Captain Kennard took a deep breath. He finally had Hyd, Eadward and Ranee subdued. John and Stephan had escaped by going off in another direction but Captain Kennard did not care about them. He had the most important people to Sucat. Now he just needed to get them off of Hyd’s land and take them back to Sucat.
They needed to get away from this place before the people who lived in the house came back home. Captain Kennard was not sure who lived there and although they were not home now they could not be gone long. The house and land around it was well maintained, trees and pushes cut back around the house to form a yard where the grass was kept cropped to form a lawn.
Captain Kennard sent out two scouts to get their bearings and figure out the best way to get back to Sucat and Briefadel keep. They could go back through the cave and tunnels but he and his men had spent enough time in there and it would be slow going with three injured prisoners and they needed to get back as quickly as possible and the tunnels would just slow them down further.
Their best bet was to either go over or around the mountain that contained the caves. Captain Kennard thought their best plan would be to head north, which Captain Kennard thought would be further from Stahlheim center, Hyd’s keep. They should be able to hug the base of the mountain and find a trail or road that would lead back to Briefadel.
While Captain Kennard waited for his scout’s to return, he had several men tie up his prisoners. Then he sent his men to make a couple of poles they would use to carry Hyd and Eadward back to Sucat’s keep. Hyd and Eadward were too large and too strong to take the chance of allowing them to walk, with the possibility of escape and both men were injured so the walk would be slow going. Captain Kennard would have them tied to poles like game caught on a hunt. This would be the most secure and fastest way of hauling them home and the experience would further wear them out and be very humiliating which Sucat would like. Ranee could walk with some sort of dignity. She was Sucat’s wife after all and the daughter of a Margrave. Captain Kennard would let Sucat deal with her as he wished.
Hyd, Eadward and Ranee’s weapons were piled together by a tree far from the prisoners. Captain Kennard looked over the swords and knives. No wonder they had been able to fend off their attackers for so long. The weapons were of excellent quality, strong and sharp. Captain Kennard picked up a knife that would match the sword given to him by his father, Franck. He missed his father. For some reason that no one knew, Franck had always treated Captain Kennard differently than anyone else, even better than Sucat, his only legitimate child. Franck never abused Kennard and he gave him gifts that no one could take away and he never let Sucat treat him badly either. It was not until Franck had died that Sucat was able to treat Captain Kennard the way he had always wanted to treat him. Captain Kennard always suspected that Sucat had someone caused the death of their father but there was no way to prove it and Sucat was now Baron Briefadel so there was nothing to be done anyway.
Ranee was the first of the prisoners to regain consciousness. She struggle to sit up, her hands being tied behind her back making it difficult and painful. Once sitting up she tried to pull the tunic she wore down over her legs when she saw that several men were leering at her. Captain Kennard ordered his men to avert their gazes and get about their work.
Unlike his brother or his father, Captain Kennard did not like to treat women roughly. He decided he would help Ranee put her leggings back on. Besides thinking it would make her more comfortable and easier to deal with, he did not think his men needed the distraction of a woman’s comely naked legs. He walked over to her, grasped Ranee by the arms and stood her on her feet. She tried to knock him down by jamming her shoulder into his stomach. She knocked the breath from him and tried to run, but he caught her by the back of her tunic, lifted her from the ground and flung her back to where she had been sitting. She spit at him in defiance.
“I want you to put your leggings on,” he said. “Unless of course you want to travel the country side with my men looking at your naked body.”
He stood over her, fists on hips, feet spread apart. She lunged up off of the ground trying to head butt his groin. He stepped out of the way just in time, and then swung at her with the back of his hand, knocking her onto her back. He may not like to abuse women as a pastime but he would be damned if this girl would get the better of him.
Captain Kennard called three men over to them. He ordered them to hold her arms and legs. They snickered and made crude comments as she fought and struggled with them. She was able to get one free of the man holding her arms and she bit the man who had let her go. He cursed. Captain Kennard yelled at his men to be quiet and hold her tight. Captain Kennard untied the leggings from around Ranee’s waist and struggled to pull them up first one leg and then the other while Ranee kicked at him as each leg was freed to get the pants on her. Unlike other women Captain Kennard knew, Ranee did not waste energy crying or screaming, she just fought with all of her remaining strength. He had to admire her continuing fight.
