The soldiers looked around the scene, surveying the dead men, speculating, tromping all over the place and generally destroying any hope of finding a trail.
Nearyby a tall, darkskinned man watched. Clad in flowing multi-colored robes and a burka, he had the look of a hawk about him. Black, fierce eyes, a hooked nose and full beard gave him an exotic, dangerous countenance. He was just that.
Hamas ben Hafalli was one of the best trackers alive, a warrior of renown in his own land, and had been brought here at great price. He studied the soldiers with ill-disguised contempt.
Children, farmers and sell-sword infidels they were, not worthy of a man of his stature. Still, the Sheik had commanded, and he had obeyed. The old woman who had come to their Hasak in the mountains must have great powers indeed. Women were for breeding and little else, but the Sheik had actually shown fear in her presence.
Many things to ponder. But not here. He now knew why he was here. His smile was cruel with anticipation. His old enemy had surfaced again. This time Hamas ben Hafal would have revenge.
The infidel general looked at him impatiently. "Well, you're the damned expert" he growled. "Get to tracking this man".
Hamas shook his head. "There will be no tracks, Sahib".
The general looked confused. Hamas smiled that evil smile of his.
"Ill Nuchor is here. And Ill Nuchor makes no tracks".
"Well, by God, go find him"! the general roared. Hamas nodded and bowed.
"That I will, Sahib. But until I do, may Allah have mercy on your men". He turned and walked of into the hills.
e-Berry could hear them coming. They were making no attempt to be quiet. They were, in fact talking, rattling their armor and announcing their passage to the whole world.
There were six of them, all on foot, carrying swords, shields and a couple of spears. Ordinary soldiers wearing leather armor, they didn't look especially tough.
"I haven't seen a soul", one complained.
"Well, they said there was a third one around here somewhere".
"Yeah" another chimed in. "Supposed to be a woman. We'll grab her and have a little fun, huh"?
May 10th, 2003, 07:57 PM
Far across the other side of the pass, Cadragon flew low to the ground, disgguising his outline against the high valley sides... finally reaching his position... he landed upon an out crop of rock and with a smimmer becomes human once more...
May as well get comfortable he thinks, sitting down in a cleft in the rocks..Just gotta wait for the big Dude to strat the fireworks now...
Below him... he can see men moving away from his position as they advance on both Strangers and e-Berry's... I just hope to God you are right about this you old Celt... three against 400 is not my idea of a party.... His thought are interupted by the arrival of a Raven, that perches on the rocks above him. It eyes him with one black eye...
"I see..." he says aloud to it..."So she is here as well... now I am ready to party!"
Hamas ben Hafal watched the sentry, his eyes constantly scanning the rocks, looking at nothing, but seeing everything.
It was a quarter moon and a light fog hung low in the hills, just the right kind of night for Ill Nuchor. He would come. Hamas knew he would come. And when he did, old scores would be settled.
His eyes finally caught what he was looking for. "Ah, my old enemy, you are good", he breathed. He saw not the man, had seen no movement, not even a twitch. But a patch of ground was out of place. He looked again carefully. Yes, a half hour ago that clump of ground had been about ten yards uphill.
He watched with the detached interest of a fellow professional. He could not help but admire the skills Ill Nuchor brought to this deadly game.
When the attack came, it was like the strike of a cobra; sudden, a blur of movement, silent and instant death. The man never knew he had died.
"You always did prefer the knife", Hamas whispered. He should know. All of his brothers had died under that knife. Tonight Allah would reward him with a long overdue vengence. Hamas ben Hafal began his own stalking.
Well, Old Cadfael wasn't long in getting what he'd been waiting for.
The Stranger had located their base camp and paid them a little visit that night. Dawn brought a surprise for the general and his band of amateur soldiers.
The early risers stumbled around sleepily, getting the cook fires stoked and morning chow going. They didn't notice anything until one of the cooks went to rouse one of his spud shuckers. Blood was everywhere, all around the head- only the head wasn't there.
Well, that old boy let out a scream that woulda woke the dead and the camp came alive, what I'm tellin' you.
Everbody wuz already nervous about the previous night's killins' and it didn't take much to make them come unglued.
They wuz about fifty men in this particular camp, and they got to runnin' round hollerin' and carryin' on. All told, they found one sentry dead and six headless in their sleepin' rolls.
