Updated: Jan 13
Chapter 6: Sword and Shield:
Rowan stumbled on the stairs as the pummeled shield slammed into her shoulder. She could no longer feel her left arm below the elbow. A man grabbed her ankle and hauled her downward and her hip jarred painfully on the steps. She twisted and kicked as hard as she could, felt the grip loosen. Rowan stabbed toward her assailant and scrambled back up the stairs when her foot was released.
Her mother lifted her from behind, helping to pull her further away from the pirates cramming the stairwell. A ceramic jar whistled past Rowan as her mother hurled it down at the men below. The first one ducked but it shattered against the head of the pirate behind him, dropping the man.
Rowan was panting, sweat slicked her face and the hilt of her sword was sticky with blood. She thrust the shield into the highest man and knocked him backward. In the brief moment of respite, she took another step up and repositioned her stance.
A clash of swords reached her and hope surged as she turned to peer toward the front of the house. Many of the pirates waiting to get up the stairs were turning back and running for the front door.
Her gaze met the pirate captain's and the rage and frustration in his eyes made her shiver. He drew his sword and pointed it up at her. "We are not finished," he said with a snarl.
Rowan turned her attention back to the men still crowding up the stairs. Lifting her sword, she beckoned them with a thin smile. The knowledge that Andin and Dell were here, renewed the strength in her arm.
From the corner of her eye, she saw the pirate captain spin to leave the house.
She gritted her teeth as the next wave of enemy hammered at her. She could barely raise the shield anymore, but her sword arm was still good. She slashed at the men, kicked them backward, slashed again. She made it to the top of the stairs and stood heaving, her sword dripping blood. Her mother pulled the shield from her left arm and Rowan gasped as pain lanced through her wrist.
She looked into her mother's eyes and nodded.
They would hold the landing together.
Shouts and screams reached them from outside. The pirates still on the stairs eyed the two women warily, casting glances at each other and toward the front of the house where the battle was intensifying.
Rowan swallowed. "You cannot win against the Myrian Guard," she told them. "They are all elite warriors. You will be ground to dust." She scanned their wary faces. "Your captain has already abandoned you to save his own skin. He knows when to cut his losses and run."
The pirate closest to her spat and glared. "Shut yer mouth! Cap would never leave. He's a fiend wi' his sword an will cut a swath through yer precious guard."
The others grumbled, but several continued to watch the front of the house and the now empty main room.
The sounds of fighting from outside echoed through the now quiet house.
Rowan narrowed her eyes, studying the men below. There were five left standing amid the carnage on the stairs, but their attention was only half on her. She glanced quickly at her mother, who nodded imperceptibly.
Taking a deep breath, Rowan tensed. Then launched herself down upon the pirates.
The closest man, who had spoken, pulled in a gasp, his eyes wide in surprise as Rowan hit him. Her spell sword slid deep into his chest and her momentum knocked him backward into his comrades.
Gritting her teeth, Rowan held onto her sword for dear life. If she lost it, she knew she would lose the battle.
With a spine-jarring jolt, they hit the stairs and Rowan rolled, yanking with all her strength to free her blade. She was sweeping the weapon in an arc, even before she had regained her feet. It sliced into the closest pirate, giving her the time she needed to clamber over the bodies and reach the floor of the main room.
She glanced toward the entry, saw her cousin Dell on the steps, his blade glistening red as he fought.
The remaining pirates charged her and it was all she could do to evade the strikes of their weapons. Her left hand was useless, she tucked it close to her body and pivoted, sweeping her sword into an advancing pirate. Her mother appeared behind her assailants, cutting into them and ducking behind the shield. Rowan pressed the advantage in their confusion and dispatched one of them.
The final two glanced at each other and then turned, pushing and shoving each other to be the first to escape through the door to the kitchen and out the back of the house.
Rowan sagged to her knees, closed her eyes and pulled in deep breaths.
It was not over.
Wearily she rose to her feet and stumbled to the front door. The chaotic scene before her made her heart sink. There were too many pirates, and although her Myrian comrades were far more skilled, they were out-numbered.
She turned to see Andin sprint through the melee toward her. Her brother wore a breast plate and held a sword.
Then she saw the pirate captain, his weapon swinging down and malice in his dark eyes.
"No! Andin, look out!"
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