Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Police, Thieves and Merchants Chapter 7: Chumps Will Murder


Jen and Lae were running among a series of chaotic scenes as the village they had lived and worked in was torn apart around them. There wasn't much time to waste taking in all that was happening beyond the random details their brains decided to pick out. The smell of smoke filled their nostrils as they crawled behind burning wreckage; the glint of an arrowhead as it speared past to go thudding into a cherished neighbour's ribs. The cries and screams that burst through the chilly evening air, now warmed in places by the blazing fires bursting forth from the former homes, emphasized tenfold whenever it was from someone they recognized. Their aim was simple, get to the trees. Trees reduced the visibility of their attackers and were far enough from the village to be encompassed by the attack. Unfortunately, as they groped forward blindly through the smoke, walking into Briax, Throx and any others still surviving – they couldn't see any treetops beyond the thick, grey haze now enveloping the settlement. Every now and then there hearts would freeze as a figure strutted out of the smoke dressed in the dark clothing signature to the attacking band. They were usually armed with a knife or bow and arrow and would attack a trailing member of the diminishing group. They were following a crying young woman who had also escaped from the pub moaning tearfully to herself as she felt forwards towards the tree-line behind the pub, which had to be close by now. As she lunched forward a dark clothed silhouette materialised in front of her. He was coughing from the smoke and was caught off guard by the young woman ramming head-first into him, tipping his scrawny body over easily. Nevertheless, he demonstrated amazing reflexes in his ability to jump back from the floor and gather the girl into a grip around the neck with a knife at her throat. She cried out in terror as he turned to disappear into the smoke. A bottle smashed against his face causing glass to lodge itself in his eyes, mouth and nostrils igniting a bawling scream from his mouth as he loosened his hold on the girl. A purple garbed man strode heroically from the smoke as Lae and Jen reached the scene. He picked up the woman, who had rolled back onto the floor, as she breathed heavily- still in shock from the incident.
Come on now you're nearly there,” he reassured her in an easy-going soothing voice as he helped her find her feet and continue.
Cax!” Briax exclaimed, appearing with Throx behind Jen and Lae.
Keep moving,” Cax replied with a grim expression. “We won't all make it through this.” Soon several others dressed similarly to Throx and Briax stepped in beside them, herding the motley group onwards hopefully towards the forest.
They trudged forwards eyes and ears hyper aware of the sounds around them, shoulders hunched as if to make them less visible. It was only a dozen more paces before Cax swore as a thin line of the attackers emerged from the misty smoke blocking their advance, grinning and leering over their new-found prey. Some held weapons, mainly knives and axes with a couple of bows among the throng. The two bows were trained on the miserable group huddled together standing splattered in mud and blood with smoke curling around them, threatening to take even the air from their lungs.
You'll never get away with this,” Cax spoke his eyes brimming with fury as they stung from the exposure to the smoke, staring hard at the thieves gathered before them.
Oh I think we will merchant,” a large, thick-set bald man sneered pushing through to face Lae, a small boy piggy-backing on his back. “We know what you hide in these villages, what you keep from the cities residing far away. With enough wine we'll be able to set ourselves up as merchants like you and give ourselves.. a fresh start.” A resigned look passed over his face as he looked back at the boy hanging on tightly to his back.
Jen was incredulous at these words and spoke thunderously in spite of her despairing state.
You've done all this..” she gestured around her at the ruined village, the screams and the smoke with the flicker of fire glimmering through. “For wine?!” She shook with rage and it was evident that the rest of the group were feeling it too as well as confusion from the words of the thief. The bald thief's mouth twitched in annoyance.
You wouldn't understand.. and why are they still alive?” he yelled louder, turning to his comrades. As he finished his sentence the bows thrummed taking one villager in the throat and hitting Xa in the side. He collapsed onto the floor blood oozing from the wound as Briax let out a screaming challenge to the thieves now closing in. Before they reached the group though a scruffily dressed man came punching and shoving his way through the villagers, now dispersing into the smoke.
Oi!” he yelled, pointing at the bald man. “You look like Crass, are you Crass?”
The remaining merchants looked at him bewildered as the thieves paused, confusion written across their face, allowing several villagers to run and find another way out. A few still remained with the merchants however, including a young woman now with a look of joy and worry on her face.
Fal? What are you doing?” she questioned in an astonished voice.
How do you know who I am stranger,” Crass called in a brass tone indicating for the thieves around him to hold. A few on the outskirts of the gang broke away anyway to gleefully chase any remaining villagers, cause relative havoc and most importantly loot anything valuable still remaining in the settlement.
Baxter says he wants you, says he's found a massive stash in the pub right..” he whirled around arm flailing out, clearly confused by the wall of smoke and shocked faces that greeted him.
There... no... there!” he finished proudly pointing into the smoke, the outline of the pub he had clearly come from still barely visible.
He says Greg's band is trying to steal it all, says you better hurry.”
A look of greed, twisted with annoyance and tinged with doubt wrapped around Crass' face. The thieves surrounding him were muttering among themselves, clearly discontented at the prospect of losing such a prize. A few on the end had already started edging away from the group towards the direction Fal had pointed in, clearly wanting to get some sort of head start on the rest of them without Crass noticing. Crass didn't take long to come to a decision.
Let's get what we came for,” he snarled. “With me!” He charged through the villagers, trampling on Xa's leg as he passed as the gang galloped forward. The remaining survivors among the group shrank back from them as they passed but the sense of urgency among the thieves was massive. In a few seconds there was merely harmless open space to the front of the bewildered survivors.
Run!” Briax yelled out suddenly, and the dozen or so survivors pelted forward coughing and spluttering out of the grey smoke and into the refreshingly green trees, keen to get away from the panic and violence they were leaving behind.

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