"By the gods, he come right into camp", one said, his voice atremble. "Thet ain't natural. Hit jest ain't natural". Them boys was spooked, sho nuff, but the kicker was when one of 'em hollered out,
Oh my GOD, he got one of the Mages"! They all come arunnin', and there he was: tall skinny thing with a long white beard, strung up from a tree limb, bare-ass nekked.
"Arrrggghhh! My God, he cut his THANG off"!
Well, that done it. "I ain't stayin' here, I don't care what thet general says"!
The Captain tried to get 'em in line. "You soldiers, At Ease! Enough of this! Fall In"!
"Screw you"! one of 'em said, and ran him through with a spear.
Well, old Cad wuz asittin' up in them rocks, half-dozin, waitin' to see what would happen, when they come piling out of the rocks hell for leather. Some of 'em hadn't even grabbed their weapons, they wuz in such a hurry.
He saw the first go down, one of them heavy blunt tips in the back, driving him to the ground like a hoss kicked him.
"He's up there, he's up there in the rocks"!
"Let's get him"!
"F--K YOU. You get him! I'm outta here"!
May 11th, 2003, 12:37 PM
The Captains tries desperately to get the men under some kind of order... but he is knocked to the ground as the men rush in panic back towards the narrow pass leading out of the valley. One or two stand their ground untill a huge black raven circles over their heads... screaming out a death dirge...
"AAeeeeee... the Morrigan!" men cry from the paniced ranks... "The death bird..." this is too much for the terrified men, especially when a figure breaks from the ground by the captain, and thrust a knife into his throat, before twirling away into the night.
In a mad stampede they run for their lives... making a sign of warding to the circling Raven...
Above the pass, Cadfael sees the tide of terrified men head back his way... every so often one of the stragglers dropping to the ground with an arrow in his back. He closes his eyes and lets Cadragon take shape... his mind already anticipating the killing...
The men reach the head of the pass, and Cadragon roars his hatred above them.... the stampede slows, and the leading men look into the face of a nightmare... and then Cadragon belches flame over the leading men... who are unable to escape because of the mad crush behind them...
At the back of the mass of paniced men... e-Berry closes in... picking the men of like apples from a tree... Cadragon drops from the cliff and blocks the pass... slowly advancing... flame leading his way. One brave mage begins to mutter an incantation, the soldier stood by him steps forward and thrust his dagger into his back, before once more melting into the mass of heaving men.
Cadfael's attack was devastating. Their screams were drowned in his roars and flames. He advanced on them an implacable, unstoppable force.
But then came a rush of sound, a shadow blotted out the sky. Cad turned and was slammed to the ground, huge, razor-like teeth in his throat, monstrous claws raking his hard scales, penetrating, drawing fountains of blood. A gout of flame erupted in his face.
Suddenly the great Dragon Lord was locked in a death struggle.
Cadragon's wind is knocked from his huge lungs as he is slammed into the hard ground, followed by pain as talons dig into his neck searching for the velverable spot below his jaw. He twist in his enemies grip, scrabbling for puchase with his own talons into the scales of the other dragon... then his world becomes agony as flames lick across his face... instictivly his eys close before he is blinded.
Laying half on his back, with a massive effort he throws the other dragon aways from him and painfully raises himself to his feet. The other dragon is coiled... waiting to spring. They both circle each other, neither of them mindfull of the death their lashing barbed tail deliver to the surouding troops trying to find a way past the combatant, to escape through the narrow pass.
"Who are you?" Cadragon's breath is rasping from the damage to his neck..."tell me your name before you die"
"I am no dragon you know" the Black Dragon replies "nor is it important..." With these words the dragons springs... Cadragon quickly rolls to his left and come up with his talon already slashing... tearing one huge black wing to tatters...
May 11th, 2003, 05:42 PM
The Black roared his pain, causing a minor rockslide. Spinning, his great tail caught Cad on a hind leg, high in the muscle.
Good thing for Cad he was big and mature, else the leg would have snapped. As it was, it knocked him sideways.
The Black took the opportunity to get airborne, thinking to use the height. The wing was in bad shape and hampered him.
Even at that, he got off a blast of fire, again right in Cad's face.