Lancaster

Lucius dangled his body over the edge of the hundred foot cliff, and bringing the bow up slowly, pulled the waxed string and arrow to a full draw, a deer with large antlers and a white spot on it’s hind quarters taking up his sight. He felt no fear as Aaron squeezed his calves to keep him from falling; his life was in Aarons hands, and those hands felt sturdy and ready to catch him should the rocks begin to slip.

The deer grazed in the grass at the base of the cliff, his head down as he chewed on the grass. Lucius loosed the arrow, holding his breath, and it trailed down through thin bundles of branches whistling before it thumped into the ground a foot away from the deer’s shoulder. It looked up at the arrow, and the muscles on it’s back tensed as it searched the area for predators.

Lucius swore and quickly drew another arrow and released it, the bowstring hitting the brown leather and steel gauntlet he wore over his hand. Aaron’s lips went into a stiff line when he saw this, he hadn’t slapped his forearm with a bowstring since he was a boy. He thought Lucius foolish for firing another arrow so fast without properly aiming. The arrow flew through the air and found the fleshy part of the deer’s leg. It grunted and moaned before running into the woods, leaving a trail of blood behind it.

“You aim like a squire Lucius, our supper now is spoiled and we will have nothing to bring home.” Said Aaron.

“If you had held me steady perhaps I would have the chance to make the kill.” Lucius said, smirking.

“You know that I held you steady, it is only your foolishness that has cost us our buck.” Aaron said, not amused. He pulled Lucius up from the edge and brushed off the dirt and branches that had accumulated on his green tunic.

“We should make our way to Lancaster. Edwin said that the raids have been coming closer to us. There have been sightings of the barbarians from Whiteridge in the valley.” Lucius said.

“Those who are apt to call them barbarians may find they are underestimating them.” Aaron said, scorning. “Edwin is foolish to think he can keep us safe from them. They will not stop us from eating our dinner tonight though, are you afraid Lucius?”

“My father is no fool, and I fear no man Aaron. Not even you.” Lucius cringed a little as he looked at the deep scars covering Aarons face. He had seen many more battles then Lucius.

Aaron laughed and said, “Good, you have spirit then. Let us get our deer.”

Lucius nodded and pulled a rope out of the satchel he wore over his back. He walked over to a tree that was close to the edge of the cliff, and tied the rope around it. He checked that it was secure, and began his descent down the cliff face, Aaron following closely behind him.

They picked up the trail of blood when they reached the bottom, and resumed their hunt for food. The trees were sparse in most areas, it made tracking the deer much easier. Leafs crunched underfoot as they followed the blood over fallen branches and through thick underbrush.

“Edwin speaks of an alliance with the Whiteridge clan. What do you think?” Said Aaron, ducking under a branch as they walked.

“I think you are wrong and that it is true that they are barbarians. They have made so called alliances with other towns and you have seen the destruction they still bring. They are not to be trusted, and I will tell my father so. I think he will listen to me.” Said Lucius, his face growing hot.

“The towns have fallen, but the people were accepted into the tribes. The ones that were willing to were anyways,” said Aaron.

“I won’t have our traditions and histories lost, and those who were unwilling were slaughtered. They are intent on engulfing all of the East lands, I think we should stand against them. Our walls are strong and our men are trained well. No Aaron, an alliance cannot be made with them.”

“Of course you’re right,” Lucius said turning away with a blank look on his face, “They aren’t to be trusted.”

They came out onto an open meadow, with yellow grass as tall as a mans knees, and poppies scattered in bundles of red. The deer was two hundred yards away, panting and moaning as the life and energy drained out of it.

“Stay low!” Aaron said.

They ducked into the grass and slowly moved towards the deer. Lucius pulled an arrow out of his quiver and pressed it to the bowstring. Aaron drew a long, thin blade out of the sheath on his boot and trailed behind Lucius.

Lucius released an arrow when they were within forty yards. His aim was more precise this time, he had been more careful and taken his time. The arrow struck the deer in the midsection, rupturing it’s heart instantly. It fell to the ground in a heap.

“Wow, Aaron, look at this one!” Lucius shouted, waving his bow in the air as he ran towards the carcase, “It’s huge! It’s the biggest yet, bigger then the buck we caught that summer when we were courting the twins.”

Aaron thought about the time when they had been young and free and before they had been knights. The memory shook him and he nearly dropped the knife as he came up upon Lucius.

“It was a time I won’t forget, my friend.” Aaron said, bringing the knife up as he neared closer.

“Brother, we share the best times of my life, let us eat this buck and drink wine tonight and celebrate before we fight the hoards of barbarians that threaten to invade us.”

Aaron looked on at the deer, and saw that indeed it was the largest they had ever caught. He brought his hand down on Lucius’s shoulder and clamped it tight. He tucked the knife into his thick leather belt. “Yes brother, let us eat well tonight.” He said.

A spear came whistling through the air, the sharp metal end jutting into Lucius’s stomach and coming out the other side. Wild cries came from the from somewhere close in the grass. Lucius dropped down on his hands and knees, gasping for air.

Aaron was fast, he had eyed the spot where the spear had come from and he zig-zagged his way through the grass towards it. A huge figure stood up from crouching in the grass ten yards to his left. He pulled the knife out of his belt, and with great accuracy threw it so that the handle was sticking out of the barbarians throat. He saw that there were no others with the barbarian and ran over to him, pulling his war axe off of his back as he ran up. The barbarian’s head rolled onto the ground from one swing, blood spouting out of the torso and falling onto a patch of poppies.

Lucius cried out, bucking his legs on the ground as he was slowly dying. Aaron ran back over to him and knelt over him, taking his face up into his hands.

Aaron had seen enough men die and didn’t expect any heroic last words from Lucius as he died in front of him. Lucius only bucked and moaned as he puked up blood and breathed his last breaths.

Aaron slammed his fist into the dirt. The barbarian was supposed to wait for him to kill Lucius, and his only job was to deliver the head to their village. He should have known not to trust a Whiteridge man. He might have had a chance to do something about the barbarian if he had more time, his changing of heart was too close to the end.

Lucius was the last chance for convincing Edwin that an alliance was not the best option. Edwin didn’t trust Aaron, and it would be no surprise if he presumed Aaron killed Lucius in an attempt to start a war with the barbarians. Aaron felt a deep sadness in his heart and a great regret filled him up.

 

The Barbarians from Whiteridge burned Lancaster to the ground days after negotiations were made. Edwin was burned on a stake, an example for anybody who refused to join the barbarian hoarde. Aaron watched as Lucius’s father died, and pulled his Whiteridge cloak down over his shoulders as rain came down in heaps. He picked up his war axe and looped it over his back, and made his way to the Barbarian general to ask for his orders.

 

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