These are a series of novel chapter drafts. They are a work in progress and the primary goal of the current work is to get the ideas on paper - not nessicarily for them to be well written
Mara, Last Passage (Road: Harrus -> Iron Gate)
Once Natyr and Mara had the wagon loaded, they were off. It was a happy coincidence that Natyrs delivery of armours and furs to the Iron Gate lined up with Mara’s desire to enlist there. Her strength too, made short work of loading and they left the stables and stores quicker than expected.
Like Harrus, Last Passage was closer to sea level than the lofty heights of Karkas, but it was difficult terrain all the same. The wagon’s wheels creaked with complaints and every so often Mara would have to jump off and reload a fallen crate that was jostled off.
About halfway, Natyr decided to call it. Both were tired and neither calling mattered so much a day’s delay would cause complaint.
A few paces further and there was a convenient spot pulled in from the road where they could park. It had clearly been used by other travelers before, based on the worn state of the path, but they reckoned that meant it was tried and tested. From the side of the cart, Natyr pulled a thick sheet of cloth, attached to two poles that would act as a tent. Though it was built for a single person, Natyr and his daughter usually slept close. Mara however, was larger than Ferrin and Natyr felt a definite discomfort suggesting getting so close to his daughter’s friend. The stars were clear above them, so the lack of cloud cover probably meant it would be safe to sleep with their legs exposed. Mata issued no complaint and Natyr wondered silently again if she really had thought this all through, but left the thought unspoken.
It was a reasonable sleep, aside from the occasional pantherwolf howl, the bleating of far away sheep or the hooting of unseen birds in the night.
Light began to return to the world, through golden beams filtering through the tree leaves and a gentle warming of the surrounding forest. Mara woke first and sleepily wiped her eyes, willing them to focus. As they did, her heart sunk as before her, happily sitting cross-legged outside the camp, was a familiar figure in a leather jacket, holding a loaded crossbow that was casually pointed in her direction.
“You’re quite precious when you sleep” The woman smirked. “Wake up your father there princess”. Mara turned to shake Natyr awake, ignoring for now the confused identity. “Nyeh-Gmnf” Netyr muttered and swatted her hand away. She decided to slap him across the cheek and he spasmed into conciousness. “Wh-Woah. What’s going on here?” He pulled himself up into a sitting position, propped up on the cart. “Ah, so it’s you”
“Always a pleasure sir” She beamed. “Maybe next time you can play along with my game before I take your stuff, rather than have it drawn out like this” She lazily swapped her target to and fro. “Well, it’s too late now, so if you just kindly leave your wagon and horse there and continue on your way, we’ll not have to meet again” She winked “Unless you want to that is”
Natyr sighed and stood up. “Fine, I have some coin, let me keep my livelihood.” She considered his movements and let him walk to take out his purse. Once he had done so, she answered. “Nice of you to offer, but I have a counter-offer - both.” She stifled a laugh. Mara raised herself to her feet, using her sword as a crutch and marched forward angrily “You’ll take nothing!”. With a quick flick, she was at the bolt-end of the crossbow. “I think you misunderstand my gallant princess. Think. Who has the upper hand here?” Mara raised her sword “There’s only one of you, and you have to reload that crossbow to shoot again”. Natyr threw the coin purse at the woman. “Mara, don’t get yourself killed” He warned.
“When did I say that?” She faked a confused look and waved a hand in the air, calling two hidden men from the trees, each with their own crossbows. “Put down that toy and just step aside” Mara stood defiantly, sword still raised. “Fine” The woman shrugged and clicked her trigger, sending a bolt into her foot and pinning her in place. Mata shrieked and clutched her leg in agony. “What are you waiting for, hook up the cart and get moving” she ordered. The men shuffled forward. The first man and the stronger of the two, untied the horse from a nearby tree. Clearly not someone ever familiar with the beasts, he subdued it by sheer strength alone, yanking it’s reins so it could do nothing but follow his direction. The other walked around the crippled Mara and over to Natyr. The hulking figure opened his mouth to demand Natyr move aside, but decided a quick fist to the head was a quicker - and more satisfying - way to get what he wanted.
Natyr’s vision blurred as he began to slowly slump to the floor. His body gave way beneath him and as darkness eclipsed his eyes, he heard the thud of a similar fate befall his companion.