She Swears an Oath - Part 7

Content Warning: Violence

Before he could decipher this strange token, a real arrow pierced his eye, ending his life before he could even cry out. He fell to the ground, and the man next to him stumbled backward in astonishment. Then, as astonishment turned to fear in the second man’s eyes, from beyond the end of the gorge came a soft snick and a harsh twang. The second man also fell dead with a bolt in his head.

Those behind, six soldiers remaining, huddled into defensive positions, clustering around a seventh man with shields upraised. Creeping forward at a cautious pace, they offered little exposed flesh for a target, staying back within the protective shade of the rock. Still, as they cast about for some sign of their attacker, another snick and a twang felled a third man to the ground, the shaft of the missile that killed him protruding from the iron collar of his mail.

At this, the man in the center, calling out, “Enough!” threw off his defenders and drew his sword. As he did so, yet another dart pierced the man in front of him, penetrating his open mouth and tearing through the back of his skull. The leader, thrusting the dying man to the ground in front of him, rushed forward with his sword upraised in the direction of the lone tree that stood beyond the mouth of the cleft. At the sound of another snick from behind this tree, he darted toward the left and ducked his head to avoid the subsequent fire, but he succeeded only in taking the arrow at the base of his neck where it joined the shoulder, rather than in his chest. He collapsed with a shriek, flailing on the ground in agony as two of his companions flung themselves to the ground beside him.

The other two, having also discerned the origin of the attack, raced toward the lone tree, behind which she was now kneeling to slot another bolt into her crossbow. Running out of time for an upright attack, she rolled to the ground as she drew back the string by hand and latched it, then spun on one knee as her enemies rounded the tree, and put the arrow into the brain of the nearest. The other swung his sword toward her neck, but she ducked, and he stumbled with the missed stroke. Pulling a long knife from a sheath on her leg, she blocked his second swing with it, then pulled him toward her by his arm and planted the knife deep in his forehead.

His sword fell from his hand as he died, and she picked it up, then strode toward the remaining two soldiers bending over their leader. They looked up as she approached, then began backing away with terror etched across their faces. Taking advantage of their paralysis, she picked up her crossbow once more. At this, they turned and began to run, and she put a bolt through the back of nearest before he had taken five steps. By the time she had loaded a second dart, the other had nearly reached the invisible dark of the gorge. Sighting along the stock, she watched for the last glimmer of moonlight on his helm, then sent the arrow flying toward him.