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Old 01-16-2007, 02:08 PM   #11
Tevildo
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Join Date: Nov 2004
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Azhar had picked her way through the crowded grove searching for Rowenna. She had scurried from one small group to the next asking the women and children if they had seen the midwife. No one had been able to answer her. Every step brought her nearer the ring of stones that marked the entry to the small haven where the women and children had retreated. So far, none of the slavers had been able to force their way into that inner ring. Through the dust and haze, Azhar could make out the faces of several of the men who fought no more than fifteen feet in front of her; Rôg and Aiwendil, Carl and Dirand, Nasim, Gamal, and so many others were still locked in battle with about half a dozen slavers. For an instant, Azhar stood still and simply stared out, wondering how and when the bloodshed was going to end and whether the protective ring would continue to hold.

An insistent cry rose from just behind her: not a sound of battle but more like a woman caught in the throes of a tearing pain. Scrambling over to the source of that sound, Azhar ducked down and crawled through the opening of a thick hedge, an entrance almost hidden from outside view. She was surprised to find the midwife Rowenna. On the ground beside her lay another woman who was in the middle of giving birth. The woman's eyes were wild with pain, her hair matted, and her skin rimmed with sweat. The birthing was not going well, but what else could one expect in the middle of this nightmare?

Scarcely more than a girl, Azhar stumbled out of the enclosure, unable to deal with the full meaning of that scene. But before she could turn back to speak with Rowenna, there was a terrible roar and a shaking of the earth. A number of slavers still mounted on horses had broken through the border of stones and were advancing at a gallop, racing straight across the inner encampment where all the women and children lay hidden. As that realization sunk in, Azhar felt her blood run cold.

The freed slaves and members of the fellowship who were still fighting came running towards the rocks, but their feet could not match the swiftness of the horses. A single horseman halted and, glimpsing Azhar, swung his mount about and headed for the hedge. The young girl tried to spring out of the way but was tossed to the side by the impact of the horse as it raced by her; Rowenna and the woman giving birth were not so lucky. An instant later, both women lay silent amid the ruined hedge, their bodies woven in a tangled heap as blood soaked into the ground.

Azhar cried out in horror. Even her life on the plantation had not prepared her for this. She caught a quick glimpse of Aiwendil and Rôg who were running side-by-side, part of the crowd of fighters all surging forward in a vain attempt to reach the horsemen and stop them. Her eyes rivetted on the tall southerner. Words of anger and frustration poured from her mouth, "Rôg! Why don't you do something? They are too fast. Someone must stop them, or all the women and children will die."

What happened next was not what Azhar had expected. One minute Aiwendil was standing next to Rôg, and the next minute he was gone. In his place was a
shaggy wild boar , weighing at least two hundred and fifty pounds and sporting two pairs of curving tusks, one on top of the other. The boar swung his tail, pawed viciously at the soil, ground together his tusks and gave a loud snort, taking aim at the horseman who was running just ahead.

Last edited by Tevildo; 01-17-2007 at 12:57 AM.
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