Here is my continuation of "The Forest Road:"
“Blades out lads it’ll be wet work with this lot, no doubt about that.”
Some faces showed smiles, others grimaced but nowhere was fear to be seen. Eagerly they watched the carriage as it moved unsuspectingly into their ambush.
An arrow thunked into the throat of the coachman and the band flung themselves at the road with an animalistic scream. The horses, rearing in fright had their throats slashed – although they were valuable beasts, it would be too long before they could sell them and make a profit.
Flintlocks poked through the windows and a few ineffective shots did little more than fill the carriage with smoke before they were torn from their owner’s hands. The door was wrenched from the hinges and the attackers leaned in, keen to ascertain the nature of their spoils.
“God’s teeth!” swore the leader, and he reeled back in shock, for one of the passengers was not human. Large yellow eyes nictitating wildly in the sudden clamour stared back at them from the being trussed up on the floor of the carriage. Green, scaly skin covered its hide, and the other passengers were torn between watching their charge and dealing with the bandits that now milled in confusion on the road.
A blood-curdling screech filled the air.
The leader, Marin, rolled clear of the carriage an instant before a jet of flame engulfed two of his dumbfounded companions and set the carriage on fire. “They’re transporting a dragon!”
Two soldiers burst from the burning carriage, Flintlocks in hand, and opened fire at their scattering foes. Another bandit fell before the pair discarded their spent pistols and reached for the rapiers at their side.
Marin sprang into action, running the first soldier through before he could unsheathe his sword. “Stand your ground lads,” he said. “Surround the wagon.” The second soldier lunged at the bandit leader, who deftly parried the attack then plunged his blade through the soldier’s heart.
As the remaining bandits took up positions around their prize, the air shimmered and became deathly cold. When the flames vanished, the men shifted nervously, looking at Marin with wide eyes. He knew what securing a dragon would mean for his small band. He also knew that the spoils of battle weren’t worth having unless they could be enjoyed. But what he didn’t know was whether his rag tag company could survive a battle with the magician inside the smouldering carriage.
A petite red-head dressed in a green pelisse delicately stepped out of the carriage. Once she stood, she brushed down her jade satin skirts, settled her hands on her hips, and surveyed the band with bright yellow eyes. She grinned up at Marin. “Thanks much, mates. I was growing tired of the accommodations.”
Marin swallowed heavily. “Milady, you are now our prisoner. Come forth and we’ll treat you with all respect. Otherwise, we’ll cut you down where you stand.”
“Really, heavy-handed threats? I expected more from a group of brigands such as yourselves. How on earth will you hold me? I could transform and wipe you out with a single breath.” She picked her way forward, around the bodies of the two dead guards. “However, I should be grateful. You freed me from the King’s men. How best can I reward you?” She tapped her chin with a forefinger. “How best, indeed?”
His men looked at him and back at the magician, for a magician she had to be. No one had ever heard of a female magician, let alone one who could transform. Marin knew he needed to take control of the situation before he lost his men.