Harms and his men were spaced out evenly to the rear of the Taurans, they had managed to take out the various sentries positioned around their position and now they waited. Their level of weaponry was greatly improved by their impromptu shopping spree, although the Tauran troopers seemed to take little pride in their equipment. Irrespective of this fact, Harms felt better than he had done in a while and they were as ready as they were ever going to be.
Movement stirred the soldiers below and from further along the trail they heard voices raised in song. Slowly the caravan came into view; two Knights at the front, pennants flying gaily in the light breeze. There were another two at the rear of the column and a group of mail-shirted soldiers to either side of the two wagons, in the centre.
Whatever was within the wagons must be important, to merit such an honour guard. Harms’ eyes narrowed, as the order was given and the Taurans charged. His urgent hand signals were obeyed instantly and he and his men moved forward, flitting from cover to cover, always keeping the enemy soldiers in sight.
As they reached the edge of the woodland, they saw two of the Knights down and those at the rear charging. The soldiers had formed a protective cordon around the wagons but they died uselessly, unable to do little more than receive the incoming fire.
With a curt chopping motion of his hand he opened fire, the disciplined volley from his men punching into the rear of the Taurans, taking them completely by surprise. Quickly they regrouped, half of their forces splitting off from their unprovoked attack and concentrating their fire on Harms and his men.
Dividing their forces proved their undoing as the two Knights crashed into their rear, bowling a number of them over. Seeing the change in fortune, the mail-shirted troops charged, their swords ripping into the disoriented troopers.
Harms and his men moved down to the road, their rate of fire never slacking and it began to take its toll. With a shout of “Close quarters”, Harms dragged his knife free and leapt into the fray. He blocked his first opponent’s attack with his forearm, slicing his blade across the Tauran’s stomach. He heard the crunch of a descending rifle butt and continued on his way. There were a small knot of Taurans who had closed upon the wagons and he powered forward, his shoulder slamming into the rearmost of them.
He cried out as he felt the cut of a blade across his back and span, his booted foot connecting solidly. Grabbing the back of the Tauran’s neck, he rammed his knee upwards and was rewarded with a satisfying spurt of blood. His forgotten rifle slapped against his thigh and he swung it forward, burying its muzzle into the soldier's body and pulling the trigger.
In a brief moment of respite, he looked around and it was then he felt the crushing blow to his ribs and darkness closed in.
Harms was dead, of that he was sure; a coolness caressed his forehead and opening his eyes he stared directly into the face of an angel. She smiled; perfect teeth in a cherry-lipped mouth. Her lips parted, she bent down and he thrilled with the expectation of the kiss, his body unconsciously stirring in response to the beauty before him.
I must be in one of the wagons, he thought, looking past her. The thick canvas let diffuse light through, framing her head in a nimbus of understated light. Relaxing, he felt the touch of her lips against his forehead, the tip of his nose and then his throat. Blood surged through his veins, his pulse pounding in his head and he waited.
The brush of her lips was unusually cold, numbing at the point of contact. Then came the pain as she bit savagely into his flesh. He struggled, writhing and thrashing in desperation, determined to break free. It was no use, his arms and legs were firmly bound and he watched helplessly as the bloodstained mouth rose once more into his line of sight. A short pink tongue swiped across the now savage fangs and she hissed in pleasure. Slowly she bent once more, and fed.
*Llorente shuddered as he heard the Sargeant scream again, a long drawn-out cry of pain. There was nothing that they could do, they had been roughly tied together, a sharpened pole hammered into the ground between them. Arms were stretched backwards to breaking point, their weapons had been seized after the surprise attack. At least Renard had gotten away, killing one of the soldiers in the struggle and disappearing into the forest.
It was a forlorn hope, that of escape, night was closing in and he knew he was next. The soldiers had graphically described their fate, grinning in anticipation of the pain and suffering to follow.
*Renard watched from the shadows, wincing with each scream, thankfully the volume was weakening and he knew what that meant. There was little or no chance of saving the Sargeant, but maybe, just maybe he could do something about the others.
Crawling forward slowly, he approached the edge of the forest. Llorente was the closest, his back towards the wagons. One thing Renard knew for sure was that he did not want to be alone here, come nightfall.