Marion walked out of the tavern. It wasn’t often he saw elves wandering around alone. Usually he saw them in their convoys, mostly en route to the Imperial City to talk with the High King. He looked up at the sky. He was late meeting Isabella. He hurried out of town and back down the Road towards the clearing. He didn’t see any more goblins, which was a good sign. He had heard that goblins traveled with the accursed bullmen. Marion shivered at the thought of them. Evil beasts they were. Half man, half bull, savage monsters that lived only to kill. But he never saw any or heard of any in this region, at least not while he’d been alive. They usually stayed in the far north, near the Darklands. Those couple of goblins were probably just lost or something.
He veered off the path and took the trail leading into the woods. Hopefully she was still there waiting for him. Marion knew she’d be upset, but at least he would get to see her. He walked briskly for a few more minutes, ducking branches and swatting away the brush. He came into the clearing but didn’t see anything. But it was quiet. Actually, there wasn’t any noise at all. Feeling a sudden sense of danger, Marion backed away towards the trail, but bumped into something. He felt the hot breath on his neck and dropped to his knees just as a bullman swung with a club that would have taken off his head.
Thinking quickly, Marion grabbed for his small dagger and plunged it into the beast’s thigh. It let out a roar, and Marion took that chance to run back towards the Road. He heard the beast grunt in pain and felt a whiz past his ear and a thump as his own dagger was hurled after him, sticking in a tree. He continued to move quickly down the trail and could hear what sounded like multiple bullmen chasing him down. Marion drew his bow and looked back over his shoulder. He could see three of them, gaining on him. He pulled an arrow from his quiver, and spun around. Nocking the arrow, he let it fly towards the closest bullman, striking it in the chest. It roared in pain and tripped over a tree root, falling forward. The other bullmen trampled over him and continued their pursuit. Marion sprinted down the trail. He knew every branch and root, and glided nimbly through the obstacles.As he approached the Road, he heard a horse trotting up the Road. Isabella, he thought. He pushed himself even faster, and burst through the brush onto the Road, right upon the horse and its rider. Looking up Marion saw not Isabella but Conrad, who had a wicked smile on his face which immediately turned to a frown upon seeing him. “Still alive, I see. We can remedy that,” Conrad said, pulling something from within his ornate tunic. Marion didn’t wait around to see what it was, sprinting back into the brush towards Bethel. He heard Conrad yelling in some guttural tongue and heard the sounds of more bullmen. “You won’t get away! I’ll have the legions of bullmen after you and you alone!” Conrad shouted. They seemed to be coming from all sides now. A lot of questions started to pop up in Marion’s head, but he pushed them aside. Survival was first. He could think about the rest later.