Battle scenes are always major points in writing, yet they actually occupy little space on the page. There is the lead up to the battle, which prepares the reader for this emotional scene that pits a beloved character against the possibility of death. Follow this with a few quick strikes back and forth. End draw out the aftermath to let the impact sink home with the audience. I learned before that trying to stretch out the actual battle made it lose the impact, and people got bored with it. Got bored with a BATTLE!
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
If you can't tell the difference between a cow and a bear, you ain’t no hunter. That’ll be seven silver for the cow.
…Yyintil, Bean farmer…
The sun was still angling toward the Western peaks when he arrived at the base of the pass. There was plenty of light, but it would be gone before he could get halfway to the top. Thankfully, in the years since he’d las been here, a guard tower had been built. The attached barracks looked big enough for a hundred men, though currently he saw just two.
One was leaning on the post next to the trail, while the other tended a small fire cooking their dinner. Neither seemed overly concerned with his approach until he was too close to shout at.
“It’s a might late for the trail, and you’d do better turning around.”
“Aye, I can tell it’s too late to start up, so I’ll camp here for the night.
“You can camp over there for five silver.”
“That’s open land. Why the charge?”
“This be a might far from the palace, and they sometimes forget about us. So, there’s a traveling tax. You go through the pass, you pay the tax.”
It was a high price, but with few travelers on this road, the soldiers would still barely scrape by. For another two coppers they let him pen the horses in the vacant corral. John setup his camp near the corral, laying out his packs like he did every night on the trail. Twenty years of living on the road had taught him a few things, like making sure packs stay tight and dry.
An hour later saw his packs re-bundled, and fire started. He already had a haunch sizzling when the hunters arrived with the setting of the sun; the darkness crept in rapidly, as it always does in the mountains. After stumbling around in the dark for a bit they asked if they could share his fire.
The night was filled with tales of hunting trips. Magnificent elk, and charging boars had been conquered. This was their first trip to be more than a day from home. By the time the bottle of wine had run dry, the hunters were falling over to sleep, and the bear had grown to at least fifteen feet tall.
The first glimmerings of pre-dawn light woke the travelers for a day that promised to bring fortune for the hunters, or safe passage over the pass for John. It seemed unlikely that both could happen. Over the sparse breakfast they planned for the future.
“When it comes down for the packet of nip, you get its eye. Of course you got to watch for those teeth.”
“I’m using my share of the gold for that farm next to Kersol’s place. Maylene will quit schmoozing up to Hasfid for that.”
“Hey what about you Joe? John? Something with a J in it. Why don’t you help us? Splitting the bounty three ways still leaves us with near a hundred gold each.”
“Yeah, you could buy yourself a better sword, with like gold inlay on the handle.”
“I just need to get over the pass into Huyroil, and then on to Saffon. There’s somebody I need to meet there.”
“I say you’re a fool to pass up an easy hundred gold, but we got to get going.”
At least their horses looked rested as the hunters rode out. The thrill of the hunt barely dimmed as they handed over the five silver to the soldier. They soon disappeared behind a few trees, but the singing could be heard for another ten minutes.
John left about an hour behind them. He had taken the time to get the latest news from the soldiers stationed there. They confirmed tales of missing travelers, and Dragon cries heard echoing from the mountain side. At least the slide was cleared enough to get through if he could keep from getting eaten.
The trail wound up the mountain, often following close to the small river. At times it passed through crevasses that were barely wide enough for the packs on his horses. Most of the meandering trail was shaded in the low trees. As he was nearing the first ridge the quiet of the mountain was broken by shouting voices.
John quickly tied his two mares to a nearby tree, and spurred Marrow ahead. He topped the rise just as a large gray-green shape flew over his head. One of the hunters was dangling from the clawed feet. As he watched, the hunter managed to pull himself free, and dropped into the trees below. The flyer jerked for a moment, as though tempted to follow its lost meal, but circled back the other way, toward the second hunter.
