Thursday, June 11, 2009

Berserker Part 12

Jarn tore through the brush, hopping over fallen logs and treacherous dips in the trail. Moving as if a demon from the deepest pits of some unnamable underworld were in hot pursuit. Breath ripping in and out of his lungs, heart racing, panic lending his feet wings, he closed the distance to the lead wagon in record time. He barely avoided crashing into one of the guards by slamming into the ground before the surprised man’s feet. Jarn looked up into the wide brown eyes of the old man who carried the longsword, his name he had heard was Aniston though he had never really talked much with him. He got up to his knees with the aid Aniston’s aid, and tried to speak, only coughing and choking, Jarn had covered at least half a mile in a few moments, his lungs refused to spare the tiniest bit of air for any other use.

Aniston slapped him on the back and waited until Jarn could catch his breath before he questioned the scared boy.

“What’s wrong lad?”, he asked as kindly as possible.

“Monsters... up ahead”, Jarn replied between gasps for air, his head down, concentrating on slowing his breath. “They look like dogs but stand on two legs”. Jarn hadn’t noticed them until one managed to get up behind him, it was a little shorter than him with shaggy fur and a long, dog-like snout. It wore what looked like very poorly cured animal skins and leathers patched together, what Jarn saw that panicked him most was the others of its kind that were quietly moving through the underbrush. With great self control he had kept on chopping wood like nothing had been noticed, the thing behind him backed away and joined its companions. He continued acting oblivious to anyone’s presence for a few more moments just to be sure none were still around and then ran as fast as he could, it was all he could do to remember to keep from dropping his ax to get back more quickly.

“Gnolls?”, Aniston said. “Can’t be, they all disappeared before I was even born, but with the way things are going these days, it’s likely enough. Come on, lets go warn the others.”

As they marched to the rear of the wagon train, Aniston yelled out warnings and orders to everyone he passed, rattling off instructions without cease and addressing every single person by name. What would normally have caused panic, confusion, and people working at cross purposes if issued by any other man they found themselves obeying automatically, there was something in his voice that was used to having orders carried out.

They reached the guardsmen’s wagons quickly to find everyone in the middle of buckling on any spare or heavy armor they might find too cumbersome to wear constantly. Seryan donned a chain mail coat and hood, while the brother and sister team put even more leathers on. Jarn grabbed his other ax and strapped his father’s sword to his back as Aniston quickly relayed the story to the rest of the group.

“I want everyone to guard the flanks”, he said. ‘From what Jarn told me, they’re probably looking to make a quick ambush, which means they won’t try a full frontal assault. Millienya, I want you to find a good spot to work from”.

“Yeah, yeah”, mumbled the bruiser Tyrel, strapping on a bandolier of wicked looking throwing knives.

“Something wrong?”, Aniston challenged with his hand on his sword.

“No”, Tyrel replied in a drawl which was the closest he could get to intelligent sounding. “I just always get so sleepy whenever you open your mouth. Strange coincidence eh?”

“Hah, bloody, hah”, Karnar stepped in. “Let’s just hurry up, I don’t think those things will wait for you to finish this talk”.

They grabbed their crossbows and assorted personal weapons, Millienya switched her crossbow for an ornate shortbow that looked as if it were carved from bone and strung with sinew. They split up to take their positions. Aniston hustled up front to ride with the driver of the first wagon. The inseparable Seryan and Tyrel moved to cover the caravan’s left flank.

Before Jarn could choose who to pair off with, Karnar slapped him on the back. “You’re with me”, he said as he gave Jarn a grin, which was somehow not very reassuring.

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