Running in the Bear Empire 45: By The Numbers

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“So there were fifty of them,” Deline murmured.  They stood ready, weapons drawn, listening to the shouts and screams.  “How many do you think we’ve taken out?”

“Over half,” he murmured back.”  The shouting stopped; they fell silent.

Somewhere on the other side of the boulder there, a whole bunch of people were trying to kill them.  It should have probably frightened Deline. They’d already blooded her here, for one. She found she was smiling.  Carrone’s traps were nasty and amazing. The spell-work she’d been pulling out of nowhere was exhilarating.

Her shortsword was sheathed but ready and her slingshot was loaded and in her hand; Carrone had a blow-gun ready.  The spell-circles surrounding them were going to do a lot of the work for them, given any luck at all; that meant that what they’d need to do was pick off the remainder.

It wasn’t clean fighting, but then again, fifty or more against two people wasn’t clean either. Deline waited, listening to the sound of footsteps.  She glanced at Carrone. He was counting down on his fingers. Three, two-

This one came with no explosions, simple a grunt and then a series of louder grunts, followed by a bunch of muttered swearing.  They were getting far closer than Deline liked — maybe a hundred feet away through the forest now.

Carrone gestured, the fingers of one hand going through the fingers of the other hand at a right angle.  Deline didn’t know how he’d found time to set up all these traps; maybe it was some special bounty hunter magery that he simply called something else.

They were moving more carefully this time; their steps shifted slowly as they worked through the leaf litter.  They had a few people up front, she thought, calling clear before moving forward again.

Carrone signaled “1” with a finger, and then counted down again.  One left, in four, three, two, one…

This time, soldiers screamed again.  The sound was close, nearly at them. Deline closed her eyes for a moment, feeling the magic of her border-spell.  

She waited until the screams had died down and used one last spell, whispering the words and doing the gestures as small and as quietly as possible – but this spell was built for that.

The trees behind the remaining men seemed to speak with her voice as she sent her will through them.  “You cannot have us, and you would do well to surrender now. Lay down your arms and lay down on the ground at least five body-lengths from those arms.”

If she was being honest, she didn’t think they’d surrender.  They were angry, now, or at least, she would be — send to pick up one pair of people and wading through death and destruction on what they had probably been told was a simple mission.

(then again, they’d brought fifty people to pick up two, so perhaps they had some idea.)

“Carrrone, is it?”  She didn’t recognize the voice but it had a Deklegion accent. “Red-Night Carrone hy’en Doroon of the West, your friend Teshone here has been pretty clever so far.  Saying back and letting my soldiers walk into all the traps. This time, he’s coming first. This time, whatever sorcery you’re doing is going to take his legs off and not my soldiers’.”

She glanced at Carrone. He shook his head and mouthed, not my friend.

She thought that was pretty obvious, but it was good to get the confirmation.

“Teshone isn’t a friend of anyone here,” her voice called from the trees.  “You have one last chance to surrender.”

“You’re one lone traitor of a ‘Bear Claw’ and one sad former bounty hunter.  What do you think you could possibly do to us?” The soldier didn’t sound scared — but she thought he might sound worried.

“Have it your way,” she called through her voice-throwing spell. She added a long thundering crack and dropped that spell.

She twisted a little half-smile at Carrone. They could still die here.  She was going to do her best to not die, but they were still outnumbered, she was still out of spell components, and Carrone was, she was pretty sure, out of tricks.

She squeezed his hand and got ready with her sling-shot.  The enemy was going to find them any moment now. She could hear them fumbling around out there, heading towards where her voice had been.

They could try to run again.  She gestured that idea to Carrone while the enemy shouted in the woods.  Not them this time — sounded like a pricker bush. Mother Fox’s mountains protected the Bear’s children as well as her own.

He shook his head.  She agreed with his assessment, as much as she wanted to argue; they needed to deal with this threat or it would find us in their sleep some time.  Or she would end up bringing it back to the Emperor, which had its own wide share of problems.

The steps grew closer.  She waited until she could see the first soldier, until she was sure the woman was obscured by a tree from, if not her whole remaining unit, then from as many as possible.

The woman saw her the second the sharp rock hit her in the throat; the second one hit her in the head and she went down in a silent pile.

One down.  

Carrone got the next one with a dart; the one after that Deline took down with two more rocks.  But then they had gotten the attention of the remaining soldiers, and the surviving twelve of them were rushing them.

Next: 46: The Nameless Claw

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