Thank you all for your help with the poll, and for the few comments you all left. It was a great help in stirring the ol' pot, so to speak.
So, with no further ado....Thorn's Chronicle continues...Last quarter moon of the Leaves’ Turning (on or about Sviftmont 28, 997AC)
I raised my hand, palm outward. “Parley,” I said.
“What are you doing?” Gilliam asked. “There aren’t that many of them. We could—”
Varis closed his hand over Gilliam’s wrist, lowering his sword. “They would just as soon kill us as those girls, to get to Silva. We can’t defend any of them if we’re dead.”
“Thorn has the right of it.”
Bargle sat up straight, crossing his arms. “Parley? This is not war. Or a siege.” He laughed. “Besides, that only works between honorable men.” He motioned towards the girls, and several of the boltmen hoisted back the draw on their crossbows.
“This is the barony of Halaran, and thus is under the Grand Duke’s law, not the machinations of the Black Eagle,” I said. “We have most likely been gone longer than the Baron would have liked, and no doubt he has a contingent of men on the way here.”
Bargle turned to one of the men on horseback. “Lucas? Did you encounter anyone on the way here?”
“Some rabble along the road, hardly worth the effort to raise a sword,” said the man with a dismissive shrug.
“Yes, but as I said: rabble. Couldn’t have been more than townguardsmen.”
I felt my gut tighten a bit at that.
“See now, we’ll have plenty of time before Old Halaran sends ‘round another batch of guards. Plenty of time for us to be off and away from here, that is. Which means you do not have so much time.”
Bargle pointed at one of the girls. “You. Stand. Count 100. When you finish, another will stand and count.” He turned towards us. “You have until the last girl finishes counting to produce the little witch."
He turned back to the girl. “Why haven’t you started counting yet?”
She blanched, swallowed, then began to count in a weak voice.
“He’s going to what?” Ana asked, rising to her feet and throwing down her staff.
“Monstrous!” grumbled Kuric. He sputtered, then began what could only be a long string of colorful curses in his native tongue.
“Second girl is at 50,” Gilliam said, from his post at the doorway.
Silva was looking from one face to another, her brow furrowed in a blend of worry and frustration. It was obvious she knew something was wrong, but could not grasp what exactly was going on.
She slid to her feet from the bench, making her way across the floor to the doorway.
“Is that such a good idea?” Varis asked, moving to intercept her. She shook his hand off her shoulder, and he stepped back, but followed her as she peeked around one of the doors.
” she breathed. “Nieah, nieah, nieah!
” each repetition of the word grew stronger.
Varis followed her next glance, which was at the rubble-strewn floor. He caught her wrist as she reached for a stone.
“No!” he said. “Nieah!
” Their gazes locked.
“A fourth girl is up,” Gilliam reported.
Silva glanced out the doorway, then back up at Varis. She pushed against his grip again, but he tightened it.
” he said.
The look she gave him rivaled the chill of the blizzard earlier in the week. Then in a sudden flurry of movement, she stepped towards him, setting a foot behind one of his boots, pulling his arm awkwardly across his body. She leaned into him, and he let go of her wrist as he tripped backwards over her foot, landing hard flat on his back. Even from halfway across the room, we heard the hard “whoosh” as the fall knocked the breath from him.
She sat on him, kneeling hard on his sword arm, and snatched the long dagger from his belt. Varis barely had the breath to cry out as her knee ground into the soft part of his wrist.
” she said, leaping to her feet and dashing past Gilliam.
“Why didn’t you stop her?” Varis wheezed, rolling awkwardly to his hands and knees.
“She had your knife! And I shudder to think what she’d do with it if she can do that barehanded. I’d like to keep all my fingers, thank you,” Gilliam said, following the girl out the door at a respectable distance.
We followed, Ana helping the injured Brynne.
The steady counting of the sixth girl stopped, and all the girls stood, calling to Silva to go back as she stumbled to a halt halfway to them.
Bargle, however, broke into a great, beaming smile, clapping as he dropped to his feet from the saddle.
“Well, hello, little miss,” he said, with a friendly wave, starting towards her.
Silva stared at him, as a cat watches a larger dog.
“Oh, come now. No need for any of that,” he said, still smiling. He held a hand out for the girl, inviting her to take it. “Come along, we’re here to take you back to your father.”
She stepped backwards, keeping the distance between them. She stopped when he did, her gaze still wary. She clutched the knife harder in her left hand.
Bargle beckoned her towards him, making a show of keeping his hands away from the knives at his belt.
“Come along, now,” he said, the smile straining, a bit of an edge slipping into his voice.
Silva shook her head. “Nieah
When the bard took a step forward, she held her ground, but dropped into a fighter’s stance, knife pointed towards the man. Gilliam whistled.
“Seems our petite flower has a few thorns,” he said.
“I could have told you that,” Varis wheezed, still massaging his wrist, where an ugly bruise was starting to form.
“Its quite obvious we are at a standstill,” I said. “If you tip the balance any further, there will be bloodshed. Some of it could be yours, from the looks of it.”
The bard turned away from Silva, his hands up in surrender. He looked up at us.
“I am a reasonable man,” he said.
“I’ve heard that line before,” Gilliam muttered. The bard scowled at him.
“It is quite obvious
that you haven’t the slightest idea what it is you are dealing with here,” he said. “So, now that I have the girl, you may go.” He waved a hand dismissively. The lances swung up, and the horses nearest the path off the plateau sidestepped out of the way.
“Go on. Run away. Shoo,” he said, making fluttering motions with his fingers. “If all you want to save here is a handful of giggling little girls, then please, please
,” he leaned heavily on the word, “take them with you as well while my men and I do what we have to to secure the Duchy and the entirety of the Known World.”
Show of hands as to who believes our buddy Bargle...?