Sometimes to uphold the work of good,

you must use the tools of evil.

Captain of the royal guard.

 

 

 

Flames erupted and licked the night air as if intoxicated by the majestic sounds coming from Beletar’s pipes; the music filled the duo’s campsite with a sense of safety and calm. The hour was late and the two had been travelling west from a small job in Boratan, one of the villages of the new land. Cullen’s tired bones ached from several hours on the back of his newly acquired horse, having lost his last faithful stead in the final skirmish at Boratan he had reluctantly taken his new mount for the best on offer at the time, Cullen was lying back on a pile of furs, most of which were payment in a past job. Casually he ran his fingers through his dirty brown hair thinking how nice it would be to have an oiled bath and to be attended by beautiful maidens but this was not to be, he was on the verge of his thirty-third year but felt about fifty. Wrapped thoroughly in his cloak to keep out the bitter night chill he shifted in his position by the fire to meet the gaze of his most trusted companion

“Don’t you know any other tunes?” Cullen truly did appreciate his friend’s skill but would not give him the satisfaction of telling him so.

Beletar removed the hand-crafted pipes from his wind chapped lips and replied.

“Blow it out your Ass old man!” Beletar was only two years his friend’s junior but that made the world of difference, Beletar began to play again. Unlike Cullen or the brains of the team as he would put it, Beletar was more your axe for hire type of guy, loyal to the bone but deadly beyond comprehension, relying on his brute strength in most cases.

Cullen just released a small chuckle from his resting position beside the fire. Adjusting his shoulders snuggly into a comfortable position in his furs he began to taunt his friend yet again. The two had built quite a reputation at settling small squabbles and feuds amongst the raising lords and even lending a hand in a campaign or small war but the days were changing and the two found themselves less needed.

“Night after night the same old tunes. Even the horses are getting sick of them” said Cullen

Beletar was about to defend himself from the onslaught of verbal abuse that his friend was so freely shelling out until Cullen reached for his crossbow very uncharacteristically. Cullen was up into a crouching position and swiftly removed his cloak before backing towards the woods, in the blink of an eye he was gone without a trace. Beletar knew better than to question his friend’s decisions and just kept playing.

The horses became restless and that was Beletar’s queue, putting down his pipes he sat into a more beneficial position in case of trouble and rested his hand on the hard leather binding that covered the handle of his battle axe. He could now see four shadowy figures coming from the brush.

“Good eve fellow travellers, won’t you come and warm yourselves by my fire?” Beletar shifted again and was now standing with the axe resting against his boot so as not to let it be seen. With a gesture of his hand he motioned towards the fire, he always gave the opportunity for trouble to be averted even if he did have the upper hand. The four figures slowed their approach and began to spread their position, their faces were only now coming into range.

” It seems there will be trouble tonight?” said Beletar as he casually reached down and grasped the handle of his mighty axe. He looked for the smallest of the group as not to ruin his evening and pointed with his axe,” you will die first…” But before he finished the sentence the man dropped to his knees then planted face first into the cold earth, he was dead “…and it will be quick!”

This was a little trick he and Cullen had perfected. Cullen could not be faulted in his marksmanship, on a good day he could shoot the ass out of a cricket at twenty paces and had designed a short bolt for his modified crossbow to do just that, Cullen had reloaded before Beletar had time to choose his next target, but the decision was no longer his. The three remaining assailants were now rushing Beletar at great speed.

“Kill him!” came the order from one of the attackers. Beletar was a bulk of a warrior able to throw men one handed across a tavern bar without spilling so much as a drop from his tankard as he had done so many times in the past but it was his surprisingly fast agility that usually gave him the first advantage, from then on it was his eager ability to kill that took over. Taking hold of his axe, he stepped aside to allow his first victim room to pass, taking a short grip of the handle with his thumb pressed just under the blade he lifted it with such force it nearly cleaved the man in two. The remaining attackers were nearly upon him and he now started to wonder where his assistance was. Stepping over the gutted body he took a stance of readiness with his axe drawn high and ready for the throw, and watched as both men approached still with great speed, one of the men fell grasping his throat as he hit the ground,” Gotcha!” Beletar brought the weapon forward and released with such determination it shattered his assailant’s sword as it passed through the feeble attempts of defence burying its mass in the front of the man’s skull, the power was so immense it lifted him off his feet and back some ten paces. The unmistakable sound of a blade to bone was the prize that Beletar always claimed when he released his axe, never release your weapon unless you are sure of the kill his father would say. Beletar walked casually towards the would-be ambushers now violently shaking body and placed a massive boot on his chest to steady him, taking hold of the axe handle he tugged hard and the weapon was back in his hands and the man was still.

Beletar was startled by a rustling in the brush behind him, taking a firm hold of his axe again he turned only to watch as Cullen emerges from the dark, slightly larger than he was when he left; Cullen strode towards the campsite with a figure over his left shoulder. Dumping the cargo on one of the other bodies he joined Beletar

“I will go look for their horses, we leave when I return.” Cullen was straight to the point. Beletar was surprised by his friend’s urgency.

“Leave? We need rest before we travel, it’s a day’s ride to the nearest town north” but Cullen cut him off .

“And two to the east, we leave for Kapion when I return.” Beletar was confused but cautious not to question his trusted friend; he would tell him the reason behind his decision when he was ready. Cullen traded the crossbow for his sword and cloak that he so hastily discarded before, as Cullen was about to go and look for the horses he turned to face Beletar.

“I did not sense them, I was warned!” he said looking at his friend, a pain could be seen in his luminous green eyes,

“What do you mean warned? By who?” asked Beletar now at a loss to his friend’s words?

“I don’t know, it was like a dream, a glimpse of events to come. I saw a man in the brush watching his group approach us and..” he paused to recount his thoughts and look toward the lifeless body he had carried from the woods “ ..then I saw two men and a boy sitting at a table in a tavern that I know in Kapion.” suddenly the look was gone and Cullen was again the hardened warrior that he was, he turned and headed towards the direction from which these now dead would be assassins came from .

“I’m going to find their horses, we will need them.” and with that he was gone.

Beletar looked around the camp at the blood and devastation that had been caused by the brief yet exciting scuffle this evening.

“Always the same, just when I get warmed up it’s all over.” Beletar kicked one of the cadavers.

“Lucky I’m not the same with the wimm’n, aye?” he looked around but no one would here his joke, not this night and not this group; he chuckled to himself and went about checking the raiders for anything worth taking. He would finish this task and pack the camp ready for Cullen’s return and their departure.

“What do we have here?” Beletar removed a cloth string drawn pouch from one of the raider’s pockets; untying the pouch he poured the contents into his hand.

“My haven’t we done well tonight then?” the pouch held several of the crowns gold sovereigns and a few select pieces of small jewellery. Beletar could only wonder what fate had become of the true owner of the pouch, and with that he was back to work.