Camon and Achara waited for another two hours before they made a move. Camon inspected the camp one more time before circling back around and returning to where Achara and Jorn were lying low.
“There is one guard still by the prisoners,” he notified. “The rest have bedded down, so now is our time. All set?”
Achara checked her crossbow and other knives she had prepped. “Ready as ever,” she replied. Achara went south away from the encampment, and Camon went north, both making sweeping arcs to their respective destinations. Achara moved stealthily, staying low and moving quickly like a cat. She did not stop or hesitate, moving with resolute purpose. She worked her way around the encampment until the prisoners were between her and the watchmen, and she began her approach moving more slowly now and carefully choosing her steps not to make noise or even a whisper. As she got closer to the prisoners, she noticed that they, too, were asleep. She got low and approached almost at a crawl unto she got to the back of the prisoners, which were being held in a stout iron prison wagon. She wondered how they had managed to get it up on the mesa, but that question would have to wait. She saw the watchmen keeping watch over the prisoners sitting with his back up against one of the wheels. Achara crawled under the wagon as quietly as possible and then got directly behind the man. He was asleep based on his breathing. Easy pickings, she surmised. She went to one of the other wheels, removed a stone that had chocked the wheels, and then went back to where the man was sleeping. She got next to him, slammed the chock down on his head, and he fell over and didn’t move. She checked his pulse to see if he was still alive, and much to her relief, he was.
Meanwhile, Camon made his way around to where the campfire was. He positioned himself towards the back of the watchman who was facing south towards the horses. He was still awake based on his movements as he poked what was left of the fire. Camon deduced that they must be close to the end of the mesa. There was no wood for burning atop the mesa, so they must have brought it with them. Camon moved in closer and removed his sword, gripping it tightly in his right hand. The blade glistened in the moonlight and even seemed to sing as he moved forward, creeping slowly. The watchmen stretched out his arms, and Camon dropped to the ground, but the watchman did not turn. Camon then got back on his hands and feet and crawled slowly and meticulously towards the watchman. Camon was right on him, and he got on his knees and raised his sword, and with a swift stroke, he struck the man across the head with the pommel of his blade, and the man went down face forward in a thud.
Camon then got back down and started to back away when he heard one of the other men at the fire stir, who then looked at the watchmen and noticed he wasn’t sitting up. The man got up and went to check on his comrade. He kicked him, telling him to get up, but the man did not move. He then got down and checked him and shook him, and then he noticed blood on the top of the watchman’s head, then he shouted something in a language that Camon did not understand. The other men sleeping shot up. In a chaotic moment started rummaging for their weapons and other battle gear. It took a minute to organize, then one of them shouted, and they turned, making a beeline for the prisoners.
“Run, Achara,” Camon thought. But he realized that it was too late. He jumped up from his position and summoned a shout and let it out towards the men, who turned and saw him. Camon stood alone facing the seven men, several who started towards him. Two of them started for the prisoners, but one dropped immediately with a crossbow bolt in the middle of his forehead. Camon then started running towards the remaining six men with his sword drawn, and they came running at him. But before Camon reached them in a head-on clash, he darted right, causing the charging men to break the line and form a mob in pursuit. Two of the men now faced him, and one swung at him, which Camon blocked with his sword, cutting the man’s weapon down to nothing but a handle. Camon counterattacked with his boot, kicking the man in the chest and sending him back into the men that followed him. The other attacker swung wildly, missing Camon. Camon then ran away from Achara, and another bolt came flying through the air, hitting one of the men in the leg as he stumbled and fell. One of the men yelled something, directing two men towards the prisoners where Achara was.
The man Camon had recovered and picked up the weapon of his fallen comrade. They all stood now facing Camon, who held his sword at waist height. Just then, Camon heard the thundering of hooves coming from somewhere. The attackers turned wildly, searching for the source as well. Then Camon spotted the horse and its rider. It was Jorn. Jorn charged the horse straight through the three men who scattered as Jorn passed through. Camon, seeing an opportunity, rushed one of them, knocking him off balance onto his knees. Camon then whacked him with the pommel of the sword, and the man fell on his face.
Jorn wheeled his horse and was facing down one of the men who had gone after Achara. The horse reared several times, striking at the man as Jorn clung to her back. The man dodged left and then right before the horse’s leg caught him under the chin knocking him on his back. The horse then trampled the man under his feet until the man was silent and not moving.
Meanwhile, Camon felt the sting of a knife in his left arm. He reactively turned as the blade was ripped out of his arm. Camon saw his attacker and swung his sword at the man, catching the man’s arm at the wrist and slicing the man’s hand off while it still held the dagger. The man went down in pain, clutching his wrist where his hand had been.
Closer to the prisoners, the man going after Achara drew nearer and spotted her crouched under the wagon, and he went after her. Achara did not have time to reload her crossbow, so she got up from her position and waited till the man was a little closer, then she whirled around and hurled the crossbow towards him. The man didn’t see it coming, and it caught him in the torso. He groaned in pain, but brushed it off and gave Achara a tenacious glare, and he charged her. Achara sent a flurry of knives at the man, catching him in the upper arm and the other in the thigh, but he kept coming. Achara drew her dagger and crouched down, waiting for the man. As he drew closer, he raised his weapon over his head and took a wild swing at Achara, who quickly ducked under the wagon. She then side kicked the man’s leg with the knife in it, and he went down to one knee with a groan. Achara then rolled out from under the wagon and kicked the knife itself further into the man’s leg, and he screamed again before falling on the ground face-first writhing in pain.
