Episode 25: Light rain

A light rain began to fall, and someone unleashed the hounds.

Isabelle heard a sudden barking, somehow deeper and more threatening than she had ever imagined that a dog could be. A howl convinced her that these were no ordinary animals; she could feel the feral intelligence in it. Then one of them bounded around the right-hand corner of the tavern.

A wolf with glowing red eyes paused for a moment, growling at her. It leapt just as she drew her sword, a steel cavalry saber that she had bought from a retired soldier. Her slash caught it across the face, knocking its jaws away from her throat, but the impact of its body knocked her to the ground. She rolled out from under it, sending it in the other direction. She rose into a three-point crouch, her left hand pressed against the ground, even as the wolf did the same, preparing for another leap. A movement to her right caught her eye. She shifted position slightly and realized with a shock that another wolf had been approaching her from behind. Of course, she cursed herself, they're pack animals. This is how they always work. Isabelle slowly rose to her feet and began backing up.

A bright flash somewhere behind Isabelle and to her left was accompanied by a loud crack of tangible sound; lightning had struck somewhere very nearby. The wolf facing Isabelle flinched. Isabelle leapt. She skidded to a stop beside the wolf as her saber opened up its side, eviscerating it. She spun to face the second wolf.

The second wolf had its own problems. It jumped at a large figure carrying a glowing warhammer; Max swung with both hands and hit the wolf in the ribs. For a moment, the hammer flared blue so brightly that it left an afterimage in Isabelle's vision. A loud cracking could be heard, and the wolf bounced off of the wall of the tavern a few feet to the left of Isabelle. Before Max could recover from the swing, yet another wolf leapt at him from his left. Max's left hand let go of the hammer and shot out, grabbing the wolf by the throat. He threw it to the ground as he turned, and his hammer followed it down to split its skull. Isabelle looked away.

Max nodded at her as he passed by, entering his tavern through the back door. His four men not already inside followed him shortly. One of them stopped long enough to tell Isabelle, "We'll guard the door from the inside. Go see if the others need help." She nodded and ran towards the town square.

A trio passed her going in the other direction; Isabelle noticed that the bard's steel mandolin had grown a steel spike on the base and was dripping blood. The triplets came into view a moment later. The one that had bought the ballista had it over his right shoulder, his left hand steadying it and his right holding a cord that lead to the trigger. The tall one was sparking where raindrops hit him, and his helmet was blackened. The third steamed, raindrops sizzling and jumping off of his skin. They shot bolts off into the trees whenever one of the archers there gave away their position by attacking. Near the town square, Isabelle found her first human attackers.

Three bulky men with swords and shields faced Orlaith and a man whom Isabelle recognized as her father. Two more attackers lay still on the ground. Orlaith had dropped her bow and stood with a short sword instead.

Isabelle yelled "Hey!" and began to sprint towards them.

One of the attackers took a quick glance at Isabelle. A moment later, the three of them went for Orlaith and her dad.

Orlaith's father swung his longsword viciously at the attackers, roaring as he did so. White flame burst forth from the sword as it met the opponent's weapon; the attacker staggered backwards, dropping his shattered sword. Orlaith parried one of her two attackers, and an arrow gored the third. Isabelle glanced further along the road and spotted Orlaith's mom holding her own bow. The remaining attackers fled.

Fintan the White Flame called to Isabelle. "Get Orlaith to the tavern. Ceara and I will deal with the others here."

Isabelle nodded, and Orlaith grabbed her bow before running over.

"C'mon," Orlaith said. "The others are probably there already."

They left for the tavern at a slow jog.