I didn’t actually write anything in my Wednesday seminar this week, hence the fact that this is going out on a Friday, not a Wednesday. So instead I’m going to tantalise you with something I wrote a good 4(?) years ago. It’s probably one of the first pieces of writing I did.. and it’s part of the beginning of the first novel I started writing. It’s sitting at a pretty stagnant 100ish pages, and I guess I might return to it someday.. if I get the urge. Warning; it’s very TL;DR.
Calicar watched as the two men sped past him and smiled to himself. They were good scouts but they never seemed to realise that they had to get moving before he told the lead wagon to start moving. He hoped that by making them feel ashamed every morning they might begin to learn. Calicar reached down and unclasped his water canteen from his belt; he took a small sip and screwed the lid back on. The water was getting slightly stale and he would have to replace it soon. He recalled that there was a water hole halfway between Lythor and Feureth, which was about two or three miles from here.
Jon and Ed would be back in an hour to give a report and he would see if they had found the waterhole. He rode back to the rearguard and made sure that all of them were in a good mood, and told them about the water hole a few miles on and the prospective break there. This seemed to make the men more relaxed because even they realised thirty men was a lot for just a mans’ possessions so they all expected an attack, this fear would have been heightened by Calicar’s use of scouts had he not used scouts on every assignment he had taken.
He then went to each man driving a wagon for if they did come under attack they would probably be the first to die as the wagon held all of the plunder. They seemed to be pretty relaxed and Calicar was thankful that they were not skittish or uneasy. They should arrive at Feureth by dusk if nothing went wrong. His main worry was that a wagon might break a wheel or get a wheel stuck in one of the many rivets and puddles of mud that littered the road.
He dismounted and went back down the carriages, making sure all his men were in their correct places. It was coming up to an hour since Jon and Ed had gone and Calicar hoped that they had found the water as he was getting thirsty and he did not want to drink the aging water in his canteen. As he looked over his men he felt uneasy, as though he was being watched. He loosened his sabre in its scabbard and almost fell when it got caught up in his cloak. He hated this stupid cloak, but as an officer he had his duties and he was a man who did his duties. He had never been quite sure why the Hodrun command had made him an officer. He was good with the men and he was well liked but he was not a born leader and he always wanted to just sit down and relax as he saw his men do every evening when they stopped but he had responsibilities and he saw to them in the correct fashion as an officer should. He looked at the sky and felt his unease grow when he noticed that it was now a quarter hour after the time Jon and Ed should have been back. He tried to let it go as they usually were late as they always managed to find a stag or hare, or they could have found the water hole and were waiting for the wagons to come and have a rest. If they were not at the water hole he would send men out to have a look for them.
He heard the distinctive sound of horseshoes on a dirt road and let out a sigh of relief. His scouts had come back and with any luck they would have some meat for tonight. As the sound grew in volume Calicar grew slightly worried. From the sounds coming from around the corner it sounded as if ten or more horses were there, but then again the thick foliage skirting the road made sounds play tricks on the ear. Even so Calicar placed his hand in his sabre’s pommel and tested it by pulling it out an inch or two to make sure it wasn’t stuck anywhere. He looked around and saw that his men had heard the noise and were as restless as him. His ten archers were stringing their bows and grasping one or two arrows from their back- quivers. The moment he saw the nose of the lead horse he heard a loud rustling of leaves from either side of the road and almost simultaneously arrows began to rain down on the thirty men on the road. Almost as soon as the arrows began to fall nine of his men went down with arrows lancing into sides and necks. His men scattered and hid under wagons and any other cover they could find.
Calicar drew his sabre as he saw a dozen riders round the bend. He felt the familiar anticipation of battle run through him and welcomed the felling it brought. He heard the battle cry of the Hodrun sound and he charged towards the group of riders. He raised his sabre above his head so that the point was turned towards the black-garbed assailants. As he reached them he sent a murderous cut at the closest which gave him a red smile from ear to ear. A few of his own cavalry had joined the fray and were slashing left and right at the enemy. The battle cry had changed to an inhuman roar but this only served to aid Calicar as it made the men around him seem scared, and scared men made mistakes. Calicar made a full turn on his horse and saw that he alone had survived the initial combat with the dozen black-garbed horsemen. Of that dozen only a few were left. A man to his right launched himself from his horse and swung at the mounted Hodrun officer. Calicar parried and watched as the man fell heavily on his head, rendering him unconscious. Still shaking from the parry, Calicar did not notice the blade flying towards his head until he was too late to stop it. He did the only thing he could and leapt from his horse.
