Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Write in the ADVENTURE genre (05/24/07)
TITLE: Heretic II
By David Butler
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“Caritas et Veritas!” It echoed through the valley.
Delaware swore. He knew that cry. “Heretics! Brigands!”
He pushed though his mounted troopers to face the oncoming threat.
“Form ye rank!”
His men lined up to block the road, confident their superior numbers would easily account for these bold mounted outlaws. They had a score to settle from their last encounter.
“Hold thou the prisoner!” Delaware barked over his shoulder to the dismounted soldiers who guarded the kneeling cleric. “A hostage shall he be should these outlaws prove obdurate.”
The troopers began to look nervously at each other. Latimer’s approaching company appeared to be still riding at a ferocious pace, as though they hadn’t seen them.
Fifty yards….. twenty yards. They were still at full gallop with no sign of slowing down.
Would they smash into them like a storm-driven ship against the cliffs? Madness!
With a yell, the foremost troopers pulled their mounts aside, jostling their fellows. Panic reigned and all semblance of discipline was momentarily lost.
John Latimer smashed through the gap in the line with a cry of “Veritas!” His sword clove this way and that, sending swords and helmets scattering. His followers broke on the disorganized troopers like a crashing wave.
Delaware was no coward. Flashing out his sword, he shouted “Saint George and the Blessed Virgin!” and spurred toward the leader of the supposed brigands.
He did not doubt the outcome. The bold heretics were outnumbered two to one, despite their brief advantage. Meanwhile, he had his own private humiliation to avenge. If this marauder did not hang, he would burn as a heretic.
“Yield thou, Lollard outlaw! Yield, and beg for mercy!”
Latimer turned his visor toward him.
“Mercy?” he laughed bitterly. “Thou knowest not mercy, Delaware! Dost thou think thou shalt find it in me?”
Their swords clashed together, but the press of battle drew them apart. This was fortunate for Delaware. He could tell he had met a master swordsman.
He shouted and rallied his men. At last he could make use of his superiority in numbers as they recovered their composure. The muffled and visored interlopers had foolishly worked their way into the middle of his troopers, and were surrounded.
“Put up thy swords! Yield, ye vagabonds!” roared Delaware, as the knot of bold fighters became packed together for a desperate stand. None had yet fallen, but they could not hope to fight on against so many.
Suddenly, another cry rang out from the surrounding woods. More shouting hooded and helmeted riders charged out from nowhere and everywhere. The trap was sprung.
At the same time, the defenders gave a cheer and pressed out against their supposed captors with a disciplined and simultaneous charge.
In no time at all, Delaware’s men, thoroughly demoralized, were throwing down their weapons and asking for quarter. But where was their captain?
Instinctively, Latimer whipped out his bow and aimed his arrow in the direction of the challenge. To his dismay, he saw Delaware backed up against a tree with his knife poised at his hostage’s throat.
“Send thine horde hence, outlaw! Surrender thou to justice’s name or this thine holy friend is shent!”
Whizz .. Thunk! Before he knew it, an arrow pinned his knife arm to the tree by his sleeve. Father Lawrence broke free and rolled to safety.
Thunk! Thunk! Two more pinioned the other arm and one leg to the tree. He roared with fury. Latimer’s men roared with laughter.
But all fell silent as Delaware stared death in the face – in the form of a shaft aimed at his heart. The colour drained from his face.
Yet only for a moment. A humble cloaked form stood between him and certain death.
“My lord …. Spare him, I pray thee. He is not yet prepared to face his Maker.”
The arrow point was lowered.
“So be it.” Latimer released his hate with a sigh.
“Was I not worthy of death when Christ had mercy upon my soul? Remember thou this, Delaware, and be schooled of one that showeth thee mercy, when thou showed naught!”
He leapt down and bound his speechless adversary to the tree.
Turning to the good priest, he said “Come, Father. Thou’st a message of mercy to proclaim to thy flock. The worthy captain shall meditate upon these things until thy task is done.”
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