“Stay on his back! Hold on, let Swift do the rest!”
Of course — of course — the ambush came after days of quiet pleasantries and glass-arts tours and trading gentle verbal duels with Ranai notables. Of course it came when Liamath and his new charge were following yet another dizzying shell-strewn forestgarden trail, one attached to Mairah’s own manor no less.
Oh, they planned it well. But not well enough to mark Liamath’s skill —
And they, wretches all, were also learning all too quickly that no moonstag fared well against the famed flesh-eating steeds of Kauvr.
Of course Swift had the run of House Reinan’s enclosed groves; Liamath would accept no less.
The knot of assailants — sleek creatures in unmarked buff coats, save for their leader in linen and lace and silvered shell-maille — swarmed them. Liamath barked a single warning — “Fall back and be spared” — before he drew his sword, tossed back his head, and howled.
Swift thundered through the trees heartbeats later, fangs bared and hooves lashing. In one fluid motion Liamath scooped the ghost-pale Mairah bodily from the ground and heaved him onto the gelding’s broad grey back, even as Swift laid open a stag’s throat and stove its ribs in.
Then it was time for a culling, and Liamath’s blade was every bit as swift as his companion.
He paid in blood — a gash, two gashes, on his blind side from darting assailants that escaped Swift’s teeth — but two corpses lay at his feet and three others took to their heels. Two corpses, and a kneeling figure in bloodied silvered finery who clutched a shattered blade as Liamath closed, sword high.
Then he grounded it, point to earth.
“You’ve lost your bid to founder the new accord. GIve me your allies’ names and come along in peace, and I will spare your life and render you unto the Rainlord’s court.”
The fallen cavalier gulped air, spit bloodily, tossed back her head in disbelief. Behind Liamath, Swift rumbled warningly, snaking his head low and closer; Liamath clicked his tongue, but kept his attention on the swordmaster before him.
“Stand, Swift. Stand.”
The gelding drew back, snorting; Liamath tried not to chuckle, struck by the ludicrousness of it all. Still he didn’t turn.
“Lord Mairah? Are you well?”
The response was quick, and shaken —
“A — It’s a close thing, Wolf, but I’m alright …”
“Good. Stay where you are, if you please?”
— not that Liamath expected him to actually attempt to dismount at the moment —
“And so here we are, oh would-be righteous one. Will you surrender?”
He saw the nerves, the doubt, in her amber eyes. Well, perhaps understandable. Still —
“You killed –“
“The poor fools, and their beasts, that you set upon us before you dared to close in yourself, yes. I regret, but they could have made another choice — as several of them chose to do.
“Will you surrender your blade, milady?”
“And you’ll do what?”
Liamath shifted his stance slightly, his own maille chimed softly, muffled by wool.
“Remand you to Ranai justice. I have stilled your hand, as was my charge to do so.”
He shifted his hands on his sword-pommel, ready to change grip and bring the blade to bear if necessary. The cavalier watched him for several breaths, listening to the soft chime, eyeing his bloodied furs.
“… You’re some Kauvra wolflord.”
Her blade clattered to his boots.
He offered her his hand.
Kauvra crystal maille: Perishingly patience-devouring to carve — and not at all silent unless well muffled with wool and fur (often not even then) or enchanted — maille hauberks carved from the toughest, least brittle of Kauvr’s crystal are a signature of the wolflords from the March Of The Grey. Some grow so accustomed to the tiny glittering links and their soft chime that they meditate to the sound.