A Sorcerer's Ransom - Part Two

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After an uneventful night, the Sea Horse arrived at the port of Rouen early the following morning. Captain Patch told the group that his orders were to wait a week for them before returning to York. They disembarked and were met at the gangplank by a rough-looking man in green travel-stained clothes. Brother Thomas seemed to know the man, who introduced himself in Norman French as Gerold of Anjou.

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The ranger explained that he would guide them to the rendezvous point, an ancient oak tree on the border of Normandy and France near the town of Gisors, where they would meet representatives of the French King and exchange Damien of Orleans for the agreed ransom. Wasting no time, Gerold led the group to Rouen castle, where they were given horses for the journey. Each of them was also given a change of mount, to enable them to move particularly quickly, which was deemed sensible given that they would be carrying a great deal of treasure through border country.

With their prisoner manacled and tied to his horse, the group made good time across the fertile plateau of the Vexin, following the trading road to Gisors. After a hard eight hours of riding, Gerold led them off the road and across a valley, the smoke of cookfires from the town visible in the distance. Ahead, at the top of a rise, stood the ancient oak tree.

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The companions noticed two figures already waiting near the tree. As they closed it became clear that one was a grizzled knight in full plate armour, the other a middle-aged man clad in noble finery. Four horses, two with heavy saddlebags, were staked to lines on the other side of the hill.

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The group dismounted, and introduced themselves. “I am Sir Bertrand de Belanda,” announced the French knight in a gruff voice. “I have the honour to introduce Baron Guy de Amiens.”

The Baron inclined his head in greeting. “We have brought the agreed sum. Sixty pounds of silver,” he said, gesturing to the horses a few yards away. “May I speak to Damien?”

Brother Thomas untied the sorcerer and helped him down from his horse, before leading him over to the Baron.

Suddenly the pounding of hooves sounded behind the companions, and they turned to see three knights thundering up the hill atop huge warhorses. Each was clad in plate mail and full livery, and as they approached each lowered a steel-tipped lance!

Sophia screamed a warning, as Sir Bertrand drew his longsword and slashed at Tector’s head. The big warrior ducked just in time as the mounted knights thundered down on them.

As Storm hurled a lightning orb at the knight in red livery, Sophia focused her will on Sir Bertand, filling his mind with unnatural fear. His face crumpled in terror and he soiled his breeches, turning and sprinting away down the French side of the hill as if the very hounds of Hell were after him!

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The companions’ shout of triumph was cut short as the charging knights slammed into their targets. A knight in yellow and blue livery struck Tector with his lance, stabbing deep into his leg. The lance broke off as the horse galloped past, leaving a terrible wound.

The second knight, in blue and red livery, ducked an arrow fired by Gerold before pinioning the ranger with his lance. It punched completely through his shoulder, breaking off as the horse passed. With blood pumping from a terrible wound Gerold collapsed to the ground.

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The third knight, in red and yellow livery, charged at Brother Thomas. The holy warrior stood firm, sidestepping at the last moment and taking a glancing blow from the lance before slamming his greathammer into the horse’s rear leg. The horse tumbled, throwing its rider, who rolled to his feet and drew a mace.

Sophia rushed across to Gerold, placing her hands on his ruined shoulder and channeling healing power into him. The bleeding slowed to a trickle and his breathing steadied, though he did not regain consciousness.

Storm conjured javelins of ice, which slammed into the knight with yellow and blue livery, knocking him off his horse. Tector closed in, wounding the knight further with a flurry of rapid blows.

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As Brother Thomas and the red knight engaged in melee, Guy de Amiens freed Damien, cutting the bonds at his ankles, and the pair ran off toward horses. Storm reacted instantly, conjuring a whirlwind which lifted them both into the air before slamming them into the turf. Both lay prone, momentarily winded.

Seeing the battle balanced on a knife-edge, Sophia raised her voice and called through the din, enhancing her plea with an enchantment. “I am the daughter of Baron Henry de Percy, Lord of the North,” she cried. “If you harm me, or my companions, my father will land with hundreds of men, track you down and kill you! Lay down your weapons and surrender!” Despite her sorcery and the very real nature of her threat, the French, themselves possessing the discipline and mental strength of nobles and knights, fought on.

Tector took a ringing blow from the mace of his opponent before retaliating with a powerful low sweep. It found a weakness in the joint of the knee armour and severed the leg, and the knight toppled over, screaming in agony, his yellow and blue livery soaking with blood as Tector swayed from his own wounds.

On the other side of the battlefield, Guy de Amiens stumbled to his feet, trying to climb the tree in order to escape the melee. Storm rushed toward him, opening his jaws and breathing forth a cloud of freezing air which engulfed the Baron. Scrambling for a hold on the frosty tree, he slipped and fell to the ground.

With Brother Thomas struggling against his foe, and the other knight advancing on Sophia, Tector ran over and grabbed the Baron, raising a dagger to his throat. “Put up you weapons now!”he cried, ör I will slit the Baron’s throat!"

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The two remaining knights hesitated. Storm raised his voice. “We will let you live. Put up your weapons and we will exchange the prisoner for the ransom as agreed.”

Grimacing, the Baron looked at his knights. “Do it!” he commanded.

The French knights lowered their weapons and, with Tector still holding the knife to the Baron’s throat, Storm and Sophia took the horses with the saddle bags and checked that they were full of silver coins. Satisfied that the ransom was more or less complete, Sophia helped Gerold onto his horse, while Brother Thomas and Storm tied the reins of the packhorses to their own mounts and trotted down the hill into Normandy. Tector released the Baron, who stumbled away rubbing his throat, and the big warrior mounted his horse and galloped quickly after his companions.

The story continues in A Sorcerer’s Ransom, Part Three – Homeward Bound

A Sorcerer's Ransom - Part Two

Albion Andrew_Brereton Andrew_Brereton