Marley fired his last rounds at them. This time he was effective. Both men went down, and stayed down, and then he fumbled to reload the pistol. Another bandit came at him while he was reloading, but one of the caravanners, a young man, intercepted the bandit. Alas, the caravanner was no match for the bandit, but he bought the time needed for Marley to finish reloading, and another couple shots ended their little part of the battle.
In fact, it seemed that it ended the battle overall. As that became clear, Marley reloaded the pistol more calmly than he had before, and holstered it.
Marley's Hindi was poor, but adequate for what was needed right that moment. "Thank you," he told the young man who'd likely just saved his life.
"Thank you," the young man returned in Hindi.
As Marley watched, he cleaned his sword on the dead bandit's blood-soaked garments and sheathed it, then proceeded to rifle through the bandit's possessions. It didn't take long, but he came away the richer for it, with a small pouch of coin, an empty sheath, and a jewel-crusted dagger. Marley guessed it had to have been loot off some rich traveler past, for it was far too rich a weapon for any brigand he'd ever heard of.
After he'd finished, the young man picked up the bandit's fallen sword and sheathed it, then offered it to Marley. Marley accepted it ruefully and gratefully. "Thank you."
Standing there desperately struggling to reload his pistol, he'd been quite vulnerable. He knew that if the young man hadn't slowed the bandit, his corpse could very well be lying on the ground like the bandits.
He shuddered. He'd brought the pistol along on the trip to India mostly as a precaution. He'd never really expected to need it. He certainly hadn't expected to need a sword. In fact, he only vaguely know how to use one, courtesy of fencing at school. He gave a mental shrug and tied the sheath to his belt. This was not at all how he'd thought his day was going to go. And he'd missed most of his shots, whether from lack of practice, nervousness, or his eyesight. "I definitely need to get eyeglasses when I get home." The fleeting thought was erased by the sounds of the wounded.
Not the bandits - all of them had been properly dealt with. Rather, there were two injured caravanners and a wounded bullock. There was also a dead bullock, its corpse blocking the narrow trail. Marley helped redistribute the beast's load to the other bullocks, and then they pushed the corpse downhill and out of the way. They were in no condition to bury the beast, nor the bandits. Once the wounded had been seen to, they pushed onwards. As best he understood, they were still hours away from stopping for the day.
They certain couldn't stay here. The shrubby slope the bandits had struck from offered a poor camp, and downslope was even worse. They were blocking the trail, which was too narrow to offer a good campsite. Once the wounded had been tended, the load redistributed, and the bandits stripped, they continued on, slowly but surely.
copyright (c) The Other Sean