Sunday, October 03, 2004


Day Eleven

Well today started off in a restful manner, anyway. I overslept until almost mid-morning, when Memree finally got tired of waiting and sat down rather heavily on the edge of the bed, so that I bounced into full wakefulness rather suddenly, grabbing for the knife that, in theory, I'd have had under my pillow. I saw the angle of the sunlight filtering in, and grinned. "Make the most of the soft bed and warm room while we can, Memree, we'll be out on the trail soon enough."

"The ground will be cold and hard, and we'll have to make our own porridge, which will also be rather like that", she said, passing over a steaming bowl of the stuff, with a swirl of honey all across the top. The spoon was already in it, and I grabbed its handle eagerly. My normal idea of breakfast was some cold meat and beer, but today this seemed just the right sort of way to start.

When I'd arrived in Redwall, I'd had a packhorse with me; I called him Hengist, which had seemed to suit him, a placid, uncomplaining animal. I'd sold him to a local trader, and seen him about on general errands - but if I was going off on my travels again, even briefly, it would be good to have him back. So before lunch, Memree and I headed off to the local stables where he'd been kept.

It was late morning, sunny, in one of the town's broader, better-kept streets, so I was relaxed. I didn't even have a sword with me, just a medium-length knife. So when I turned to say something to Memree, and a crossbow bolt passed a finger's breadth in front of my eyes - well, I was surprised. I pushed at Memree and dived for the ground, and another bolt went just where we'd been. It actually hit someone further down the street, though by then it had lost most of its force. I kept rolling, and managed to look to where the bolts had come from - two men, dressed in rough brown farm-clothes, frantically rewinding their crossbows. I was up and running, not directly towards them but at an angle, ready to tack as soon as their bolts were loosed. You can hear a bolt being fired, but you only have a fraction of a second, so a bit of guesswork is involved. I timed it right, a bolt whizzed past as I turned and ran straight at them, grabbing the knife from its sheath - the other crossbowman wasn't quite ready, then his hand went down, and I hit the ground, rolled - and hit him with both feet right where it hurts. He doubled up, and I slashed the knife across his throat, avoiding the gush of hot blood as I pushed off towards his companion, who'd had the time, unfortunately, to get a sword out. Not a very good weapon as swords go, cheap and blunt and mottled, but better than my knife, certainly.

His first blow was a big sweeping affair, and I managed to catch it between my blade and its hilt, and force it aside - I moved back, and smiled at him. "Okay, you've got my attention - was there a message?"

This seemed to puzzle him for a moment. "Nothing personal, Meadows - but I've been paid to kill you and your blonde sweetheart!"

"Well I take it personally", I replied, holding my knife out in front of me and waiting for his next attack. " Oh, I hope the corpse to your left wasn't a close personal friend."

I don't think he'd realised just how deeply I'd cut, as he'd been keeping his eyes on me recently. He risked a glance across at his fellow crossbowman, saw the pool of blood - and I lunged forward, and thrust my knife into his shoulder. he dropped the sword, and looked at me rather reproachfully. "My cousin, actually", he said, putting his other hand up to cover the wound. "Damn, I knew we should have taken the whole payment in advance..."

A pair of guardsmen arrived then - just in time, as he fainted into their arms. They just don't make assassins like they used to. A shame he hadn't said any more, it would have been useful to know who I'd ticked off sufficiently to lead to a murder attempt... but that type never gets hired by the person themselves, there's always at least a couple of links in the chain, people that take care not to be easy to talk to.

So we went on to the stables, with neither of us having a lot to say; Memree seemed shaken by the incident, of course, which had taken no more than a minute or two. I suppose I was shaken too - shaken out of complacency. I have done a few things in my life that have annoyed some people - generally not very nice people, who are, unfortunately, often ones to hold and nurse grudges. This could be an attempted payback from someone like that - or it could be connected to the new mission that Ashil was arranging. It didn't seem like the late Atzmon's style, anyway!

We reclaimed Hengist; I made the usual protests about the high price compared with what I'd been paid when selling him, and as expected Old Man Cornwell pointed out that it was as if the animal had had half-price stabling for the last few months, so we were both reasonably content. Hengist seemed happy to accept a carrot from me, and of course then Memree had to feed him one as well, and he ate that with just as much enjoyment. We left him there, having arranged a few more days cheap stabling, and then went in search of Ashil.

Ashil had heard of the attack, of course, and assured me he would investigate, and that maybe I wasn't the only one who'd really prefer Kreston to stay right where he was. If Kreston was to die, of course, there would be a new heir to the Sommersley estates, and no doubt various people would benefit from that, though we could certainly rule out the local tavern and brothel keepers.

The best thing, however, is that Ashil is getting me an appointment tomorrow with a swordsmith - not a man who often comes to this town, though he has an arrangement with a local smithy. I need a new sword, and from the oddments of old weaponry we scavenged from the castle tower, he ought to be able to make me the best sword I've ever had.

That may not mean much to a mage and librarian, but trust me on this, it's enough to make me rather excited, and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow!

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?