You drop your ruck as you rip the mace from its side. You grip the weapon with both hands, spin, and swing widdershins with all of your might. The gilded steel head cuts a glimmering arc through the air before smashing into Abrion’s groin, who had just bowled over the unlucky patron. Abrion crumples like balled parchment and screams like one should with such an injury.
You sprint the direction of the stable and jump off the side of the porch. You deftly tuck, roll, and return to your feet, mace still in hand. Before you start running again, you make an unexpected discovery. The knight’s war horses are tied up on the side of the tavern, still fully dressed and completely unguarded. You dash to the first, make quick work of the bowknot, and summit the mighty creature with some difficulty.
After a single snort of protest, the horse responds to your instructions and launches with incredible force. You accelerate to a full gallop in the direction of the southern egress of Draffs, looking back toward the tavern as you ride past. The aftermath of your escape is glorious. Abrion writhes in agony on the porch, Danalt and Robson run after you in sheer futility, and Margaret stands in the doorway laughing as it all unfolds. It also appears that the tavern customer is unconscious at the foot of the stairs. Poor fellow.
That’ll teach ’em, you think. Although, you aren’t entirely sure what just happened or what they’re being taught. Everything was fine up until the very point in time that it wasn’t – and why things came to that point is something of a mystery.
Even with a heavy burden of armor and supplies, the horse moves faster than any that you’d ever borrowed, and still faster once you break free of the village. The thick forest that lines the road is a whirring blur of greens, browns, and shapeshifting shadows. You try, albeit unsuccessfully, to focus on the exhilaration of the moment instead of the crime you just committed against The Crown. You are rather fond of your head and would like to keep it attached, if at all possible. It’s not long until the thoughts of your head plopping into a basket sever the thrill of your evasion.
After a few miles, the road sweeps around to the east and forks not long after. You come to a stop at the fork near a small wooden sign. The route ahead leads to Brayburn and the other to Ell. You know that the knights won’t be far behind and you don’t have much time to weigh your options.
Your concentration is broken by the snap of a branch and rustling to your left. A doe and her fawn stare at you nervously for a moment before bounding into the woods. While the old, overgrown game trail traveled by the deer will be challenging to navigate on horseback, you decide that scrapes, scratches, or even a poked-out eyeball will be worth a safe hiding spot.
You aren’t much more than thirty feet down the squiggly trail when you hear the sounds of horses approaching. You gently pull back on the reigns and come to a stop. You lean forward and hold perfectly still, whispering words of encouragement to the horse, who you’ve affectionately started calling Mister War Horse.
One of the riders yell something to the other and the sounds of the horses soon fade southward. You pat your new best friend on the head and collect your thoughts.
What now? Abrion will eventually pick himself off the porch and join the pursuit, although you don’t think he’ll be eager to travel by horseback anytime soon. The most direct route to Mount Mooregardia, and the one that you’d planned, is west to Ell and north through the foothills. You remember from your maps that the road north of Draffs runs along the easternmost part of the range. It would require that you travel many mountainous miles on foot and you’d hate to say farewell to Mister War Horse. Brayburn is the wrong direction entirely and thus the knights probably won’t be looking for you there. This would all be easier with your maps, which are safely tucked away in your rucksack.
What do you do?