Scene One - of Ale and Tales
Three in front - one, maybe two behind... I need to
even the odds!!
The largest was in front of him, a swaggering brute dressed in old stained leathers, a rusty chain shirt and boils on his left cheek - half hidden by an unkempt beard that had every sign of being pulled out by the roots whenever it annoyed its keeper - thrust his face towards him... a sour stench of rotten cabbage and cheap beer.
"Well little man - me and my comrades are gonna
have to rip your tongue out of your ears and tie it round your lute
and stuff it right up your trumpet" he seemed pleased with his
turn of phrase, grinning at his supporters, and given other circumstances
the bard would have applauded the choice of words. There was a poetic
ring to the phrase...
He didn't dare to take his eyes away from those leering
down at him ...
But now it seemed unlikely and his only hope was in a silver tongue and a nimble brain... two skills that he had honed through many years as he made his way through the Bard's guild.....
"I think your friend needs some help" giggled
Aleesha as she tried to twist out of Thorgrimm's arms.. a half empty
jug of ale swinging from her left hand as she used her right to push
his from her breast.. Her grubby cotton shift hung open at her front
but the leather belt at her waist was pulled in tight and showed her
young figure at its best. She ground her body over his groin as she
played at escape...
Boils made his move - a clumsy charge with outstretched
hands grabbing where the bard's throat had been a second before. The
casual move to the left had drawn Boils in that direction while the
lute in his right hand gave the bard the balance he needed to duck under
the arm. Holding his breath at the under-arm stench he kicked back with
his left foot - hard into the back of his attacker. The kick was good
- caught the charging man in the bottom of his spine adding to the momentum
and piling him into the one or two attackers that had been behind. The
bard did not turn to count them. There were still two in front of him,
but the element of surprise was now his.
Swapping the Lute to his left hand and reversing it so that the base of the instrument was protected behind his arm, he lowered his right shoulder to barge into the chest of the first attacker. As large as Boils, and no prettier. His eyes were bloodshot and drunken spittle exploded from his mouth as his wind was knocked out of him. Like a long lost lover he opened his arms to to complete a bearhug but the bard had once again side stepped and using the neck of the lute in his fist as extra weight - he stabbed his fist into the waiting throat...
"Damn.. that is going to hurt and stop me playing for a few days!" he thought as he held on tightly to the instrument with aching fingers.
Only one more he thought as he twisted in a full circle - bringing the lute around so the iron band that had been welded to the rear of the sound box caught the third adversary in the shins causing a surprised yell through broken teeth. Swinging the lute on its strap he swung it back into his right hand and held it like a bat waiting for a ball - and as broken teeth raised himself the iron band struck him sharply over the back of his head.
"Three" thought Wulf as he carried forward without stopping or looking... "Almost a Waltz..."
The whole attack had taken only about 7 seconds - not
much longer than he had been allowed to sing his song. A bad choice
he knew now - but he had not seen the sigils sewn into the filthy cloaks
of drunken mob in the corner or he would not have chosen to sing the
Lay of Llangoren, a bawdy song concerning the Queen, several dark elves
and an aubergine......
"Only a few yards to the door" he thought
- "I am too old for this!!! A man should be given a little respect
when he is nearing his 60th nameday"
He was quietly impressed with the turn of speed from the old man - but they had been traveling for a day and the old bard continued to display unexpected traits... But from his vantage point it was clear that old fellow would not manage to open the door before he was engulfed by the five Queen's Men..
With a sigh he dropped Aleesha unceremoniously to the
floor - and stood - ale in hand and walked into the narrow gap between
the crude tables filled with the boisterous and drunken customers who
were now beginning to take notice of the chase... and get into the spirit
of evening's impromptu entertainment
Throgrimm stood up and stretched as the first of the five bumped into him with a curse. Ale splashed from Thorgimm's tankard into the face of one of the chanters..
It was difficult to say who appeared the more angry - the chanter - spluttering as he stood, turning the table over as he rose, or the first of the five Queen's men who found himself brought to a sudden stop as he hit that wall of chain and leather and steel that was the fully armoured Thorgrimm, now drawn up to his full height. Well armoured with a Dane axe to his side and sword sheathed at his left, his girth suggested too many good meals, but it would be a fool who assumed that his weight was only fat. There was clear sign of the warrior about him... the way he stood, large but balanced. The way of a professional fighter, of one who lives by the sword and the axe.
The five were brought to a stop like a set of dice
against a wall. Thorgrimm turned and looked at them - though probably
the same height as Boils, he appeared to tower over them as he said
in a deceptively quiet voice "You spilled my ale"
Boils started to pass Thorgrimm as a grip of iron took
him by the throat and half lifted him from the ground...
Thorgrimm leaned across to where Boils and his band had been sitting and picked up the earthenware jug still full of ale and turned to leave the room. Picking up his Double Handed Dane Axe, almost as tall as he, he sauntered towards the door, giving Aleesha a wink as she sat cursing him on the floor....
The bard was still struggling but had just managed to lift the heavy rope handle, and was tugging at the door to open it inwards as Thorgrimm reached out and swung it open with ease. Swinging his lute over his shoulder, the minstrel grabbed a loaf of bread and some cheese from a platter on the nearest table - the occupants never noticing as they watched the chairs being thrown around the room... They both walked into the chill of the evening..
As the door closed behind them they could hear the barkeep shouting for order, and the ominous crack of the barkeep's sap hitting skull as order was restored...
"You took your time" said the breathless
Bard as he tore a lump out of the bread and handed it to Thorgrimm.
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