Leopold ran. Seeing the four of them break away, the knight dug in his spurs. Muddy water roiled and foamed as the black charger surged up onto the bank, hoofbeats rolling out with a thunderous, quickening tempo.
Making for the ridge, Pieter splashed down into the stream, soaking his fine breeches through. Pulling himself out the other side, he propelled himself over the tumbled stones of the bank, wet shoes slipping on damp moss. Ithelus and Illiiya were already well ahead, the thief clambering over the uneven stones like a great four-legged spider. Pausing on the top of a particularly tall boulder, he leant down to pull Illiiya up after him.
Pieter and Leopold were not far behind, the noise of their pursuer right on their tail. Pulling himself up over the first of the tall rocks, Pieter heard a great splash
behind him – glancing over his shoulder, he saw the warhorse cutting straight across a bend in the stream, white water flying from its galloping hooves. The knight held the sword raised high, and the grey light gleamed from its blade.
No time for caution, no time for care. Pushing off against the slick rock, Pieter scrambled on, racing over the mossy scree with the speed of a mountain goat. For a moment he slipped, but Leopold caught him, the two of them catching their balance above a wide gap between two boulders. The rolling hoofbeats had grown deafening behind them: as one, they jumped.
Pieter felt a rush of sweet relief as his feet came down on solid rock, and heard the skittering of flying gravel as the horse skidded to a halt below. Rearing at the foot of the rocky slope, it stamped and tossed its head at its escaping prey. In the saddle, the knight only stared in silence.
“Look!” exclaimed Leopold, pointing away through the forest on the other side. There, beyond a tangled slope of treetops, a familiar shape rose against the sky – the upper sails of Hohlesbruck's mill. The knight's helmet turned with whip-crack speed at the sound of the shout. Kicking his horse's flanks, he turned it away from the impassable bank, making for where the stones petered out. It would not take him long to find his way around.
Looking over his shoulder, Leopold saw the movement. “Run!” he shouted, before realising he was the only one not already running. Turning on his heel, he sprinted up the slope after the others.
Ithelus blinked when he crested the final rise, breaking free from the shadows of the trees. The rain seemed to have thinned a little, and before him lay the thin, winding path of the Marienburg road. Nestled in the bend on the far side was the old drystone shrine to Shallya – and beyond that, peeking through the trees, the Hohlesbruck bridge. The mill rose over the surrounding treetops like a watchtower, furled sails defying the wind.
There was no time to stop. Leading the way, he burst out into the open, legs pumping independently of his brain. In his wake, he heard Illiiya, then Pieter, then Leopold come racing out, barely having time to take in what they saw.
There was a crackling crash of breaking branches, and horse and rider came bounding out of the woods behind them. The low twigs and stony slope had slowed the knight's pursuit; now they were in the clear, the horse was accelerating. Watching the corner of the bridge grow larger as he neared the bend in the road, Ithelus felt a sinking sensation in his stomach as he heard the rhythm of the hoofbeats quicken...
The shrine has just enough space for all four of you to cram in, if you want to, and is a little closer than the bridge (see the village map), but is on the wrong side of the Taalsbruck. The knight would have to dismount to come at you if you were inside it.
If any of you so chose, you could try running in a straight line and wading the Taalsbruck rather than taking the bridge - it's a lot deeper than the little stream, but still probably wouldn't come up above your armpits. The banks, although only earth, are quite steep and would probably cause trouble for the horse. Then again, at its narrower points a speeding horse could probably jump it. Taking this shortcut would involve running through the short screen of trees on the other side of the road.
The current distances are as follows:
Illiiya & Ithelus lead Leopold & Pieter by 10 yards.
Leopold & Pieter lead the knight by 20 yards.
Distances from Illiiya & Ithelus (add 10 for distances from Leopold & Pieter, add 30 for distances from the knight).
- To the shrine: 37 yards
- To the bridge: 62 yards
- To the river (in a straight line through the trees): 44 yards
To work out how quickly the knight will gain on you, you can consider things playing out in combat time, with you guys going first. The horse's effective Movement characteristic is 7 (not 8), thanks to its barding. Feel free to crunch the numbers to your heart's content (your characters would have an accurate idea of how fast the knight is bearing down on them), but please do not discuss them OOC
: your characters are having to make split-second decisions here!
If you have any complicated plans, feel free to give me instructions in a spoiler or similar and I can incorporate any conditionals into the next update. And remember, you don't all have to do the same thing!