"Your flesh will bleed in recompense, tenfold!"
The old woman's face was now tight with a toothy scowl. In each hand, a twin machete gleamed. She leaned out from behind a tree, as the fencer approached her screams. The young woman's reaction only confirmed her assumption. Murderer!
"The Qurystal will judge the slaver," the fencer intoned. The jewel on her bracelet shone amidst the sparse light. Her narrow, two-edged blade jutted out before her with a swoosh, "I merely stopped him from doing the Underworld's work."
"Who are you to judge?" the old woman sneered.
"I am Naieyle, niece of Baron Armâtre, and a Forest Fencer. Sworn to protect the ethics of the land when I am not under the business oaths of my trade."
"You're are nothing but vile, self-righteous rangers of shadow!"
"I agree," she admitted, tilting her head back towards the caravan in indication. "And you are nothing but a widow, blinded by the shadows of vengeance."
"You wake this boy, but you know not his crimes!"
The dark-complexioned adolescent was struggling to stay awake, but had turned to watch them through the ferns on the forest floor. He seemed to understand their exchange of words, but his head kept falling and each time, he raised it in surprise. And beside him, still naked, were the three comatose women that the fencer had not had time to purge of the Spider's Kiss.
Naieyle sent the old woman's question back at her, "Who are you to judge?"
The old woman chose this moment to let out her anger. She drew upon the energies around her, and the ethereal cache of thaumaturgic energy that every magic-user of the land carried around within their mind. She drew upon her willpower and emotions, and every ounce of experience and lore. And finally, her wrinkled face contorting, she let it out.
The scream echoed through the forest, and shattered windows in the distance. It shook the trees, and sent the fencer flying back against a trunk near the roadside. Leaves fell about, stirred by the sonic shock-wave. And the black-haired boy had moved his hands quickly to cover his ears - legs too limp to move.
Feel my force, fencer, for I am the Banshee Bard! The old woman's jaw still hung low and open. Rotting teeth and silver replacements hung ferociously in the gape.
Her back hit the tree, and jolted her body. In the wake of the blast, ferns and lichen fluttered about in the wind. And she fell back, limply, ears bleeding. The messy bun of brown hair upon her head almost fell, as it was a wig. But through whatever strange force, it hung on. And with haste, she picked up her fallen blade, easily sliding her hand onto the hilt. It was sheltered by ornate metal craftsmanship, an iron butterfly standing daintily upon a curl of vines around her hand. I lined my blade with the extraction from the boy's neck. One hit upon her veins, and it'll just be a waiting game.
The old woman jumped towards her with uncanny speed, and landed with a sturdy stance. The knives danced about, flashing steel menacingly against the rapier. And the lithe old hag parried every lengthy stride of the fencer's blade. She gained ground, against the fencer, pushing her through the bush towards where the forest met the road.
However, the old woman stopped, as the fencer's blade hung hands' breadths from her neck. She grinned, mischievously, as the duel seemed to pause.
Naieyle, ears aching, cocked her head to the side, expecting the woman to utter her last words.
"Have you ever heard talk of the Banshee Bard?"
The fencer grinned, "Nothing but an old wives' tale, that bards like my fiancé sing of."
"Well, I be an old slaver's wife who sings it as more than fiction," the old woman replied. And with that, she brought up the knives and thrust the rapier up, away from her neck. And in doing so, she screamed in the same instant, "Aaaahhhh!"
A red-wing blackbird, that had been pecking away in the grass, flew off in terror. And the scream got an angry response from the nearby squirrels.
She's bold to be self-proclaimed folklore! Naieyle tried to side-step the shock-wave this time. As she did, she leaned her head against one shoulder, and used her spare arm to cover her ears. However, she was pushed back a bit, and stumbled.
"Can't take it, eh?"
Naieyle's fast footwork set her straight, and she circled the old woman. Meanwhile, her hand fell back to a pocket at her belt. And as the old woman, too, began to circle her - she withdrew a tiny brown sac. I've got something you can't take.
And as metal gleamed, the women circled each other. Meanwhile, a crowd from down the road had begun to gather. The young man, self-consciously, folded his legs inward to shelter his loins from invasive eyes. And the three women remained at the wayside, poisoned. The horses watched, still with bland indifference in the face of violence.
Naieyle repeated a mantra to herself, from her schooling, I am shadow. I am stealth. I move with the wind and strike with the land. I am shadow. I am stealth. I am the poison blade in the darkness.
And the spectators from the village huddled together, not sure what to make of the strange scene. They whispered amongst themselves of banshees, slavers and the renowned Forest Fencers of Lakeland. And every so often, they had to cover their ears.