Camon’s last assailant, seeing the carnage of his fallen comrades, turned and started to flee. Camon picked up a club from one of the attackers and threw it to Jorn, who took off after the man. Jorn quickly caught up with the man and, in one swoop, caught the man on the back of the head with the club, and the man dropped face-first on the mesa, and all was quiet.
Achara came over to Camon, and Jorn came back around. She noticed Camon was bleeding. “You’re hurt!” she said.
“Yeah, someone got me in the arm,” Camon said. He then pointed his sword at the man who lost his hand. “I think it was him.”
“I told you this was stupid,” Jorn commented from atop the horse.
“Well, I’m not dead, thanks to you,” Camon offered, smiling. The smile quickly faded as the wound in Camon’s arm throbbed. He jammed his right hand in his pocket, removed his healing stone and started chanting, and then placed the stone near his wound. The bleeding stopped soon after that.
“Round up whoever is still alive,” Camon said.
“What?” Jorn said.
“Round them up. We need to treat the wounds.”
“You’re going to heal them?” Jorn shrieked.
“I did it to you, didn’t I? Now go, help Achara.”
Camon immediately went to the man with the missing hand. He held his sword to the man, and he looked at Camon in wide-eyed fear. Camon chanted again, this time touching the man near his severed wrist and cauterized the wound with the magic. The man screamed in pain, but then fell silent when Camon finished. He then went about the camp finding the wounded and treating them as he could.
Once they were all rounded up, Camon and Achara found ropes about the camp and bound the men and searched them for weapons. The ones that were still conscious grumbled the whole time as they did it. Jorn noted, “This didn’t turn into a bloodbath like I thought it would. Besides the one that took Achara’s bolt to the forehead and the one that got underfoot, six survived.”
“That’s two more deaths than I hoped for,” Camon said.
“All those girls back there are Gypsies,” Achara said. “From the looks of it, they don’t know what is going on.”
“I don’t think any of us speak their language,” Camon stated. “Is there any way that you can talk to them?”
“I can try,” Achara replied. “Laoren was showing me some things using touch.”
“Stay here and keep an eye on them,” Camon said to Jorn. Achara and Camon went over to the prisoners who looked at them with fear in their eyes as they approached. Achara stepped forward and removed the charm necklace that Jasnovi had given to her, and she spoke to them in a few words that she had picked up while they were among the Gypsies. A murmur went through the cell. Achara then smiled at them, and she beckoned one of the girls to come to her. At first, the girl was reluctant, but then came over. Achara held out her hands, and the girl laid her hands on Achara’s. Achara closed her eyes, breathed deeply, and then opened them, staring at the young girl in prison. The girl occasionally said something in her language as if she was talking to Achara, but Achara never said anything back. Then after a moment, Achara lifted the girl’s hands and placed them back in the girl’s lap.
“What did you tell them?” Camon asked.
“I told them that we were not here to harm them and that we needed to figure out a way to get them out of the prison,” Achara said.
“Did she tell you anything?”
“She says that we came just in time. They were planning to take them west tomorrow, so she thinks,” Achara said. “She also said that there are more of the slavers out in the wild, which will be coming back here, probably tomorrow.”
“Then we best get them out tonight. Can you tell them to all go to the back of the cell, away from the door?”
“What are you going to do?”
“Break the lock.”
Achara went back over to the girls and rejoined hands with the girl she had spoken to. She communicated Camon’s instructions, and they all moved back away from the door. Achara moved back as well. Camon removed his sword, swung it at the lock on the door, and sent a shower of sparks downward. He repeated this twice more before the lock cracked, and the door creaked opened. Camon put away his sword, and he and Achara helped the girls onto the ground. They all then went back to where the slavers were bound, sitting on the ground.
“How many horses are over there,” Camon asked.
“I counted twelve,” Jorn said.
“Then we’ll need to double up. Some of these girls are pretty small, so we can put two or three per horse. We’ll need to get these men on there as well.
“You’re taking them with you?” Jorn exclaimed.
“They will face the Gypsies for their crimes,” Camon said.
“The Gypsies will kill them! Why not just skip a step and save yourself the hassle?” Jorn asked.
“It’s not my call,” Camon said. “They’ve been praying on the Gypsies, so they should be the ones to execute justice on them.”
“I don’t think I will ever understand your sense of justice, Paladin,” Jorn scoffed. “And, are you sure these girls can ride?”
“Are you kidding?” Achara balked. “These are Gypsy girls. They can ride better than any of us, that’s for sure. They start learning to ride about the same time they learn to walk.”
“Excuse me,” Jorn said. “I didn’t know you were such an expert on Gypsies.”
“Enough of that,” Camon said. “Help me get all of them onto the horses.” Jorn went and fetched the horses, and they worked together to get the prisoners on to the horses. The girls needed virtually no help getting on the horses and were ready to ride once Achara was able to tell them what they planned to do. Camon then turned about and found the waymarker on the road. He gave his horse a swift kick in the flank. With that, they were off again down the road to the east.