Chapter One [Continued]
Night comes quickly in the mountains, and Brief had been riding Barnicle very hard for the past several hours, both man and beast were now experiencing the rigors of their trip. Brief slows the animals pace and begins to scan the landscape ahead of him looking for a good place to make camp. Spring comes slowly in the mountains and large patches of snow still blanket the area making it for Brief to find a suitable place, but the many years Brief has spent roaming the country side has provided him with a type of sixth sense. Scanning the country side ahead of him, Briefs’ eagle eyes sees that there is a break in the dense woods only a half mile ahead of him, but they must first make their way through the narrow pass that is cluttered with fallen gravel from many previous landslides. Barnicle not only is he fast but is very sure footed as well, he navigates the high gravel mound with ease, seemingly to never miss a step. Once both rider and horse are on the other side Brief dismounts and studies his surroundings.
Just across the clearing there is an area with several downed trees most likely put there by an avalanche. He decides that there would make a suitable place to spend the night. However, rather than ride strait across the open expanse he proceeds to circle around the clearing staying just inside the tree line keeping a constant eye on his destination, as well as, his back. Brief senses that he is being tracked but is not sure by how many, nor how much farther behind they are.
Further down the mountain the two Corsicans from town have been tracking a single rider that was spotted by a wood cutter leaving town and heading up the mountain. Following the trail was not easy for the two Corsicans, Ivan and Tolcan, because the ground is still covered in permafrost making hoof prints difficult to see. The two men have be after Brief for three weeks now and feel that they are finally closing in on their prey. Their leader Warlock has promised them both two talons of gold for the return of his prize steed Barnicle and five gold talons each for the head of the man who calls himself Brief Encounter. The two men are unaware that this same man could be the man that the Asian Emperor Kang is offering fifty gold talons for his head. However, for Ivan and Tolcan the five gold talons that Warlock is offering is already like a King’s ransom.
The two men sense that their quarry is less than a days’ ride ahead of them, but with night falling they know how dangerous and treacherous the woods can be journeying at night. Experienced woodsmen that they are just a glance and a nod between them meant that they both agreed on finding a suitable place to camp this did not take them long. While Tolcan tended to their horses needs Ivan gathers wood for a fire. While both men work on their chosen tasks, they discuss plans for their upcoming encounter with Brief should they catch up with him the next day. They remember all the men laughing when their leader Warlock told them that he suspects that the middle age vagrant, known only to them as Brief Encounter, is now supposed to be some legendary warrior known as BushGod. Everyone has heard the tales told to them while they were in their teens about the Great Almighty BushGod, but like the tales of Hercules, son of the Gods, they do not believe them to be true without witnessing these events themselves. The only thing Ivan and Tolcan knew was they are after a middle aged man who appeared to be soft and weak.
The fire that Ivan built soon becomes a roaring blaze providing enough warmth for both them and their horses. Tolcan tells Ivan he is concerned that the light from the fire may be seen and give away their position. Ivan chuckles and replies that the forest is so thick that a man would have to have the sight of a hawk to see such a small flicker of light in the midst of all these trees. Tolcan not amused with Ivan’s reply begins to kick large clumps of snow onto the blaze. Without warning Ivan spins around/ draws his sword/ and places the sharp cold blade against Tolcans’ throat. Tolcan stands as if frozen as Ivan presses the sword harder against his neck which begins to bleed as a result. Ivan then reaches over with his free hand to disarm Tolcan and tosses the man’s weapon several feet away.
Ivan moves even closer to Tolcan keeping constant pressure on the sword at Tolcans throat until both men are face to face, with only inches separating them. In a low sinister voice Ivan speaks to Tolcan. “Look my old friend I would just as soon kill you right now then to freeze to death in these wretched woods, and the hell with that old man up ahead seeing our fire. Right now it is I you should be fearing and not some myth of an aging warrior. Now go and gather more dry wood for the fire before I change my mind and kill you anyway.” He then shoves the off balanced Tolcan causing him to stumble backwards several feet before tumbling to the ground.
Tolcan, now incensed by Ivan’s actions quickly leaps to his feet and runs to where his weapon was thrown. Picking up the double bladed axe he turns and extends the weapon towards Ivan and shouts out a promise of his own. “After this is over Ivan it will be you who will have my axe at his throat but unlike now you will be doing the dying.” Ivan looks long and hard at the ox of a man standing before him before replying. “As you wish Tolcan, but until then save some of that hate for tomorrow, cowards like you will need all the hate and courage they can muster before going into battle.” With nothing more than a grunt in reply Tolcan sheathes his axe, handle first, leaving the large double bladed head exposed. He turns and walks off into the cold dark woods in search of more dry wood for the fire as ordered. Meanwhile, Ivan kneels and begins to stir the now dwindling flame and adds more fuel to the fire with the remaining dry wood he gathered earlier, soon the blaze is restored to its once former glory.
More to this Story Tomorrow