Editor's ChoiceFantasy and Adventure

The Tribe

Pulling tightly on the reins, he came to a stop. He hopped off his horse, knelt down to check the ground; there were hoof prints and this was good. Judging from the prints, they had come through here about 2-3 days ago. It was late in the evening so it was easier to track because of the shadows, but tracking a kidnapped princess was getting more and more bizarre in his opinion.

For instance, there were only two sets of horse prints, how could two men come into a guarded castle and kidnap a princess, make off with her and still keep moving at this pace with just two horses and no wagon? Surely they would have needed a wagon or something to put her in.

These thoughts plagued him as he adjusted his leather armour and lifted his head to take in the scene around him; the sun was setting over the forest, and he needed to find a camping ground soon, start a fire and make a plan for tomorrow. Grabbing the reins of his horse he pulled it along behind him,

“Come, Leonard, the forest comes alive at night and we don’t want to be here when it does,” he said as he led the way.
They kept marching in the night, the knight in search of a suitable place to lay his head. Bats flew around, screaming, and owls exchanged hoots, insects chirped, birds called. It almost sounded like a harmony of sorts, as though nature was its own choir or orchestra, with frogs singing the base notes and the moon providing the light.

Still walking, he saw a light, a camp fire and a really large one too. He stopped and tied the horse to a tree. He crouched low and began to approach the light, and using the foliage as cover, he kept low. He wasn’t sure what to expect but experience had taught him not to rush into a situation without analysing the situation. He pulled apart the leaves and took in the scene before him.

There were 10-12 large tents and smaller ones around, and camp fires in front of the tents, but at the centre of the camp stood the largest fire. He counted twelve men all standing, guards dressed in animal fur and leather, armed with spears and some sort of shied. He was sure they weren’t the only ones on duty and the tribe must have gone to sleep.

He wasn’t sure what to do, on one hand the tribe could welcome him and give him any information they had, or they could be a bunch of barbarians waiting to club him and eat his flesh.

As he weighed the pros and cons trying to come to a decision, a hand suddenly wrapped around his mouth and a dagger was held to his neck.

“Who are you?” she hissed. Wait she? he thought to himself but didn’t answer. Of course, how could he answer when she covered his mouth?

“I am not going to ask you again. Who are you?” she continued, pressing the dagger harder against his skin. The knight rolled his eyes. How am I supposed to answer if you’re covering my mouth?

So he remained silent and this seemed to infuriate his assailant more judging from the annoyed growl. Two other hands grabbed him and lifted him to his feet and started to drag him towards the campfire. He looked behind him and two other guards accompanied them and behind them hidden in the dark stood a feminine figure.

As they dragged him on, he quickly formulated a plan to escape. He wasn’t sure he could trust these people. The two guards that dragged him were much bigger than him he noticed; brute strength wouldn’t take them down, he’d have to use their strength to his advantage. The other two would be easy, and besides they hadn’t disarmed him yet, he still had his sword and dagger.

He swiftly pulled his wrist out of the arm of the man on his right turned and kicked the one on his left where the sun didn’t shine, causing him crumble in a pile like a pack of cards whimpering as he held his crotch. Dirty? Yes. Effective? Also a yes. His partner stood mouth ajar before coming out of his reverie, taking a step forward and throwing a punch. He ducked and punched him in the neck making him gasp and wrap his hand around his neck as he choked. The guard behind him drew his sword and charged the knight, he sidestepped and kicked the guard in the rear.

“Amateurs.” He rolled his eyes, the last guard charged just like the former one. Just as he reached the knight, he punched him in the nose, breaking it then kneeing him in the stomach and throwing him to the side. He pulled his sword and stalked towards the guard he had earlier thrown when a sword was held to his throat.

Standing in front of him was his assailant from before, she held the tip of her sword at his neck at arm’s length.

“Drop it,” she growled.

He smirked and dropped his sword and raised his hands to his head, he was kicked behind his knees, making him kneel with a smirk still on his face. She stepped forward, her face scrunched in disgust, but when she did, he recognized her. The left side of her face was covered in some sort of paint and she was dressed in warrior pants and leather armour with a sword pointed at his neck but he recognized her.

She was a delicate young woman who would never be caught dead in this part of the forest dressed the way she was, or so he thought. Her father had hired him to save her from the kidnappers, he was worried sick about his daughter, wailing about how she was naïve and could never survive the outside world.

The woman that stood before him was nothing like they described, she looked tough and battle hardened. Looking her in the eyes he whispered, “Princess?”

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