Calicar rolled as he hit the ground and swore at the unconscious man to his left. What kind of suicidal man would jump at a mounted soldier? He stood and saw a horse bearing down on him. He slashed at its face as its rider made a lunge at Calicar, who swerved away from the blade. The horse reared and the rider fell from the saddle and landed heavily on the ground. Calicar heard the crunch of a bone breaking and knew that the man shouldn’t be getting up any time soon. He vaulted onto the jittering horse in time to parry a clumsy lunge sent at his chest that he countered by thundering a riposte at the man’s stomach that was only stopped by another man’s blade slamming into his own. The blow jarred Calicar’s whole blade causing him to almost drop it. He turned to the man and sent a two-handed swing at the man’s head. The man hastily brought up his sword that barely stopped the sabre as it cut towards him. Calicar could see the fear in the man’s eyes and it almost made him hesitate. He put the weight of his body against his blade and felt the swords begin to lower. Then he suddenly pulled back his blade, sweeping it round as the man fell forward after the pressure had gone. Calicar had caught the man off balance and he made full use of it. He brought his blade under the other man’s and cut across the man’s navel, parting the leather and skin alike. Blood began to flow but Calicar left the man, as an open gut was a mortal wound.
As Calicar swung the horse to face the remaining warriors, he felt it shudder and knew that the horse had had it. He swung himself out of the saddle and onto the ground. He turned to face the few remaining men as he brought his sabre to bear. He knew that he would never survive if he charged them himself, so he turned to the wagons. It was a slaughter, his men were scattered, in various states of death, most with arrows sticking out from various places. Men were rifling through the wagons and carriages, looking for something.
Calicar turned back to the riders only to see the dust their hooves had brought up. Calicar turned to the wagons and started to run. Everything felt as though it was slowing down as Calicar ran at the wagons. The archers were starting to run away and Calicar saw the chests in their arms. A few of the closest to Calicar didn’t have enough of a head start to get away. The first he reached raised his bow in defence but Calicaricar’s sabre cut straight through it and on through to the man’s head. Calicar spotted the body of Grenth, his first captain, slumped up against a caravan, and felt a lump in his throat. He saw that the archers were now too far away so he flung his blade at the nearest one. It sunk into the ground a few feet away from the man’s flying heels. Calicar fell to his knees and started to sob.
As the last few arrows fell while the archers covered their retreat Calicar saw that they had not spared one life. He walked among his dead and saw that his archers had been the first to die because the blood around the arrowheads was beginning to clot. A few men had tried to hide in the wagons themselves but they had had their throats cut. Calicar went to the third wagon from the front once he had looked over all the dead and slid underneath it. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the chest had been untouched. He pulled the key from a pouch on his belt and slid it into the hole on the left clasp. It turned easily and he moved to the right that was also well oiled although the key had to be turned anti-clockwise whereas the left had been clockwise.
Once both clasps were undone Calicar flicked them free of the locks and watched as the lid swung open and deposited a bundle of very fine black satin that was roughly head-size. Calicar knew that the satin covered something but it was not his way to delve into other peoples’ matters, so he left the object unwrapped. He pushed himself from under the wagon and once he was standing, placed the bundle under his cloak in one of two large pockets used to hold the large jars of Shifting Fire used by the Hodrun army against large groups of infantry. He walked over to one of the riders he had killed and crouched over the lifeless corpse. He saw that the headdress wasn’t attached to the rest of the man’s clothing so he pulled it free of the man’s head. He was bald and his entire head was covered by white face paint apart from around his eye sockets, nose and mouth. The overall effect was that of making the man’s head look like a skull. His eyes were then drawn to the dead man’s neck that boasted a necklace of teeth and claws from all kinds of beast. He even saw a few human teeth dangling from the leather. He moved to the next corpse and pulled the cloth from the man’s head he saw that he too had the face paint and necklace.
Calicar rose, walked over to his horse and slowly climbed into the saddle. He turned it back the way he had come and looked at the setting sun. He needed the militia of Lythor to come and take the wagons and dead back to Lythor to be dealt with in the proper fashion. Then he would set off for Feureth and deliver the object forty men had died for to its owner. He sighed and wondered what sort of item that that many men would die for and was almost tempted to remove the satin, but he remembered what the noble had said and stayed his hand.