Renegade Scene 1

by Richard Perkins
This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series The Renegade's Door

283 SC, The northern migration three days east of Stoneburners Gathering, in the Great Desert

Mikel’s breath whistled between his clenched teeth, as he tried not to choke on swirling sand and road grit. He crouched between the wheels of his wagon, listening to the receding hiss of angry sand lizards fleeing the scene. Cautiously, he poked his head out to look at the landscape. He was penned between high canyon walls on both sides. Behind him, the clatter and groan of stones and rubble told him the rock slide that had cut the wagon train in two was still settling. The sun blazed off the canyon walls overhead, hot and harsh. The sandstone was studded with shimmering facets that sent reflected light bouncing off the golden sands of the canyon floor to dazzle his eyes.

He raised his gaze to the top of the canyon walls, searching for the scurrying shadows he knew were up there. Suddenly an arrow whistled through the thick air, thudding into the wagon wall a mere hand span from his head. Cursing under his breath, he scrambled back into the dubious shelter of the wagon wheels.

He swiped his tunic sleeve across his face. The act blotted the sweat, but left his dark almond skin gritty with coarse sand and dirt. There were archers on the canyon walls, just waiting for him to poke his head out and provide them with a target. But he had known that already. But as he heard the rough scrabble of hands and feet on the sandstone walls, he wondered who was descending toward the valley floor under the archers’ hail of covering fire. And how many of them were involved in this little ambush?

Ambush. He let the acrid word settle on his tongue, rolled it around his mouth and decided that it fit the situation all too well. The raiders had set up their attack in the narrowest part of the migration where the wagons would be strung out in single file. Then they had triggered a rock slide, cutting the wagon train two. In the calm, calculating part of his mind that analyzed such things, Mikel had to approve of their tactics. Now they could finish off the smaller groups with less threat from a coordinated defense.

The wagon train had four cargo wagons, one crew carrier and a maintenance vehicle. The raiders would expect teamster drivers for each of the wagons, a handful of hired mercenaries, and some fat merchants. With enough patience, superior numbers and the advantage of position, they could take a wagon train like this with minimal losses. All things considered, it was a good plan. Of course, they had overlooked one detail.

They thought Mikel was a simple teamster. It was an honest mistake.

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