“Go! Through the gate!” the dwarf called out to his companions as he grabbed up his dropped crossbow.
Stephan followed Feldard’s advice and, finding his footing on the bridge, lunged for the open gate.
Needing no further encouragement Miklos sprinted for the offer of sanctuary after Stephan. “Thank you.” he breathed as he barreled into the smoke-filled yard. “Shame. We almost had them there,” he added.
Another scratch. Feldard’s attitude must be wearing off in him, Maruc hadn’t even noticed it until several seconds later. A whistling sound of speeding metal and he pulled his head back. Close. A jaring thud on his shield. A muffled shout.
“What?” he called. Helms! Couldn’t hear a thing. Another wild swing of the flail to get himself a chance to look round. The others were backing off. Why? Then he caught the movement of the riders, and groaned inwardly, the shorter goblin in front of him ducked under his shield. “No you don’t.” Maruc planted his foot against it and booted it backward using the inertia to spin him around and a deft swing of the arm he brought his shield round to cover his back as he sprang away.
Hasan squirmed away from the blow of a yowling wolf-rider. He didn’t think much of their riding skills, but then he had to give the poor boys credit for the courage of mounting their steeds. He pulled Maruc on and through the doorway.
Being the slowest of the group, Feldard guarded the backs of the others as they ran to the bridge. The dwarf loaded his crossbow on the run and fired back towards the encroaching riders. They were almost upon him!
Hasan and Stephan fired arrows at the fast-approaching riders to help cover Feldard’s rush to safety. One of the goblin riders fell off his wolfsteed, his skull pierced by the elven-launched missile. The dwarf pushed his legs to a speed not natural to any dwarf, and was rewarded when he passed through the gate.
“Bar the gate!” Feldard called out, turning about pulling his axe in the chance that one or more of the riders slipped in before the gate could be fully closed.
Surprisingly, the gate had been held open by a young woman, who quickly shut and barred it. To Stephan of course, she was no stranger—she was Alfana, wife of his nephew Taras. She was the best horse tamer he had ever known. Spears, hurled by the mounted goblins, thudded into the timbers of the heavy gatehouse door as it crashed shut.
The light of the burning palisades and thatch angrily marauded through the barn and the northern part of the palisade, towards the gatehouse of the Sukiskyn homestead. It seemed as if they were safe for the moment.
“Well, now,” observed the elf. He turned to Stephan, “A fine mess we’ve found. And now we’re bound up in it. Who are the goblins, and what business have they with your brother’s people? Or the Ringmen?”
There was not time for an answer. Beyond the burning barn, a group of scarlet-clad goblin had broken through the palisade. Some fell to missiles fired from the main building, but the rest, a group of five pressed on. Unmoved, Alfana waited until her husband made his way down the ladder from the smokefilled tower. The couple then made a dash to the main buildings. “Follow us!” they yelled.
Stephan regarded the goblins. These were clad in the blood-hued dress of the Red Blade clan. Two goblin clans working together? Now that highly irregular. He was thankful that he and Pyotr had designed the homestead with defense in mind, as the arrow slits in the stone tower were paying dividends right now.