It’s Wednesday already, Readers, can you believe it? And keeping up with the theme of the week, I am continuing Stella’s adventure to find the Devil Men and her Roy. (If you haven’t read any of her story yet, start with Nothing But Sorrow) But today we’ll hear a different side of the story…a bit from the illustrious and heroic Griffin the Great.
Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt word is Cling, which is exactly what Griffin thinks of Stella…
Three’s A Crowd
It had been four days, and the girl was still with us. Stella. I frowned at her name. To my disgust, she had been annoyingly useful. She always woke before dawn and had her bedroll packed and ready to go before either I or Bart had barely begun to stir. She usually started some sort of breakfast too. Bart adored her for this because he was completely hopeless at cooking. I thought her cooking was pretty good for the rations we had, but I certainly wasn’t going to tell her that.
She had insisted on taking a turn at keeping watch, but I refused. I wasn’t going to sleep while a woman watched over me. She stayed awake anyway, sitting in silence with me or Bart. It was annoying. And distracting.
Surprisingly, she hadn’t complained once. I ignored her most of the time, but Bart chattered away incessantly. The two of them were talking now, something about sisters or cows, I wasn’t really listening. The feeling of being watched was growing in the back of my mind. I scanned the woods around us, but nothing stood out. Finally, I growled, “Will you two be quiet for even a minute?”
The girl snorted; not at all attractively. “Shall we change our conversation to praise of your valiant deeds, noble Sir? Would that please you?” I gritted my teeth. She continued. “By all means, let us not only speak of your glorious exploits but sing of them too!” Her voice practically dripped with sarcasm, and Bart looked between us with wide-eyed fascination.
I turned roughly in my saddle. “Listen. If I ask you do to something, I expect you to do it without question. These woods are dangerous, and our journey is not a safe one. If you’re not going to listen…”
I was cut off and she was prevented from retorting by a sudden volley of arrows from the trees on our left. One grazed my arm and another hit my horse. He screamed and reared, nearly unseating me. “Whoa there, easy boy,” I said, trying to calm him. Thankfully, the arrow wound wasn’t deep. I pulled it out, then turned him about and saw that Stella hadn’t been so lucky. Her horse had also reared, sending her tumbling to the ground.
“Miss Stella!” Bart had jumped off his mount to help her. I scanned the trees and counted four hooded men – bandits. Two had bows and were preparing to shoot again. Bart was completely focused on Stella, so I spurred my horse forward and pulled my shield down from my back, ready to take any arrows headed their way.
“Get her out of here!” I commanded. The other bandits were moving in, pulling out swords. They were coming in on all sides. “Bart!”
But he had seen them coming and pulled out a sword of his own. Stella had a look of shock on her face and not a little bit of fear. She climbed back up on her horse and searched for something to defend herself. One of my spare swords was strapped to her horse’s saddled and she pulled it out. I could tell it was too heavy for her, and I hoped she wouldn’t have to use it.
“Now, now, we don’t want any trouble,” one of the bandits leered, dragging his eyes over Stella.
I narrowed my eyes. “Little late for that, don’t you think?”
The bandits laughed. “This doesn’t have to get any uglier,” the bandit who had spoken earlier said. He must have been the leader.
“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed. “I can kill you all without much fuss.”
The bandits started and one moved forward, his sword raised, until his comrade stopped him. The leader stared up at me, ugly sneer on his face. “Yeah? Who do you think you are, then? The bleedin’ king? Some kind of wizard?” He spat at me. “You’d be dead before ya managed to take out even one of us.”
My lip curled slightly at the flying spittle, but made no other reaction as the bandit and the rest of his men guffawed. The two with the bows edged closer. One was still leering at Stella. I needed to end this. I glared down at him. “My name is Griffin,” I said, my voice ringing out into the woods. “Sometimes known as Griffin Lionheart, or Griffin the Great.”
I watched with satisfaction as the sneer fell from the bandit’s face. He paled.
“The Hero of the Vale!” Bart called out behind me.
“Storm-Chaser,” added Stella.
The bandits were murmuring among themselves now, casting dubious looks at me and my companions and then at their leader. I nudged my horse forward a few steps and flicked out my sword, halting mere inches from the bandit leader’s face. “This sword was given to me by the king after I defeated the beast in the Fellforough Woods. Would you like to find out how I earned the name Shadow-Destroyer?”
It was enough. The rest of the blood drained from the bandit’s face. The others didn’t wait on him, they just turned and fled. When he turned to follow, I stopped him with the sword, holding it to his neck. “Not so fast. This part of the kingdom is under my personal protection,” I said. “If I hear reports of your continued thieving and looting, I will come back for you, and not one of you will be spared.”
“Yes, Sir,” the bandit muttered. I let him go, and he wasted no time in scrambling back to his friends.
It was difficult not to sigh in relief. I hadn’t been sure that would work, but I was hesitant to risk fighting with Stella involved. Not untrained, that is.
We gathered our fallen belongings and started down the road. I was enjoying the quiet until Stella broke it with a cheeky laugh.
“So we really could have been singing your praises and been just fine! Sent the bandits running before we even saw them!”
Bart, the traitor, joined in on her laughter. I just grunted in response. This was going to be a long quest.