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"What are they going to do with us?" asks James nervously.
"They'll probably torture and kill me. You, they may kill or they may take you south and sell you to the slavers. Sorry kid," replies Ceryn.
An outlaw a little larger than the rest, with a tattoo of a snake on his left arm, comes over and kicks Ceryn in the side and yells, "I told you to be quiet! Another word and I'll cut your tongue out." To emphasize his point he kicks Ceryn hard in the side two more times before walking off.
Two of the outlaws continue to stand guard over James and Ceryn with their swords drawn and ready. James scoots a little closer to Ceryn and in a barely audible whisper asks "Are you okay?"
A sleight nod of Ceryn's head gives the affirmative.
"I'm going to try to loosen our bonds," he says.
Another nod, Ceryn understands.
Trying to concentrate James says:
Ropes that bind me and you
Come apart in pieces two.
James can feel a slackening in the ropes' tension as they break. Ceryn turns his head towards James, and gives him a surprised look when he feels his bonds snap in two.
Whispering so only Ceryn will hear him, he says, "Now for the outlaws, be ready." Another nod from Ceryn, he understands.
Looking around he searches for something that he can use to hurt, maybe even kill the outlaws. His gaze comes to rest on the fire and an idea takes shape. Speaking softly, he begins to cast his spell.
Fire that's hot
"Hey the boss said no talking," one of the guards says to James.
Ignoring him, James continues,
Fire that's bright,
"I said to shut up or I'll come over there and shut you up," exclaims the guard one more time.
Send balls of flame
Walking over to James the outlaw says, "Ok, you asked for it" Reaching his side, the guard gets set to kick him hard in the head.
Before the guard can complete the maneuver, James looks him in the eye and shouts the rest of the spell:
To burn outlaws this night!
At the final utterance of the spell, balls of flame explode out from the fire. Sailing through the air, they begin striking each of the outlaws, igniting their clothes. The spell uses far too much of his unreplenished reserves, and causes him to pass out.
Ceryn sees James slump into unconsciousness but can't take the time to see if he's okay. When the balls of flame erupt out of the fire, he immediately rolls and trips one of the guards. Knocking him to the ground, he quickly jumps on top of him while fire begins consuming the guard's clothes. Wresting the sword out of his hands, Ceryn upends it and plunges it through the man's chest, pinning him to the ground.
Getting to his feet quickly, he places a foot upon the dead outlaw's chest and pulls the sword free. A nearby guard cries out as his hair ignites and goes up in flame. Moving towards him, Ceryn strikes out with his sword and the outlaw's head goes flying. The head hits the ground and rolls like a flaming ball until it comes to a sizzling stop.
Screams fill the night, both of terror and anger. Another of the outlaws is lying motionless on the ground as he burns. Still another is running through the forest, a pillar of flame in the darkness, the man's screams echoing through the night. Looking around, Ceryn sees no sign of the leader and the remaining two.
Returning to where James lies on the ground, he finds him still breathing but is unable to wake him. Using one hand, he takes James by the shirt and begins dragging him towards the cabin. He doesn't get very far before he sees the man with the tattoo and the two remaining outlaws coming at him from the direction of the river, dripping with water.
"Ceryn," he shouts, "I'm going to gut you and let the animals eat your entrails while you're still alive to enjoy it. And then I'll cut the heart out of that demon damned mage." Covered in burns, clothing all charred, they make a frightening sight. He comes straight for Ceryn while the other two move to flank him.
Knowing they'll follow him and ignore James as long as he's unconscious, he leaves him lying on the ground and approaches the outlaws with sword at the ready. Three to one would be bad odds in a normal situation but the outlaws, having just suffered bad burns, will be slowed by the pain.
Ceryn feints at the one on the right; out of the corner of his eye he sees the one on the left coming in to his exposed flank. When the one on the left slices towards Ceryn's head, Ceryn drops to the ground and rolls towards him, striking a serious blow on his thigh, opening an artery. The outlaw drops to the ground with a groan of pain as blood flows out of the wound. With him out of the battle, Ceryn then turns his attention to the other two.
Fanning out, the leader and the last outlaw come at him. The leader comes in with a swift thrust aimed at Ceryn's chest which he blocks and then follows with a slice at the leader's leg. Jumping back, the leader attempts to avoid the blow but fails as the tip of Ceryn's sword opens up a shallow cut on his upper thigh.
Seeing Ceryn's side exposed, the remaining henchman leaps in and thrusts. Ceryn twists just in time and manages to only get a small cut along his shoulder. Ignoring the pain throbbing there, he feints at the leader and then comes back with a backhanded slice that causes the henchman to stumble backwards and trip over the other outlaw who bled to death on the ground.
Seeing his chance, Ceryn presses the leader, who is becoming weakened from the loss of blood and the trauma of all the burns. Slash, block. Block, slash. He needs to finish the leader before the remaining henchman regains his feet and rejoins the battle.
Ceryn slices at the leader's head, at the arm, at the head, back and forth. The leader is successfully blocking each of Ceryn's maneuvers. "Ceryn, you cannot win. I am the better swordsman!" exclaims the leader. Undaunted by the taunts, Ceryn doubles his efforts.
Regaining his feet, the henchman moves to rejoin the battle. Ceryn sees him approaching and with a burst of speed and skill, continues his attacks upon the leader. The leader, with the continuing loss of blood from the wound in his thigh, is weakened and is beginning to show signs of slowing.
The henchman finally rejoins the battle and presses Ceryn hard, giving the leader time to drop out of the battle for a moment to catch his breath. Hack, hack, slash, showing no sign of skill, simply trying to bull through Ceryn's defense, the henchman hammers at him. Using skill acquired through many conflicts, Ceryn successfully blocks each of the attacks, and begins to understand the rhythm of the attacks. Hack, hack, slash. Hack, hack, slash. Timing it just right, he blocks the two hacks and when the henchman comes in with his slash, Ceryn drops under the incoming blade and thrusts with his own sword, taking the outlaw through the chest. Ceryn kicks out with his foot to dislodge the outlaw from his blade and turns to see the leader coming after him, a wild look in his eye.
With a primal scream the leader rushes at him, holding his sword in both hands. Bringing down the sword with all his strength he attempts to hew Ceryn in half. Striking the leader's sword, he deflects it away from him and throws the leader off balance. Ceryn then kicks out with his foot and connects with the leader's knee, snapping it. The leader drops to the ground with a cry of pain. Striking out with his sword, Ceryn slices through his back and severs the spine. Lying on the ground paralyzed, the leader stares with hate filled eyes at Ceryn as the blood flowing out of him first brings unconsciousness, then death.
Panting, tired, Ceryn surveys the battlefield and sees no one else alive. He tosses the sword down and walks over to James. Using the last of his strength, he drags James into the cabin and lays him down upon the bed. Collapsing next to James, he passes out.