“We all have something that burns so strong within us we will fight to the death to protect or own it. What would you fight and die for?”
I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
Word of the Day Challenge — Thirst
#Writephoto Challenge — Picture above by KL Caley
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Plume
Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge — Call, Wishing, Perhaps
The Round Tower
A plume of smoke licked at the leaves of the old oak forest as it swirled high into the ashen skies. The smell of burning canvas and the crackle of flames did nothing to mask the metallic odour of fresh blood or hide the screams pain.
“Last chance, Argyll. Where is my daughter?” Hoggard squeezed his fingers around the leather-gripped hilt of his cavalier sword. The blade under the bristled chin of the filthy brigand at his knees.
Argyll spat blood all over the Cavalier’s shiny boots but said nothing.
“Your call. But, perhaps you should reconsider answering me! Do it now before you wind up wishing you had never crossed me!” Hoggard snapped forward kicking the man in the chest. The impact driving him flat on his back as the cavalier loomed tall and pressed the sword against his Adam’s apple.
“Kill me! If I speak Lucien will kill me anyway.” The brigand looked straight up as his attacker. His eyes betrayed no fear of death.
“I do not thirst for blood.” Hoggard gritted his teeth with ire, “Tell me where my daughter is and I will let you run away like sewer rat you are.”
“The girl’s blood will spill at Garrett’s Turrim.” Argyll reached and drove Hoggard’s sword through his own neck. Death for him was the easy way out.
Hoggard kicked him off his sword and gazed into the stormy heavens. Images of a savage ogre tearing his daughter apart turned his thoughts blood red. “I don’t know where — wait! turrim!” Hoggard’s words died in his throat as a memory flooded into his mind. “Turrim means tower! Duke Garrett had such a thing at his woodland palace not far from here. Merona, I’m coming!”
Hoggard stalked into the trees heading east to what he knew would be a violent confrontation.
Dusk was less than an hour away when he reached the place. The yellow and grey sandstone ruins of Garrett Palace jutted from the trees. A hideous reminder of a terrible battle fought long ago.
Dropping to a knee, Hoggard studied the narrow round tower. Three stories tall with a castellated roof; it was anything the pretty. Its lower window and shadowed door were barred shut. Getting inside was going to be a challenge.
Fiery light emerged from what used to be the main entrance to the palace. A brigand with flame-red hair and beard strolled into view and away from the tower. Reaching a hawthorn, he lowered his slacks and began to relieve himself.
Hoggard burst forward, stalking his prey with the malevolence of a hungry Panther. A sound caught him as funny, ‘Ha, the fools singing!’
“Killing one, or killing all
It’s my choice to make.
Paint the skies in a fiery light
Decided by terror and fa —”
Hoggard’s gauntlet slammed the brigand’s mouth shut as his sword plunged smoothly through his back until it stood proud of his ribs. “That’s decided by Hoggard Cassell, Bastard!” he seethed as he allowed the dead man to fall into the hawthorn.
The cavalier returned his focus to the round tower as he listened intently. His nose told him of burning logs. Crackling and hissing indicated a fire deeper in the ruins. The tower entrance was chained shut. If Merona was up there, she was safe for now.
Slipping through the large entryway, Hoggard found himself in a sea of scorched ruins. No upper floors remained, only thick buttresses and the sturdier sections of walls rose out of the grasses and ivy which were trying to reclaim it for nature.
A campfire was burning within a ravaged room which once housed some magnificent stained glass if the arched sills told the story. Four men stood around flickering blaze eating illegally hunted venison. The one dressed in the king’s guard armour was Lucien. Hoggard would know that lion’s mane anywhere. The two had been best friends until Lucien betrayed everyone when the chance to steal a fortune in gold came his way.
Hoggard scanned the area around the fire and strained his eyes to see into the shadows. There was no sign of his daughter, if Argyll had tricked him he was lucky he was already dead.
The cavalier took a calming breath. Steeling himself for the coming battle. Easing forward he heard a stick break behind him. A blade pressed against his neck.
“Good eve, cavalier. Yer not welcome around ‘ere.” said a voice rasping with malice right in his ear. Hoggard felt his sword being tugged away and did not fight.
“Had you spineless highwayman not taken something from me, I would never have come to this filthy inhospitable —”
“Shut yer face and hasten to the fire — now!” ordered the brigand.
Hoggard raised his arms. “Fine,” he said while walking forward with a calmness about him.
“ ’ey, Lucien. Lookie what I found. Hehe!” announced the brigand with all the arrogance of the man who owned a harem of beautiful ladies.
“My eyes must be broken. Did Talvas actually do something right?”
“Of course, he did, Beres. All of my men do my bidding well what I don’t work for me at all,” Lucien replied as he approached the captive.
Hoggard felt his nose wrinkle with disgust. “Hello, Lucien. You backstabbing hog!”
