Grim Hunter

By Russell Figgins

Black Robyn Black Robyn the boy bandit king

He harried the highroad and robbed a good king

The peasants all loved him and all the maids cried

In Lord's Port they hanged him and his tale died

Black Robyn Black Robyn into your grave

From Lord's Port to Dead March your name they sing

Singing, was it real or a delusion from the pain. Ser Justin raised his head from where it had rested on his chest, his neck muscles screamed in agony at the movement. From his high perch he could see far, that was the only conciliation of the cross, nothing was coming from the south, looking the other way, against his body's cries to rest, he saw a man, he knew him.

Tall and lean with long black hair and a hooked nose, the bard was dressed in a dark purple cloak worn out light studded armor, a spiked mace hung from his belt, he carried a lute carved from black walnut. "Well Ser Justin, it seems you've fallen on hard times indeed," the bard quipped, moving towards him. "It seemed only yesterday you broke my nose over a barmaid's honor. Now look at you good Ser knight."

The cross was large, Justin's feet hung high over the bard's head. His feet had been stained black with dried blood as had his hands. Stripped of his arms and armor they whipped his back bloody before leaving him here to die. He saw that dark haired ,poxy bitch Freyja laughing as her reavers nailed him down. "A fine perch for you Falcon," she said, spitting on him before they raised him up. "Unfortunately I cannot stay to keep you company, as I have thieving to do in Vanillin. If you still live when we pass by I'll bring you down and cave your skull in."

How long ago had that been? Hours, days? Time seemed to blend together as he slept and waked from pain. His lips, dry and cracked, and his stomach roared and ached. The sun had turned his exposed flesh blood as huge blisters covered his chest and shoulders. "Get me down…." he murmured, his vision swimming with spots.

Below him, the bard shrugged. "I have neither axe nor pincers Ser Justin," he said, strumming his lute. "Though you and I have fought for years it seems I respect you too much to leave you to die like this."

He turned back the way he came and started walking. "I shall return as quick as I can Falcon knight," he called. "Do not worry, I shall save you."

Ser Justin once against fell into darkness. In his mind he rode down that whore, and drove a lance in her back, then in another he drove a long sword into her belly and gutted her, letting the hot blood run over his hands as her screams echoed around him. A thunderbolt of pain racked his body as the cross tumbled backwards to the ground. Within seconds Jory appeared above him. "See Ser, I keep my word," he said, as he was joined by another figure. A woman, with flowing blonde hair and a full bosom dressed in boiled leather.

"Lorena?" he mumbled, she sneered at the sound of his voice.

"How have you come to this my Falcon? Crucified by a dock whore," she called for pincers and immediately a pair was brought to her. "Grit your teeth my love, the hard part has come."

Grasping the spike in his left hand, Lorena began to pull and heave. Ser Justin gritted his teeth as she twisted and jerked to no avail, after several more tries she stopped. "By the gods its in deep, Jon Niles to me!" the sunlight was blacked out by a giant in heavy plate armor. Without a word he seized the spike by the head with one bear paw sized fist and pulled it free with the first jerk. The next three came just as easily to him. When it was done Jory helped him sit up as his feet and hands were bandaged.

The bard held a wineskin to Ser Justin's lips and turned it up, the rich fruity taste was welcome relief as he guzzled all that he could taste. "Why did you come?" he asked.

Lorena shrugged. "I wouldn't have, had the bard not told me of you when I threatened to hang him,"

"hang him?" he asked.

"I had no coin to buy things, so I lifted them from a merchant wagon, she caught me on my way back," he said, pointing to a group of 60 or so mounted men. "They didn't help my escape at all."

"Lorena, grief me a horse and armor so I can ride for Vanillin," he said, as he struggled to stand. "I'll see Freyja hang, her and all those mutts."

She gave a throaty laugh. "I expected nothing better of you Falcon," snapping her fingers two of her band brought a heavy chest and sat it by her feet. Opening the lid she reached in and removed a bronze helmet made in the shape of a falcon's head. "So I came ready."

On the road to Vanillin they passed many burned huts and slaughtered peasants, Ser Justin made a point to remember all the horrors they saw, making sure Freyja suffered twice for every dead man, woman, and child. "It seems the bitch wasn't content to wait long enough to reach the city before the urge to pillage overcame her," Jory quipped humorless. The bard had decided to ride with their band, deeming it safer than walking alone, lest Freyja and her brutes double back and catch him. "Truly it makes you wonder how horror like this can happenso easily Ser Justin."

He nodded at this. "If you fought at Black Rock against the barbarians from Volkan you would know what desperation to stay alive will do to your sanity," he replied. "This though, this was done by men whose sanity long ago abandoned them."

A call came back to halt, reining his horse to a stop Ser Justin looked ahead of them to see a large force of men on foot advancing down the road. Drawing closer he saw they were armed with pitchforks and lumber axes, peasants. "Hold there! State your intent!" Lorena called.

"We're seeking the bitch Freyja!" one man called, the leader most likely. "She attacked our village, slaughtered our livestock, burned our crops, and her men raped our wives and daughters!"

"How are you still breathing?" Ser Justin called. "She leaves no survivors wherever she goes."

"We were away, hunting wolves that have killed our sheep!" he retorted. "When we returned old Father Basil told us what happened before he died, he said they rode off towards Vanillin, only the bridge washed out days ago, the rivers still too high and fast to cross-"

He was cutoff when an arrow caught him in the throat. "To arms!" Lorena called, as the raiders galloped from the cover of the woods. Drawing his sword, Ser Justin parried a slash from a dark-skinned raider before opening the man's throat with a slash of his own. The peasants didn't shy away, as Ser Justin expected them too, instead, they charged. The mob of men pulled raiders from their horses and skewered them with pitchforks or beheaded them with axes.

Looking around him, Ser Justin spotted a flash of dark hair retreating and spurred his horse after her. Clearing the battle, he charged into the forest, the soft loam on the ground easily showed hoof prints, as well as a faint trail of blood. Following the trail, Ser Justin kept his sword up and ready to strike if Freyja charged him. The closeness of the trees made the going difficult, forcing him to swing around them in a serpentine pattern.

A large splash of blood on the trunk of a tree proved the bitch was injured, it would not be long now. Soon the trees parted and he came out beside a stream. Ser Justin felt his blood run hot as he spied his prey. She'd fallen from her horse, and, as he rode closer he saw why. The shoulder of her right arm was a red mass, blood poured from deep gouge marks, likely the result of a mace. Freyja tried to drag herself to the water with her good arm while the other lolled uselessly by her side. "How the mighty have fallen, eh bitch," she froze at his voice. Looking back her eyes widened in horror and shock. "Do not ask how I am here, know only that I have come for you."

She sneered at that. "Kill me and be done with it Falcon," she said, using her good arm to roll over on her back, biting back a cry as she rolled on her wounded shoulder. "Here, strike my heart and send me to hell."

He dismounted and slowly walked over to her, in the distance he heard voices calling his name. "Here!" turning back to the fallen reaver. "You cannot imagine the torture that has run through my mind, what I've wanted to do to you since you left me on that cross. Your death will come, but, it won't be swift."

He returned to his horse and mounted up as Lorena rode though the trees, followed by Jory and the peasants. "I leave you to good company that will see you receive what you deserve."

"I do not think she will die quickly," Jory said, looking back. "Not until everyman has made her feel what their wives and daughters felt."

"The gods love irony bard," Lorena said.

The three rode back towards the highway as screams of mercy fell on deaf ears.