I looked at her from the corner of my eye. She was skipping, humming some sick little happy tune. I'd heard her singing the lyrics earlier-- it said something about chopping and tearing things apart. Earlier, when Kate had given us the task of keeping guard for tonight's raid, I had smiled. It was a facade, however. I didn't want to make anyone any more suspicious than they had to be. Besides, the girl had been smiling, too. If she seemed happy, how could I not? I've not an idea why, but I suppose it just felt wrong to me, not showing my gratitude of them letting me stay with them. Especially in front of their leader. At the moment, I had two orders-- one was officially given, and one was not. I was deemed by Kate that I was to stay keen and alert the raiders if I saw any unusual activity. The task I'd given myself was to keep an eye on the girl, as well as our surroundings. With my feline-sharp eyes, I was able to maintain these two things easily. I burdened myself with this assignment because I didn't trust her. Not one bit, after I'd seen those deer in that camp. There had been an up side to my finding; we had an abundance of deer meat for dinner. Now though, the girl looked suddenly malicious and calculating in the dim light of the lanterns. It was the middle of the night and the other women in the troop were loading goods into a cart. This was different from other missions, as this one had been of specific need. The villagers' rations were beginning to dwindle, or so I'd heard, because the Sheriff's supplies were stolen by some mysterious thieving group. Wonder who those rascals could be, I thought to myself mockingly. That angered me, though. Because the Marshall's feathers got ruffled, the town villagers had to pay for it by famine. My hands balled up into fists.
"Hey you, Norida!" someone whispered, loudly enough for me to hear.
My pondering ceased as my mind snapped back to the present. "Yes?"
The person gestured for me to come forth, so I moved a bit closer, yet still not enough for me to lose sight of the street around the corner. It was Kiara. She was dressed in a long, tattered dress, like the ones peasants wore. It reminded me of the villager-type cloth that I, too, had to wear. Concealing our identities was vital at the moment. Knealing down so I would match her crouched stance, I nodded.
"We're all done with this block of houses. There are guards soon hence, however, so we must travel by rooftop. Can you do this?"
"Aye, without a doubt. As a child, I was partial to climbing."
She nodded in approval. "Good. We'll be heading that way," --she pointed in southeastern direction-- "so we'll be getting close to the Marshall's territory. Move with stealth, as he might be wandering these blocks." I made an acknowledging sound and stood up from my crouch. After a few more moments, Kiara gave the signal for us to proceed. Without a second ponder, I used a drain pipe that was hanging down from the building's roof to slide my way up and onto the top of the house. Kiara bounded up soon after me, followed by the little girl and the rest of the troop. Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, we quickly made our way to the next two streets.
When we got there, I murmured to Kiara, "I'd have a better seeing stance from above, so I'll stay up here."
"Aye," she agreed, "just don't stay too outstanding. There might be someone else lurking, and we wouldn't want them to see an odd-looking girl out past curfew." I nodded to show that I understood.
So for the rest of our deliverance mission, I kept watch on the streets and the girl. Some time later in our trek through the town, she told me her name. Ali, she said it was. Not that I asked for it. I suppose she must've seen the question in my eyes and given an answer-- a very straightforward girl, that Ali. As the night went on, she seemed to become less of a potential threat and more of just a strange child that likes to hurt things. Unstable, maybe, but not deliberately harmful in the least.
I was brought back from my thoughts when my eyes caught a stirring across the intersecting street. A small gesture, sure, but a movement all the same. Quickly and quietly, I crossed over to the roof above the doorstep where Kiara was placing a basket full of rice and whatnot.
I waved down at her. "Kiara, someone's coming!"
Looking up at me in alarm, she asked, "Do you know whom it could be? Surely not a villager at this hour."
I shook my head. "No, it couldn't be. From reports, it seems that their all too afraid of the Marshall to dare disobey the curfew."
"Alright, I'll gather the crew. Stay on watch and make sure we are not seen."
"Aye," I said before going back to my original position. From my post, I could see the figure again. It was a man, and he was injured. There was an arrow in his shoulder. It took me a moment to recognize him, but when I did, my eyes widened and turned misty. Against my will, tears streamed down my face. That man, I thought with sorrow, is Corin Twynam.
"Hey, it's Marshall Twynam," Ali said excitedly, sitting next to me. Her words only deepened my depression, causing me to choke back a pitiful whimper. He was the man who had ordered the bandit raid on my village. He was the one who ordered the men to kill my mother. He was the one who -- though indirectly -- ruined my life. He was the reason I was an orphan. And now he was trying to turn more innocent children into orphans as well. Hate and despair mangled and twisted themselves into one big lump in my throat. As much as I wanted to, I knew I couldn't go up to him and kill him. Doing such a thing would reveal the Night Hawks and their current operation. He was injured anyway, so it wouldn't be a fair fight. Apart from that, Jem still had my sword under lock and key. Sighing and wiping the tears away, I hurried back to where Kiara was checking everyone's attendance.
"Kiara," I whispered, "it's Twynam."
That stopped her in her tracks. "He's here?" She cursed under her breath.
After pondering it for a moment, I said in the bravest voice I could manage, "I'll lead him away while you finish your job here and get out."
She turned to look at me. "You can't do that. What if he catches you? What would we--"
"I can handle it, Kiara. I suppose you'll just have to trust me. If he does catch me, I'll find a way out. It'll be fine, I promise." She looked at me for a minute, her face contorted in doubt and concern, before she finally spoke.
"All right, but be careful."
She turned back to her previous task as I jumped down from the roof and started towards the retched man, my hands balled into fists again. As I came with a few yards from him, I stopped.
"Hey, Twynam!" I called.
Looking up from his wound, he asked, "Who be out this far after curfew? You shall be punished!"