Ranee’s leggings were too large for her and they kept sliding down her hips and legs. Hyd held onto one of her hands as they ran to escape to the tunnel’s back opening. She held her leggings up by the waist with her other hand. She could see the light from the torches carried by Sucat’s men behind them. The men called out for Ranee and her party to stop, that they were soon caught. The men yelled curses at them. Ranee was frightened, her heart pounding and her breathing labored. She was tired and exhausted. She wanted to stop but knew she could not. She did not want to go back to her old life. And she did not want to be the one who got Hyd, Eadward, John and Stephan caught. If they had not taken the time to rescue her, they could have gotten away safely. So she forced herself to keep running.
She saw the light from outside and thought they had almost made it to freedom. She turned to see how far away their pursuers were behind them. Her grip on her leggings loosened and the leggings slipped down her thighs and wrapped around her knees, hobbling her and causing her to trip. Hyd’s grip on her hand loosened and she fell. Hyd stopped to help her up. Eadward, John and Stephan had to stop until she was back on her feet. Ranee whimpered in frustration. They lost precious time. She looked behind her and saw the torches being thrown to the ground and the chasers running faster. She cried out for Hyd, Eadward, John and Stephan to leave her behind. Hyd pulled her to her feet, nearly carrying her through the rest of the tunnel.
Hyd, Ranee, Eadward, John and Stephan get to the tunnel’s back opening and enter the woods on the other side of the mountain. Their only hope now was that they knew this forest better than anyone else, this being the very back end of Hyd’s holdings. Legally since this was Hyd’s property, they should be immune to capture but they were outnumbered and had no witnesses to protect them. In the cave room they had decided that they would split up when they got out of the tunnels. Hyd would take Ranee and with Eadward they would head to the northern route to his keep. John and Stephan would take the southern route back home. They thought this would confuse the pursuers and give them the best chance of escape. Plus if one group was captured maybe the other group could get the rest of Hyd’s men and mount a rescue.
The men gripped hands and forearms as a form of solidarity and encouragement, and then the group split up. They all took off running, Ranee still trying to keep her leggings up. It was using up allot of her energy. She thought if she could get the leggings off she could run faster. She pulled on Hyd’s hand to stop him. He tried to pull her to keep her going but she pulled her hand out of his. She got the leggings off of her body, the tunic she had on long enough to be a short dress the hem reaching just above her knees. Ranee wrapped the leggings around her waist and tied the legs together like a belt. Then she took off running in earnest. Hyd and Eadward took off after her, Hyd taking the lead so that Ranee would know which way to go. Ranee was running twice as fast as before using both hands and arms to pump more energy into her run.
Tree branches and leaves whipped them in their faces as they ran through the woods but they did not care. All that mattered was escape. There was the house of Hyd’s game warden not far from where they were. If they could make it there they would have Bucc, Hyd’s game warden and Bucc’s three huge sons, Darby, Oisin and Raleigh to help them. They just needed to keep running, but they could hear the men chasing them following them closely behind. They had no way of knowing if the group behind them had split up or if the entire force had gone after them. They were not even sure how many men had come to search for them. These were all things that really did not matter and thinking about them just used up more energy.
They ran down the hill towards Bucc’s house. As long as he was home they stood a chance. Hyd could see the building down below but he could not see any smoke coming from the chimney. They house looked quiet and empty. As Hyd, Ranee and Eadward ran into the clearing around the game warden’s house, men came into the clearing from left and right cutting off their escape. Hyd, Ranee and Eadward came to a stop. They looked behind them, but found that way blocked by men behind them.
Hyd and Eadward put Ranee between them as they stood back to back and they raised their swords to fight the men surrounding them. They counted a total of nine men around them, led by Captain Kennard.
“Give me a knife,” Ranee said, “so I can help defend us.”
Hyd gave Ranee one of his knives.
Captain Kennard did not have his men rush Hyd, Ranee and Eadward. He knew that Hyd and Eadward were excellent fighters and now they were desperate and they had a desperate woman with them. He also knew that the two men would try to protect Ranee before they protected themselves so he decided to focus his men on attacking Ranee and hope that Hyd and Eadward would make a mistake trying to save and protect Ranee.
