Cuana Chapter 10 Entry 4

Arrows still rained about us as we abandoned the remnants of the raft and beat a quick path into the woods. The two uninjured women were starting to show signs of regaining a portion of their cognizance, but the one who had been struck by the arrow while crossing the river was barely conscious and would need to be carried if she was to survive. I made sure my sword was secure in its scabbard and then carefully hoisted the woman and laid her over my shoulder. I decided that I would not allow her to die out here in this wilderness, and that I was going to do my utmost to help get these survivors to somewhere where they could at least have a fighting chance of survival. That was going to be difficult to accomplish because we were deep into very dangerous territory and getting deeper into the Pictish lands all the time. The Hyrkanian was having visions, recurring messages in his dreams – induced, he believes, by the staff he carried – that told of an urgency to get to an unfamiliar village and rescue a woman that was being held there. By the sound if it, we are guessing that this would be the Lady Coelia, who we learned had been taken by the Picts from the letter we found upon the slain messenger two days ago. We had a lot to accomplish and a long way to travel before the women would truly be safe.

Tullweim put his forestry skills to good use, obliterating our trail behind us as we moved deeper into the woods. He did not have long to worry about doing so, because we soon stumbled upon a trail that we could follow. It was plain to see that there had been many people walking this path recently, so any tracks we left would appear to most to have been made along with the others. The Hyrkanian stepped up to the trail with a look of amazement on his face, stating in a rather ominous tone that he had seen this trail in his dreams. Suddenly I was struck by an arrow as several of them came flying in from the trees. I hastily laid the woman I had been carrying down and drew my blade as a handful of the savages came crashing onto the trail. The one nearest me only lived a couple of seconds after emerging from the woods, his life spraying out in a crimson torrent as my blade tore through his subhuman flesh. Dhak and Tullweim had dealt with their attackers quickly as well and were in the process of helping up Xacksmith from the ground as I was sheathing my sword and lifting the woman over my shoulder once again. The Picts that had fired the arrows could be heard retreating deeper into the forest.

We traveled without further incident until nearly sunset when we came upon a village, obviously Pictish, surrounded by a moat and palisade. The Hyrkanian told us that this was the village he had been seeing in his dreams, that there was a woman of noble bearing that was being held here and who must be rescued or the civilized lands to the east would fall. The Stygian moved to the left in a wide arc, keeping low in the tall grass and moving to a vantage point well off to the side. we really did not have much of a plan prepared, so we decided to attempt a parley with the Shaman named Machk to make an offer of the staff in exchange for the woman. Being the only among us who is familiar with the Pictish tongue, I would do the talking.

The three of us approached the gate but were soon challenged by a sentry. I demanded to speak with their Shaman, but my demand was returned with a sneer. I repeated my demand, this time naming Machk specifically as the Shaman with whom I would speak. That drew a reaction from the sentry, who called back into the fortress for his superior. Moments later a small group appeared in the open gate, none of which were the Shaman. Once again I stated my desire to speak with Machk, and was answered by what was likely their version of a sergeant. I was told that Machk was away, and asked what business I had with the Shaman. I told him of my intent to trade the staff for the woman, but he simply laughed and said he planned to keep the woman and take the staff from us. My reply was for him to come and take it if he could, taking the liberty of adding a few insults regarding both his sexuality and his mother in the translation. He hollered back into the fort and more of the savages came into view, walking out to stand with him at the gate. Another was with them, one that I recognized right away – Baraccus! Seeing that bastard here changed everything. Now we not only had to try to free the woman being held hostage but also we were honor bound to take Baraccus and turn him over to the authorities in Oriskonie province. Adding to the outrage, that pile of pig shit boasted of how he sold out the people of Schondara to the savages, providing them vital information while misleading the settlers into thinking that they were, at least for the moment, safe from attack. His taunt was cut short though as the Stygian popped up from his place of concealment in the tall grass and loosed a shaft that sunk deep into his traitorous hide. With that, the savages at the gate attacked us, some charging, the others firing their crude arrows with minimal effect.

Like a miniature horde they bore down upon us, first knocking down the Nordheimer, and then a moment later I was knocked onto my back as well. I was completely surrounded and was still trying to recover from the numerous wounds I had taken over the last few days. I decided that if I was to die, it would be on my feet and not hacked to bits while flailing away on my back in a futile effort to dodge their blows. I stood up, ignoring their continued attacks as best as I could until I could get my legs solidly braced beneath me, and began to cut them down, bellowing incoherently as pure bloodlust overcame my senses. With each swing of my blade one of the whoresons crumbled into the grass, never to again draw breath. I counted five of them down before I took a stride to where three more were clustered together near where Tullweim was struggling on the ground, himself surrounded and under assault. These three died as quickly as the others had, and I turned to face Baraccus as he advanced upon me. He tried to trip me up and send me sprawling onto my back again, but his muscles lacked the strength to overcome me. Knowing that he was about to join the group of savages whose blood was still pouring out onto the sward, he turned tail and fled for the safety of the village gate, the last of the surviving Picts hot on his heels in their flight to seek refuge from our fury. I gave chase, unwisely perhaps, because a hail of arrows from the gate took me down, not killing me but pushing me past the limit of punishment that I was able to endure after having suffered so many wounds over the last few days. Darkness enveloped me like a warm blanket and I slept.

The Nordheimer roused me to consciousness after quickly patching me up and applying a light field dressing to some of my more grievous wounds. I stood up and looked around, seeing none of the savages about and concluding that the last few had fled to the safety of the village beyond the palisade. The Hyrkanian and Stygian had already slipped into the village, and Tullweim told me that we would be going in through the front gate. That is exactly what we did. I thought it odd seeing no sentry posted at the entrance to the village, especially since they knew that attackers were still outside the gate. We had only taken a few steps when we were set upon by a creature such as I have never before seen. Whether demon from hell or crafted from wizardry, the thing was vileness itself. A parody of a human being, its body was normal enough. The head and claws however were those of a panther, its attack vicious and swift. Steel cut it as easily as if it were man however, and the frenzied slashes dealt by both me and the indomitable northman sent its soul screaming back to hell. Turning to look upon the crowd gathered in what might pass for a typical village square, I saw a shaman or witch doctor chanting and undulating in bizarre fashion before several victims tied to large posts. As the enchanter raised his voice in ululation, one of the bound victims began to cry out, the voice taking on a hideous timbre as he was transformed into another of the were-cats we had just slain.

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Cuana Chapter 10 Entry 4

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