We spent days and days training. Ali went off on her own less in the forest, but she didn't come to visit Griever as often, either. Which was an oddity, considering that Griever was her favorite of any Hawk that she knew. I wasn't too concerned about it, though. Everyone was focused on building up strength and agility right now, myself included. Griever was getting better and better each day, Kate's feet becoming less sensitive. They were commended for doing so well, as we all were. The men of the Night Hawks, especially. It seemed as though they all had their own little flock of girls running after them from time to time.
That wasn't all that I observed, however. It was beginning to become apparent that Kate had her own apprentice– the very man that we all loathed. Used to, at least. As I sat on a cut-down tree used as a bench and waited for my turn to train one day, I pondered the situation. Where did all that go? I mused to myself. Wasn't it so short ago that we were at each other's throats, literally? And even more of a queer notion: Was Kate actually falling for Twynam? It felt preposterous to me, but at the same time, somehow, it seemed. . . poetically correct. As if justified by irony, they played as a fine couple in the grand scheme of our rivalry.
"Hey," a girl said to me, "are you up next for the archery practice?"
I nodded. "Aye, it's my turn next." She smiled politely and handed me the bow and a quiver of arrows. I laid the quiver down and took an arrow out, nocking it onto the bow. I then drew back and focused intently on the wooden target that was set a few yards away. All right, I thought to myself, concentrate. Concentrate. I closed my eyes, breathed in slowly and deeply, then let go of the arrow.
One second passed. Two. When I opened my eyes, I saw people gaping at where my arrow had hit– it went through the bull's eye and stuck into the tree that it was hanging on. I was astounded; so astounded, in fact, that I accidentally dropped my bow.
Kiara came over to me and whistled. "Great job, Norida! That's the best one yet." I couldn't help but glow with pride. She was right– that was the best shot I'd ever done. I was beaming with joy.
A week passed, then a fortnight. Into the second week, the Marshall's soldiers had started to train with us. It was odd, practicing with the people whom we used to fight against. But I suppose it was a bit of a bonding period. Jem was one of the first to break the ice, what with that joke about dogs and all. Although it was supposed to be a warning, it was taken more as a welcoming to jokes. Griever was the next to loosen up the soldiers by having them in stitches with his exaggerated tales.
Marshall Twynam never ceased his quest to catch Kate's eye. He even tried impressing her once by trying to hit a bull's eye on a target by flinging his dagger and ended up almost chopping a man's head off. Oh, how Kate got a kick out of that.
It was nice, having this time with the soldiers and villagers in an atmosphere of peace. That is, until it happened.
One day, as we were bringing the last few things of our camp back to the town, something caught my attention– it was a queer scent, but familiar, all the same. Setting a crate of sewing materials down on the ground, I walked cautiously to the edge of our old camp, where the forest began. That's when I saw them. Three or four large wolves with glowing yellow eyes crouched and stayed low to the ground, as if they were preparing to attack something. And, with a quickening of my heart, I realized that thing was me.
I turned and ran, calling out to someone, "Be quick back to the village! Don't linger in the trees!"
A man heard me and alerted the others. Together, we ensured that everyone was on their way back to the make-shift huts in the town. Once everyone was away, the man said, "You go, m'lady. I shall handle the Fae."
I turned to him. "But what'll you–"
"Not to worry, miss. I'll ensure that they don't catch wind of the village. Go!" He gave me a good nudge and I was off, hurriedly catching up with the other ladies.
A few minutes later, I heard something in the distance; something so far away that even I could just make out the sound. It was that man. He was injured, as it sounded. We had just arrived at the township when I abruptly turned around and went back, against my better judgement.
When I got there, I saw the man lying on the ground, unconscious. Suddenly, I was struck in the side with a large piece of wood.
"Ungh," I moaned, gripping my side. The boy who had hit me snickered and tossed the wood to the ground.
"Awe, what's a matter, girlie?" a voice said behind me. I whirled around to find none other than that same wolf boy that led the group which had captured Dreda. The boy that I had challenged the last time we met.
Scowling at the Fae as they surrounded me, I mentally kicked myself. Great, what do I do now?