The injured merchant clung on for dear life as blood oozed from his injuries. His shoulder had been sliced, but the stab wound to his midriff was worse. He was losing consciousness and leant forward. But at least he was heading away from the robbers. With fear in its eyes, the horse galloped along the stoney track. As the black steed thundered away, fading sunlight penetrated the wooded hill to one side. The man’s glistening blood poured down the animal. Dust kicked in the air left a clouded trail in its wake. One man was escaping from the carnage in the forest.
Up ahead, the galloping hooves were faint but audible. Soldiers moved off the track. They were armed and wore chainmail. Their leader gave curt orders and the men worked in disciplined unison. Time was limited. One tied a rope to a tree and threw it across the track. It lay on the ground with its end firmly in the hands of another. They waited as the horse drew closer. When it was almost upon them, the men emerged with menace from the trees and drew swords. The horse faltered as the rope barred its path and screeched as it came to a halt. The merchant’s eyes flickered as he saw men wielding swords. Closing his eyes, he resigned himself to a bloody end. At the tree line, just short of the Snook, these men were soldiers from the King’s army. The merchant was safe.
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