(before the events of Sword’s Edge)
Marcalan laughed as he strode next to Haladhon, his cousin and a chief of their clan. Beneath the jesting and storytelling, Marcalan kept alert, as did his cousin, hoping to cross the ring of roadway bandits plaguing this area. Dressed not as Rangers but in commoner attire, they appeared as a couple of ordinary wayfarers.
His eyes scanned the woods along the edge of the road. “So, did you make scarce before the innkeeper could pitch you out on your ear?”
“Me? Tossed out of a pub? Cousin!” Haladhon looked properly indignant. “She did chase me with a broom, but I managed to fend her off with a wink and a kiss.”
“Stars, cousin, how do you always escape unscathed?”
Haladhon’s eyes twinkled. “Need you ask?”
Marcalan shook his head with a sigh—a tingle of something awry halted him, and he threw an arm out in front of Haladhon. Six men armed with swords leaped from the bushes. The two Rangers drew their own blades as the men ran toward them.
“Oh, this is not good,” Marcalan muttered.
“What gave you that notion, Mar?” Haladhon asked.
Marcalan parried one man’s attack, sidestepped the second’s, swung his blade through to go back to the first, then answered, “It was just a thought.” He kicked at the third man attacking him, and although his aim was off, hitting the man’s arm instead of his gut, it did well as the man dropped his sword to grab the arm, yelling in pain.
He backstepped the first man, and said to Haladhon, “I could be wrong, however.” He came in with a downward diagonal attack successfully, cutting the man’s sword arm deeply, then turned to the second man as he heard Haladhon reply, “You often are.”
“You think so?” Marcalan sidestepped, striking his opponent across the shoulder. The man fell with a cry, and he turned to face the third man who had retrieved his sword. Marcalan’s quick lunge unbalanced the man, and Marcalan disarmed him easily. He held his sword to the man’s throat as he watched Haladhon finish his last opponent.
As the man fell, Haladhon turned, lowering his sword. “Aye. See you what I mean? Six men down, and our mission to find the men who had been robbing travelers is over that quickly. Now how is that not good?”
“I stand corrected.” Marcalan inclined his head in lieu of a bow, never taking his sword away from his man’s throat.
“However…” Haladhon looked around thoughtfully for a few moments. “I do see a problem.”
“We have to escort these men, some of them wounded, almost a full day’s journey before handing them over.”
Marcalan groaned. “See, I told you it was not good.”