Scouts Chapter 1(Draft 2) – Thorns

They would all die.

The thorn bit deep into Jaspers face, but he did not move. Instead, he stared at the small leafy plant that defied the tamped down path before him. Until a heavy boot crushed it.  

When the captain told him to slice Norths throat he hadn’t hesitated. He had loved that horse, but horses screamed when they were pushed down a cliff. They had had only one minute to dispose of him and get themselves into the thorny bushes. No other way to go.

Now twenty men were lying in these thorns, a deep slope behind them, a cliff before them and on the narrow road in between the enemy army. All of them marching in order. One cough away from spotting them. Fifteen minutes now and still it was only infantry. The path only allowed for three man rows. This made it the worst deathtrap Jasper had ever been in and the best ambush by far. If they now jumped out and started cutting hundreds of the enemy would die. Sure it was suicide, but how likely was it that no one spotted them? A spearman could come up with the idea to take a piss in the thorns. If he hit Jasper all would be well. If he hit the Boar carnage was imminent. No sign from the captain yet.

Jasper tightened his grip on his shortsword. If they waited for the cavalry the chance was gone. Pushing a scout horse down a cliff was one thing. An armored warhorse would trample three of them before the rider even reacted. If they wanted to sell themselves dearly the time was now. Still no sign.

Sweat filled Jasper’s eyes. They weren’t high enough to escape the noon heat. When he had counted about 800 men a huge hoof stomped the ground before his face. He glanced up. A giant black warhorse. On its back, a rider in the heavy black armor of the Lysian Knights with a grey beard. Behind him maybe thirty or forty each with a squire. They didn’t notice them. Then the supply wagons followed brushing against the thorns.

Jasper was between the Boar and Tomkin. When Tomkin slowly crawled back he did too so the wheels didn’t crush his skull. A new wave of action went through the patrol. Swords were loosed. The captain had decided. They would attack. Jasper couldn’t see the rearguard yet. He pushed his sword out of its scabbard and made the mistake to look left at the Boar. The lunatic was grinning like mad, clutching his axes with white knuckles.

The rearguard came into vision, but Jasper could see only their boots yet. Jasper could hear his heart beating. Why couldn’t the enemy? It was so loud! His ears rang with a rush like a fast river.

The last wagon rolled about. The captain whistled. A low sputtering note and a high one. Horses, attack.

Jasper jumped with closed eyes, thorns scratching over his face. He crashed into an enemy instantly digging his sword to the hilt in his side. The man screamed, but it was only one scream in many. Jasper tried to free his sword but it was stuck. He opened his eyes to look at a blank face as the man went down.

Another man came shouting from his left a shortsword high above his head in one hand reaching for Jasper with the other. Before he could finish his strike an axe split his face and a  warcry deafened Jasper while blood sprayed into his face. The Boar was in a frenzy. Nothing could stop the bearded madman now. At his right, Tomkin was in a deadly grapple with another soldier. Each trying to get a sword closer to the other. Jasper struggled to get his sword out of the corpse, but it was tightly stuck and the grip was slippery from the blood. He grabbed behind his back but couldn’t find his knife, instead he pulled an arrow from his quiver.

For a moment he just stood there while the soldier was moving his sword closer and closer to Tomkins neck who struggled red-faced to keep him away. He looked into the young man’s eyes that suddenly found his, pleading. Jasper couldn’t move. He wanted, bitterly, but his feet were rooted to the ground, his eyes fixed on eyes, his ears filled with the slaughter around him.

Suddenly his view was blocked. Mace was driving a Soldier back to the cliff, beating on him with her namesake. The man was blocking the heavy blows with a shortsword, his wrist clearly about to snap. Mace showed no mercy, her face already splattered, her tight dark plait dancing with every move.

A Bow, the man was an Archer. Suddenly Jasper was moving. He just stepped into the melee, pulling the bow from the man’s shoulders while Maces weapon crashed into the soldier’s stomach only a hairsbreadth away from breaking Jaspers’ hip. He put the arrow from his hand onto the bow in a fluid motion. Time stopped. He couldn’t see Mace, or the dying Archer or Tomkin. There were no sounds, just drops of blood hovering in his field of view. He focused on a soldier’s head, pulled and as soon as he felt the touch of his fingers on his cheek he let got.

The sounds flooded in again like a tidal wave. “Fuck you rookie!” Mace screamed but just turned around to smother the next guy.

“Thanks, rookie!” Tomkin panted. Jasper gave him a hand and helped him up. The young black haired man coughed heavily. “That was close,” he said smiling. Jasper nodded then turned around suddenly when he heard a loud scream. Horses but not coming at them. Someone had stabbed a horse in the last of the supply wagon sending them crashing in the ones before. On the narrow path, this meant an absolute disaster for everyone in front. Luckily that was the enemy. The boar stood there smiling madly. His teeth white in his blonde beard. He put his axes back at his belt and clapped his hands like a backer after a good days work. Only then Jasper noticed the corpses around the tattooed brute. Half a dozen, at least.

“Good job.” the captain said to no one in particular, slapping Jasper on the shoulder. Whenever he was near the air was filled with the smell of the well-tended leather he wore. The short blonde beard and scarred face made him look like a raider, but his simple equipment was in a condition even soldiers on parade would be jealous of.

“Nearly split the fool in half.” Mace spat and glared at Jasper. “Saved my life though,” Tomkin said smiling. A short man with dark skin and an intricate pattern shaved into his scalp hair was holding him upright but said nothing. Mace gave Tomkin a look that told him how much she didn’t care. “Don’t get in my way.” she hissed at Jasper getting very close to his face. She then turned around to get her equipment from the bushes.

The carnage down the road grew louder and louder. The wagons were obviously crashing through the enemy army. Screams of the soldiers falling down the cliff were drowned by the much loader screams of the horses.

“Pack your stuff.” the Captain said as if they were just breaking camp. He smiled at Jasper with piercing blue eyes but spoke to everyone “Time to have a talk with the guy who said this path was clear.”

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