“What is it Abbo… err, brother Gospels.” said the young brother. Iamerge noticed it was Hebrews as he gave Iamerge a shy smile and nod.
“Iamerge believes there has been another trade caravan attacked.” said Gospels. “It has been some time since the rescue party or perhaps relief has gone out. There may be dead and likely injured from one party or the other.”
“Dire news.” Hebrews gasped, though it seemed to Iamerge that there was more of excitement than horror in it, “Shall I gather some brothers and. . .” Hebrews looked puzzled, “which way should we go?”
“Go first to the Abbott, I do not command any but myself. Say only that Gospels recommends that the guest house be prepared to receive wounded. Then if he thinks it wise and at his command come after we two who will go on down the South road to see what we may see of this disaster.”
“Could I not come with. . .”
“No Hebrews, the brothers must hear of this first, and the Abbott must make what provision he sees fit. Just tell him that we go down the South Road after Ui Birlinn and several mounted men and that we know nothing more of what may have happened. Your speed will be a greater blessing to bring the word and likely you will catch up to us even with carts and stretchers and all manner of healing herbs in tow.”
“Yes Abbo. . . I mean brother.”
“Off with you,” said Gospels, but Hebrews was already running toward the monastery with his habit hiked up to free his legs for maximum speed. “The righteous will live by faith, and there are few more faithful than that boy.” Gospels glanced at Iamerge, “I hope that I didn’t speak out of turn when I said we would go ahead.”
“I will go with no complaints. I should like to know what all the fuss is about. Then too, getting it straight at the source will give me some news to bargain with the mayor of rat town.” quipped Iamerge as he readied himself for the walk.
“Indeed, Mr. Cooper will want to know all about it, I’ve no doubt.” And off Gospels walked at a goodly clip. Iamerge followed.
Gospels lead straight down the hill and onto the road. When they settled on a comfortable pace Iamerge asked, “This is not the first attack I gathered. Do you know who is doing it or why?”
Gospels frowned, “Sadly no, if it were bandits there would be less of value left behind. Sometimes bandits take hostages and make demands. But this is just slaughter.”
“And they take nothing of value?”
“I didn’t say that, much is left, but not weapons nor things that can easily be made into weapons. Sometimes they leave their own weapons behind, heavy stone axes, brutal spears, clubs, that sort of thing. They take food and sometimes they kill horses, but they don’t seem to take them.”
“Who are they?” ask Iamerge.
“That no one knows.”
They walked on in silence for awhile. Matching each other, they strode down the road. After awhile, Iamerge noticed that Gospels was glancing over at him from time to time. He wondered if perhaps the pace was growing too much so he eased off. Gospels continued to glance over as they walked a little slower.
“Iamerge,” Gospels said finally.
“Yes?” he answered.
“I hope I didn’t press you into something you wouldn’t otherwise have done.” Gospels laughed, “It is like me to charge off on this sort of venture, but I’m getting older if not wiser at the same pace.”
Iamerge smiled, “No no, I’m glad to go. I should have thought to bring word to all of you. Just, in town it seemed of no consequence to any but Ui Birlinn and his party so I guess I thought it must have been a thing very far away.”
“True, it might be.” Gospels began, “But Rhuary is cautious where his father was, well, impetuous like me,” he laughed again. “If he rode hard out of the town then I think it likely that it was no farther than horses might run safely. Horses are not easy to come by here abouts.” Gospels looked sidelong at Iamerge.
“Did I mention that Ui Birlinn was the one with whom I had business?
“I’m not positive, but I inferred it.”
“So it seems my business lies this way also.”
“Indeed, I should confess that I believe you are a survivor. I would charge ahead when wisdom, and survival, might bid me wait. So, I hoped to bring you for some degree of protection, if not from villains then certainly from myself.”
It was Iamerge’s turn to chuckle, “Well then, if I get that feeling, I’ll bid us both stop and if need be reverse and run us back to Hebrews.”
“That is wisdom,” said Gospels, “I expect that young man soon enough.”
“Ah, then I’m warned,” Iamerge laughed, “I’ll keep an eye on our tail lest young Hebrews runs us down in his haste to get to the adventure.”
“I would scold you for wronging my dear brother, but I suspect you may be right.” Smiling they both walked toward the crest of the hill
Gospels grew serious, cleared his throat he said. “I pray God this isn’t what I fear, but I pray without much hope. These attacks have become more frequent and this, well, this is too near for my peace of mind.”
They crested the hill and began to descend into another valley. Almost immediately they saw below them a chaos of broken carts and broken men. There was little enough movement, but there were clearly men moving through the wreckage. Then off to their right, on a turning they saw a caravan making its way up toward them.