The smell woke me. When I opened my eyes I saw Jim stirring a large pot over the fire. He'd decided to cook again. I contemplated going back to sleep but in the end I decided that with that foul concoction bubbling away in the middle of the camp I didn't stand a chance.
"Morning Dave," said Jim. "Glad to see you decided to join us." For some reason Jim thought sarcasm was funny. Probably the same thing that made him think he could cook.
"What you cooking?" I asked as I sat up.
"Breakfast." He said with a grin. "A traditional combination of Venison and wild fruits."
"Oh God," I looked across the camp desperately hoping I was wrong. "Not the rest of that old Muntjac?"
"Yep, Muntjac, quince and some wild garlic." He lifted the spoon to take a sip. It never got there. An arrow appeared in his chest and he fell to the ground.
I scrabbled for my crossbow but I was too slow. Three men walked into the camp, two of them pointing their loaded bows at me.
"Nice and slowly my friend." Said the unarmed man. "Keep your hands where we can see them and stand up."
I did as he said. I didn't see that I had much choice in the matter.
"Now turn round." He said.
As I did I dropped my hands to my sides. They didn't seem to care. As slowly as I could I edged my knife from under my belt. It was small, but it had saved my life more times than I could remember.
"Kneel down." Said the voice again, this time closer.
I dropped to one knee and then paused.
"Both knees," he said. I could almost feel him behind me. With a twist I dropped flat to the floor and flashed my knife out towards his groin. An arrow flew over me and he dropped with a squeal clutching at the fountain of blood bursting from his femoral artery.
One down, two to go.
In an instant I was on my feet, diving for cover. An arrow grazed my cheek as I grabbed the pot from over the fire. With a swing I sprayed boiling meat over the remaining two men, one of them fell forwards into the fire and in a second he was a mass of flames. It was my lucky day.
The last man pulled a long bladed machete from his belt.
Perhaps I wasn't so lucky after all. My little belt knife wasn't going to help me much at all.
I smiled at him.
"A nice day to die," I said. He didn't reply, just edged closer towards me. His blade snaking through the air. I backed away. Just keep coming I thought.
The screams from the burning man were setting my teeth on edge but at least his companion was quiet. They didn't seem to bother the machete man. As he stepped closed to me he sneered.
"You can't back away for ever." He said.
"I don't have to," I replied as Jim buried his axe in the man's head.
"You took your time." I accused.
"You spilt my stew,"
"Muntjac, quince and garlic?" I asked. "You didn't really expect me to eat it did you?"
"No," he sighed, pulling the arrow out from his gambeson. "I suppose not."