For once it looks like I'm on time this week. Thought I'd have a little fun in this part. Hope you like it.
A Stone of Contention Part IX – Amateur Hour
“You missed!” came a woman’s voice from somewhere beneath the glare of the setting sun. From the angle of the dart in Kass’s head, Swaglord judged the owner of that voice to be standing near the spot from where it was thrown.
“I did not!” It was a man’s voice this time, from about the same direction as the woman’s. The voice sounded young but raw, with the same nasty tone as the other one. “Look! It’s still stickin’ there. Right in the back’a the head.”
“You missed the neck, you fool,” said the woman. “THAT’s where you’re supposed to hit them.”
“I hit her!” replied the man. “What difference does it make where? I hit her s’what counts!”
There was a pause in the exchange and then Swaglord heard a faint windy sound that he took to be an exaggerated sigh. “They work better in the neck,” the woman continued. “Or weren’t you listening to the old man we bought ‘em from.”
“I heard ‘im. Look, I listened as well as you. An’ I hit her. What more you want?”
“Decent aim, if it’s not too much trouble.”
“Alright then, I’ll stick her again if it’ll shut ya up.”
There was a pause again. Swaglord squinted into the sun trying to locate the source of the voices. He had already spotted three other shadowy figures that he had taken to be bandits, arranged about them like points of a compass at East, South and West. The spot the voices came from would make a complete set.
All of a sudden Swaglord got a funny feeling about the sudden quiet. Before he fully realized what he was doing, he found himself kneeling with Kass tucked between his body and his broad shield.
A dart ricocheted off the shield and onto the ground a few feet away.
Just in time! he thought. I’ve got to be more careful.
“Oh brilliant, Tom,” said the woman. “So much for takin’ ‘em by surprise.“
“Look,“ the man replied, “we’ve got ‘em surrounded, we’ll—and what did I say about using my name? It’s Blue Leader, got it!”
“Oh, stuff it, Tom.”
“Blue leader! It’s Blue Leader!”
“You’re such a twit sometimes.”
There was another pause in the exchange and then Swaglord finally spotted the man walking to his left. “Blue one,” he called.
“Aye?” Another man, the one at the East compass point, replied.
“Get ready to dart the knight,” said Blue Leader, “and tell Blue Three, too.”
“Blue three-two?” Blue One replied. “Who’s ‘zat?”
“Not three-two, three—Blue Three—tell him, too, got it?.”
“Oh, Russell—o’course. Why din’cha say so?”
“I did. And that’s BLUE—“ Blue Leader said and then stopped suddenly, putting a hand over his eyes. “Just… tell him to get ready, okay.”
“Sure, Tom. No problem.”
Blue leader shook his head, turned around and started walking back, slapping himself on the forehead with one fist—hard. As he passed the woman, Swaglord heard him say, “I’ll show you… Strategy! Hmph! We’ll get ‘em.”
“Like it matters,” the woman replied. “Poor girl’s probably got brain damage by now.”
Swaglord raised one eyebrow and hastily lifted Kass’s head up to take a look at her. He could remember her looking better. The drool running down her chin didn’t worry him, he’d seen people sleep like that before, but the twitch in her right eye, and the way her tongue curled and uncurled in her slack mouth was downright disturbing.
“I can’t imagine what it’ll do to her parents,” the woman said. “Probably kill her mum.”
Swaglord peeked over his shield toward the woman. “Say,” he called, “about that brain damage…”
“Shut up, you,” yelled Blue Leader continuing his quick walk. When he neared the other compass point, he called “Blue Two?”
“Sir, Blue Leader, yes sir!” came the quick reply.
Blue Leader stopped suddenly, clearing his throat and taking a more officious air, said. “We are preparing to assault the target. Be ready.”
“Sir! Yes, sir!”
Blue Leader drew his shoulders back and raised his hand up to a crisp salute, which Blue Two enthusiastically returned. “Very good, Blue Two,” he said, adding, “Exemplary,” and then turning and marching quickly away.
“Aw thanks, Dad!”
Blue Leader stopped, shook his head, and then resumed his course back to where he started.
“No, really,” Swaglord called again, “you don’t really think that’s a possibility, do you?”
“I told you to shut it!” barked Blue Leader. “You’re about to be in a world of hurt.”
“Aw, don’ worry, hon’,” the woman called, “I’s just teasing on account of Blue Phony over here.”
“And you can shut yers, too!” Blue Leader barked.