The Wyvern looked like a Dragon only to extent that it had large wings, teeth, and claws. Still, the Wyvern was more than a match for the hunters. As he cleared the trees, John saw the other hunter standing on the far side of the clearing wildly waving the satchel around while holding his bow in the other hand.
If nothing else, the movement drew the beast’s attention to him. Said hunter was smart enough to drop the satchel, and was in the process of emptying his quiver as John pulled out his own simple-looking bow. Most of the hunter’s arrows missed the mark completely. Of the few that scored, only one penetrated the thick hide. It flinched enough from the pain in its neck, to swerve and miss him.
John dropped off Marrow and got the string pulled tight as it curved up to swing around for another try. It took another moment to get the strap loose from the quiver, that kept his arrows from rattling around as he rode. The dark ash shafts looked almost like steel in his hand, seeming to meld right into the iron tips that never dulled or rusted.
He had other arrows in his quiver, made by modern fletchers. Those were for his normal hunting; he saved the ash ones for things like Wyverns. He’d never broken one, but it was just as bad should he lose one.
John's first arrow caught the beast in the side, burying itself to the flight. That was enough to grab the Wyvern's attention off the hunter it was bearing down on. It turned the massive head to glare at John as it swooped upward once more. The eyes held anger in them as though it hadn’t even contemplated a chance of its mortality.
This time as it skimmed along the tree tops, it was aiming straight for John. The last three arrows from the hunter’s bow proved no more effective than his previous ones, doing nothing to distract the Wyvern’s attack. John managed two more shots; one each for its chest and belly. The only sign they had been felt was the narrowing of the beast’s eyes.
Even Marrow was snorting nervously as the great beast came closer. Just as the claws snapped at John, Marrow lurched in fear, knocking him off his feet. The claw caught Marrow along the side of his neck, opening up a hand-span long gash. The horse took off back down the trail at a run.
John climbed to his feet with a single arrow in his hand, the rest were still in the quiver tied to Marrow’s saddle.There wasn’t time to fret over a runaway horse as the Wyvern swooped in for another pass at the hunter. John took a deep breath, and let it out slowly as he concentrated on the spot where the heart should be. The previous three arrows had hardly slowed the beast; he had one chance to stop it now.
The arrow flew straight, even as the Wyvern shifted with the wind, and it scored right in the wing joint. Suddenly unbalanced, the broken wing caught the ground, dropping the Wyvern into a crashing, rolling, angry ball of flailing limbs. It was momentarily lost in the cloud of dust spreading across the clearing toward the hunter. It seemed to pause just short of him, and the tail flipped out of the cloud to land with a thud on the rocky soil of the ridge.
With a wild cry, the hunter dropped his useless bow, and ran to the quickly settling dust cloud, pulling out his sword as he went. John’s shouts to stop went unheeded. The beast was struggling to untangle its limbs as the hunter bore down on it.
The hunter arrived just in time to meet a badly damaged, and very angrily snapping jaw full of sharp teeth. The jaw clamped across the hunter's shoulder and chest, lifting him up in an arc that flipped him on his back a dozen yards away. The broken wing was twisted under it, keeping the Wyvern from bounding after the hunter.
Time is never a luxury when fighting for your life. The distraction as it untangled its feet from the broken wing gave John the chance to meet it with his own drawn sword. Even wounded and off balance, the beast circled about. It used the advantage of a long neck to strike at John while keeping out of reach of his sword.
The mistake came when it tried to claw at him. The claw shredded the shirt across John’s chest, and even tore a few links from the underlying chain mail. John was knocked backward once more, to where the jaw was waiting to bite a mortally wounded prey. Fortunately the mail kept his guts from spilling out, and experience had made him careful of such tactics. His sword found a mark in the Wyvern’s eye. The point drove deep.
The beast’s head rose up one last time with a wheezing sound, before falling back to the ground in a dead heap. The hilt of his sword still protruded from the eye, in a mimicry of a tavern sign he’d once seen, complete with tongue hanging half out of the mouth. Only that had been a Dragon on the sign. John pulled his sword loose, and went looking for the others.