The road they were on was quiet, and not really much more than a trail. The people that lived out here were mostly farmers. There was a smattering of villages strewn out as they went, but for the most part they were just small collections of homes and storage barns for the goods that would later be brought to the larger towns for sale. It was a meager living, but one that had persisted for generations.
If one was lucky they might find a family that could provide a small meal and a barn to lie in for the night for little coin. Occasionally there might be a tavern or store in one of the larger ones, but most of the goods that did come in were from traveling merchants. The area was relatively safe as well. There was little out here that even the bandits stayed away. That didn’t mean there weren’t any, but the likely hood of running across them was low.
Most of the people that Angilik and Nina saw were travelers like themselves. A quick nod as they passed each other was all that was given. When one was out here and traveling it was best not to ask why. It was assumed they were on their way to conduct business in the next town, but those with things to hide were not unheard of out here either.
It was best not to ask questions that might get one involved in things they had no interest in. That was the way that the woman wanted it. So they continued on their own way and kept to themselves. The thing about robbers though was that when they were encountered they were usually more vicious than those found in the inner kingdom. Probably because they had more time to do what they wanted, there were no King’s patrols this far out. Not to mention the people had less to take, so they usually had everything taken, including their lives.
If one was unlucky enough to be robbed closer to the cities it was usually just for their coin. Out here, even your shoes could be valuable. That was what Angilik knew from her time before her father died and the tales that many of these very same villagers would tell at the markets he did business at. When she saw them, she motioned for Nina to stop. They went off the trail to a nearby cluster of trees.
“What is it?” Nina asked.
“There are bandits ahead.”
“You saw them?”
“They were surrounding a wagon, with what looked like a family on it.”
“How did I miss it?”
“You were dozing off, you didn’t get as much sleep as me and were up early.”
“I guess I was. Anyway, what about them? We just let them finish and be on our way.”
“We have to help those people, they’ll be killed.”
“It will bring attention on us.”
“If we don’t they will still be there, the bandits and we’ll have to deal with them when we try to pass.”
“How many of them were there?”
“I don’t know for sure, at least four. Now would be good anyway, we have surprise. I’m not sure if we could take them on by ourselves straight on.”
“If you insist.”
The two talked a bit more. Then Nina headed back to the trail and headed towards the wagon. Angilik used the trees to get a little closer before she dismounted. Then she grabbed her bow and quiver before getting close to the edge of the tree line where she would be in range of the bad men.
As Nina got closer, she saw a small child in the back of the wagon looking over the edge and at her. Two horses were attached to the front, scrawny looking things. She immediately felt sorry for the family. They had very little and these men wanted to take it all from them. The bandits still did not see her, they were all on the trail surrounding the wagon. She had her hand on her sword which was concealed under her cloak.
One of them finally saw her and let the others know. She drew closer. “Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt your conversation, but I was wondering if you could tell me how far it is to the next town?”
The group of bandits, now five by her count, looked confused. Finally, one of them spoke. “Not far enough. You have stumbled upon something you shouldn’t have.”
“A private party? I’m sorry. I was just going to pass by. Don’t mind me.”
“You don’t seem to understand. We aren’t going to let you pass.”
“I understand perfectly. You are busy robbing these people and now you feel obligated to add me to the mix.”
The bandit who spoke to her scowled now. He looked at the two compatriots nearest him. “Get this wench and see what she has, but keep her alive, we can have some fun when we are done with the rest.” The two complied and turned their horses toward her. They trotted slowly. Nina was stopped on her horse. When they got closer she nudged her steed into a trot.
She charged towards them. Now her sword came out. She raised it and swung at the bandit on her right. The blade came down and made contact with his neck. He was holding a smaller blade but seemed surprised when she made contact with hers. Blood splattered across her face as his head limped down from the blow.
The rider on her left was not far behind. She pulled her sword back and prepared to wield it to the other side. Before she could though she felt the disruption of air near the left side of her head. She knew that an arrow had been volleyed by Angilik. It found its mark in the chest of the other bandit as designated by his body being tossed back out of his saddle. It landed with a thud on the ground. He did not move.
Nina continued, now in full gallop, towards the remaining three villains. The sudden demise of their associates startled them. The one that had been talking to Nina was closest, right in front of the wagon. He just sat there on his horse. Nina went past him on his left. When she passed, he fell to the ground, or at least his arm did. The rest of him followed as he bled out and started screaming in pain.
The other two turned their mounts and started to flee. Nina chased one that was just behind the wagon and started to run as soon as the felled the first bandit. The other was fleeing off in the opposite direction. By this time though Angilik had emerged from the trees on her horse and chased the second one.
