It was several minutes down the road when Griever heard it; a rustling of leaves, the movement of branches, and even the animals scurrying about. He knew what it meant and he was prepared. Two knives were in his hands as the first black-cloaked man came from the woods.
Griever cursed and dodged, barely getting away with a scratch on his left arm. Before he could rush the opponent – a Black Wolf of painfully obvious superiority to Rave, the trainee – another knife was swinging at Griever’s back. Facing off against multiple opponents was not something a mercenary was accustomed to doing alone, but Griever managed to dodge the second blade by rolling.
Pain blossomed in Griever’s right arm, along with a knife. He grunted, but ripped the thing out with his teeth and spat it out. “Now it’s three?” he mocked, watching the three figures in front of him. The one furthest from him drew another knife that had been hidden by the long black cloak he and his allies wore. “A man can’t even travel these days.”
The three men said nothing, their faces looking like stone carvings more than human flesh. Then, they multiplied as four more men walked out of the woods and joined their comrades. Well, this day was getting interesting. Griever had hoped he could get away from these men without incident. Despite the thrill he felt from the challenge, he knew he risked death. Unlike with that neophyte fool, this was a real danger.
“Not talking, eh?” Griever growled, standing tall. “What do you want with me, anyway?”
The man in the middle of his group of seven, and the tallest among them, stepped forward. Griever readied himself for any sudden movements and still kept an eye on the woods. No telling if these bastards had some more allies.
“Your life for our honor,” the tall bounty hunter said, followed by the other Black Wolves repeating the words. Honor?
‘Watch out!’ Griever moved to the side as another knife was thrown at him, and then braced himself as all seven of the men attacked him. ‘Use me and end this, bonded.’
Knife met knife and Griever was instantly pushed back. While the fight with Gallag had been dangerous, it was nothing compared to the Black Wolves that faced him now. Unlike Gallag, the bounty hunters timed their attacks and made them precisely when Griever showed an opening. Three of the men stayed on him, while the other four hung back, throwing knives and trying to circle around.
Griever wasn’t sure how, but he managed to keep all seven of the men in front of him, blocking and dodging all the attacks he could. Cuts lined his torso in the moments after the fight had started, but he stood strong, fending off the seven men who wanted him dead.
But it was hopeless.
These men were testing him. They had incredible skill from their experience, strength, and speed and it was obvious they could kill him whenever they wanted to. They were simply waiting for a moment to strike that would give Griever an opening as well. He couldn’t even think of them as anything but one entity, with how well they were working together. If this kept up, Griever would end up relying on Bash once more…
An arrow pierced one of the men attempting to circle around and he dropped. The remaining six noticed instantly and fell back, eyes moving toward the direction the arrow came from, but still watching Griever. It wasn’t hard to find the owner of the arrow, of course, but it was hard to grasp.
Down the road that stretched through this unnamed forest was a figure. From the size of the figure, Griever guessed that shot had been made from over two hundred yards away. He had, of course, seen archers make arrows fly over three hundred yards. But, God above, he had never seen an archer hit a man – who had been moving around! – in the back of the head from that distance!
Another arrow came, this time dodged by one of the Wolves. Griever took the time to attack, throwing his knife at the men. As if moving as one, however, the cluster of Black Wolves slipped into the forest and disappeared, leaving their fallen comrade behind. Griever was about to give chase, lost in a momentary thrill, but gave up. Sure, he could use the trees to his advantage, but they could too and probably better than he.
Plus, Griever was curious who this new woman who was walking his way was.
‘Maybe she is a guardian spirit,’ Bash suggested, making Griever jump. ‘What?’
“Nothing, just forgot you existed for a minute.” Bash muttered something about being rude and how he couldn’t believe one so great could be forgotten, but Greiver ignored it. The person who had shot the bow, now looking more like a youth with a slender figure, was getting closer. What if those bounty hunters hadn’t run away?
It only took the figure making it halfway for the six men to jump out and attack. Griever started running to help, only to stop after a few steps. Were his eyes deceiving him? Was this stranger really doing that? No, that…
‘She’s better than you,’ Bash said with a little laugh, ‘Aren’t you jealous?’
The archer was dropping the men like flies. One after another they fell. Griever couldn’t make out everything, as they were still a good ways away, but he could see the stranger stabbing each man like they were children trying to attack a trained killer with no remorse.