When he had the leggings pulled up to her waist he noticed how big they were. He called for more rope, pulled her to her feet again and used a length of rope as a belt to tie the pants up tight around her waist. Captain Kennard sat Ranee back on the ground. She had finally calmed, running out of energy. Captain Kennard used another length of rope to tie her feet together.
The scout who had gone south, returned to say that they should not go in that direction. As Captain Kennard suspect that way lead further into Hyd’s territory. The carrying poles were now finished and laying next to Hyd and Eadward. Both men were still unconscious. Ranee lay quietly on her side next to them, listening to Captain Kennard making his plans with his men.
Captain Kennard decided their only choice was to go north. It was now past midday and they could not wait for the northern scout’s return. They would meet him on the way. Captain Kennard had Eadward and Hyd tied so their hands and feet were in front of them. Then he had the poles threaded under their tied wrists and ankles, one man to one pole. Ranee was stood on her feet. Captain Kennard would keep Ranee with him. He did not trust his men to watch her properly. Most would either underestimate her of succumb to some ploy on her part.
He tied a noose around her neck that would tighten if she tried to run from him. He held the end in his left hand, his sword in his right. He ordered four men to take hold of the carrying poles and lift them to their shoulders. He had two men lead, and then he and Ranee were next, followed by the two men carrying Hyd on his pole then the two men carrying Eadward on his pole and then one man at the very end. If they were attacked the men carrying the poles could just drop them and begin to fight. The group set off.
The line of men kept close to the base of the mountain. If they kept the mountain on their left they would eventually come to a road that would take them back to Briefadel. Eadward did not regain consciousness. His sword wound had caused him to lose allot of blood. He was still alive though, so Sucat would still be able to exact some sort of revenge against the man.
Hyd woke with a groan while they were on the trail back to Sucat. In between grunts of pain as his shoulder was jarred, he tried to talk Captain Kennard into letting them go, using all kinds of enticements and bribes such as a place in Hyd’s guard and household, but Captain Kennard knew none of that was possible for him. Sucat would never rest if Captain Kennard defected from him and yet remained so close. Sucat would spend much energy in getting his revenge.
The northern scout joined them not too long after they had begun their trek. He told Captain Kennard that they were not far from the road, but they would have to take a slight detour as there were four large men up ahead hunting and the scout had recognized them as Bucc, Hyd’s game warden and his three sons, Darby, Oisin and Raleigh. Captain Kennard stopped for a brief rest and to tie gags in the Ranee’s and Hyd’s mouths so they could not call out for help from the hunters.
They set off again. When they reached the point where the scout had seen the hunters, Captain Kennard had everyone slow down and move as quietly as possible. The men listened intently for any noise coming from the woods. A stag broke through the trees on their right. The men took cover, hiding from the hunters that they knew would soon follow the large buck. They waited, Captain Kennard lying over top of Ranee so she would not move and alert the hunters.
Bucc and his sons ran after the deer, crashing through the woods, chasing the animal. The were so focused on the animal, they had no idea how close they were to the captured Hyd. They ran off after the buck, leaving Captain Kennard, his men and his prisoners far behind. They waited until they were sure the hunters were far away.
As Captain Kennard rose from Ranee, she reached towards him and pulled the knife he had taken as a prize from his belt and swung it at him. She was able to cut a slice through his tunic and cut his skin. He swung at her knocking the knife from her tied hands. He pushed her roughly to the ground and retrieved the knife. His men expected him to hit her again but he tugged on the rope around her neck instead pulling her to her feet and cutting off her air supply.
“I admire your fight, Madame,” he said, “but I grow weary of all of the trouble you have caused me. The next time you attempt to escape, I will kill one of the men.” He pulled tight on the rope, pulling Ranee’s body into his and her face close to his face.
“Do you understand me?”
Ranee could not breathe. All she could do was nod her head.
“Good,” said Capitan Kennard. He loosened his grip on her rope and she gasped and gulped air into her lungs as the group began to move on.