Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More DVD extras

For those who have read the earlier posts, there was a fair bit of The Wounded Guardian that ended up on the (metaphorically speaking) cutting room floor. Sometimes this was for the best, sometimes things just had to go because there was plenty of ambushes/fighting already and I have a word count deadline to meet!
Anyway, here's another sequence that appeared only in a truncated form...

MARTIL looked down on the approaching convoy and prepared to give the signal to attack. Until now everything had gone perfectly. The men, hardened by Martil’s training, had performed well on the march. Not that it had been as tough as a normal march. Thanks to Barrett, their progress was swift, with the woods opening up into a trail for them. They had reached Conil’s ambush position easily and Barrett had prepared the trap by spreading sticks across the road and using the same magic technique on them he had employed to guard his house. Anyone who walked over the sticks would be instantly entangled. Martil was a little hesitant about entrusting such an important element of the ambush to some flimsy sticks, but he had seen enough of Barrett’s work not to challenge him on this.
Then the three groups had taken up their positions and it was just a matter of waiting for Havrick’s supply convoy to arrive. Even that proved ridiculously easy. Barrett used birds to report back to him regularly, so they knew roughly how long to wait, and could eat a hot meal and have the fires doused long before they could be seen.
The convoy was impressively large, more than a score of heavily-laden wagons, with a corresponding number of light cavalry as the escort. Martil had been hoping for just a dozen men, but with the advantage of surprise, he was confident they could handle the few extra. He had decided to wait with Rocus’s men. Partly because if the charge was not broken by Tarik’s archers, the Dragon Sword would be of most use there. But mostly because he did not trust Rocus to follow the plan. The man might just do something foolish, like charging in and demanding a fair fight. Barrett was with Tarik, where he could best use his magic. And because it would be better for him to save his powers. As Martil had reminded them all, just taking the convoy was not enough. They had to get the supplies back to the caves as well.
`Almost there,’ he said to himself, as the lead riders of the escort rode up to the first of the sticks.
The cavalry, as Martil had hoped, were talking amongst themselves, looking around and generally behaving as if they were out for a gentle ride. No doubt they were thoroughly bored by the slow trip north but Martil found himself hoping their officer was killed in the attack. Gello would no doubt exact a dreadful punishment if the man returned alive to tell of a looted convoy.
For a long moment, nothing seemed to happen, and then everything seemed to happen at once. Two riders were sent flying as Barrett’s sticks worked their magic, and the officer woke up enough to start yelling at the others to stay back. In a moment the convoy had ground to a halt.
`Forward!’ Martil raised his arm and led the guardsmen up and onto the road, where they swiftly formed two ranks.
The cavalry officer saw the armoured men blocking the road and screamed at his troopers to form up for the charge. But in the confusion, more men fell as Barrett’s traps struck, and while two of them were able to remount, there were three horses left writhing on the ground with broken legs.
`Steady, lads,’ Martil told the guardsmen, as they shifted nervously. They did not have spears, and infantry without spears was always vulnerable to cavalry. `Hold your line!’
It seemed to take a long while, but finally the cavalry escort was past the traps and moving into the canter.
`Charge!’ their officer screamed.
`Now, Tarik,’ Martil muttered.
It was essential he wait until the horses worked up some speed, because that would mean even one horse falling would disrupt the charge.
Almost as soon as Martil said it, Tarik and his archers stood and began loosing arrows as fast as they could down on the cavalry. For expert archers, men who expected to put nine arrows out of ten into a bullseye at 80 paces, a man on a horse at half that distance was too easy. Each arrow was the length of a man’s arm, tipped by a needle-like steel head the length of a man’s finger. They hissed as they flew, and the sound as they drove through armour and flesh reminded Martil of the time he had dropped a full winesack from a battlement onto the stones below.
Men and horses screamed and fell, as the charge dissolved into chaos. Tarik’s men had deliberately aimed at the front rank of the cavalry; as they fell, they brought down the men behind. As the riders at the rear desperately tried to avoid being thrown, they were picked off as well.
Now Wime led his militia in among the wagons, dragging the shocked wagoners down and clubbing any that tried to fight back.
`Forward!‘ Martil led the guardsmen down the road but he could see there was almost no need to draw his sword. Each archer had loosed perhaps 10 arrows, and every one of those had been aimed. That meant every trooper had had more than six aimed arrows sent at him, at a range where the hunters did not miss.
It was almost a miracle the lot were not dead, Martil reflected.
`I want one of your squads to put those horses out of their misery, then round up any that can be ridden,‘ he ordered Rocus. `We need this road open so we can use it. I want the other squad to gather up the cavalry’s wounded. Strip them of any weapons and armour we can use. Remember, we are going be arming farmers and merchants, so any armour is better than none.‘
Every man who had charged was dead or wounded; the only unharmed survivors from the escort were the three men whose horses had been brought down by Barrett’s traps. They stood, dazed by the brutal slaughter of their fellows, until Wime took their weapons and made them lie on the ground.
`Quickly now! We must get as far away as possible today,’ Martil urged the men on.
There was much to do. Some of the draught horses were used to drag dead cavalry horses out of the way, while Wime and Martil went through the wagons, deciding what they would keep, and what they would destroy.
The convoy had everything Martil had hoped for - and more. There were thousands of arrows in sheaves, scores of shields and swords, as well as barrels of spears and racks of axes. There were two wagons alone filled with thick, boiled leather jerkins, nowhere as good as mail hauberks but still solid enough to stop most sword strokes.
Then there was the food. Wagon upon wagon piled high with bags of corn for the horses, as well as twice-baked bread and dried meat for the men. Enough to keep a force in the field for months.
`We’ll take the five wagons filled with weapons and one filled with food, then burn the rest. Tarik, you’ll stay behind with half your men. Give us until nightfall - or until you see someone - then burn the wagons and follow us as fast as you can,’ Martil decided.
`Shouldn‘t we take more food, sir?’ Rocus asked.
`Arms and armour are more important. We can always get food from farms, if we need. But we can’t get weapons anywhere else. We’ll also take every horse we can to help us.’
It was hard work, but they were able to roll out of the ambush site only a couple of hours after the first arrows had flown. Thanks to Barrett‘s magical abilities, where he made the trees shuffle aside to form a trail, they took the wagons deep into the woods, until they reached slopes that could take horses, but not wagons. Here they unhitched the draught horses and loaded them up with as much as they could carry, then loaded every other horse they had brought along. The men took as much as they could, then the remaining items were just left. There was not much, just a handful of leather jerkins, a few bags of the bread and some sheaves of arrows. Each wagon had had four horses, and another five cavalry horses had been lightly wounded, and were able to be pressed into service.
Even so, it was going to be a slow walk back to the caves. And so it proved. Tarik and his men caught up with them after dark, sweating, smelling faintly of smoke and all wearing a jerkin of the leather armour and carrying sheaves of arrows.
`We waited as long as could, but saw the dust of some travellers behind. So we torched the wagons and ran to catch up. Havrick’s trackers are going to get a shock,‘ Tarik smiled.
Martil found the breath to laugh, although he was wearing two of the jerkins and carrying four spears over his shoulder. Barrett’s trail, which he had forced through the woods, was closing behind them, so Havrick’s men would find five wagons in the middle of the woods, surrounded by trees, with no possible way in or out.
It was a hard walk, and a long walk, but the easy victory had them all laughing. And the reaction when they arrived back was even better.

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