“Come now, Hoggard. Thought we were —” Lucien ball a fist and drove it hard into the cavalier’s abdomen. “Old friends.”
Hoggard doubled for a moment and choked through the pain. “I don’t make friends with people who hit like girls.”
Lucien reddened with ire and swung again.
Hoggard took the blow to the cheek, recoiled and spat out blood. “Ha, I almost felt that one,” he said, straightening with fury burning in his eyes. “Now, you took something that belongs to me. You will give it back, or I will take it by force!” he demanded.
“I’m in charge here!” Lucien yelled. “What did I take from …” a smile crossed his face, “Oh, blonde, three-feet-tall, cries a lot. She yours?”
Hoggard let out a roar of fury and lunged only for Lucien’s sword to stop him.
Talvas seized his shoulder and held him for his boss.
“Yes, she was yours,” Lucien drove another fist into the cavalier stomach before covering him with his sword. “She’s mine now!”
“Wrong!” Hoggard seized the sword and drove it under his own arm.
Talvas screamed in pain. Stabbed through the chest with his master’s sword.
Hoggard cracked Lucien with a savage head-butt. Tearing the sword from the brigand’s chest, he dived beneath a thrown spear. Sword up, he blocked a neck bound blade and leapt through the flames of the campfire.
Beres was waiting for him. He swung his sword with all his might and swore.
The caviller parried strongly as the room was filled with the sounds of beating metal. Hoggard found himself between two of the brigands. Sweating from the fire and exertion of battle, he turned fast blocking blow after blow. Swinging a whirling dervish of attacks, he swept swords away and landed devastating slashes of his own.
“Kill him!” yelled Lucien.
“With pleasure!” Hoggard ducked a murderous axe blow and spun behind the attacker. Two quick sword strikes saw him down never to rise again.
Beres screamed with bloodlust and leapt.
Hoggard kicked off a crumbling wall and vaulted through the fire once more. Rising, he stabbed another brigand through the chest and decapitated the third.
Beres grabbed him around the throat and squeezed.
The cavalier had felt him coming and took a deep breath of air. Spotting Lucien running at him, he threw a devilish kick.
The disgraced king’s guard took the boot to his groin and tumbled over his fallen comrade.
Hoggard never stopped moving. Throwing his head back, he destroyed Beres’s nose with a savage head-butt. The feeling of crackling, crushed cartilage, seemed to fuel the cavalier as he broke free of the chokehold.
Beres raised his arms in mortal fear, “Please don’t kill —”
Hoggard slashed him down at the knees and ended him quickly. Turning to Lucien, he saw the man running back towards the tower. “Lucien, I’m coming to kill you now!”
“Depends how much you want your precious daughter!” Lucien retorted as he leapt through a ruined wall.
Hoggard felt many fresh wounds on his battle-scarred body. His fury ensured they wouldn’t slow him down as he gave chase. With parkour-like agility he leapt through the ruins, climbing higher up the walls with every bound. Reaching the grand entryway, he leapt over the wall.
Lucien was fumbling the key into the lock at the base of the round tower. He saw the shadow descending on him and screamed.
Hoggard’s leap was as accurate as an arrow from Robin Hood. He crashed down on the man’s shoulders and bludgeoned him into the earth. “For kidnapping my daughter I sentence you to —”
Lucien snapped his side, scything the cavalier from his body with a kick to the right ear.
Hoggard saw sparkles in his vision. Creeping darkness trying to take him into the underworld as he went into a roll. Regaining his feet, he staggered for a moment. Seeing a flash of silver, he unleashed his sword in a shower of steel the two blades met.
“Surrender, Hoggard. You know I’ve always been the better swordsman. There is no need for you to die!” Lucien yelled.
“And leave my daughter to you. I think not!” Hoggard tensed as he deflected another blow and rained in several of his own. A stick rolled beneath his feet, he was off balance.
Lucien sneered as a leapt on him and both men crashed into the leaf litter. Only then did the disgraced guard’s eyes grow wide as a silent scream of terror left his lips.
Hoggard twisted his blade in the man’s stomach and kicked him to the side. Rising he placed a boot on the man’s throat and withdrew his sword. “Consider yourself punished for my daughter.”
Lucien opened his mouth to speak but death stole his words.
Hoggard dragged him through the grand entrance and dumped him by the fire. He didn’t wish for his daughter to see what had transpired. Returning to the tower, he chopped the lock off and threw the barred gate open.
“Merona!” Hoggard saw the little girl run down the last winding steps in a flash of her white linen dress.
She beamed and leapt into his arms. “Daddy, you came and rescued me!”
“Always my, Princess. Come, let’s leave this wretched place and return home.” Hoggard kissed her cheek and carried her away from the round tower. Father and daughter disappeared downhill into the woods without looking back at the place they hoped never to see again.
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