sleeping with a mayor’s daughter and then cutting her head off undermined that cheery vibe somewhat.
No doubt they were bandits, outlaws patrolling their territory for unsuspecting travellers. And the little band of travellers they were heading for were severely outnumbered by them.
Majvoc packed up his things and made off back to his companions as fast as his legs would take him. Hopefully, he would reach Balar and company before the bandits did.
Luna sat quietly for some time pondering recent events. She felt calm despite it all and wondered why she was not panicking, she knew she should be. Looking over at Balar she said;
“I believe that the people he wants dead may be more of a threat at the moment. We should kill them, then go after him… One more question, why would he target me to make a deal with. He should know I have all I want? When you made your deal did you seek him out or did he find you”
"That my dear is two questions." Balar chortled.
Luna simply smiled and waved her hand for him to go on,
"Firstly, I would imagine that he picked you out because you have power, and to accomplish what we are about power is required. And as for my deal."
"Our deal,"Tiella interrupted, "He came to us. He offered us a life where I would not have to watch the man I loved grow old and die in a matter of decades. A happy life in exchange for a distant favour."
"Do you regret it?" Luna asked.
Tiella gave a sigh, "Ask me again when this is all over."
"You are right about one thing," Balar said, "As much as I hate that fool of a demigod his sister is worse. She caused the bloody Ragnarok. Who knows why he wants her gone but it would be no bad thing."
"It just seems so impossible." Luna shook her head.
"If there is one thing I have learnt over the years," Balar said, "It is that nothing is impossible."
"What was that?" Tiella threw dust on the fire and scrambled up to a crouch. They could hear voices and distant movement. It was getting closer.
"Shit." hissed Balar as he reached for his axe.
Hey, guys,' said Majvoc in a hushed panic, as he clambered through some branches to reach the warm light of the fire. 'I don't want to sound like a worryguts, but I think we may have some unpleasantness heading our way.'
'You don't say,' said Balar equally in whisper, with his axe readied.
'Where have you been?' asked Tiella, her dagger grasped in the palm of her hand.
'Oh, you know, here there and everywhere,' said Majvoc, jumping to his companions' side, 'Or did you mean recently?'
'Enough, thief,' snarled Balar, 'We may yet go unnoticed.'
From the dark came a chorus of laughter.
'You hear that, girls?' shouted one voice, 'They think we haven't got them surrounded.'
'Girls?' asked Luna aloud, 'Girl bandits?' It hadn't occurred to them before, but each voice they could hear was that of a female. All rough, ready and cracked from shouting and hard drink, sure, but still with a distinct female timbre.
'Bollocks,' cursed Majvoc.
'Know these people?' asked Balar gruffly.
'Kind of. I mean, I did know them. Once. Maybe,' stuttered Majvoc.
'What do you mean, 'maybe'?'
'There might be two all-female bandit troupes in the region?'
'I very much doubt it,' said Balar, 'I haven't even heard of one.'
'We don't usually come down this far,' said a woman, stepping from the shadows. She was clad in thick leather armour that was adorned with trinkets and decorations, trophies of her victories. 'Nice to see you again,' she said to Majvoc.
Majvoc's feet were rooted to the ground. His mind crunched through his options. Run? Hide? Fight? Joke?
'Oh hi,' said Majvoc, dropping his bow and sauntering confidently towards the tall, imposing warrior, 'Sigrid, of Ermskirk! Why I haven't seen you since...'
'You stole my sword,' she said with a smirk.
'Did I?' asked Majvoc, although he full well knew the answer, 'That seems like such a long time ago.'
'It was at the turn of the last season.'
'Who are you people?' asked Balar.
'The Sisterhood of the Old!' said Sigrid, proud and loud. 'Excommunicated worshipers of the Gods of Old.'
'Bandits,' explained Majvoc.
'We rob and pillage as the Old God tells us,' said Sigrid, 'Nothing more, nothing less. Now, the question is, what does the Old God want us to do with you?'
'Leave us alone!' called Luna.
'Oh, you have an elf with you?' said Sigrid, her smile coaxing an inkvine scar on her face to shimmer in the firelight. 'I wonder what the Old Gods will have to say for her?'
'Enough!' said Balar, 'Is it to be a fight or not?'
'A duel!' said Sigrid, 'The first to wet the ground with their blood is the loser. Our divine God will empower the righteous and lead them to victory Who among you will stand forth to challenge me?
Luna used her shadow magic to jump from behind Balar between him and the stranger.
“I’m curious can you actually communicate with your god’s. Do not lie to me, the shadows always tell the truth.” She held a hand up flat palm facing the new-comer ready to Conjure a shield. The shadows seemed to dance at her feet. She banged her staff against the ground and a shadows coalesced into a figure standing next to her. It could not affect the world around it but it could give information.
"Again with the magic." Mumbled Majvoc as he ran his fingers through his hair.
The bandits bristled angrily their disdain to find an elf amongst them switching to anger at the sight of her wielding magic. They made warding signs against evil and drew weapons.
"It doesn't really matter if they are lying or deluded," Balar hissed, "They are bandits. It comes with the territory."
"She means no harm." Tiella yelled out raising her hands.
The bandit leader motioned for her people to stand back,"Wait, I am interested in what her pet shadow has to tell her. Please by all means elfling enlighten us."
The shadows did something strange. It addressed the group. When it spoke it sounded almost snake like and very quiet, but all there could hear.
“I am no pet. The gods are gone but they may not be dead. They might return if you know where to look” with that it disappeared. Luna blinked almost as if coming out of a trance.
