And Camp NaNoWriMo has finally started! Yay!
We had equal votes for option one and two so I had to do both. Difficult when they're basically complete opposites but I'm talented like that.
Honestly, I have no idea where you all got the though that the new dudes were good guys. It had never actually entered my mind. But anyway. In this they're bad guys, then they're good guys, then they're bad guys again. Perfect! And you all finally get to discover more about the 'guard' guy.
“Don’t mention it,” one waved a hand at us. “It was our pleasure.”
I stared, the tension slowly draining from my limbs. Then another man spoke. “They were in our territory. We kill everything that invades our territory.”
Before you could say out of the frying pan, into the fire they all had arrows on their bows at full draw. All pointed at us.
I jumped backwards with a yelp at the lightning fast movement.
“Unfortunately that includes you as well,” the first continued calmly.
“Wait no!” Leonora stammered, gaping at the five men.
“Kill the youngest first, it will be kindest to her,” he said flatly.
A surge of movement flashed in front of me, and I could believe that everything was about to end. Then Leonora’s sword sparked off the steel head of the arrow, sending it spinning away.
I stumbled back as Leonora grabbed my shoulder and pulled me behind her. The men jumped forward, their movements too fast for my whirling mind to follow.
In seconds two had Leonora on the ground, one raising his dagger to kill her.
“Stop it!” I shouted, launching myself forward. I slammed into the dagger holder – the one who had spoken first – and tried to grab the knife.
He shoved me away with his shoulder, merely grunting at my desperate efforts. I scrambled back to my feet, shivering with fury. “I’ve never seen a more cowardly act in my life,” I bit the words savagely.
All the men froze, no doubt shocked that anyone would dare call them cowards to their face. “What did you just say?” the man with his knife raised turned his face slowly to look at me.
“I-I said—” I swallowed, suddenly not feeling as reckless as before. “I said that…I’ve never seen a more cowardly a-act in my l-life.”
“It depends on your version of valiancy,” he said, his voice strangely soft.
“My version doesn’t involve killing any and everyone without waiting to even be introduced,” I replied tautly.
Silence echoed over the rocks, broken only by the soft sounds of breathing and the far distant pursuit of Cleavers.
The man spun the dagger in his fingers and shoved it into the sheath at his belt. Straightening, he surveyed me with his head to one side. Finally he put his hand forward. “Thief lord Saxen Barlow,” he said.
I blinked. “Sorry…what?”
“Saxen Barlow’s my name,” he explained.
“Oh, er, Louise Conwell,” I supplied hastily, taking his hand, then frowned. “And what about the other part?”
“Thief lord? That’s me, and I’m that,” he shrugged. “There’s naught more to it.”
“You’re a thief lord?” I repeated stupidly.
“The Thief lord actually.” He spread his other hand to encompass the surrounding land. “Welcome to the Thieven Grounds.” Saxen Barlow twisted his lips thoughtfully, “Though the welcome perhaps is not as…welcoming as you wanted.”
“You can say that again,” Leonora mumbled into the dirt.
The Thief lord flicked his hand. “Let her up,” he said.
The other thieves stepped away, allowing Leonora to spring to her feet. “I hope you’re satisfied now,” she remarked, annoyed.
Saxen Barlow met her peeved gaze. “We can carry on any time you like,” he said coolly.
“No,” I said firmly. “You will not.”
He turned to me again. “If only for the bravery of this girl, I will let you go,” he decided.
Relief washed through me but he hadn’t finished.
“Still, next time I lay eyes upon you I will not hesitate. You must be out of my lands by dawn.”
“But we can’t travel that far in so short a time,” Leonora protested.
“That is your problem,” Saxen Barlow returned.
A sound made me look back over my shoulder. The ‘guard’ was regaining consciousness and sitting up, attracting the attention of the Thieves holding Eumin against the cliff.
They both gaped for a moment then one shouted something in a foreign language. All the others jumped away. In a moment Saxen Barlow had an arrow pointed at the center of my forehead.
“You are in league with the gypsies. I should’ve known it,” he spat the word gypsies hatefully.
“Wh-what?” I choked on the word, the deadly sharp arrowhead glinting pale in the moonlight.
“You are a gypsy, come to spy on us. Do not deny it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about—” I started but Leonora interrupted, pushing forward. The thief lord shifted the arrow to her and she stopped, hands raised.
“We are not in league with any gypsies, sir thief lord. Though why that should bother you is beyond me. We haven’t seen gypsies from the royal castle to here,” she said.
Saxen Barlow glared at her for a long moment before answering. “I think not unless you have been travelling with your eyes shut.”
