Drab poured some water into his mouth, sloshed the contents and spat to his side. Most of it splashed over his face again owing to the fact that he was riding on a horse, being pursued by the law, trying to avoid arrows and didn’t have much time for aiming his spit.
He angled his body and turned back to check for signs of pursuers and saw clouds of dust closing in.
At this rate, they would catch up with him in the next three hours, assuming he survived till then, which was unlikely.
What were his options now?
From the dust cloud, he could roughly estimate five pursuers and at least two dogs, hunting dogs. The dogs were the worst of the bunch as they could easily panic the horse. He would be equally dead if his horse went berserk.
Even if each rider carried a half-full quiver, they would have between them seventy-five arrows. He could definitely not wait on their munitions getting over. He could try to trap them, but given the pursuit distance, if his trap failed, he was done for. There was nowhere to hide. They had his scent and the dogs were the best in all of Stamford at tracking.
He had some friends in Warkshire who could help. Friends were really acquaintances who owed him some money and assuming they didn’t stab him in the back, they would happily turn him over for the reward.
Drab never thought his sorry ass would be worth five hundred gold coins. And, it was reward paid when he was dead. Alive, he was worth a full thousand gold coins.
He could not believe it still, but he had seen it written on the Sheriff’s manifesto with his own eyes. It really itched him now that he passed up on the advance from Sheriff’s wife. It would have served the smug bastard right – he grinned to himself.
Back to the options. All of them seemed bleak, he had one option to escape however.
The ferry ride to Stockholm was a thirty-five minute ride from his current location. If he followed the long winding path up the mountainous road, cut right along the Old forest, he could reach there in time. Once he reached Stockholm, he could lose himself in the busy town and no one would be the wiser.
Drab leaned down and saw foam around the corners of the horse’s mouth. He had ridden her hard, more so than he would have liked. He would have to leave her at the riverbank. The horse, ‘Sahara’ as he called her, had served him well for the past two years and he greatly loved the beast. Even if they get caught, he hoped that she would get a better owner.
He whispered gentle words of assurance and gently gave her his heels to gallop faster.
Sahara grunted and almost buckled down on the road. Drab held on by a mere miracle and only then noticed the arrow sticking out behind her front leg muscles. Likely she had been hit as he left the town during his escapade . The arrow had penetrated deep and the wound was a mess, her lifeblood leaking out black.
His sorrow turned to surprise as her forelegs bucked once more, and before he knew it he had left his saddle behind and started hurtling towards the ground at a dizzying speed. He considered the brief situational moment, weighing the options, assessing until all he had to say was – “Damn!” as he balled himself to hit the hard ground.
As he hit, he ground his teeth as his body followed the motions of gravity and rolled over – one, two, three times and stopping for a halt as his head crashed against the nearby boulder at the fourth roll.
He could not move. His head throbbed, ached, cracked and jingled as though the whole royal army was marching from one end of his ear to the other. More concerning was the fact that he was lying face down, arse up, the kind of position you don’t want your enemy to find you in.
“So, this is how it’s going to end?” Drab thought.
Once he was known by another name. A name best forgotten. A name…
His pain disappeared with his thoughts as he slipped into total darkness.