Monday, 24 September 2012

Scene One - of Ale and Tales


Three in front - one, maybe two behind...  I need to even the odds!!
"Friends - it was just a jest.. surely we can resolve this with a jug of ale ?"
Quite proud of his voice control.. there was not a hint of the chill of terror creeping up his back into his vocal chords...
He shifted the lute to his right hand and waved it away from him... giving every appearance of openness and vulnerability..
The largest in front of him, a swaggering brute dressed in old boiled leathers, a rusty chain shirt and and boils on his left cheek - half hidden by an unkempt beard that had every sign of being pulled out by the roots whenever it annoyed its keeper thrust his face towards him...  a sour stench of rotten cabbage and cheap beer.
"Well little man - me and my comrades are have gonna have to rip your tongue out of your ears and tie it round your lute and stuff it right up your trumpet"  he seemed pleased with his turn of phrase. and given other circumstances Wulf would have applauded his choice of words..there was a poetic ring to the phrase...
He moved slightly to his left - not too far .. he did not want to bump into the unknown predators behind him, but his movement now meant that Boils was directly in front of him and blocking the approach of the others...

He didn't dare take his eyes away from those leering down at him ...
Where the hell was Thorgrimm...  he had got him into this mess ..
But now it seemed that Thorgrimm had little wish to include himself in the troubles of a travelling Bard who had chosen the wrong song to sing...
Thorgrimm, Northman, six foot six tall, broad of shoulder, wolf pelt covering his hand knit chain mail shirt, Thorgrimm who travelled the high road alone and not with known allegiance... Thorgrimm who kept his story to himself... and Thorgrimm..  last was seen pulling one of the wenches onto his lap and explaining the best way to weigh her breasts.....
"Please Gods !! don't let him have taken a room with her while I was singing... it was only a few verses!! He was never that fast before.."
In reality - he could not be sure - he had only met with the Northman a day before and had little idea of his habits - only a respect for his abilities with his matched Dane axes, sword and shield..... and the hope that he would come to his aid ...

But now it seemed unlikely and his only hope was in a silver tongue and a nimble brain... two skills that he had honed through many years as he made his way through the Bard's guild.....

"I think your friend needs some help" giggled Aleesha as she tried to twist out of Thorgrimm's arms.. a half empty jug of ale swinging from her left hand as she used her right to push his from her breast.. Her grubby cotton shift hung open at her front but the leather belt at her waist was pulled in tight and showed her young figure at its best. She ground her body over his groin as she played at escape...
"Friend ?? Let the Gods take the little fellow !! He got himself into it - I have better things on my mind" and his face thrust into her cleavage making her scream with laughter...

Boils made his move - a clumsy charge with outstretched hands where the bard's throat had been a second before. The casual move to the left had drawn Boils in that direction while the lute in the right gave Wulf the balance he needed to duck under his arm - holding his breath at the under arm stench he kicked back with his left foot - hard into the back of his attacker. The kick was good - caught the charging man in the bottom of his spine adding to the momentum and piling him into the one or two attackers that had been behind. Wulf did not turn to count them. He still had two in front of him, though the element of surprise was now his.
Their view had been blocked by the mass of Boils so they little expected to find the elderly minstrel dodging between them.

Wulf swapped the Lute to his left hand reversing it so that the base of the instrument was protected behind his arm, and lowered his right shoulder to barge into the chest of the the first attacker. As large as Boils, and no prettier, his eyes were bloodshot and drunken spittle exploded from his mouth as his wind was knocked out of him. Like a long lost lover he opened his arms to catch Wulf in a bearhug but the bard had once again side stepped and using the neck of the lute in his fist as extra weight - he stabbed his fist into his throat...

"Damn.. that is going to hurt and stop me playing for a few days!" he thought as he held on tightly to the instrument with aching fingers.

Only one more he thought as he twisted in a full circle - bringing the lute around so the iron band that had been welded to the rear of the sound box caught the third adversary in the shins causing a surprised yell through broken teeth. Swinging the lute on its strap he swung it back into his right hand and held it like a bat waiting for a ball - and as broken teeth raised himself the iron   band struck him sharply over the back of his head.

"Three" thought Wulf as he carried forward without stopping or looking...

The whole attack had taken only about 7 seconds - not much longer than he had been able to sing his song.  A bad choice he knew now - but he had not seen the sigils sewn into the filthy cloaks of drunken mob in the corner or he would not have chosen to sing the Lay of Llangoren, a bawdy song concerning the Queen, several dark elves and an aubergene......
Normally a guarantee of a coin or two and a jug of ale ... he wasn't to know that the rabble were pledged to the Queen as well as being well in their cups!.

