An unexpected battle

Lianna shrugged out of her pack letting it fall to the ground with a soft thump.  Then she kicked it sharply behind her, out of the way.  She turned to face the oncoming wolf-pack, pulling her sword from its scabbard at her hip with a smooth, drawn-out, snick.  She came en garde, her left side presented to her foe.

Mirko lifted bent down and picked his staff up, keeping his head up and not looking away from the wolves.  He'd faced a wolf before in the forest, as part of manhood rites and while out tending to the enclave, but never a wolf-pack.  His heart thumped in his chest, his breath seemed loud in his ears, and tiny spots of bright light danced on the edge of his vision.

Venne seemed transfixed to the spot, still staring at the onrushing menace, unmoving.  He was stood behind the other two, neither turned their heads to see if he was ready or prepared.  As the lead wolf reached Lianna, she a few paces ahead of Mirko, Venne still stood as motionless as a statue.

The lead wolf leapt at Lianna, its paws aimed at her chest, its head down.  A foetid breath, stinking of rotten meat, engulfed her, and wolf-drool slapped against her arm.  She turned slightly, just pulling out of the wolf's lunge.  It soared past her, the only sound its laboured breathing, and then she spun forward, both hands gripping the sword hilt, swinging it.  The blade flashed in the afternoon sunlight and tore into the Hobgoblin rider.  It sliced into its back, smashing two vertebrae and cutting open the flesh as easily as a hot knife through butter.  The Hobgoblin's face jerked, surprised, and its mouth opened.  No sound came out.  Lianna braced now against her back foot, letting the momentum of the wolf's lunge pull the body free from her blade, her head already looking over her shoulder at the rest of the pack.

The second rider leapt clear of its wolf even before Lianna had leaned out of the way of the first, and rolled, sprawling on the ground.  The wolf behind it tensed, muscles bunching under its matted, mangy fur, and it pushed off, leaping over Mirko, aiming for Venne.  The second wolf slowed, no longer goaded onwards by the Hobgoblin, and never saw Mirko's staff as it whistled round in a long arc, stretched out at arm's length, and connected with the side of its skull.  There was a clonk, and the wolf sprawled on the grass.  Mirko controlled the staff and brought it back in to a two-handed grip, eyeing the rest of the pack nervously.

Even as the wolf fell from the sky, well-targeted at his throat, Venne didn't move until the very last instant.  Just as it seemed the wolf must surely strike him, pushing him over and leaving his soft flesh to the iron-hard claws and ripping teeth, he ducked and turned, his arm lashing out from underneath his cloak and then vanishing back inside again.  The wolf struck the ground and crumpled, landing on its head and going completely over, its back striking the earth hard.  Sticking out from between its ribs was a slender, black-handled dagger.  Checking his companions, Venne swiftly pulled the dagger free, wiped it clean on the wolf's fur, and made it vanish again.

The three remaining wolves, seeing their pack-kin dead and with the Hobgoblins either dead or sprawled on the ground slowed to a halt and stood for a few moment, tongues lolling, sides heaving, deciding what to do.  Then, as though they'd taken a silent decision between them, yellow eyes flashed and the three wolves turned and walked away.

Mirko, seeing the wolves departure, pounced, throwing his staff across the Hobgoblins neck and dropping his weight on it.  The Hobgoblin, still face down on the ground squeaked and a fist pounded on the ground.

"What are you doing, druid?  Kill the vermin and be done with it," said Lianna, still watching the wolves with her blade drawn.  "We have three down and a dead Hob-rat.  That counts as one each, plus one for me, and one for you when that thing's done for."

"None for me," said Venne pleasantly.  "I dodged the wolf, and I think it broke its neck on the ground."

"Is that so?  You move quickly."

"I was lucky, I think.  And I was unlucky, that the wolf jumped the druid to get to me."

"Speaking of him, why is that Hob-rat not dead yet?"  Lianna spat on the nearly-bisected corpse of her Hobgoblin, and wiped the sword's blade on its tattered clothing.


The End

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