Tomas rounded the corner and dropped to a knee.
He had been running non-stop since the bridge. He had found the trail, found evidence of a scuffle, and followed the ruts from the cart wheels.
Now he was at the edge of their hideout.
An abandoned quarry and mine that was beginning to be reclaimed by the forest.
Looking down the levels he could see a few of the bandits standing guard on the higher levels. Most of the guards had crossbows.
And there were too many of them to take out before he was shot at least once.
A few levels lower there were tents, and hobbled horses. A few carts stood off to one side. Most of the bandits were down there around a fire. There was no sign of any captives, but that was not any indication. There was also the old mine shaft on one wall with guards posted outside it. The captives were likely in there.
To get a horse he would need to kill all the guards, and likely many of the other bandits. To get the horse out he would need to get down to their bottom level and then take the horse from the rear vertical wall over to the front closer to him. A ramp, wide enough for a wagon, and still fitted with a rusted minecart track, led up to the ground level.
It was the only way in or out, which made sense if they did not expect to be attacked.
If they were they would not get any warning; Tomas had already slain the three sentries they had posted. They had died easily, without a sound. His dagger had worked well, and was now back in its sheath, wiped clean on the last man’s shirt.
He could just leave, run to the Castle, but then he would arrive looking like a peasant.
And he would still not know if this was Juniper’s group or not. And if it was, he needed to rescue them now before the bandits could rape them.
Since, he was fairly certain that thats what the bandits would do, even to Juniper despite needing her relatively unharmed for the ransom.
And he needed to stop that, if only to preserve her honour and possibly win her approval. Although, if he was honest with himself, he did not think he would ever be able to.
So, he needed to stop that, because thats what his family would want, and because his parents would be embarrassed and ashamed if he had had a chance to rescue his betrothed, or anyone, from such a fate, and had left them to it.
He would need to at least find out who it was.
Which would require either sneaking in, or defeating all the bandits.
The first did not seem easily accomplished.
Which meant that he would need to find some way to draw them out.
Even with his speed he would not be able to defeat them all; the sentries alone would seriously injure him before he killed them all, and that was ignoring the rest of the group.
What if he-?
A piece of soft silk wrapped around his neck as another piece bunched in his throat. Choking, unable to cry out, he was helpless as a third piece looped around his chest and dragged him backwards.Kicking and struggling he was brought all the way back into the forest again, and spun around. The loop around his neck loosened and moved to support him upright as he came face to face with the man in the red scarf.