Sunday, June 1, 2014

Eighty-seventh excerpt from 'Twelve Towers"

          Gwilym ran along the road to the deer path and saw nothing. Bleddyn had hidden the cart by the time he arrived. He caught up with the boys and asked them if they had seen anything. “Just a man riding by on a horse,” answered Madoc.
         Damn! Grainne joined them and they rode off through the woods as fast as they could. The adults discussed the possibilities as they rode.
         “Chances are he’ll mention it at the crossroads,” muttered Gwilym.
         “Should we expect someone to attack us from behind?” asked Grainne.
         “Yes. Can you cast that spell again; where we look like a big tree?”
         “I can’t make it big enough to hide the carts.”
         “How far north of the main road are we?”
         “About three and a half miles,” she responded.
         Gwilym smiled and shook his head in amazement. He didn’t ask how she knew. He figured it came from years of living in the woods. Similar to how he knew where he was in the Jerusalem medina. He started to calculate. The cleric’s horse would reach the cross-roads in about 15 minutes at the earliest. If he didn’t mention the cart, they were safe. But if he did, the knight stationed there would saddle up and would be on the deer path in about 45 minutes. If they continued at this pace, he would find them down this path about half an hour later. So he had a little over an hour to prepare. Less if they stopped moving.
         “Grainne. I want you to take the next likely path deeper into the woods and hide the carts. Disguise the tracks. Then move away from the carts and cast that oak spell again. I’m going to try to take out Palomides.”
         “A mounted knight? With a scimitar? Wearing no armor? He’ll murder you!”
         “I have the advantage of surprise and agility. And with this rope,” he hefted a long coil of rope from the wagon behind him, “He won’t be mounted for long. Don’t come out until you hear me say this secret word.”          He whispered something in her ear which made her smile.
         As he took up a spade she grasped his arm and pulled him close. “Blessings of the goddess be upon you, Gwilym.” She kissed him hard and released her grip. 
        Gwilym looked up and down the deer path and decided to follow the cart for a little until the path made a sharp turn to the north. There, the trees overhead were dense, leaving the path in shadow. Here he set his first trap. He thought hard about the armor he had seen Palomides wearing when he last saw him outside Huish. The armor was plate mail and his scimitar would bounce off it from the front. But if he could get behind the man, there was access to the backs of his knees and the small of his back. His buttocks were not covered with armor when he was on horseback. This might work, he thought.
        It took him almost an hour to set his second trap deeper in the forest, along a narrow track. He returned and hid himself next to the first trap he had laid on the main path. He was sweating from his exertions and he had to concentrate to slow his breathing and listen for the approach. After five minutes he was cooled down and breathing easy. He waited another twenty minutes, crouched uncomfortably in his hiding place. He started to second-guess his preparations, wishing he had known that he had this extra time to make his second trap bigger and deeper. Should I risk taking some more time on it? No! This is where I’ve made mistakes in the past. Better to stick with the original plan.

        Hoof-beats! Racing along the path from the east! Gwilym wiped the sweat from his palms one last time and tightened his grip on his scimitar. He didn’t see the knight until the last second, when he raced from the sun-drenched path around the curve into the darkness of the overgrown narrows. The knight didn’t hesitate. He relied on his horse to follow the path but even the horse didn’t see the rope.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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