“Jus’ gather up some a’them purple flowers,” the woman continued, “they grow practically everywhere. Make her a nice tea out of it. She’ll be alright.”
“I see,” said Swaglord, smiling. “Thank you very much.”
“Oh don’t mention—“
“RIGHT!” Blue Leader had gotten back to the North position and had one hand in the air. “BLUE SQUAD! PREE-PARE TO FIRE! DARTS! NOW!”
As before, Swaglord nearly forgot to duck and cover, but as Blue Leader's voice faded he managed to crouch down low, doing his best to make a protective tent around Kass with his shield and armor.
Two, he counted. Swaglord waited a bit more then, deciding the other two had missed, poked his head up again to look around. Blue Leader was slapping his forehead again.
“Right!” he said, starting to pace. “Good. Fine…”
“Those darts don’t grow on trees you know,” the woman said. “Stop wastin’ ‘em.”
Blue Leader spun toward her. “Wasting! This is a burgle, for cryin out—“
“Yeah, Dad. I’m hungry,” Blue Two called. “Can’t we go now?”
“And he seems like such a nice fella’,” said the woman.
“WE WILL GO WHEN I—“ started Blue Leader, then he stopped suddenly and turned back to Swaglord. “BLUE SQUAD! SHANKS! NOW!”
Swaglord made the metal tent again and waited.
From the sound of it, one dagger struck his shield, and he felt what seemed to be something blunt, probably the hilt of a poorly thrown dagger, hit him in the side. Again, it seemed as though two of them missed completely.
“That’s just great, Tom!” said the woman. “Keep that up and he’ll soon have all our weapons!”
As Blue Leader selected some more choice words for his female companion, Swaglord peeked up over the shield. He heard a small commotion off some distance past Blue Leader and the woman, and a few seconds later a small group of horses emerged from a stand of trees and ran down the path away from them.
“Um, excuse me, Blue Leader?” called Swaglord
“Blue Leader spun around and stomped two steps toward him. “Whatta you want, fancy britches?”
“Well, uh, those wouldn’t happen to be your horses, would they?” he said, pointing directly behind where Blue Leader stood.
“What?” said Blue Leader, looking behind him. “THE HORSES!” He turned and ran back two steps, called “BLUE SQUAD! FALL OUT!” then spun around and started pounding the ground for all he was worth after the fleeing animals.
“Bye hon’,” the woman called. “Sorry to be a bother.” Swaglord waved as she turned and chased after Blue Leader.
“Excuse me, sir,” came a voice from his right. Swaglord turned to see a teenage lad standing a few feet from him, waiting politely.
“Blue Two?” Swaglord asked.
“That’s right, sir,” he said smiling. “Could I have my dagger back, please?”
“Oh,” Swaglord said, glancing at the ground and noticing the scattered weapons around them. “Sure, son—and why don’t you take the others, too.”
“Thank you, sir,” the boy replied, stooping down to gather them up.
“Say,” Swaglord started, “you wouldn’t happen to know the way to the nearest town, would you?”
“Yes, sir. Just take the road up that way,” he said, pointing. “Follow it ‘til you come to a river, then follow the river away from the mountains until you get there. You can’t miss it. About two day away, I’d say.”
“I see, thanks.”
The boy smiled and bowed and then started running after the others with his armful of darts and daggers. Swaglord watched them fade into the distance. A few seconds after they were out of site he saw another figure emerge from the stand of trees and come galloping toward him. Shortly he recognized his clever pony and smiled as it ran back over to the rogue’s horse, hidden behind a pine tree against the near hillside.
Atta boy, Teacup!
Swaglord gathered his sword and carried Kass over to the animals, where he leaned her against a large rock. He took off his shield and laid it down, stacking his sword on top of it, and then started to sit himself down on the soft sod where he hoped to take a long nap. But before he could get quite settled, Kass began to stir.
“Mmmm….” She pulled her head back and opened one eye, which blinked uneasily and then, with some difficulty, scanned the area while her head and the rest of her body remained quite still. “What I miss?”
Swaglord opened his mouth to reply and then stopped, staring thoughtfully toward the path. “Nothing,” he said. “You didn’t miss a thing.”
“Huh…” Kass said sleepily. “So… what are we going to do now, Swag?”
Swaglord frowned. “You get some rest,” he said, very slowly standing up again, “I was just heading off to pick you some flowers.”
End of Episode One