She kept running, only looking back when she heard the howls of her pursuers as they entered the forest. The orc in the lead was having difficulty maneuvering and its clumsiness slowed the others giving her a few moments to plan her next move. She waited near the edge of a bald spot in the forest and held her swords down and away so the brutes wouldn't catch sight of her.
It was less than a minute when the first of the four came crashing around the tree in front of her. She brought the swords up simultaneously making a strike against its side and it fell away from her. She knew it would come back for more and she glanced quickly to see two more orcs on the path behind it as they jumped in surprise. She had barely a second to wonder where the fourth one was when its axe smacked against the tree next to her. It had been only an inch from her skull and she felt the tug as some of her hair was yanked to one side and then cut away by the blade. She thrust the flame sword blindly behind her as she pushed herself away. She felt resistance and knew she had made contact but could tell it was the armor she had hit. She pushed back hard hoping the blade would slip through some joint and hit the beast but knew it did not happen.
With luck the axe that missed her was lodged deeply in the trunk of the tree. While the orc behind her was trying to dislodge its weapon the two in front of her tried to keep her surrounded. They both came at her swinging and she deflected one axe with the flame sword and the other with the frost sword. The axe was jolted out of the tree. Had the long blade edge been on her side it would have removed her arm. The shorter hatchet blade on the backside cut into her left, unprotected, arm and opened a slice in her skin below the shoulder. She screamed in pain and it took all of her strength to avoid dropping her frost sword. She stumbled briefly, but avoided more attacks and ran outside of the trap.
She caught a glimpse of the wounded orc rejoining the pack and could hear them coming after her. She sprinted as fast as she could until the forest started to thin out. In the distance she could see a dirt road and started to head in that direction. From a bad step, she stumbled again and her wounded left arm slipped against a trunk. The pain was enough to force her to her knees and the orcs gained rapidly. With no time to run she turned to fight.
Gallif kept the tree at her back to help protect her and they broke into two groups. She chose one and made a dual attack cutting the handle of its weapon in half. She twisted hard and swung the flame sword in for a strike but missed. She cut in with the frost sword and just barely managed to hit her target. The blood sliding down the cut in her left arm reminded her of just how badly she was getting beat. She cursed herself for saying that the trip had gone so well that morning.
She thought about Luvin and Jakobus and decided to try to head back in their direction. She took a few swings at them but her bleeding left arm was weak and she missed. They were moving quickly and she knew time was running out.
They started to separate and surrounded her. She moved sideways and closed the distance on one of them hoping to escape their circle. She swung hard with the flame sword and managed to hit the orc's leg. Her aim was slightly off, but she did enough damage to cause it to slow and followed through with the frost sword. Though the pain in her left arm was getting worse she managed to hit the orc. It fell to the ground and she leaned forward and impaled it with both swords. She looked up too late to see that they had taken advantage of the brief distraction and were now circling her. She was trapped and for the first time in a long time she started to feel afraid.
The leather armored human that joined moved so fast he had already taken down one of the orcs before she even knew he was there. The broadsword he wielded came slicing down into the orc's side totally severing a muscular arm along the way. The death howl of the beast was cut short as a second swing removed its head.
The remaining orcs jumped as they saw what was happening and paused for a moment unsure of who to attack. Before they made up their minds the broadsword sang again and had eliminated one with a mighty strike. The remaining orc started to run, but came within distance of Gallif's flame sword as it moved. She chopped down and the blade and flames from her weapon completely split the handle of the orc's axe in half. Before the orc could even consider what its next move would be the broadsword had punctured its chest and its heart beat no more. It dropped to ground as the male withdrew his weapon.
After the orc fell they both stood and silently listened. There were no more howls or crashing of an enemy approaching, so they slowly relaxed. Gallif sheathed her weapons as the pain from the cut in her arm started to get her attention and she quickly sat down on the ground.
"Let me help you, let me help you," the man said as he ran to her side. He kneeled next to her and pulled an orange cloth from a bag strung on his belt. "Don't move, don't move," he said as he looked at the cut. "Ok, well, move your arm, but don't move anything else," he said quickly. He put one hand on her shoulder and another on her elbow and rested her arm on his leg. "Ok, now don't move anything even your arm," he said. She felt uncomfortable being in contact with him, but the sting from the strike was too much for her to protest.
The man took the orange cloth and wrapped it around her wound. She was surprised at the instant relief of the pain. She looked at her arm and could feel it healing and then looked up at the man.
"What is that?" she asked slowly. The pain was still sharp, but decreasing steadily.
"Special cloths, made from grass and straw and soaked with various natural spices and herbs," he said.
"The same stuff in potions," she said as she smelled the slight herbal fragrance. "How come it's not light blue?"
"Good point," he said looking at her wiping the blond hair out of his eyes. "You know nobody has asked me that before. That's a bit odd. I suppose it's also really good that no one has asked me that before."
"Why?"
"Because I don't know the answer," he said unashamedly. "I do have to admit that it usually doesn't work this fast," he said as he pulled the cloth away. The cut in her arm had already sealed. There were several smears of blood and a raw patch of skin where it had been, but the pain was almost completely gone.
"The forest, being out in nature, helps me a great deal," she said.
"You're one of those, aren't you?"
"One of those?" she asked suspiciously.
"Forest people? Druid? No, you can't be a druid; no one has seen them for decades, of course."
"Of course," she agreed. She pulled herself away from him and easily stood to face him. "Thank you," Gallif said gratefully. "What's your name?"
"Blinks," he said. "Nice to meet you?"
It didn't take her long to figure out why he had that name. As she looked him in the face she couldn't help but notice just how often he blinked. It wasn't at the usual pace that would go unnoticed by most people but a rapid stream of blinks. She guessed there were only two seconds between each blink. She didn't feel threatened by it, but she had to admit it was quite difficult to concentrate and had to look away.
"Well, hello Blinks," she said trying not to make it obvious she could not look him in the face for any length of time. "Thanks for coming to my rescue. My name is Gallif."
"Never heard of you," he said and suddenly jumped in surprise at himself. "I hope that wasn't rude. Sometimes my people skills are a bit…rusty? Yes, that's right, rusty. I haven't put you off already?"
"No, no, no, no," she said quickly. "It's quite alright. Almost a bit of relief to tell the truth," she added. As odd as he was there was a certain charm about his demeanor that she enjoyed.