Sadly, it wasn't too hard to get the Sheriff's permission for me to take a contingent of soldiers to bunk with the Hawks. I told him I had a plan to stakeout the forest, spend multiple days, even weeks there, and I assured him that he wouldn't see hide nor hair of the vicious criminals while I was gone.
As long as the Hawks cooperated with that, not only would I be eliminating a threat to the town, but I'd be gaining favor both with the Hawks, and the Sheriff, which seemed like a good position to be in. However, it was my understanding that this little alliance would be lasting only as long as it took to rid the forest of the fae, and then we would be at each other's throats again.
Which, in light of the other evening, was a terrible position to be in. It wouldn't matter what I did then, I'd be upsetting one or both of the only two in the world that I didn't want to upset.
But I'd cross that bridge when I came to it right? Or maybe I'd get lucky, and that decision would no longer be mine to make, but my successor's, if you catch my meaning.
I was forced to return to the present when Jem, who I was now seeing more of while subsequently seeing less of Kate, stopped me.
"I'm sorry Marshall, but your dogs are going to have to curl up somewhere else," she said, motioning to the soldiers I had brought.
Before I could stop him, one of the soldiers stepped forward with a howl and addressed Jem, "I'll be a dog, so long as you can be my bit-"
Before he reached the end of his sentence, Jem took a step forward as well and kneed him in the groin.
"Say it again and I'll treat you like the dog you are and neuter you myself." Jem glanced at me, "When he gets up you can thank him for making my point for me." And she turned and stalked away.
I turned to my men, some of whom were now laughing at their fallen compatriot while others stared at Jem's retreating from as if still trying to comprehend what had just happened.
"I recommend you keep your distance from them men, especially that one," I suggested, with a head flick at Jem.
"Or the brown haired one that the Marshall's trying to..." the jovial look on my face turned into a glare instantaneously, and the man hesitated, "trying to...uh... catch. For the Sheriff... to uh... stop the... bandits."
"Go find a place a to set up camp," I said, turning away, only to be apprehended by the Captain.
"Where are you going sir?"
"To look into a few other matters. Specifically how and where they want the men to train. We're going to have to adapt in order to fight these monstrosities."
The Captain nodded and I went on my way, looking to speak to Jem, but also keeping an eye out for-
Her shoulders slumped, like she had been hoping that I wouldn't notice.
Not very encouraging.
My pace quickened so I could catch up to her as she continued to move along.
"I was hoping I'd run into yo-"
Kate stopped abruptly, and I crashed into her before I could do anything.
"Glad I could make your day Marshall. Goodbye."
I blinked as her walk turned into a jog, and decided to leave it be. For now.
"Just as smooth as your men aren't you Twynam?" came a gruff voice.
Turning, I came face to face with the man who had almost killed me after my hesitation during the hanging. I stepped back quickly and my hand flew to my sword on reflex.
"Well it appears that you remember me" he said dryly, "But I'm afraid finishing what we started will have to wait." He gestured to the sling that was wrapped around his right arm.
"Ah, right... I don't believe we've met. Formally."
The man laughed, "No we haven't. Name's Griever."
"Yeah I know who you are," the man's visage suddenly turned sour, "And I know what you've done, and I'm just going to propose that you try to not do it. now, anything I can help you with?"
Slightly taken aback, I hesitated a moment before speaking.
"Well... I'm looking for Jem."
I spun to find that she was behind me, a smirk on her face. I was out of my element here and they knew it.
"My men will need places to train. Do you have anything set up?"
Jem brought a hand to her chin and thought for a moment.
"Not yet. We're still in the process of moving a few things from our camp in the forest. We'll be sure to set it up in between our sides so that we all can use it."
I nodded. "Excellent."
Time to leave. Quickly.
The Hawks were true to their word, and had a training area set up within the next few days. I continued to see Kate, and she continued to avoid me, no matter what I said. Watching my men, and the hawks, train had got me thinking about my own abilities and I realized that it had been almost ten years since I had fired a bow. Waiting until almost everyone had gone to sleep, I snuck out to the training area and picked up a bow, hefting it, and gave the string a few test pulls.
Then I pulled a few arrow from the targets and stuck them in ground in front me. Taking a stance, I nocked an arrow, drew it back, and fired.
And missed the target completely.
And heard laughter to my right. Familiar laughter.
Kate was sitting a few yards away, nearly hidden in the shadow of a tree, fletching arrows.
"Better hope they send a few hundred fae at us Corin, else you won't anything!" she mocked.
I was now wrestling with my anger, something I hadn't had to do in a while. I hated failing.
Especially when other people saw it.
"If you aren't going to say anything useful Hawk then keep your mouth shut." I said, perhaps a little colder than I would have liked.
I pulled another arrow from the ground, drew it back, and fired. Another miss.
And more, muffled laughter.
"Here's something useful for you Corin, put the bow down before you hurt yourself."
"You know, I don't know that I've ever actually seen you fire a bow Kate. I've seen your friends do it, even that demon child use a sling, but not you. Probably aren't so good yourse-"
I nocked an arrow and turned to aim at Kate, who was back to carving with her knife.
"Very threatening Corin. I might be scared if I knew you could hit a tree at two feet-"
Tossing the arrow down, I drew my dagger and whipped it in Kate's direction. It stuck in the tree she was leaning against, not two inches from her head.
She stopped talking.
Giving myself one more try to at least hit the target, I drew an arrow back slowly, and fired.
I threw the bow down and began to stomp off towards our camp.
I looked up to see that an arrow was lodged in the branch just above my head.
"Come back here Corin. Maybe you'll learn a thing or two, if you can stomach the thought."
I stopped, and really had to think about it. It wasn't so much the thought of learning, even from Kate, but the fact that I knew she make it insufferable, and I didn't want to lash out.
In the end though I decided I would take my chances.
"Alright Twynam, feet apart, turn at the waist, good good, your stance is fine. Now draw an arrow but don't release it."
"Hm. That's part of the problem. Now release."
"And there's the other part."
"How helpful. You should have become a teacher Kate."
Still using her knife to fiddle with some unfinished arrows, Kate rolled her eyes.
"Raise your elbow higher when you draw, and time your release for you exhale. It'll keep you more stable. Now try again."
I plucked another arrow from the ground and drew, making the adjustments. I fired again, and missed yet again.
"Well you didn't do quite so horrendously that time" Kate commented. "Now draw again and hold."
Sighing in frustration I did as she asked. Setting her knife aside, she came up behind me and adjusted my arm.
"Feel that?" she asked.
"Memorize it" she commanded, still standing directly behind me.
It wasn't a bullseye, but it had hit the target. I turned to thank Kate, but she was already walking away.
"Good. Now keep practicing."