I spotted the two conspirators heading back into camp together, both grinning like idiots. The rest of Kate's "party" had already snuck into camp, all three holding large bags of gold stamped with the Sheriff's seal. Kate and Greiver hadn't come back yet, and I sighed when I heard their soft footsteps on the fallen leaves, Kate's light, stealthy ones, and Griever's heavier steps. I dropped down and whisked my bow across their throats, stopping them short. In high tension situations a bowstring could easily feel like a sword's blade.
"Where have you two lovebirds been?" I asked, not exactly innocently.
Kate's knife was out of her belt before she knew it was me. "Damn it Jem! What the hell are you doing?"
Several replies shot through my head as I slung my bow over my shoulder. "You first."
"We went to blow off a little bit of steam." Kate replied nonchalantly. "What's the big deal?"
"I'm gonna let you girls talk,"Griever muttered, trying to take a step back very slowly.
"Hold it right there, Griever," I said, not looking at him. "Blowing off a little steam, huh? You call raiding the Marshall's manor 'blowing off a little steam'?!" I struggled to keep my voice down, it was late and sound traveled well in the night air.
Oh for god's sake Jem, who'd you wrangle that out of? Yes fine, we went to the manor and we got some of his cash. What's the problem? We have more money to give to the villagers and he has less to pay the guards that harrass them.
I didnt explain how I found out, but plowed on with the second question. "The problem is that the midsummer festival is only a few nights away now, and your reckless behavior could have endangered that plan."
"Do you have any idea how boring it is being stuck in there? I had to do something, I was going mad."
I was distracted momentarily by Griever trying to slip away again. "We've all been stuck here, Kate." I said, swinging my bow off my shoulder to rap sharply on Griever's upper thigh. "And you, what excuses do you have, Griever? I thought you were a highly disciplined soldier"
Griever rubbed his leg and looked at me sheepishly. "Me? A soldier? No, never stupid enough as that. Try a mercenary, I guess. As for excuses.... Um." He laughed guiltily.
"I wish I could punish you by preventing you from coming to the ball midsummer's eve, but I know how that would turn out." I shook my head and muttered to myself, "Why do I always have to be the grown up around here?" Out loud I continued, considering the discipline. "So, Griever, Kate, as punishment I'm putting you on the sewing lines. We need costumes for the ball, especially those stationed at the party, I'm assigning you two for the team to make them. Dont mess up." Without waiting for a reaction, I started heading back to camp. I was tired and just wanted to go to sleep.
"B-but I can't sew!" Griever protested behind me. "Seriously, unless it's courting or fighting, I am useless" He added more quietly, talking to Kate now.
"You'd better be a fast learner," I called over my shoulder, then added to myself, "Men."
"Jem!" Kate ran up behind me. "You can't punish me for this. We did good. And I'm not standing by and just doing what you say. "
"Kate!" I spun to face her, then sighed. "What am I supposed to do? You're supposed to be our leader, and you off and disappear, and put yourself and several nighthawks in danger for your own personal entertainment. Yes, you got money to give to the people, but at what cost? Now the Marshal and the Sheriff will be on their guard for Midsummer's eve, they might even be expecting us. They could ambush us during the mission that night, all because you were bored."
Kate wasnt thinking straight, something had prevented her from thinking about the consequences of antagonizing the Marshal further. We needed to think about the long run of things, we didnt know when the king would be coming back from the Crusades, we didnt know how long the Marshall and the Sheriff would be in power. We couldn't afford to do things that could end up costing lives, either Night Hawk lives or Civilian lives. Why couldnt she see that what she'd done tonight had put us all in danger?