Father & Son Chronicles: The Sangari War

Chapter 18

   Thera and Grimm pushed their horses up the ridge towards the crest of the hill, loose shale, rocks, and hidden roots made the going precarious and much too slow.

   "They're right behind us," Thera said breathlessly.

   "I know, I know," Grimm answered.

   As if to underscore their words, an arrow crackled through the trees and embedded itself into a tree right next to Thera's head.

   "Go, go!" Grimm yelled as he urged his horse on even harder.

   "I'm trying," Thera yelled back. "But my horse is having too much trouble with all these rocks, she can't get a decent footing! She's scared!"

   "By Baraza's eyes girl, scared is better than dead -- Make. Her. Go!"

   Another arrow shot past, losing itself in the foliage, followed by yet another arrow coming high and off-course that buried itself in the soft wood of a nearby pine with a thump.

   "I have an idea to buy us some time," Thera said to Grimm. "See if you can get your horse in front of mine and take the reins -- pull her up."

   "And how is that going to buy us time?" Grimm called back.

   "Just do it! You'll see!" Thera answered.

   Grimm led his horse and in front of Thera's. To show his displeasure, Grimm's horse nipped at her horse's flank, and then again at her neck as they passed.

   "Stop that you miserable creature," Grimm shouted. "If those barbarians get a hold of your mangy carcass, they won't hesitate to add it to their stewpot."

   Despite the treacherous footing, Grimm was able to manuver his horse in front of and above Thera's. "Toss me the reins," he shouted. "Toss me the reins and don't miss!"

   Thera grabbed her horse's reins just as another arrow sizzled past her ear and bounced off a rock. She threw them up and out, and felt relief flood through her when Grimm caught them.

   Grimm caught the reins and held them tightly in his right hand while holding his horse's reins in his left. He used his knees and heels to urge his horse up and forward. His horse scrambled up the rocks in fits and starts -- almost as nimble as a goat. Grimm's right arm strained with the effort of holding onto the reins of Thera's horse until he was able to quickly tie it to the pommel of his saddle.

   "Now you misbegotten piece of vulture-bait," Grimm yelled. "Climb!"

   His horse neighed and snorted, but it put it's head down and climbed, Grimm could see the great muscles in its neck and legs straining with the effort. At first, Thera's horse fought it, but then slowly and surely she began to climb as well.  And climb was surely what it was as this part of the hill became almost vertical.  An arrow went whizzing past, struck a rock, and bounced back at his face -- Grimm ducked just in time. Another arrow flew through the overhead branches of another tree, showering him with pine needles.  Grimm glanced over his shoulder to shout a warning to Thera but the words stuck in his throat, he couldn't believe what he was seeing.

   Thera had spun around in her saddle and was lying with her back on it, but because of their near-vertical positions she appeared to be sitting up and facing the way they'd come -- her dainty feet resting on the saddle's backrest; her toes curled over the edge. She was notching an arrow into her bow.

   "Careful Thera -- please!"

   If Thera heard him she gave no sign, but she brought the bow up, pulled the arrow's fletched end to the ear and let fly.  The string on her bow cracked against her armguard and made the strange *twing* sound Elven bowstrings make when plucked.  Soon, Thera was firing another arrow, and another, and another...

   Grimm was mesmerized, but had to turn away when one of the horse's stumbled. And still, the sound of Thera firing arrow after arrow at their pursuers didn't stop. Crack! *Twing* Crack! *Twing*

   Grimm continued to push and pull the horses forward -- and now he could finally see the top of the ridge.

   Crack!*Twing* Crack! *Twing*

   Thera's plan must have worked, no more arrows came their way.

   "I'm out," Thera called up at him. "But I saw them fall back and take shelter behind the trees.  It should be awhile before any of them is brave enough to stick his head out and take a look!"

   "Good work, we're almost to the top," Grimm called back. He ventured another look over his shoulder and saw Thera pulling a Northman's arrow from her saddle. "Thera! Are you okay?"

   Thera looked up at him and smiled almost apologetically. "I'm not hurt," she said. "Still, it was a near miss. Let's just get out of here!"

   "Agreed!" Grimm called back, and then they were up and over the top of the hill.

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