Nina’s horse may have been traveling a lot the past week, but he was a purebred and was much healthier than the mount the bandit had, which she assumed was just a poor work horse he had acquired illicitly. So, it was easy to catch him and dispatch the weak man. Angilik had a much larger gap to close, but she didn’t have to since she was just as good with a bow mounted as she was on the ground. When she got close enough she let her horse drive itself as she notched an arrow and aimed in.
He didn’t even see her do all of this during his glances back. He seemed to think he was getting away. But the arrow that followed disagreed. Soon it joined him, finding a place in his back. The sudden impact caused him to pull back on the reins of his mount causing it to reel. He fell backwards to the ground. The fall forcing what remained of the arrow outside of his body to go into it.
The woman slowed and retrieved the now empty mounts. They were able to search the bodies as well before returning to the wagon where the family, consisting of three children and their parents just sat in terror. Angilik was the first back. “You don’t have to worry, we won’t harm you.” They just looked at her for a moment.
“Where did you come from?” the man asked.
“You don’t need to know that. But you do have something to worry about.”
The nervous woman spoke, “What is that?”
“How you are going to get all these horses to where you are going.” This seemed to relieve the tension in the air and the family seemed to relax now. Nina was there now. She had retrieved all of the other horses after searching the bodies.
“I really do want to know how far to the next town.”
It took a moment, but the man laughed now. “About two days ride, well for us. So, a day maybe for you?”
“Thank you,” Nina replied. “I counted about thirty gold among them all, we’ll take ten of it, if that’s fine with you.”
The man looked confused. “Why wouldn’t you just take it all?”
“We don’t need it all, and from everything that you have in the wagon I assume you are moving, so you need it more than us.”
“You saved our lives. You can have anything we have.”
“That’s nice of you, but we’re good. Just make it to where you are going and have a good life.” Nina replied as she tossed a bag of coins to him. “Get these horses tied as well, they should fetch a little bit at market as well.”
“One more thing,” Angilik said.
“Anything,” the woman said.
“You never saw us. I know you might have to explain things, but just say we had on hoods or something and that you couldn’t even tell who we were.”
The family nodded. Then the pair headed down the trail towards the next town.
I was born in a room in a time long gone. Raised by wolves is what I would like to say, but it was a rather more boring upbringing, just my father and brother. Soon a step mother and three sisters were added, thus my torture began. From there I just ventured forth into the world and sought my fortune.
At first that fortune was elusive. It led me to college on a scholarship that I eventually squandered away after three semesters. With choices limited I joined the military to seek adventure across the world. I did not find that, instead I found a desk to type at and a failed marriage. School beckoned me once again though and I did manage to finish what I failed to do before entering the service. With two degrees in hand I returned home to continue the search for my fortune.
After a couple of years of dead end jobs and other jobs that made the military seem easy, I went back to the world of orders and salutes to satiate my need for gainful employment. My timing could not have been better either. The fall of 2001 was when I decided to go back and I was needed, to do more typing. Then my chance to shine came when we departed for Iraq. I was decidedly the best typer on that trip.
Now I was married again to my future ex-wife #2, and had a clone in tow, so I decided to try something else. And by that I mean change jobs in the service. So they made me infantry. It was a whole new world, no more typing for me, I would be out in front doing the good work. So they put me in charge of a bunch of people and I got to arrange training, personnel files and much more, in other words, more typing. At least this time I actually got to go and see other parts of the world. It was not my total dream, but part of it.
That dream though seemed to include more beaches and fancy drinks. Going to foreign lands where people liked to shoot at you was not part of my dream. Then again I did not have everything down in detail, and like they say, be careful what you wish for. So while in the cradle of civilization I sought to learn more and started my first graduate degree in Education. I thought maybe if I learned to educate I could teach myself how stupid I was.
After my journeys to exotic locales I left the service, this time for good I would not be fooled again, and finished my next degree. At this time I found myself a bit uneasy about certain things I had been through while in the land of plenty and sought out help for these feelings. Our resident representatives of the government were less then helpful in this regard so I had to go on my own.
This meant getting another piece of paper in a field that I could use to help myself, so I choose another graduate degree in Psychology. This one was fun and revealing. By the end of it I had found actual help and was on the road to wellness, or as close as I could figure. It was also the time at which my future ex-wife decided to wander off the farm. So with that in mind, I grabbed the small version of me, loaded up my car and yet again ventured forth to see if this fortune thing was actually out there. I ended back where I started, in Michigan. I thought a while, I decided I like to write, so why not go back to school for that.