She looked around. “I think we can all agree that fighting amongst are selves is not the best course of action. Help us fight Hella”
Sigrid stepped forward, slowly putting down her weapons. She seemed to stare in awe at the shadow. It was a hand that danced and snaked through the air, almost coaxing Sigrid to come closer.
Majvoc had barely heard the words it said, but they managed to slip into his mind before he could put up a defence. The figure drunk in Majvoc's attention, blurring everything around it. It was almost intoxicating. And then it dissipated before his eyes as quickly as it had appeared.
“I think we can all agree that fighting amongst our selves is not the best course of action. Help us fight Hel,” he heard Luna say, but it was muted behind his dulled senses.
Sigrid stood before her, having crept close and unarmed in amongst the commotion of the magic.
'Great elf magician,' she said grandly, although it fell flat when mixed with her rough voice and accent, 'You grace us with your presence and magic. You call upon the loyal blades of the Sisterhood of the Old for aid in your quest.'
Sigrid flashed a dirty grin at Luna, 'But we decline.'
Sigrid launched her elbow directly into Luna's nose, sending the small, frail elf hurtling to the ground in a spout of blood. She crashed to forest floor amongst a chorus of laughter and cheering from the bandit crowd.
The group of travellers bristled at this development. Balar readied his weapon, almost pulling at an invisible chain to charge at Sigrid. Tiella stepped forward to try to disperse tensions. Majvoc darted his eyes around to find an escape.
'Okay,' said Sigrid, kicking up her sword and catching it with a single swipe in the air, 'I'm going to let the heretic's actions slide this time but believe me, if she does it again then I will slit her throat, burn her body on a bonfire, flay her skin, and dump her bones in the dog pit. And if she's very, very lucky, I'll do it in that order.'
Luna scurried on the ground, putting herself behind Balar. Balar swept his axe do to put a barrier between the wounded elf and the bandits.
'She meant no harm,' Tiella tried to say.
'Magic?' Sigrid said, 'Had been nothing but harm to our world. Now, enough talking. If no-one comes forward, I will choose myself.'
'Face me then,' growled Balar, and before Sigrid could snipe back he charged headlong to his opponent. It took her by surprise, but she managed to deflect Balar's clumsy, wild first blow.
The two combatants quickly became locked in a furious melee of sword swipes and axe blows. Neither seemed to tire, but neither managed to get the upper-hand. It was a game of defence. One careless move could send a blade slicing through your skin. Blood would spill and the game would be over.
And it was Balar who lost. A misstep on a few loose rocks on the ground sent him off balance and Sigrid took her chance. Her blade went straight across Balar's back, opening up a bloody cut.
'Seize them!' cried Sigrid in her victory. Bandits lept from their hiding spots and grabbed the companions. 'Take them back to the camp,' Sigrid said, and as a final blow, she sent her knee crashing into Balar's face as he was bent over in pain.
Luna was caught off guard when the bandit hit her. She quietly regained her footing. She watched as Balar fought the bandit. It was not long before a clumsy move let the bandit win.
When one of the group tried to grab Luna she turned on her bringing her staff down on the girls head. While she was small she was far from fragile.
“Balar Tiella snap out of it we have work to do” Luna cried. For the first time she did not use magic to get them out of this. She knew it would only anger the bandit’s more. She thought and thought before yelling” Harlequin” She hoped that saying his name would draw him here. As she dodged and attacked the bandits.
Balar slumped to the ground, he was losing blood and as he groaned in pain the axe fell from his hand. Tiella ran to his side sheathing her dagger even as Luna flailed about wildly at their would be captors, amazingly she was keeping them at bay.
“Balar Tiella snap out of it we have work to do” Luna snapped.
Tiella looked up from Balars wound and shook her head. She gestured to the surrounding bandits.
"Harlequin!" Luna cried out in desperation.
"Stop Luna." she cried, "If they wanted us dead then dead we would be."
Sigrid still holding her head from the crack that Luna had given her barked a laugh. "I might want you all dead yet." She motioned sharply and her people backed away."
Majvoc stood apart through all of this and had already handed his bow over to a particularly mean looking woman with fists as big as Balars. The two of them were chatting like old friends and the woman reached over and pinched his backside. He jumped and laughed swiping her hand away.
"Odins cock Majvoc are you actually flirting while I am taking you captive?" He simply shrugged and Sigrid strode over and punched him in the stomach causing him to double over, she then rounded on her woman,
"Igrine leave the man alone, you dont know where he has been." She looked down at Tiella then ignoring Luna for the time being,
"Can your man walk or do I slit his throat here."
"I can walk." Balar growled looking up and the over to Majvoc, "So you do have a name besides thief."
"Oh he has several." Sigrid cut in, "Now up you get and no tricks or we will fill you with arrows. You too heretic," She growled at Luna, "Take their weapons." She ordered.
"You can not have my staff." Luna snapped.
"I dont think anyone here would want to touch the thrice cursed thing," Sigrid replied, "You carry it and if you so much as think about using magic my girls here will fill you so full of arrows you could pass for a hedgehog." The bandits laughed and several knocked arrows and raised crossbows in anticipation.
"We march north." Sigrid ordered and the group began to move. Tiella propped up Balar and did her best to stop the bleeding as they walked. Luna walked at their side a worried expression on her face. Majvoc on the other hand walked a little ahead looking very much at his ease. He glanced back to them and flashed a grin,
"Well at least we are going in the right direction."