Betrayal Among Thieves
Chapter 7 of Betrayal’s Hands continues below! This time exploring the concept of honor among thieves, or lack thereof.
“We’re being followed, boss,” one of the bandits said.
They’d broken camp early the next morning and moved out. Teri’s feet were blistered from walking barefoot. The man that served as a tail scout glanced at Teri, accusation in his eyes. She pretended not to see him, and wondered if her father had followed her.
“How many?” Krev, the half-ogre leader, asked.
“More than I could count, boss!” The scout told him, trying to sound impressive.
Krev barked out a harsh laugh. “You can’t count higher than 10, Bernerd!”
Bernerd shrugged and said, “There’s more than that. It’s her they’s after, boss. Cut her up and leave her behind, lets us get away!”
“Get back there, fool,” Krev snarled at him. “She’s our hostage if we can’t fight them off.”
Bernerd retreated, shooting another angry glare at her. Krev yanked on the rope around Teri’s hands and pulled her stumbling up next to him. “Who are you, my pretty? No tutor brings armed guards in pursuit.”
“I was well liked by the children,” Teri lied. She was miserable but she didn’t dared cry out and let them know where she was. Doing so would earn her punishment from her father, plus a return her to a life she dreaded. Not doing so didn’t fill her with much hope though, upon looking at the giant that walked beside her.
Krev harrumphed and kept walking. The bandits made good time, knowing the land well, but still the soldiers pursued. It became apparent after most of the day had been spent on the march that they wouldn’t lose them. The Kingdom trackers were too good.
“Boys, we fight,” Krev said, calling them to a halt for a short rest.
“Let’s split up, boss,” big-nose said. “Go our own ways, then we meet up at the caves again when we can. They can’t go after us all. They want the girl anyhow!”
“You think they’ll be happy to get her back? They’ll be after us all then, killing us one at a time. We stand a better chance together than apart. They’re no better off than merchant guards.”
A few of the men grumbled, but most remained silent. Krev nodded. “Good, it’s settled then. Here’s what we’ll do…”
The big half-ogre outlined a plan of attack for them to use, setting up an easy ambush. He retired to the rear and tied Teri to another tree. “Cry out and someone will be here to cut you down before rescue can be dreamt of,” he promised her.
Teri’s eyes were wide with fear, but she nodded. “I don’t want to go back,” she said truthfully.
“You’d rather stay with us?” Krev’s eyes were wide. “Among rapists, killers, thugs, and thieves?”
It took a moment, but Teri nodded again, tears spilling down her cheeks. Krev’s brow furrowed as he tried to figure her out. Then he shook his head and said, “Remember what I said!”
He was gone then, disappearing into the woods faster than Teri thought someone of his size could. She waited, alone with only her tree for company, for several long minutes. Distantly through the trees she heard the sounds of battle. A horse whinnied. A man screamed. There were the sounds of bowstrings being loosed and metal striking against metal. She twitched and jumped at each, wondering desperately what was happening and wondering who she hoped would win.
The sounds of battle raged for some time, and then began to die down. Or instead of dying down, they became more scattered. Some crashing through a nearby thicket made her breath freeze in her throat. She clung to the tree as though it could protect her when the man emerged from the thorns, scratched, bleeding, and cursing. He caught sight of her immediately. It was Sven.
“There you are,” he said, spitting with his vehemence. “I’m going to take what’s mine from you, bitch!”
He stomped over to her and grabbed her when she tried to slide around the tree she’d been lashed to. He pulled her out and she bit at him, frantically trying to escape. He cursed and backhanded her across the face, splitting her lip and sending blood and spittle flying.
He grabbed her again now that she was stunned and tore at her dress, trying to yank it off. He’d just caught sight of her pearly breasts when he was suddenly lifted off the ground and slammed sidelong into the tree. He hit the ground and looked about, trying to register what had happened to him. He spit out something hard out of his mouth, drooling blood as he did so. It was a tooth.
“I told you she was mine!” Krev said, grabbing hold of one foot in both hands and swinging him around. He crashed into a different tree, doubling over and falling to the ground. There were audible snaps as several of his ribs were shattered.
“Come, we have to go,” Krev said to Teri. He produced a dagger that might have served as a sword for her and sliced through her rope.
“What of your men?” Teri asked, staring at where Sven lay and wondering if he was dead.
“They’re either dead or running. We killed most of the soldiers, but they were too many,” He answered her shortly, not in the mood for explanations.
Teri limped and nearly buckled trying to walk upon her tortured feet. Krev frowned and picked her up, tossing her over his shoulder and then setting off in a rapid stride. She looked up behind her and saw Sven’s hand clawing at the tree, trying to gain a grip so he could use it to help pick himself up.
* * * *
“My Lord, one of them lives, for the moment.”
Darleth looked up, seeing a man being brought on a makeshift stretcher. He strode over to the bandit and stared down at him. Blood streaked his face and bubbled at his lips. “Where was he found? He has no wounds upon him,” Darleth demanded.
Makan also made his way over and stared down at the wounded man. His face was a mask of anger.
“We found him in the woods, My Lord. Whatever did this to him, it wasn’t one of us,” one of the guardsmen said.
“It must have been the giant in charge of them,” Darleth said.
“Where did they go?” Makan demanded. “And why do you have this in your hand?”
Sven held a scrap of Teri’s dress in her hand that he had torn off. He opened his mouth to speak but only a rattle of congestion came out of it. Make leaned closer and gripped his filthy tunic, pulling the bandit closer to him.
“He is dying, My Lord, his lungs are filling with blood,” the soldier said.
“Bring a priest then!” Makan snapped. He turned his head1 back to Sven and stared into his eyes. “Do you want to live?”
Sven’s nodded, tears of pain and fear running from the corners of his eyes.
Darleth stepped up, a feverish light in his eyes. “Will you tell me what I want to know? Everything? And do as I tell you?”
Again Sven nodded. Makan nodded in turn. “Very well, heal him. But know this, if you prove false to me at any time, you owe me your life and I can take it from you with a thought and a gesture!”
Sven’s mouth worked and he coughed up some blood. “Caves… go to the caves,” he whispered, working hard for each word.
A priest was there then and Makan signaled for him to go to work. The priest called upon the divine power granted to him, focusing the energy and channeling it into Sven’s tortured body. In moment’s Sven’s eyes closed and he rested. His breathing was scarcely any easier, but the longer the priest concentrated the less labored it became. Makan watched for a few minutes, then turned to follow Darleth who had already left in search of news about the defeat of the bandits.
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