Tattoo Book 7 part 2.34
Posted by harmony0stars on August 2, 2011
By and large, most of the bandits had rolled themselves up in their bedrolls by the time Prince Lorcan’s men returned to the camp. There were a few men still awake and most of them on guard duty, but the camp was quiet with the sound of sighs and snores. It was Aonghas and the few men still loyal to him that worried Glory. The man was a rogue and had done awful things, but he was smart enough to know that Neirin was a sickness that he wanted no part of. Still, would he turn on his ally when the time was right, and even if he did, and survived the battle, would he turn over a new leaf? These questions plagued her as she and Jack and Maria parted company with Lorcan’s warriors.
The moon had cleared the trees and shed ample light on the sleeping camp. Still the light which showed them their own path could reveal them as well. Jack was better at skulking than Glory, which made sense considering he could see in the dark. Given the adaptability of her race, it occurred to Glory that she could probably change her eyes to give herself better night vision. A moment later, she shook herself. What the hell was she thinking? With her “skill” at transformation, she’d end up looking like some kind of reject from a horror movie if she started trying to ‘improve’ herself.
As they approached the hill-cave, Jack waved her back into the shadows under the trees. He took up a position a few feet away, watching or listening as someone approached that she could not see. A few seconds later, a sleepy sentry clomped past, looking neither right nor left. Jack stepped out behind him and twisted his neck with the ease of someone well-practiced at assassination.
Her expression gave away her disgust, but Jack only shrugged. “One less to worry about when the fighting starts.” He dragged the body into nearby bushes.
Glory didn’t respond, and they resumed their journey. Finding a spot where they could observe the guards at the cave entrance proved to be difficult, as the treeline ended several yards from the cave. They hid in a thicket of young birches and waited for Lorcan’s men to begin their attack.
One or both of the guards at the cave entrance might have been asleep. It was hard to say as both men sat, one on either side of the opening, with a banked fire between them. One of the men had his head bent towards the ground, while his companion leaned back against the sharply sloping sod of the hill. It was too far away to see if either man had his eyes open.
The minutes dragged by as they waited, Lorcan’s old teacher Stoill making sure they had time to get into position before launching the attack. When it did finally come, the sleeping marauders were slow in realizing it. There was no cry from sentries, for they were probably dead before Lorcan’s followers ever entered the camp. Arrows came from the treeline to kill the sleepers where they lay.
Half of Lorcan’s men, less than a dozen in all, had crept right up to the sleepers where they lay. More than half a dozen tents charred beyond use thanks to Jack’s bouncing firestorm meant a good target for Lorcan‘s archers. In those few seconds after the arrows landed, Lorcan’s warriors fell on the remaining men at the fire, killing half a dozen more as they fumbled for their weapons. Only a few men woke in time defend themselves, and they died mere seconds after drawing their weapons. Their few cries roused the rest of the camp however, and the number of men who boiled from the intact tents raised the defenders to almost twice as many as Lorcan’s men.
Glory and Jack crept up to the hill as the guards stood and watched the battle in shock. It had not yet sunk in that the attack might be a diversion. Maria leaped at one of them just as he began to look around, viciously tearing at his throat with her teeth. It seemed life as a dog agreed with her. She had adapted a little too well to her new form for Glory’s comfort. Jack ran the other guard through with his borrowed weapon even as the poor man stood struggling with the sword at his belt. They dragged the bodies inside the entrance. It might not buy them more than a few seconds, but it was better than leaving the bodies where Neirin was sure to spot them.
The torches shed little light that their smoke did not immediately obscure. The interior of the hill was dark and smelled of animals, feces, and rotten meat. Growling greeted them before they had even gone a few feet, and angry eyes peered at them from a hole just inside the door. Here was the den of Neirin’s new pack, and like Maria, they seemed to have made peace with what they had become.
A large dog emerged from the hole, very much like Maria in coloring but muscular as a Rottweiler. Slobber dripped from its jaws as its hackles bunched up. It challenged the trespassers‘ right to be in its domain. Behind it, other muscled forms pressed against its flanks, eager for fresh blood.
“If you remember at all that you were ever men, then stand aside and let us pass,” Jack announced with authority, but Glory could see a fine sheen of sweat glistening from his neck and forehead.
And the dogs were not impressed with his bravado. The lead dog took a step towards them, its red and white fur bristling with aggression. There was a mad light in its eyes. If the man it had been had ever balked at what he had become, that was in the past. He had learned to hunt men and enjoyed it.
to Book 7, part 2, page 35