Dassais Chapter 5
Darkness clouded the air as the trees whispered in the gale. Rain pelted the earth. A storm was brewing, so they had to move quickly. Hugo Ghalis glanced at the hunched shoulders of his hunters as they sat in their saddles. The weather was making them miserable, yet he needed them to keep moving. The further they were from catching that horse, the less chance they had.
“We must stop soon, sir. The men need it.” Lathier rode up next to Hugo. He attempted to persuade his leader.
“They can’t keep going so long, sir. They need rest.” Darund rode up on Hugo’s other side. Hugo couldn’t believe it. They were all wimps! How would the men survive in a fight if they couldn’t even survive the weather? They needed to toughen up. Perhaps he needed to take over their training. Apparently Lathier and Darund couldn’t rise to the task sufficiently.
Hugo stopped under a large canopy of trees where the rain could not reach them. He huffed to himself. He wanted to keep going, but his men would quit if he didn’t give them a break. Why did they have to rest when he didn’t? Hadn’t they worked for this? He almost decided to keep on without them, but then he would be not able to catch them in time. They had to keep moving as soon as possible.
Blankets were quickly laid out on the roots and rocks and mud of the forest floor. A few of them had set about building a fire. His men were already setting up camp. Once given an inch, they always took a mile. Did they think they were spending the night?
Hugo stormed through the makeshift camp, grabbing the blankets and stomping out the fire. Everyone stilled and looked at him as if he’d gone mad.
“I did not give leeway for such frivolity. How dare you take advantage of my generosity!” Hugo’s anger was palpable. He threw down the blankets at the hunters’ feet.
“Pack your things at once. We move out in an hour.” His eyes blazed as he stared into eyes of each of his men. He had intended to give them two hours, but with this outrageous display, he decided to shorten their rest. They didn’t deserve any less. And his head men were responsible for this. Hugo called Darund and Lathier to him and marched them out of earshot of the other men.
“Your men are messy and irresponsible.” He glared at them both. “Fix it now. I want them willing and ready by nightfall tomorrow. You taught them how to shoot. Now, teach them how to be real men.”
“Sir, we will not fail you. They will be ready.” Lathier and Darund vowed to their leader. The two head men were afraid of being cut off, even killed, if they failed their leader.
The next day, Lathier and Darund kept to their word and worked the hunters long and hard. They learned stealth skills. They crept through the woods, hiding behind the trees and bushes. If any made a sound, they all started over. One man moved too slow, so they started over again. The two lead men sighed. They had their work cut out for them. After hard, long practice, they accomplished the task of silence in movement. They practiced sword fighting. The men were so inept at the blade, they could hardly keep from dropping their weapons and slicing themselves. Lathier and Darund demonstrated to the men the proper hand position. After several tried, they accomplished that. The sun rose high in the sky, yet they did not quit for some time. Eventually, Hugo allowed them a small meal break, but then they were required to keep practicing and learning. As he dismissed them, a messenger quietly approached Hugo, handed him a note, and then just as quickly, departed.
Lathier and Darund demonstrated proper offensive and defensive positions and actions with the blades. Several of the men dropped their weapons and they had to start over again. Eventually, they all learned the art of sword fighting. They practiced their archery. The hunters had become excellent at hitting a still target in broad daylight. But they needed to learn how to hit moving targets. As the men aimed for the whipping rags tied to the tree branches, nearly all of them missed. Lathier and Darund hung their heads. How could they be so horrible at the bow? The two men gave further instructions: how to aim and what positions to hold their bows. The hard work was starting to pay off. The men pulled their arms straight back, sighted down the arrow, and released the string. The arrows hit their marks and the men all cheered. As the sun was setting below the horizon, Hugo stopped his men. Practicing was now over.
“Display your skills.” Hugo demanded. The hunters gathered together and then dispersed throughout the woods. The hunters disappeared. All was silent until they made their presence known by whizzing arrows thudding unto the trees close to where Hugo was standing.
“Enough.” Hugo barked. It was time to move out. In the waning light, Hugo Ghalis and his men mounted their horses. It was time to find Dassais.
The rain continued to descend well into the night as they made their way over the mountains. Hugo was getting tired of seeing only tree branches and mountainsides. Glennwood must be close. Everyone was miserable. The day of learning had set them back a full day. They had to focus on their mission.
Several more days passed. Wind whispered through the branches around them, dripping leftover raindrops on their heads. Hugo’s impatience grew with every valley passed that was naked of any inhabitants. He pushed his men on through the night. They stopped only a handful of times for barely a few minutes. Some of his hunters dozed in their saddles while their horses kept moving forward. The trees continued their dripping, adding to Hugo’s annoyance.
A small dot of light appeared on the horizon which grew several more dots surrounding it. Glennwood was in sight. The weary travelers pressed on until commanded to halt by their commander.
“Make camp. The stablemaster, Domingo, has revealed who caught Luna.” Hugo dismounted. “We will visit the Fillindyl estate at dawn.”
© 2019 Tori Leumas