Updated: Jan 22
Chapter 4: A DESPERATE BATTLE
A thud shuddered the door.
Rowan glanced behind at her mother who stepped back to give her daughter space to wield her sword. Her mother would take on the ones who made it past Rowan.
Another crack hit the door with splintering wood as it began to give way.
Rowan gripped her sword, waiting.
The final strike brought with it a terrible crunch as the wood shattered, slamming the door inward to bounce from the wall.
A hulk of a man, backlit by the sun, lumbered through, war axe held high.
Rowan didn't wait for his eyesight to adjust, but lunged forward and stabbed him in the chest. He cried out and sagged to his knees. The pirates behind him pulled him back out of the way so they could cram through the door.
Rowan sliced into them while they were still trying to breach the opening, her humming sword razor-sharp.
Shouts and screams echoed loudly in the close space, and she saw one of them motion for others to go around and try for the back entrance.
"They will be coming through the kitchen," Rowan shouted over her shoulder to her mother.
Two men made it through the choke point of the entry, splitting in opposite directions to flank her. Rowan closed with the first pirate and parried his sword strike, ducking low and cutting into his leg. He collapsed with a shout, clutching his shin.
Rowan turned before he hit the floor, her sword high to guard against the other pirate.
"Die, wench!" His common speech was clear.
She gritted her teeth, gripping her sword tightly as she spun under his guard. With his sword slicing harmlessly through the air behind her, Rowan slashed her sword across his throat, dropping him in a heap.
She ducked as another blade whistled over her head. Glancing desperately back into the room, Rowan saw her mother facing the kitchen.
Rowan dove, rolling, to rise up behind her attacker. She ended him with a stab through the back. Her sword was almost wrenched from her grasp as he toppled to the floor, but she held on, pulling the blade free with barely enough time to parry the next blow. Metal clanged, the power of the clash shivered down her arm as Rowan twisted, sliding the man's blade from her own. Smoothly she redirected her arm, smashing her pommel into his chin. His head snapped back and blood gushed from his mouth. Before he recovered, she thrust her sword between the gap in his armor, piercing his heart.
Another man jumped toward her. Two more had made it through the door and over their dead mates on the floor.
Rowan backed away toward her mother.
A loud crash sounded and she risked a glance behind. They had breached the back door and were crowding into the kitchen.
"Mother, to the stairs!" Rowan shouted.
Her mother slashed at the first man coming from the kitchen, then darted toward the steps leading to the second floor of the house. Rowan backed toward her, her sword held high in guard position, eyes flickering between the pirates following.
They were wary of her now, no longer blindly rushing in.
Rowan mounted to the first landing and held her ground, spreading her feet, knees bent with her weight over the balls of her feet. They would have to climb several steps to attack and wouldn't be able to out flank her.
More pirates entered the main room, gathering at the bottom of the stairs to stare hungrily up at the two women.
A tall man in well used metal armor, with a sinister smile on his face, stepped between the others. His blond hair fell to his shoulders and his dark eyes appraised her calmly. He kept his hand on the pommel of his sword, but did not draw it. "My, my, you are an impressive one. Although, I suggest you give up before this little squabble gets really ugly. We out number you too greatly for you to survive, sweetling." He spoke very well for a pirate.
Rowan said nothing, hefting her sword and staring at him.
His brown eyes wandered over her and latched onto the spell sword in her hands. Shifting his weight to one leg in a relaxed pose, he smiled and rested his free hand on the shoulder of the man next to him. "That is a mighty fine looking weapon you have there, lass. Perhaps we can make a deal?" he glanced around at his men. "You clearly won't get out of here alive and my men will take great pleasure in what is left of you and – your older sister is it? Or perhaps mother?" He flashed a smile of white, even teeth, bright against his tanned face. He would have been very handsome, were it not for his cruel eyes. "But, if you were to give up that blade, and say, give us some information about the nearest homes and of course the garrison where other warriors such as yourself were to be found? Well, I would be happy to let you and your mother go free... and unmolested."
There were snickers and laughter from the ranks of men filling the room.
"Maybe we can take them with us, Cap," said a man to the left.
Murmurs of agreement met this suggestion.
The captain simply smiled again and stared at Rowan. "Well lass, what is your answer?"
Rowan swallowed and adjusted her grip on the hilt of her sword, scanning the men before her. The sour smell of their sweat filled the room, and to a man, they wore expressions of lascivious hunger. Likely they had not seen a woman in weeks, let alone touched one. Suppressing a shudder, Rowan clenched her teeth. She could never hold against so many. They were not going to let her and her mother go free, after all this was what they were here for – plunder. They would take as many slaves and goods as they could make off with.
If she could just hold out a little longer – give Andin and Dell time to get here with the Myrian Guard...
Rowan stood up straighter and looked the captain in the eye. "What guarantee do I have that you will keep your word?"
Rowan's mother hissed at her from above, but Rowan ignored her and continued to watch the captain.
The man's eyes narrowed and his lips tightened. He took a menacing step forward. "Don't play games with me, woman. I always win, and you will not like how I do."
Rowan lowered her sword, pretending to consider his words. "You cannot just expect me to trust you. Your men must leave the house, then I will give you the sword, alone."
The captain threw his head back and laughed harshly. "No," he barked. His dark eyes bore into hers. "Look around you. You are in no position to negotiate."
Rowan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Her stalling was at an end. Finally she nodded, hefting her weapon once more. "My answer is no. You are on Myris Dar, pirate. Your folly is only out-stripped by your arrogance. You will never get what you have come here for – only your deaths."
The captain glared at her. "Take that sword from her," he snarled at his men, "but keep her alive. I will enjoy this one myself while we sail to the slave markets."
He lifted his head high, staring at her maliciously as the pirates swarmed past him. They clambered up the stairs and Rowan spun her sword into them. Its humming edge cut through their armor and flesh like butter. She whirled the blade in a rapid arcs, but the men behind were shoving their comrades into her sword slashes and she was running out of room to wield
She jumped up to the next steps and retreated partway up.
Her mother was beside her suddenly. "Take the shield!"
Rowan took it from her mother and struggled to slide the straps over her left arm. She barely had time to get it in place before the next wave of pirates hit her. She rammed them with the shield and slashed her sword down in front of it, felt it connect with arms and hands. Screams and curses echoed in the stairwell.
Men tripped and slipped on the now blood-covered stairs, falling down as others climbed over them to get at her, slashing and hammering with their blades. The shield clanged under the impact of the blows and Rowan's arm ached with the jarring onslaught.
Above the din and the blood pounding in her ears, she heard the cold clear laughter of the pirate captain.
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