Rat & Will Chapter 15: Stupid Is As Stupid Does: Reprise
The next morning, with their bags packed and the horses loaded, Rat and Will left Morgans Reach at dawn. The guards at the gate tried to gain a bribe, but a stupid smile from Will and a mean look from Rat while she fingered a sharp dagger got them out of the city with little trouble. Half a candlemark later, just as they began to pass fewer rotted corpses along the road, neither was surprised to hear fast moving horses heading towards them from the city.
“Stupid idiots are going to try it again!” Rat grinned excitedly. She’d started to worry that they wouldn’t when they passed through the line of bodies with no sign of being followed.
Will looked around. “Is this the best place to do this?”
Rat shrugged. They were surrounded by trees. She couldn’t see the town, or much else beyond their little section of road. “As good as anything, I suppose.” She sent him a look. “So? Ambush? Or do we try to talk our way out?”
Will grinned at her. “You’re letting me choose? Awww.” He noted the fire in her eyes. “Might as well ambush. Talking didn’t work so well the last time.”
Rat grinned. “Besides, we needed a uniform, right?” They were both moving into the trees as they spoke.
Will dismounted and quickly tied Attila and the pack horse lightly to a tree further in the woods behind some bushes. Rat did the same with Beve. Rat reached quickly into her pack, producing several small bottles and two paper packets. “Don’t breathe any of this if you can help it.” She muttered at Will. They each chose a large tree and began to climb. Rat, being smaller and wearing far less armor, managed to get up and over the road rather quickly. Will was in position just before six men on horseback wearing Morgans Reach guard uniforms thundered down the road. Rat tossed the paper packets and a thick, black soot caught four of the horses and one of the riders in a gasping, eye-watering cloud.
Two of the horses reared, throwing their riders. Rat tossed a bottle at one, and he began to scream as the liquid contents burned through his clothing and flesh. She hit the other, a larger man who looked of a size with Will, with an arrow through the eye. Will dropped from his tree to land behind an armored man trying to control his gasping mount and pulled him to the ground where he quickly snapped his neck. Then he turned and rolled, avoiding the charge of one of the other, still mounted, horsemen.
When the man who’d gotten a snootful of Rat’s powder fell from his horse, she tossed another bottle at him, laughing as he also began to scream between gasps for air. This caught the attention of the mounted rider not trying to mow down Will and he rode over to try and jab up at her with his sword. She grinned and finished reloading her small crossbow. Just as the man thought he’d be sticking her, she stuck him, a small arrow jutting out of his neck.
She turned to see Will leaping atop one of the stopped horses and turning it to meet the final rider. This man, seeming to realize that the fight was nearly over and not in his favor, turned his horse to run, but Will was already there, taking his head straight off of his neck with a powerful swing of his sword. Rat dropped carefully from the tree into a roll, then sprang back to her feet. Pulling a sword from the scabbard of the first man she’d killed with an arrow, she finished off one of the screaming, acid-covered men.
Will dismounted and took care of the other. Then he turned to Rat. “You changed the acid. That’s quite a bit nastier than I remember.”
She looked down at the damage caused by her new acid bottle. “Yeah. I haven’t bothered to muck around much with this recipe before because it isn’t as well-rounded as the usual one. If either of these idiots had bothered to roll in the dirt, it would have stopped working almost immediately.” Then she grinned. “But the ingredients are a lot easier to get. And I got to thinking the other day, when have we seen anyone do anything smart when my acid is burning them?”
Will shook his head, still staring in disgusted fascination at the results of the tiny bottle. “I think it’s probably fair to assume that most people will panic when they get unexpectedly attacked with acid. Would water stop it?”
Rat’s grin grew wider. “Not this one. That’ll make it worse.”
“Yikes.” Will grimaced. “Remind me not to mess with your saddle bags. Ever.”
“It got the job done.” She pushed the body nearest her with a careful shove of her boot. “We should probably throw some dirt on them before we roll them, just to be safe.”
They quickly set to work. Will corralled the horses, taking them to a small spring they’d passed a few minutes before to drink and wash the rest of the black powder from their eyes and noses. Rat rolled the dead guardsmen, grinning at the increase in the heft of her purses of coppers. Most of the weapons were second rate, but two of the guardsmen were carrying quality daggers with cheap jewels that they’d probably taken off merchants in the city. Rat pocketed them and tossed the rest in a pile.
She was carefully removing the uniform from the first man she’d killed with an arrow when Will returned leading the horses. “You were right about that soot powder. It washes off well enough. The horses seem fine now.”
“I told you it wasn’t going to cause long term damage.” She was frowning down at the uniform in her hands. “There’s a bit of blood on this. Of course, probably no one will notice if you’re wearing it in the dark.”
“How much is a bit?” Will looked down at the uniform. “Eh, that’s not bad.” He shot a look at his wife. “Did they have much good stuff on them?”
“Mostly copper. A few decent weapons.” Rat let out an irritated grunt and stood. “Not a terrible lot, actually. But at least we have the bait for the dog traps.”
Will sent her a disgusted look, his nose wrinkled.
“What?” She waved his distaste away. “Waste not, want not. Would you rather we use the poor horses? Besides, I didn’t make them attack us.”
“Right.” He sighed. “Any idea how we’re going to catch the dogs?”
“I’ve got a few, actually. The fun,” She wiped bloody hands on a tattered shirt stolen from one of the dead and looked up at him, eyes sparkling with dark fire, “will be in figuring out which one works.”
He laughed, pushing the thoughts of the planned “bait” out of his mind. “Right. So we’re experimenting, then?”
“Unless you’ve got a better idea. One you’re sure will work.” Her smirk was confident.
Will loved to surprise Rat. “I do, actually. Why not use your knockout powder? We’re bound to be able to find enough of that itchy weed you use to make it, right?”
Rat glared at him. “That was one of my ideas.”
His grin was an attempt to charm. “Exactly when were you going to suggest it?”
She was resistant to most attempts at charm, but Will’s attempts at charming her…occasionally had an effect. Sometimes. She smiled. “After you built a big cage.”
“After?” He raised his brows. “Not before?”
“I might have been looking forward to watching you and those bulging muscles of yours drag trees about.” She didn’t bother to pretend innocence. Will wasn’t stupid, and he’d take the compliment in her statement. “Also, we probably still need the cages. Because the dogs need to go somewhere after we knock them out.”
“And it would be cruel to keep them tied up for days.” Will frowned. “Damn. I didn’t really want to build a cage.”
“At least I still get to see those muscles.” Rat sent him a heated look. When he posed theatrically, she snorted. “And you hate gathering that itchy weed, anyway.”
“Totally true.” He gestured at the bodies with a grimace of distaste. “Are we doing with these what I think we are?”
“Yes. But I’m going to get started on the knockout powder first.” Rat sighed and stood. “Let’s just move the horses a bit further from the dead bodies, shall we?”
“I’ve got them.” Will sighed. “Besides, I’ll need one or two for hauling logs.”
“Right. Then I’ll meet you back across the road in that flat looking spot to set up camp in an hour or two.” Rat wandered off holding a “bag” she’d built by tying another shirt together at the tails and arms. Rashweed was not forgiving if you let it embed in your clothing.
Will rounded up the horses and, with a last look at his wife, got to work.