David rode the horse spanned wagon with great precision. The four horses pulling the wagon glistered with sweat from the strain the steep climbs of the mountains, they now left behind them, had asked of them.
"Let's giv'm a rest, Dave," His father, riding second seat, told the boy. "They've earned it".
"Yes sir," Dave replied relieved. Manning four horses over the rough and dangerous terrain of the mountains was hard work and this was his first time doing it on his own without his father stepping in at the more difficult points.
After jumping of and stretching his sore legs, David took care of the animal's needs then checking the wagon, especially the wheels, and only then taking care of his own needs.
"You're learning well son, I'm proud of how you handled the road and how you take your responsibilities seriously in spite of the hard labour I've put you through, well done," His father said seriously.
David looked at his father with pride, at the age of fifteen he looked up to the big man relaxing against a tree a few meters away from him. He had ridden with his father for over a year now and that was the biggest compliment he had ever gotten from the man, not that the old man was shy of compliments, they had just never come without an 'although' or a 'bud'. And David knew to take his fathers although's and bud's serious.
After his mother's death and his sister's marriage, David didn't have a choice bud to work with his father. 'Before', he used to work in the cornfields his father owned and chopping firewood for the wealthier villagers for some extra cash. 'After', his father had sold the fields because he needed the money as an investment for his trading company. The hard work and his father's genes had made David strong and big for his age and this process was now fastened with the even harder work his father made him do, loading and offloading the wagon of it's valuables and the training his father gave him in his 'guard duties' as his father called it, which meant he was thought to watch his surroundings for possible ambushes and a lot of staff practice. The fighting wasn't as fancy as David had seen the soldiers from the duke do, who came collecting the dukes taxes twice a year. The soldiers swords glimmed in the sunlight when they practiced on the fields just outside the village were they erected their tents waiting for people from the surrounding villages to pay their taxes. David had often enjoyed watching the training sessions, the big and strong soldiers slashing and dashing their swords with speed and precision. They relied on out-smarting and out-speeding their opponents, hitting them at critical points in their armour. The staff-fighting his father thought him was more relying on brute force and in using the length of the weapon to keep a distance with the enemy.
Until now David had only been in one small skirmish, a few months ago. They had been ambushed by three poor blokes who thought the big wagon with just one man and a boy to protect it an easy target. After his father had sent one men flying across the road with one mighty hit from his staff, and probably more than one broken rib, and David had broken one mans sword arm the fight was over before it began.
All in all his fathers business was doing well. They weren't rich, bud they weren't as poor as before either. David liked working with his father, just being with his old man and learning of his life. Even the training wasn't as bad as before now he was getting used to it.
David felt great. They had left the mountains behind yesterday and were now only one day of easy riding separated them from their destination. His father took out his Lute from inside the wagon and started tuning it before playing. As good as his father played his Lute, as terrible his voice sounded when he sang. 'Before', his wife would sing when he played, bud now there was only the melody, which sounded just fine for the two untroubled men.
As they reached the top of a small hill David let out a sigh. In front of them, still over half a days ride bud slightly visible lay the city of Brosan.
"I look forward to that Inn's bed when we're lodged down," his father said. "My bones must be getting old," He said with a chuckle, while putting his Lute back were it came from.
"Another save journey for the Benit men, eh son!" His father rumbled.
Just as they topped the hill, a band of men jumped out of the bushes raising their voices telling them to stop and just making a lot of sound to scare the man and boy into compliance.
"Me and my big mouth" he sighed.
"Can't we run for it?" David said in a low tone.
"DON'T even think about it!" one of the men shouted before his father could answer. "This wagon and its load are now ours."
"HELL NO!" his father screamed. "Your not taking everything I own, not over my dead body!"
"Father... ," David whispered. "They're with too many."
David looked into his father's anger filled eyes and knew the coming answer wasn't going to be of his liking.
"I've invested everything in this load son, and I'm NOT just giving it away to these rats!" He said shifting his attention back to the man who had spoken before and who was probably the leader of the group.
"Suite yourself," the answer came. "GET'M!"
"Keep'm of my wagon son!" his father said while jumping from the wagon, staff in hand.
The attacking men faltered a bit when they saw how big the man they were facing was when he stood on the ground, bud shook the worries of by knowing he stood no chance against their numbers. David saw that two attackers came at him, while three closed in on his father. The leader only looked on with an ugly grin on his face.
The first man coming in his father's striking distance lost the club he was swinging with a bone shattering hit to his hand. The second had just enough time to block the strike aimed for his head, bud fell to the ground by the force behind it.
"Try and get it you BASTARDS!" David's father yelled. "I can take you lot!"
With an overhead blow from the two meter's long staff he shattered the skull and mashed the brain of the second attacker who was trying to get up from the ground.
Meanwhile David was fighting for his life from atop the wagon's driver seat. One attacker was stabbing a pitchfork at his feet while another swung a sword at his feet and knees. David immediately understood why a staff was such a handy weapon. The only reason he was still alive was because he could keep his attackers at a save distance with some quick stabs and blocks.
With a lucky strike David crunched the nose of the fork-fighter with the tip of his staff and knocking the man out cold. He leapt to the other side of the driver's seat and looked behind him to see how his father was doing. He saw how one attacker was bending forward with tears in his eyes from pain from an obvious shattered hand he would probably never again be able to use. Just than he saw his father kill another attacker by shattering his skull with a ground shaking blow. Just as he wanted to turn to his last attacker who had almost climbed on the driver seat, David saw an image that would stay with him for the rest of his life, however long that may still be. A third attacker had taken the time, his father had given him by taking out his comrades, to come within striking range.
"FATHER!" David shouted just as the third attacker's blade entered his father's stomach.
His father looked at the blade with disbelief. Turning to his son, tears came in his eyes.
"Son... I'm sorr... y." And that was his end.
"NOOOO!" David screamed, jumping of the drivers seat and at the same time swinging his staff from above his head down towards his father's killer. The killer had enough time to get out of David's reach, bud the staff hit his sword so hard he let go of it. With an entire twist of his body and al his weight and strength behind the blow David hit his father's killer on his shoulder. Breaking bone and letting him fly against one of the cartwheels were the man sagged down holding his shoulder eying David with fear.
Just as David wanted to turn towards the swordsman jumping of the drivers seat he had just jumped of David felt an excruciating pain in his back and stomach. Turning around while falling to the ground he could make out the group leader standing over him with a knife in hand still with that twisted little smile on his mouth.
Just then he could hear shouting of men and hooves of running horses coming closer before he lost consciousness.
When David awoke, he could hear someone faintly speaking above him in a soft female voice.
"Wi... ome luck... ound... deep," the nice voice said.
Just as he fell back to unconsousness David could make out a low rumbling voice not unlike his father's starting to respond.
'Maybe, just maybe' David thought.