“Uh…I’m not entirely sure—”
“He,” Saxen jerked his head at the now conscious ‘guard’ who was shoved against the cliff face alongside Eumin with a shocked expression on his face. Presumably it is a reasonable feeling to experience after one has come to and found himself confronted with half a dozen options of death. “He is Hans Țigan, leader of a certain band camped half a day’s ride from here,” the thief lord continued. “That certain band happens to be gypsies.”
“He’s Hans Țigan?” Leonora asked.
“Don’t play innocent on me,” Saxen curled his lip.
“No honestly, I had no idea.” Leonora brushed the hair from her eyes. “If I had, things would’ve gone a little differently.”
He swivelled his gaze to the apparent gypsy leader.
“Perhaps we have feuded in the past,” Hans Țigan said. “But these travellers are guilty of no wrong to you. They did not know who I was.”
The thief lord gave us a long penetrating stare. “And yet I think you are no strangers.”
“Well, I certainly am,” I blurted angrily. “I’ve never seen a gypsy in my life.”
“In that case, perhaps we shall consider letting you live,” Saxen Barlow said, with a rapid movement he shifted his aim again and the bowstring thrummed deeply as the arrow leapt away.
It thudded into a crevice in the rocks just beside the gypsy’s head.
“You, on the other hand,” Saxen strode forward. “You I have no reason to let live.”
“Do not take another step, Thief lord, unless you want your back to become an arrow pincushion.”
I spun around at the voice. A dozen men dressed similarly to my ‘guard’ were standing in a threatening semicircle, bows drawn back.
Saxen Barlow froze, a hard glare fixed on the cliff face.
“If you wish to keep your life, drop your weapons on the ground and tell your men to do likewise,” one of the new comers spoke again, his accent the same as the gypsy leader’s.
After a furious hesitation, the Thief lord dropped his weapons to the ground. The other thieves paused and then threw down their bows and knives.
“Now step away from them.”
The thieves complied, their scowls enough to show their reluctance. The young man on one end of the semicircle, lowered his bow, slipping the arrow back into the quiver at his belt and then raced forward to collect the weapons.
I looked from the new archers to the Thieves as they waited sullenly for their next order. Too many things were happening at once and I couldn’t keep track of who the good guys were.
My rescuer, the gypsy leader, pushed away from the cliff, relief on his face. “Gracias mis amigos,” he said, slapping the young weapon collector on the back. “You came at a very fortunate moment.”
The leader of the archers lowered his bow with a nod. “We are glad ourselves, Hans Țigan.”
“Can someone explain?” I asked weakly.
“They’re here!” the shout from down the passageway we’d entered from made me jump.
Before I could move, one of the archers shot the Cleaver in the leg, sending him howling to the ground.
“Thieves,” Hans said, “We will leave you to deal with these invaders as you wish, but know that if you try to follow we will spare none of you.”
Turning back, he beckoned. “Come, follow me.”
Leonora pushed me gently forward. “You go first. Don’t worry, he’s a friend of ours. We’ve known Hans for years.”
I followed him wearily, in a daze as I tries to piece everything together. I sensed Leonora and Eumin close behind me and the low voices of the archers coming after them. The gypsy leader led us to a narrow crack in the rock, just wide enough to walk through sideways.
Clambering up blindly, I heard Eumin’s heavy breathing behind.
“Small spaces. I hate this,” he muttered, his foot slipping on a root.
At the top he scrambled out as fast as he could, taking deep breaths. I swayed slightly, my vision blurring for a moment. Eumin caught my arm. “Just hold on a little longer,” he said. “The gypsies will take us somewhere safe.”
Hans was talking in low voices to his men. They nodded agreement and he turned back to us. “Four of my men will stay here and watch the Thieves to make certain they will not follow, but we must hurry to be far away by dawn.”
“Louise isn’t going to be able to walk far,” Eumin said.
“She does not have to.” Hans gestured ahead, “We have horses just beyond the rise.”
“Oh good,” I said. And fainted.
1. A colourful fabric swayed before my eyes, red with gold swirls. I blinked and groaned. Where in the world was I?
2. We were still riding when I came to, held firmly in the saddle in front of Eumin. For a moment I relaxed, relieved that we’d escaped danger. Then Leonora spoke from somewhere nearby, “D’you think we’ve lost them yet?”
3. While I was unconscious, I dreamed…
The end was a bit odd in this one. Not even a cliffhanger really...I don't really know what happened there. Hopefully it's okay though. I'm just going to stop thinking about it because the longer I think about it, the more weird it sounds and the more I feel like I should write it again completely different.
So, Fair Winds!