19-Den of Thieves 20-Soldiers 21-Some Panache 22-Footsore and Fancy Free 23-The Counsel that Was 24-Official Business - 25- Snooping, 26-the Latest Gossip 27-More About Peaches)
28-Into a Jam
The Merchant’s Guild was ready with our faux caravan much faster than we expected. It was just as well it didn’t take them days of hemming and hawing because our thirty-two guys were getting bored. Bored mercenaries in a foreign city is never good thing, and Quill was determined to leave a good impression. Before we left I made a short visit to the laundry room but Curlie wasn’t there. The latest tizzy was the engagement of one of the girls so there was no use asking about other goings on when I didn’t have several hours to devote to the endeavor. Quill’s urchins hadn’t uncovered anything particularly useful either.
Now I sat on the back of a covered wagon watching the bobbing heads of the draft horses pulling the next wagon in the caravan. Naiyn dwindled into a glittering speck of palatial intrigue and the desolate badlands rose from the ground like cobras. This whole job smelled funny and I was not happy about our plan given our inability to locate the thieves’ wealthy city connection. Quill wasn’t happy either, which was small comfort.
We returned Geordan’s horses in Trumble and continued on our merry way into my least favorite place in all Serrifis. Today’s least favorite. Without the detour to take baths and wash our clothes we made it into the badlands by lunchtime and drew close to our doom much faster than last time. Since I wasn’t particularly looking forward to our goal, the journey was both onerously long and yet far too speedy.
Every now and then I’d catch a glimpse of Wace, who was an outrider on this expedition. He trailed along the side of the road scanning the rocks and ground for signs of our scurrilous quarry. I kept a weather eye on the rock peaks myself. They weren’t easy to climb, but they would be a fantastic place to put archers in the event of an ambush. I wished our roles were reversed and we could be the ones ambushing rather than the ones rolling along as bait…
I could hear the river long before the first wagons of the caravan entered the canyon and started clattering over the bridge. I loosened Shiharr and Azzad keeping my eyes on the ears of the drafters. Most of the trip their ears had flapped disinterestedly but now they were perked—flicking this way and that toward the canyon walls. I looked up at the rock walls towering above me and thought I could pick out the glinting of weapons.
My wagon was almost to the bridge when the shouting started. The caravan ground to a halt and I stood to look ahead. I could see boulders blocking the road and figures carrying swords climbing over them. An arrow whistled past my ear and I ducked down into my covered wagon. The soldiers inside gripped their weapons and waited for my word to charge. I thought several unkind things about archers before leaping out of the wagon and ducking down the side to get a view of the action. The head and tail of the caravan were being attacked. I could see 4 or 5 archers perched on the canyon walls cherry picking. They would be disastrous to us if left there. Another arrow whizzed too close and I darted under the wagon. I banged my fist on the wagon floor. “Devn! From the front! Archers on the cliffs at two, four and six. Fix it!”
We had one sharpshooter in Quill’s brigade. Devn heard my yell and poked his nose out the front of the wagon. I rolled toward the back and popped to my feet hoping to distract fire long enough for Devn to act. Arrows flew as I ran down the line of the caravan. I zigged zagged and varied my pace to keep the nasty darts on their toes rather than my person. Reaching the conflict at the back of the caravan Shiharr and Azzad licked into the fight.
Slash. Parry. Strike. Duck. Spin. Dive. Strike. Block.
A tremendous splintering splash broke my concentration. I whirled to look back at the caravan. One of the wagons had been tipped over and a massive vat of syrupy liquid now spread over the road, carrying bits of shattered wagon with it. Confused, I kept fighting. But another wagon in the middle of the caravan tipped and burst asunder unleashing another vat of golden syrup. At the third wagon’s demise an unearthly shrieking began in the skies. Everyone paused to look up and see a column of huge birds descended in swirling formation. We weren’t allowed a moment to gawk because more brigands appeared out of the rocks and charged with bloodcurdling shrieks of their own. They drove forward with fury. Our mercenaries and the marshals who had come with us fell back. It occurred to me that there was no way this was normal treatment for a caravan heist. Had they really planned to massacre a second caravan?
Two brigands occupied Shiharr and Azzad driving me back several steps before I was able to spin free, climb a wagon and leap upon them. We all three tumbled to the ground; I rolled to my feet and pounced. One dagger each then I stood and took a step back. My heel stuck in something thick and wet and I recoiled. I noticed for the first time a sweet sticky smell stronger than battle and blood. Terror jolted through me. Peach jam.
Copyright 2012: The Legend of Zare Caspian is an original story by Abigail Cossette for The Raven's Landing. If you enjoy the story, please share and link back! Please don't copy it. Contact me if you would like to publish a portion of it in any way, shape or form.