Brief had taken more than an hour and a half working on the trap, and still had not finished with it. Feeling fatigued Brief thinks to himself. (Hell I sure am getting old there was a time when I would have been finished with this by now. At this rate I won’t be done for another hour at best.) Brief sighs and throws down the sling he was working on. Groaning he stands and begins stretching and twisting, hoping that it will relieve some of the cold and stiffness he was now feeling. Barnicle notices the actions of his master and begins to snort and pound his right front hoof to the ground. Brief smiles at the beast and then begins talking to him in a reassuring voice. “Take it easy big fellow. We still have at the least a couple of hours before we have to go to work.” Brief bends down and picks up the sling he had been working on, and quickly judges that the length was now adequate enough so he double checks the knots to make sure they are secure. While doing that he begins mumbling to himself. “Those deer hide skins were the only blankets I had. Now because of these bastards I have to sleep on the cold hard ground for who knows how long. But this sling will be of more use to me now.”
Satisfied with the sling he walks over to the fire and examines the thick oily mixture brewing in the helmet. Carefully he removes the helmet that contains the turpentine like mixture and places it on a clump of snow. It begins to cool and he slowly stirs it with a stick that lay nearby. Elated that the oily mixture is ready and made properly he picks up the helmet and cradles it in one arm and heads to Barnicle. As Brief approaches Barnicle the horse becomes slightly agitated from the pungent odor emitted from the helmet. Brief grabs the reins and gives them a firm pull and soon the horse yields to him. Then in a confident and strong voice Brief says to the horse. “Come Boy lets finish up our work and get back here for a short rest before our company arrives.”
With a tug on the reins and a gentle kick in the animals’ ribs he gets the horse started off in the direction he wanted to go. Brief rides Barnicle fast and hard across the clearing to the pass on the other side to the place he plans to surprise his unwelcome guest. Soon they arrive to their destination where earlier that morning Brief, with the help of Barnicle, tethered a large tree branch. He begins pounding in several more large stones into the space of the limbs, and once again insures that the rope is still holding before finishing up. He the retrieves filled with oil and carries it over to the sling that was tied to a pair of lower limbs on a separate tree that was very near to the ground. The bottom of the sling was draped over a pile of carefully placed stones. He then places the helmet onto the sling and the weight of it draws the sling down into the stone pile concealing the helmet within. Brief then pulls the strips of raw hide away from the top of the stone pile. He lights the mixture in the helmet and steps back to inspect his work. Satisfied that he is finished he gathers up the rest of his equipment and stows it securely on the back of Barnicle. He looks the site over one last time and then rides out back to his camp across the clearing to take a short rest before the action starts.
Roughly, over three hours had passed since Ivan and Tolcan resumed their pursuit of Brief. They now were approaching the clearing in the woods where Brief was awaiting their arrival. Ivan pulls up hard on the reins of his horse and comes to a stop. He holds up one arm as a signal to Tolcan to slow his pace. Tolcan slowly creeps to his side and as he nears Ivan points and says to him. “These tracks here are more recent than those we have been following and they seem to be going back and forth from out there in the pasture. I think that it would be wise of us to split up now. You take out to the left of the pasture and I will go to the right. Keep yourself parallel to me and mind the tree line because you’ll never know when one of those trees will come to life and cut you down. Then it will be too late for you to realize there was a man hidden within.”
Tolcan begins laughing out loud before replying. “First you make joke of me for my wariness of this man, yet you fear the trees. That’s a laugh, I have my ax for the trees.” Ivan quickly draws his sword and turns it on Tolcan and in a threatening tone he replies. “You my ass of a friend, whose bravery is only matched by his cowardliness, may think what you wish, but I am warning you he is near and he has had most of the morning to get ready to greet us.” Slowly Tolcan backs his horse away from Ivan. Once he is out of striking range he reaches over his shoulder and draws the large double edged axe he carries and beats the flat side of blade on his chest while rearing his horse. Then in a low animal like growl he spouts back. “You talk bravely with steel in your hand to men who bare no weapon. Well, go ahead try me now or are you afraid to be beaten by a coward.” Tolcan swings his axe in a crossing motion and the same time leaps off his horse firmly landing on the ground with the axe extended out towards Ivan.
With a low but sinister laugh Ivan slowly puts his sword down to his side and tells Tolcan. “I will gladly wet my steel with your blood, but not right now. First we kill this bastard then we can settle our own petty quarrels.” Ivan begins to slowly walk his horse in a circle around Tolcan who mirrors his every movement. Ivan goes on to say. “Or do you wish death come your way quickly and now.” Tolcan replies in a harsh tone. “No we will not fight now, first we kill Brief and collect the bounty, besides my fee for killing a man is four gold talons any you won’t have that until this job is finished. That will leave me one gold talon to see that you receive a proper burial.” Ivan always with a sarcastic tone in his voice spouts back at Tolcan. “Then we both agree we kill this bastard Brief first and collect the reward for his head. However, you must know one thing first my fee for killing a man is five gold talons, as far as, me burying you, I will leave your carcass to the jackals.”
Ivan lightly slaps the hind quarters of his horse with the flat edge of his sword and trots off in the direction he told Tolcan when they arrived at the pass. Tolcan still standing at guard watches Ivan carefully until he is a good ten to fifteen meters away before he dared to turn his back on Ivan, he then sets off on foot tugging on the reins of his horse to follow.
This Saga will continue tomorrow.