Got a bit of a fever, so tonight's story will be later than usual. I pray your forgiveness and I hope that you will enjoy it nevertheless.
"Come on," Jonn said, exasparated. He pulled on the rope, breathing hard. "Would you just..." He gave another tug, moving forward a couple of inches. "...cooperate!". He threw down the rope in disgust and glared at his captive. The girl sat flat on her backside and glared back at him, his rope tied securely around her midriff and her arms behind her back. Her features were sharp and angular, her long, black hair tangled with twigs and dirt.
"Keghtot khoz!" she spat, sneering at him.
"Yeah," he sighed. "I know what you mean."
He sat down with a thud and mopped the sweat from his brow with the edge of his sleeve. He stretched his back, wincing at the stiffness. Dragging a bound girl around for five days in a row will do that to you. Reaching into his backpack, he pulled out a strip of dried meat and a hunk of stale bread and started chewing listlessly. The forest around him was alive with animal sounds; birds were singing overhead and mice rustled through the dead leaves that covered the ground. The sky above him was the no-color gray of autumn, leafless trees reaching up, as if seeking sunlight. He took a swig of his wineskin to wash down the bread.
"If you weren't Kralj Lovac's only daughter," he said to the girl. "And if he hadn't offered ten thousand gold coins for your safe return, you best believe I'd have brought him your head instead."
He took another swig of wine.
"Frankly, I don't see what's so appealing about those commoners. I mean, you lived in a perfectly fine castle. You had maids, servants, soldiers and more coin that you could spend in a lifetime."
He spat on the ground. "And for some reason," he said, frustrated "You decide to run off and live with the rabble. And when I try to bring you back to your blasted father, you act like a spoiled child!"
"Ću iseći svoje srce i hrane ga psima-," she started, but stopped when Jonn drew his sword. He looked beyond her, eyes unfocused, a concentrated look on his face.
"Riders," he said. "Damn it."
Before he could pull the girl off the road, the riders came into view. Five men, all clad in leather and mail sat atop brown horses. They pulled to a stop in front of him, and one of them stepped forward.
"Well, well, well," he said. "What 'ave we got 'ere?"
His voice was slurred, a long scar running from right temple to left chin. His hair was cropped short, and he wore a crude sword at his side.
"A kidnapper?" he asked, raising a heavy eyebrow.
Jonn stood between the riders and the girl, sword in hand.
"She is my prisoner of war," Jonn said. "I won her fair and square. Now I'd ask you to be on your way, sirs. I have no business with you."
The man Jonn presumed was the leader gave a barking laugh. "Sirs!?" he laughed. "Hear that, lads? He thinks we're sirs!"
He dismounted and walked towards Jonn, pulling his sword from its scabbard.
"Sorry to disappoint, but we ain't no sirs," he said. "We're just friendly bunch of travellers trying to make our way in the world. And that girlie right there looks like just the thing to brighten our day."
He held out his hand, palm up.
"So why don't you save yourself some trouble," he said, his voice low. "And hand over the rope?"
When it was over, Jonn sheathed his sword and picked up the rope. The smell of blood had made the horses panic and run before Jonn had had a chance to catch any of them. He sighed and pulled on the rope, sliding the girl across the blood-soaked ground.
"I better get a blasted knighthood", he muttered. "I want, like, a hundred knighthoods."
The girl just glared at him.