"Only a few yards to the door" he thought - "I am too old for this!!! A man should have a little respect when he is  nearing his 60th nameday"
Still not looking back to see what havoc he had caused, or how near his adversaries were he made through the smoke and stale air towards the large ill fitting wooden door, heavy and beer stained, hoping that it would open easily.
Thorgrimm watched the ruckus out of one eye.. while his hands remained actively involved trying to keep a wriggling Aleesha firmly on his lap and juggling his ale.
He watched as the old man, surpisingly sprightly on his feet weaved his way passed his attackers. Six foot tall when standing upright, long silver hair falling to his shoulders and a head band of tooled leather about his head bearing a silver emblem of a wolf, stomach a little portly, showing signs of many good meals and time spent in taverns and Lord' banquets..  his shirt a little threadbear with signs of many roadside repairs, and patches on his leather trews suggesting that times were not quite so good at present.

He was quite impressed with the turn of speed from the old man - but they had been travelling for a day and the old bard continued to display unexpected traits... But from his vantage point it was clear that the fellow would not manage to open the door before he was engulfed by the five Queen's Men..

With a sigh he dropped Aleesha uncermoniously to the floor - and stood - ale in hand and walked into the narrow gap between the crude tables filled with boisterous and drunken customers who were now beginning to take notice of the chase...
One group, looking like sea-farers with wild tattoos across every part of available skin started banging mugs on the table in rhythm, shouting "Fight!! Fight !! Fight"  The refrain was soon picked up by other tables.

Throgrimm stood up and stretched as the first of the five bumped into him with a curse. Ale splashed from Thorgimm's tankard into the face of one of the chanters..

It was difficult to say who appeared the more angry - the chanter - spluttering as he stood turning the table over as he did so, or the first of the five who found himself brought to a sudden stop as he hit the wall of chain and leather and steel that was the fully armoured Thorgrimm - now clearly six foot six, and well armoured with a Dane axe to his side and sword sheathed at his left. His girth suggested too many good meals at one time, but it would be a fool who assumed that his weight was only fat - there was the clear sign of the warrior about him... the way he stood, large but balanced. The way only a professional fighter, or one who lives by the sword and the axe.

The five were brought to a stop like a set of dice against a wall. Thorgrimm turned and looked at them - though probably the same height as Boils, he appeared to tower over them as he said in a deceptively quiet voice "You spilled my ale"
"What of it - I am going to turn that squeeker into mush"  yelled Boils as he started thrusting his way through his comrades.
Thorgrimm stepped slightly to his left, as the ale covered man finished turning the table over his companions - who were now rising to fight each other...

Boils started to pass Thorgrimm as a grip of iron took him by the throat and half lifted him from the ground...
"You spilled my ale" He said again - in the same quiet voice....
Boils felt himself turned towards the angry table group - and an earthen ware jug smashed down upon his head and Thorgrimm dropped him into the melee....
Broken tooth wanted none of the big man and backed off with his companions back to their table - the fighting still carrying on around Boils and spreading through the other end of the tavern.

Thorgrimm leaned across to where Boils and his band had been sitting and picked up the earthenware jug still full of ale and turned to leave the room. Picking up his Double Handed Dane Axe, almost as tall as he, he sauntered towards the door, giving Aleesha a wink as she sat cursing him on the floor....

Wulf had just managed to lift the heavy rope handle and was tugging at the door to open it inwards as Thorgrimm reached out and swung it open with ease. Wulf grabbed a loaf of bread and some cheese from a platter on the nearest table - the occupants never noticing as they watched the chairs being thrown around the room... They both walked into the chill of the evening..

As the door closed behind them they could hear the barkeep shouting for order, and the ominous crack of the barkeep's sap hitting skull as order was  restored...

"You took your time" said Wulf as he tore a lump out of the bread and handed it to Thorgrimm.
"I never liked that song" answered Thorgrimm as he handed over the jug of ale...  "you cost me a woman"...
"Nah - we'll sleep in the barn - she'll turn up later" answered Wulf...
"Unlikely" said the glum Thorgrimm thinking of his last view of her cursing him as she sat on the floor with her shift around her thighs"
"Trust me she'll come...  and her friend ... I spoke with her ... I'm Der Vollsanger"

....


No comments:

Post a Comment