The Fox is out and the self righteous are again persecuting...
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The Silurian is Art
The Blacksmith's Hammer - after his terrible loss in battle, Bedwyr is healed in body, but not in mind. His confidence is broken, and he pushes Arthur too far in rebellion, and loses again. Until he meets the blacksmith who helps him mend his heart and soul, forging him anew, strong again, so strong, Bedwyr will now fight battles of his own, for his clan of the Stags. A battle that will once again pit him against Cadwallon Longhand, King of Gwynedd. What is it that Bedwyr has done so wrong that Longhand threatens him again? What has he done so wrong to force Arthur to throw him out of the Clan Bear? Winning battles, finding love, and almost getting killed at the hands of the Romani churchmen, The Blacksmith's Hammer is the place where Bedwyr triumphs through his broken-hearted turmoil to become again the Fox...
We camped on a sweeping line of hills, overlooking a shallow valley with a narrow and deep river running down the valley length. Longhand had pitched a tent at the valley head and was waiting inside it for his enemies to come to him. He said the Men of Powys would come up the valley pass and move towards Rhos, so his spies had told him.
Though we were out over a hundred Roman miles from Rhos by the time he decided to pitch in and wait. He had his camp over the hills, hidden from view of anyone marching up the pass. He put my Stags on the western side of the range, high up and waiting. He separated us Stags from his main host and told me I could wait with them while I had the time, all the rest of the time, I was to be his, when he called for me.
So I sat on the hilltop with my men and watched till I grew tired of waiting. I got up and went to my horse. Rowan and Antonis followed me.
I asked for my spear and Rowan brought it for me.
Lucan came over to see me as I mounted, he said, “Where are you going, Fox?”
“Alone?” He looked at me and frowned. “Take your boys with you at least.”
“Lucan, know me, I am a loner, I go alone. The boys will stay here with you. I’ll be back soon.”
And I turned Mischief’s head towards the south and took a high track along the hilltops and rode an easy walk with my spear wedged across my knees and under the pommels of my saddle. I found I could carry my spear this way, leaving my hand free on the reins. I sometimes wondered if Mischief knew that something was wrong with his master, that I had lost a hand. No, but only that the way I then rode him was different.
I rode on for some time, thinking of ways of staying alive in battle, of how I was going to control my horse and fight at the same time, could it even be done? Would I fight best with sword or spear? How was I to protect my undefended left side? All the time I kept my eyes hard to the south and down the valley.
And this was when I saw him, a lone rider, a scout like myself, coming up the valley and walking on my side by the narrow river stream. I watched him a moment then began to make my way down to join him. I wanted to spear him off his horse and take it for myself. Of course the man saw me, but he never made to run and this confused me, but I came at him without threat, and rode up to his side and began to walk along with him. He glared at me. I saw his shield was off and mounted on his saddle.
I said to him, “Where are you going, brother? Are you not from Powys? Don’t you know you are in Gwynedd now?”
“Shut your mouth, you stinking Gwynedd dog, and let me do my work.”
“Scouting for your Powys overlord? If you want information, I can tell you Longhand’s encampment is that way, over those hills in front of us.”
And I took up my spear when I said this and swung it at him in a single move and struck him hard against his throat. He reeled back in his saddle, gagging. I dropped back a moment, watching him, then jabbed him hard into his left side, then again. He fell off his horse and hit the ground; here he lay in a strange struggle to die. I could not leave him like this, so I finished him with a stab into the back of his neck, my spearhead going right through his throat.
I sat watching him a moment, thinking how cruel life was, that I could kill a man so easily, and with only one hand. But scouts were dangerous, they took information back to their commanders, and to finish one was to survive for longer than if not. I jumped off Mischief’s back and went for the man’s horse, the beast was standing quietly. He had a fully packed saddle, full of provisions, and a shield. I talked to him gently as I approached, he shied as I came to his side, but did not run. I took his reins and led him back to Mischief, but my horse suddenly decided he did not like this new mount and bolted, though not too far, only towards the stream, where he stopped and quivered.
I swore at him, went again to fetch him, still leading the new mount. Then I heard a shout and turned. Three riders were almost on me. I saw one of them leap from his horse and run for the scout I had killed, the other two came at me and I was caught out alone.
Only Mischief here to aid me, and I ran to him, my spear still in my hand. “Don’t let me down now, lad,” I begged him. “Is this any way for the Fox to die? Caught out alone? Come on, let me up, don’t shy, do not shy…”
But the bastard horse would not let me up, as this was his moment to betray me, and my one-handed struggle to mount him failed.
Two of the riders came around me, and I took up my spear and hid behind Mischief’s rump.
“Come out, you snivelling Gwynedd stream of pig piss! You killed our brother! Revenge is sweet, come out and face it, pig!”
If Mischief was going to betray me now, I would use him as a shield, and I moved to his head, saw the two men sitting on their horses over me, waiting for me to come out and face them. My heart was hammering so fast I believed it alone would kill me, fail me as I knew I had to kill these two men first, or I was dead, no one here to back me. I had to fight on foot.
The second rider came around to my side, Mischief stood between me and the first rider. I looked up at the man over me and he swung his sword at my head. I ducked, then jumped forward and ran my spear into his horse’s neck; the animal went wild with fear and pain. Its wild dying throes threw its rider and I was on him fast, my spear into his guts as his companion cried out to the third rider to join him. I jumped the body of the one on the ground as the first man came at me. I turned to face him and lifted my spear.
I think it was then he realised I had only one arm to fight with, and he began to laugh at me. This made me wild with anger, and so I went for him, he pulled his horse to one side then leapt off its back and came at me as he drew his sword. But he couldn’t get close to me as I held him off with the point of my spear, I kept jabbing it fast and neat towards his throat.
While all of the time I knew the third man was still coming up behind me. I had to finish this one in front of me fast, so I dropped low and stuck my spear into his thigh, he bellowed and staggered back. I dropped my spear and pulled my sword, then slashed him fast behind his knee, crippling him.
He fell and I whipped my sword across his throat as he went down. Fast, I sheathed the blade and ran back for my spear, picked it up and went again for my horse. But the other man reached me first before I could even think of trying to mount.
I turned, saw him leap off his horse and come at me, wild and insane, “I will gut you, you stinking Gwynedd murderer! You killed my brothers!” And he pulled his sword. Out came my own sword and I ran forward to meet him. Blade-to-blade we clashed with three or four strikes, he dropped back, then threw himself at me again.
This time he tried to take off my head with a wild slash towards my neck, his sword arm went up to bring it down across my throat, and when he did, I took his leg almost off at his knee, he buckled and fell forward, his sword slashed down and I cut him again across his elbow, turned my blade and smacked his skull with the pommel and punched a hole in his forehead. He collapsed like a felled tree, I walked around him, watching him die. I breathed hard, watched as he began to convulse, housed my sword, picked up my spear and put an end to it. Into his heart as he thrashed. He did not know it. I had brained him with my punch and he never knew his own end.
I stood where I was a moment, for I had killed four men alone, one armed, alone…I felt a rush of power surge through me. I was still a powerful warrior even crippled, but I had yet to be tested in battle, and this would soon come, as when I went for Mischief again, I looked up and saw the head of an army marching towards me. They were coming, the Men of Powys. They were marching up the valley and coming right for me.