Cade watched the three men from the shadows of the forest. They were sitting around a campfire and making dinner. They were all dressed in armor that was dented from battle. Two talked back and forth, while the third that seemed to be the leader was silent. He was one of the largest men Cade had ever seen, enough so that he wondered if the man had some ogre blood in his veins. He was certainly ugly enough for it with a lopsided face, bloated lips, and a tangled mass of hair.
Cade stepped out from the trees like a spirit materializing from the forest. “Hail!” he called to the men. They looked up in surprise to see the man that seemed to have appeared from thin air. The first two stood and put their hands on their swords. The largest man stayed seated and took a bite of travel bread. He did not reach for the large bearded ax laying against the log he was sitting on, but his eyes focused intently on Cade.
One man who had short, curly hair and scars across his face snarled, “Who goes there and what is your business?!” The man had the ready stance of a veteran, but his eyes darted about nervously.
“Me, I’m just a just a ranger passing on my way through. There are dangerous men about. Thought I would investigate when I saw the fire,,” Cade told them. He held up his hands to show that they were empty. He took a few steps closer till he was in the light cast by the fire.
The men seemed to relax some. The other man that stood, this one with a haggard beard, spoke this time in a nasally voice, “Yea, and ain’t no men more dangerous than us. Now get your arse out of here. We ain’t interested in sharing our camp or dinner with anyone.”
“Fair enough,” Cade said with a shrug. His eyes narrowed slightly as he said, “Before I go, I need to ask if you passed by a farmstead about three days ride back?”
“We did. What’s it to you?” asked the scared man as me moved back towards his seat by the fire.
“The family that lived there met an evil fate. A group of men stopped there one evening. The family let them share their meal and offered them a roof to sleep under because one of the men was a knight. However, the men were not happy with that. They each raped the mother and daughter. Killed the father and his young sons when they tried to intervene. They locked the women in the house and then set it on fire. Didn’t even wait till they were done screaming to ride off,” said in a stoic voice despite the rage that boiled inside of him.
All three men laughed. It was the large man that spoke this time with a deep, rumbling voice, “That would be our handiwork. Would have let ‘em live probably if those boys hadn’t thought to try and stop us from having at those whores. Neither one was a decent fuck. What I’m wonderin’ though is how you be knownin’ all this?”
“You left the cat alive,” Cade said as though that were plain and obvious. Confusion flashed over the faces of the two that were standing. The large man though, he smiled a vile grin of understanding. He steeled himself as he spoke his next words in a grim voice, “My name is Cade, last of the justicars. I am here to sentence you for your crimes. Do you offer any defense or repentance? If not, the sentence is death.”
“I don’t care what you call yourself,” the scarred man snarled, “but the only death sentence here is yours.” He drew his sword and started towards Cade.
Cade gave a sharp whistle. A half heartbeat later a grey wolf burst from the underbrush and leapt at the scared man. It drove into his side and knocked him down. The man screamed as the wolf’s fangs tore his face from his skull.
The bearded man had drawn his sword as well and the large man picked up his ax as he stood. Cade did not wait for them, instead drawing his own sword and charging forward. Hidden in his hand was a small pouch of alchemical powder that he tossed into the fire. The flames flared high with a loud pop and belched forth heavy smoke. The men were disoriented as Cade closed the ground.
Cade stabbed into the bearded man’s shouldered. He kicked the man hard in the stomach to free his blade and sent the man reeling backwards to fall into the flames. The man rolled about bleeding and on fire with no hope.
The giant man swung his ax blindly. Cade did not bother trying to parry the juggernaut blows. He ducked and dodged the powerful swings. The man roared as he swung the ax down, but Cade was already gone and the ax cut off the leg of the bearded man that had just put out his flames.
Cade slashed the giant’s face causing him to howl. The wolf bit into the man’s leg from behind and took him to the ground. A two handed chop from Cade took off the man’s hand that held his ax. It took three blows from the pommel of Cade’s sword to knock the man out.
The sun was starting to rise when the men woke. Cade had tended to them enough to keep them alive and stripped them naked. They were bound hand and foot with ropes running up to the horns of their saddles. Their horses pawed the ground.
Cade looked down at them as he said, “Those people died in pain and terror. You will too. By the way, your horses really didn’t like the way you spurred them.” Cade gave a whinny and the men's horses took off dragging them down the road.