He was going to kill them. Pouring rain blinded his one good eye, and his knuckles bled from each time he’d caught himself from sliding down the rocky slopes of the god-forsaken wasteland. By Bema, as soon as he survived the oncoming night and got back, he would string each and every one of them up over the span of the bridge.
Traitorous bastards. He had seen it coming, of course. Five month before, when he had allowed the six brigands to join his band, he knew. They pulled their weight and abided by the laws, but it was the subtle things that had set them apart and put a target on Ildric’s back. How many of his own men had followed their lead? He did not doubt that no small number of them resented him for one thing or another, and hearing of his supposed death Ildric could assume that many of them would follow the brigands simply because they were stronger.
By now the night had turned black, and only the occasional lightning strike gave him light to see where he was going. There was no shelter, and he knew there were no homesteads or villages within fifty miles. He knew which way was south, though, so he drug himself up to the top of a hill to avoid the inevitable flooding, and moved forward.
Any concept of time was lost as the storm continued to rage on around him. Ildric’s head throbbed with a terrible pain, and it was only the prospect of vengeance that kept him warm. They will hang. They will hang, served as the beating drums that kept his feet moving. More time passed, and he shook his head as the rhythm came to life, growing louder with each heavy step. He stopped… and the beat continued to sound. And it turned into two sets of drums, then three, then seven. A flash of lightening illuminated the hill he stood on, and the seven orcs that had stopped mere yards away.
“Look at this, lads! We go’ ourselves supper!”
Never pray to Bema. Got it. Ildric pulled out his boot knife, and waited.
“‘e’s as big as us!” growled an exceptionally gnarly beast who had began to flank him. “Maybe we can pit ‘im against some of the others fer sport before we divy ‘im up.”
A chorus of snarls and guttural laughs sounded around him in agreement. One of the shorter orcs who appeared to be in charge paced closer to Ildric. “What do you have to say to that, human?”
Lightning flashed, and Ildric spat at the creature. “What are you waiting for? Talk is worthless!” He flipped the knife in his hand and lept forward to strike at the orc who had left himself wide open.
Another light flashed, but came from behind him, and it wasn’t lightening. It was fire. The light blinded the orc he rushed, giving him the second he needed to send the screeching beast’s body rolling down the hill. More explosions of light, and screaming orcs. Holding up a hand to shield his good eye from the wind and rain, Ildric looked back in time to see the flare of a long cloak, and a blazing sword disappear into the last orc.
What the —
“Are you all right?”
A female? “Yeah. I’m all right. Where the hell did you come from?”
A horse appeared by the hooded figure; a trick Ildric decided instantly that he should master. “The North.”
“Where are you going?”
Ildric grunted. “Bloody coincidence.”
The figure hopped up onto her horse, and Ildric caught sight of pointed ears as she adjusted her hood. “Need a ride?”
Not bothering to answer, Ildric grasped the hand she offered to him, and swung up to sit behind her. He’d have to apologize to Bema after this.
“What’s your name?”
“For now, just Ravi will do.” She wheeled her horse around, and the animal moved into a sure-footed canter. “Yours?”
“For now, Vrax will do.”
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Do you understand me, boy?”
The lad could not summon enough courage to look up at the towering man. He just stared down at the first of six long nooses that hung over the ruined bridge that spanned the Greyflood. He nodded.
Ildric lifted a hand, and his lieutenant waiting on the southern platform began to approach. “You will be taken to be branded, to remind you of your crime and what will happen if you commit another offense. Do you understand me?” he asked again.
The lad swallowed hard, and finally looked up at him. “Yes, sir. I understand.” He then dipped his head to follow after the lieutenant.
Ildric sighed, and rolled his eyes. He should never have let the man become his bloody secretary. “What, Reed?”
“The party from the west came in. You got a letter from the witch.”
Ildric’s brows rose, and he pivoted to face the man. “Oh? Well, where is it.”
Reed blinked and looked about as sheepish as a sixty year old man could. “Ehh… I-It’s um… in y-your tent, sir.”
Strong hands clasped behind his back, Ildric gave the man an annoyed look. “Idiot. Ran out here empty handed? You’re getting too old.”
“Don’t need to tell me that,” Reed huffed, scratching at the back of his greying head of hair. A rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. “Damn. Looks like there’ll be rain.”
Ildric’s lips curled in a smirk as he gazed past the ruined tops of buildings. “Nah. You know better than that, Reed. Remember? A storm on Monday means good luck.”