The trees swayed slightly in the gentle breeze, their leaves rustling as a horse thundered by. Isidore leaned forward in his saddle, ducking underneath the branches that wanted to introduce him to the hard surface of the forest floor. Experienced hands tugged gently on the reins of his mare, bringing her to a slow stop before dismounting.
He glanced around looking for anything that seemed out of place. He had already ridden past the unofficial clan boundaries and had swung in a half arc, worried that he had missed something. If he continued for another hour or so, then he would have finished the perimeter that Ewald had asked him to do. Yet there was still no sign of anything.
He was worried. Ewald was never wrong when it came to matters that dealt with the clan. He always seemed to know that something was happening, and this time seemed no different. Isidore frowned thoughtfully; if his commander had said that their time of silence is over, then it probably was.
A soft neigh sounded seconds before an arrow arced in the air, only to slam meters from where he stood. The young man jolted in surprise and it was instinct that saved him from the second arrow that thudded where he had stood moments before. In a swift movement, he shrugged his bow off and notched an arrow, waiting for another shot to be fired.
The Loner was not disappointed: He dodged the arrow, his bowstring snapping against his arm guard as his own arrow flew in retaliation. He only had enough time to register the stunned grunt and a soft thud before a sword was pressed none to gently against his jugular. His sapphire eyes calmly traced up the deadly steel to meet angry hazel.
“That was my partner you just killed, scum.” A man hissed, the steel blade pressing into Isidore’s neck, drawing a thin line of blood. “You’ll grace those you’ve killed today with your blood.”
The Loner frowned, his eyes narrowing at the man that held his life. “You think you can kill me? Remove your blade or I will remove your hand permanently, if not your life.” A low growl sounded behind him and Isidore sighed softly.
The blond slammed his elbow into his attacker’s stomach, drawing a stunned gasp as the air was knocked out of the taller man. The sword loosened slightly and his bow swung upwards catching the edge of the blade. With a sharp twist of the wrist, the blade flew out of large scarred hands, only to crash into the forest floor with a loud clang.
Spinning on his heel, Isidore turned to stare at the man that had held a blade to his neck. Tall and lanky, the man was in his late 30s, a short beard growing on his chin. Dark brown hair seemed almost red in the evening and the fading light highlighted the two sheaths that was strapped to his back. His form was clad in red and black, covered with a black cloak similar to his own. But it was that particular color scheme that tipped him off. This guy was a Protector.
“What are the Protectors doing out here? The forest is not your domain and your tasks lie in the village proper.” The Loner questioned softly, his hand drifting to the sheath that contained his own sword as his bow landed on the ground.
The man scoffed, his hands pulling out the second blade. “You know why, Loner scum.” He spat on the ground, the blade catching the glint of the low sun as he stepped forward. “You slaughtered a whole village and stole the relic entrusted to us! No wonder your clan disowned you.”
Isidore’s face hardened. He stepped to side, dodging an overhead swing. In the same movement, his wrist yanked his blade out with a quiet hiss and the clash of steel met his ears. The duo stood, blade to blade and chest to chest; the man standing a good 16 centimeters taller than him.
The Loner ended the standstill as his fist swung out, slamming into the brute’s nose with a loud crack that had him recoiling. He followed up with a roundhouse kick that sent the older man sprawling, blood streaming down his nose. “You have no right to speak of things that you do not know of.” Isidore all but growled, leveling his blade at the man’s neck. “Speak the truth. The Blade of Sorrows was stolen?”
The man glared at him, hazel meeting sapphire in a steady gaze. “As if you didn’t know.” The man spat, knocking Isidore’s legs from underneath him. He crashed to the ground, wincing as a dagger slammed into his upper arm, the weight of the older man pushing him into the ground. The Loner tightened his grip on his sword, swinging in a dangerous slash. The metal sliced through the skin, meeting little resistance as it passed through one lung only to stop halfway into the other.
“Rot in the Netherlands,” the man choked before slumping fully onto the Loner. With a grunt, the young man pushed the corpse off his body, grimacing at the blood that stained his clothing. Sitting up, he removed the dagger from his arm, wincing in pain before dropping the weapon next to the dead Protector.
Isidore rose slowly, his hand stemming the blood from his wound. Sensing no further threat, he made his way to his mare, soothing her with gentle words. Grabbing a clean cloth from his pack, he gently dabbed the wound with water before bandaging it quickly. His eyes closed, head leaning against his mare as he realized that he had found more questions than he answers. He sighed softly, steeling himself for a late night. He would find his answers, one way or another. After a moment, he swung upwards and nudged his mare into a gentle trot, leaving the bodies where they fell.