Raghnall was pummeled mercilessly and beaten into the ground. His hands were trussed up behind his back and he was hauled over to the massive tree that shaded the crossroads. “They’re all dead,” someone said. Raghnall’s ears were ringing and his head was spinning. He couldn’t focus his eyes enough to concentrate.
“Then it’s a murderer we’ve got here,” one of the men holding him said. “String him up.”
A rope was produced and a noose was fitted around Raghnall’s neck. The rope was thrown over a branch and two of the men started to pull on it. Raghnall felt the scales constrict on the right side of his body. She was preparing to come out. Off to one side Raghnall heard chanting. A moment later a fireball hit him square in the chest, exploding and taking out the soldiers holding him. Raghnall dropped to the ground.
“Void take it,” a voice muttered.
Raghnall sat up. His clothing was gone, as were the ropes. The men who’d been holding him were obviously dead. He looked around. Six soldiers smoldered in a semi circle around him. He stood up, brushing the ash off. Sensing he was no longer in danger, the snake subsided.
“Ah, you’re still - intact.” A young man moved into Raghnall’s field of vision. He leaned on a staff, his gaze fixed on Raghnall. Long blond hair was pulled back in a braid which hung over one shoulder. His face was framed by a close cropped beard. He was dressed in clothing that wouldn’t look out of place on a prosperous farmer. He had a pack on his back and his belt held a number of pouches.
“Have you never seen a naked man before?” Raghnall asked as he looked around for his pack.
The young man averted his eyes before walking over to a pile of packs. “I would assume this is yours,” he said, holding up Raghnall’s pack. He tossed it over and Raghnall pulled out a spare set of clothing. He dressed himself and joined the other man at the pile of packs.
His would-be rescuer was already rummaging through one of the packs. Raghnall started searching through another pack. They worked in silence, pulling everything useful out and leaving the rest. “Now that the unpleasant business is over with, I suppose it’s only good manners to introduce ourselves. I’m called Elan.”