“You are a plague upon my family’s name, a skin-eating disease that will destroy our honour!”
Kiara stared, mind numbed. So this was him.
“I don’t know how that wench had the nerve,” he continued, eyes ablaze, “To besmirch the noble Connelly’s, to commit such a sin.”
Struggling in the guard’s grip, Kiara returned the man’s look of hatred, blue eyes cold.
“You used her, you stepped on her and threw her away, made her life a living hell!”
Henry only chuckled, nodding at the guard for him to tighten his grip.
“I don’t see why it makes the slightest difference to you. I may have married her for the dowry, but Lynne abandoned you out of fear and cowardice.”
Anger and pain welling up inside her at the sound of the name, Kiara finally wrenched free of the hold, easily disarming the guard and holding the blade at Henry, tip touching his neck.
“Don’t you dare speak her name, you garbage,” she began, voice dangerously low, “She was my mother. And you, you...”
Kiara trailed off at the sight of approaching men, pointing the sword at him one last, reluctant time.
“This isn’t over.” she’d muttered, smouldering as she ran in the opposite direction.
Connelly had chuckled again, voice just audible over the pattering of the rain.
“Far from it, dear. Far from it.”
The sound of a young girl’s scream startled Kiara from her reminiscing but, realizing it was no imminent threat, continued whittling away at a chunk of wood with a paring knife. She would’ve been talking with the others, or at least sampling the greenish soup by the fire, but her appetite for both was dashed. It had been merely hours ago that a thought had suddenly come to her, just as she downed another man by the village of Hamish.
How many had she killed?
Fingers carving quicker and eyes absorbed in the grass, Kiara tried to push the question from her mind. After all, it was what she had done for years now, shoved away the regret and confusion. She was on the right side, each kill for the good of others. It was odd, though, that it felt otherwise. As it always had.
Sighing, Kiara pulled herself from her thoughts and stood, looking briefly at the wood in her hands and, realizing that it was in the likeness of nothing whatsoever, let it drop to the dirt, crushing it beneath a booted foot. Sentiments were for fools. Strategy was the way of the world.
Kiara grabbed her crossbow from the ground, fingers lingering over the crest engraved on it, and slipped into the woods, eager for some target practice.
A few minutes and she was deep into the forest, the sights and smells of the camp far behind her. Blindfolded and back turned to the bait, a small smile found its way to Kiara’s lips. A tiny splash behind her made her whirl, raising the weapon, and let a bolt fly. One strangled quack. The flutter of feathers made her fling a slim knife from her sleeve, a loud scampering a second drawn quickly from her belt. Pulling the blind from her eyes, Kiara surveyed her game. Two ducks and a squirrel. Not bad, considering it had only taken a mouldy crust of bread. Gathering the animals, Kiara tied them together and let them hang from her belt, hoping to squeeze in a bit more hunting before dawn.
The sound of horses’ hooves rang suddenly through the forest, the loud clomping of a clumsy mount. The Hawks were much too wary for that kind of idiotic movement; it was no doubt some other traveller. Pulling the hood down over her wheat-gold tousles, Kiara muttered a few obscenities before crouching and walking stealthily amid the trees, realizing that the horse was directly between her and the campsite. She considered giving it a wide berth and swerving back around to get to the camp but, deciding against it, headed straight for the sound. She had wanted to hunt, after all.
Kiara would allow an ordinary peasant passage, and maybe even give them the spoils of her hunt, but if one of the Sheriff's men...she would give them the spoils of her whip. The bastards deserved it.
The moonlight filtered through the trees, bathing the entire forest in silver. The occasional hooting of an owl or the chirping of crickets were the only noises; the horse had long stopped its clomping.
Kiara had just been considering returning to camp when she caught a glimpse of a horse’s flank and scanned her surroundings, amazed not to find any sign of a human. Surprised and starting to feel a sense of sneaking suspicion, she pulled the hood lower and continued through the forest, eager to report back to the Night Hawks.
An arm hooked around her neck, pulling her into a mugger's choke.
"Got you." a menacing voice said, clearly amused.
Slipping the dagger from her sleeve, Kiara scowled.
"You sure about that?"