When entering the clearing, Captain Kennard had worried that the house would hold some more men to come to Hyd’s aid. Captain Kennard knew that they were on Hyd’s land so he had to get his prisoners into custody quickly and get out of there. No one seemed to be in the house so they finally had some luck on their side but they would need to take quick advantage of the situation.
“Surrender now,” said Captain Kennard, “and the woman will not be hurt. Fight and there is no telling what may happen to her.”
He could see that Hyd and Eadward were considering his words. But Ranee said something to the two men in a volume that Captain Kennard could not hear. He saw Hyd and Eadward smile at whatever she had said.
“It seems the lady would rather fight and die,” said Hyd, “than go willingly back to her loving husband.”
“And who could blame her,” said Eadward. “Have you seen Sucat’s hair?” Eadward laughed at his own jest. Hyd and Renee smiled. Even several of Captain Kennard’s men chuckled. Hyd and Eadward were well known and well like by Captain Kennard’s men, even by himself, which was a shame because they had a duty and obligation to Sucat that could not be ignored or put aside. It would be so easy to just let Hyd, Eadward and Ranee escape but the punishment to Captain Kennard and his men would be severe and Captain Kennard had no intention of being punished or abused for anyone regardless of how much he liked them.
Captain Kennard signaled for his men to advance on the three people huddled in their center. The swords clashed together, metal ringing in the forest, the sound dampened by the trees.
Hyd was hampered by his wounded right shoulder, his loss of blood, his torture by Sucat, his lack of decent food and sleep and by his fear for Ranee. He was cut several times by swords getting past his sword. He was getting tired and running out of energy.
Ranee cut men with her knife, ducking under Hyd and Eadward to slash wrists and hands to wear down their enemies and distract them. It was a good plan but she was not an experienced fighter and she was exhausted from the trials of the last several days. More often than not she got in Hyd’s and Eadward’s way causing them to pull back on their thrusts so as not to hurt Ranee.
Eadward was able to disable three of Captain Kennard’s men, but now Captain Kennard focused his own effort and attention on Eadward. Captain Kennard was a big strong man and a very able fighter. He put all of his energy in wearing Eadward done. He had men flanking him who harried Eadward from left and right. While Hyd and Ranee fought behind him, Eadward fought Captain Kennard. Eadward called taunts to Captain Kennard and they two men fighting him. Eadward knew the three men well.
On Eadward’s right was Gregor who he drank with often. They were the same age and always had a rivalry for women. Both were good looking and good natured so they were both even in their competition for wenches. But no matter how Eadward taunted Gregor with their good natured game for women, Gregor would not be distracted. Gregor knew that Eadward was a serious fighter who would kill Gregor if it meant protecting Hyd, Eadward’s brother, regardless of how much Eadward might like Gregor.
On Eadward’s left was Konard. Konard did not like Eadward. He was jealous of him. Konard was ugly and morose and people were afraid of him. He did not make friends easily. He wanted to kill Eadward and he put all of his hatred and strength into defeating Eadward. He wanted to be the one who killed him so that he could be rewarded by Sucat. Konard knew how much Sucat hated Eadward and thought Sucat would well reward the person who killed him.
Hyd and Eadward were excellent sword fighters and their lives depended on the outcome of this fight so the fighting went on longer than the numbers warranted. One of Captain Kennard’s men cut Ranee when she had tried to stab him with her knife. She cried out in pain. Eadward swung his sword towards the man who was attacking her. His side was open and unprotected to Captain Kennard and he took advantage of this opportunity stabbing Eadward and brining him to his knees.
Hyd turns to help his brother and he is overrun by Captain Kennard’s men from behind, who swarm on top of him and one of the men hit Hyd in the head with the flat of his sword knocking him out. Ranee is the last one standing and she swipes at several men cutting them but Captain Kennard reaches her and punches her in the face. She falls to the ground, dropping her knife, her fingers numb, her mind and body exhausted. She closed her eyes and passed out.