The battle was lost and the survivors fled the best they could. The file of Adventurers, already dismounted for combat, was broken under a charge of Aquilonian cavalry. Two men did exactly what their enemies did not expect – instead of running, they broke through the thin line of enemy troops. After running until their legs could carry them no more, they found themselves up in the mountains. Tyrus and Barathus were on foot, having lost their horses in the battle. They had seen others go the same way, mounted – well, now it was every man for himself. They stopped for a short rest, before they’d have to start jogging again. There were no signs of pursuit yet, but that didn’t mean they were safe.
Noam and Alcemides had been keeping watch on the flanks of the army, in case the enemy would try to encircle Nemedians. When they heard the inhuman cry from the hill where the tent of the sorcerer Xaltotun had been and saw the Aquilonian knights mow their way through Nemedian troops,they knew the day was lost. Making their way to the mountains, they stumbled upon the two resting Adventurers. Weapons were drawn, suspicious gazes and harsh words exchanged, but soon it became apparent that they were all on the same side. After a short rest, the march towards the passage through the mountains continued.
A day and a night passed, weary soldiers sleeping restlessly in a hidden camp amid jagged rocks. During the night, a group of armed and armored riders passed them, their identity impossible to discern in the dark. Another weary day of marching commenced, food already getting scarce. Then a lone rider approached – not from behind, but ahead. Getting closer, the men noticed the bright colours he was wearing. A Zingaran jinette, one of the mercenaries Conan had brought with him. The rider attempted to merely ride through the Nemedians, but Alcemides’ lucky shot from seemingly impossible distance brought him down. Now they had one horse.
The passage started to widen in to a valley and ahead glimmered a stream, flowing into a bright pond by some forgotten ruins. Thirsty and tired, the men staggered to drink and wash themselves, one keeping watch when the other three rested. It was then when four mounted men where sighted, this time coming from behind them. One of them turned and galloped back towards Aquilonia, while the three urged their horses onward. The Nemedians took refuge in the ruins, hoping the remains of the stone walls would negate the advantage horses gave their adversaries. Alas, jinettes, accomplished horsemen, merely urged their horses to jump over the walls. They had no intention of being stuck in melee – instead they tried to net their prey, pulling them with them on a galloping horse. Failing that, they had javelins. The fight was quick and brutal, but in the end, two of the jinettes had fallen and the third was galloping away. Three horses, four men – but at least they could now rest their feet in turns.
Knowing that the five jinettes they had seen had been just scouts, the men pressed onwards. Noam and Alcemides had spotted tracks – a large group of men, perhaps as many as a hundred, had passed this way a short time ago. Fleeing Nemedians, most likely, now hunted by the mercenaries on their way home. They pressed on, ignoring sidetracks and the harsh beauty of the mountains. Three jinettes they had been able to take – double the number might well be their doom.
The valley started narrowing to a passage again and rising steeply. The tired men staggered forward. They dared not to rest before a good camping site could be found, one they could hide. Finally, as darkness began to fall, they made a camp amidst jagged rocks, on a steeply rising hill. Their rest was soon interrupted, as the sentry heard a large group of horsemen moving slowly on the road. Noam and Alcemides sneaked to investigate – it seemed like a large number of mounted soldiers, jinettes perhaps, were leading their horses on foot. They had no lights and tried to move as silently as possible – perhaps hoping to surprise someone? It might be that the other survivors of the battle were closer than they had thought.
The main body of the horsemen was followed by a smaller group, perhaps securing the rear. Alas, as the scouts began to withdraw back to their camp, a loose rock clattered down the hill, hitting the trees. The noise was followed by the clang of a sword against stone, and the rear guard of the Zingaran mercenaries was alerted to their presence. One of thtem, apprentally a tracker, found with a lantern the tracks they had left moving to their camp site. Six of the enemies started climbing the hillside, lead on by their tracker, two staying behind to guard the horses. The Nemedians had now two choices – to fight or run. They decided to make a stand. That way, they might perhaps be able to run through a warning to the large group of their comrades, which the Zingarans seemingly sought to surprise.
As the Zingarans climbed up the hill, they were met by arrows from the undergrowth. All of the fighters were hampered by the darkness, but what they lacked in vision, they made up in ferocity. Soon the fight broke up into a series of duels, Barathus frustrating his opponents by striking blades from their hands through fancy swordplay. Bloodied and battered, the Nemedians held their ground. As Tyrus and Alcemides charged down the hill, hoping to capture more horses, Noam and Barathus gave chase to the last Zingaran, now trying to escape. Realising that he could not outrun the warhound on his trail, the mercenary throwed himself at his enemies mercy. A barked order from Noam stopped his hound just as it was about to sink its teeth in the mercenary’s throat. It took a longer while for Barathus to put down his sword. Tyrus and Alcemides had no success at the downhill – seeing enemies charging down the hill, the men left to tend the horses that had galloped away, taking the mounts of fallen men with them.
Wounded and tired from battle, the Nemedians began the grim business of looting corpses, the warhound keeping a watchful eye on their prisoner. It was then that the sounds of war started cutting the night air, not far away. It seemed that the Zingaran mercenaries had found their prey. Now the Nemedians would have to decide whether to hide or charge into the fray, perhaps only to die in vain.