Filthy raiders, in my town. I was less than pleased by this predicament. They may have claimed that they would pay for everything, but I didn't trust them. Regardless of whether they'd pay us or not, they would still deplete our stocks. Its not like the ships came in with fresh supplies anymore. That all ended when the adults went away for war. I walked down the street to a grouping of my finest men who were holding torches aloft, murmuring to one another about the raiders.

"Gentlemen, would you please escort me back to my home? The streets are dark and I don't trust the men who have just arrived,"

Norrin, the eldest of the group, stepped forward. His fourteen year old face was lit by the torch he held in such a way that he appeared much older than he was. His eyes were shadows that danced with flickers of light.

"Of course, ma'am," He nodded to the others who formed a protective circle around me. I couldn't see their faces in the dark, but I knew them by their behavior and the quiet murmur of their voices.

To my left was Jackobi, a usually shy boy of about nine. He was a head shorter than I was with a mop of blonde hair. I could just barely see his blue eyes darting about in the dark, searching for the raiders. His hands clutched the torch, holding it high above his head as though he were afraid of the flame it bore. On the other side of me was Dixon, thirteen years old and unusually tall for his age. I could see him flick his brown bangs out of his eyes. All the boys hair was far too long for their mothers were no longer here to cut it for them. Some had found that by twisting the ends as tight as possible and yanking they could get some of it off but it resulted in a messy hairstyle that was as ugly as sin.

Norrin led the way, ushering the others to follow. Someone was behind me, I could sense them, but I didn't turn around to see who it was.

The village was quiet except for the sounds of small children wandering about their homes, unable to sleep. Candlelight flickered in the windows, faces peering out through the curtains to see who was wandering the streets. The bar was open, as usual, young boys purging themselves of all sanity inside. The alchohol and other poisons had been fair game since the adults left. I didn't have the heart to take their sustenance from them. I went their myself from time to time to drown my sorrows.

I could hear the smash of breaking glass inside. I held up a hand, signalling my part to halt. Norrin turned to face me, "It's probably just some Elders mucking about," He reassured me. Elders were what we called the oldest of us. I was the eldest of the village, and those who were a year or two younger than I were referred to as Elders.

I shook my head firmly, standing on tiptoe to see over Dixon. Through the window of the bar, I could see someone wrestling with someone else, hollering and shouting for all they were worth. The spun away from the window, out of my sight.

"Somethings wrong," I whispered, listening intently to the sounds of panicked screams coming from inside.

The door to the bar burst open and the two boys tumbled out, grappling with one another.

Dixon stepped forward, "Hey! Break it up you dogs!" He pulled one of them up off the other, holding the torch up to see who it was. Dixon gasped and backed away, releasing his hold on the boy's jacket. I realized why he was so afraid. None of us recognized him.

"Raider," I growled, stepping forward, out of the circle of boys. I withdrew my knife from my belt and held it front of me, "Leave this place and take your associates with you,"

The boy staggered around for a moment before finding purchase on the dirt road. He wiped a string of blood from his face and flicked it off his hand onto the ground, "There's just one problem with that,"

He stepped forward and deftly slapped me across the face. I was shocked that he would dare strike a woman. After my shock faded, I found that rage had taken its place. "Big mistake," I growled, lunging forward.

Dixon dropped his torch. It sputtered and went out, a trail of smoke drifting into the air. Jackobi and Norrin did the same, whooping battle cries as they struck the raider, angry that he had hurt their leader.

Dixon and the unknown boy who had been behind me, Alrek, swung their torches at two more raiders who had appeared out of the darkness.

I slashed the arm of the fourth raider who had attempted to grab my chest. Ruffians. A spray of blood came forth from where I had cut him. He howled and backed away, clutching his wound. I grinned in spite of myself, whirling around to slice the next raider.

Their mysterious leader, who had not identified himself to me before, stepped out of the alleyway across the street followed by two more of his men.

"What in the name of all things holy is going on here?" He demanded. The four attacking raiders stopped for a moment to stare at him, before taking up their ambush upon us once more.

Their leader dove into the fray, pummeling them away from me.

"I don't know what you think you're doing Paul!" He growled, holding the smallish boy up in front of him. He kicked and squirmed but could not escape his leaders grasp.

The meelee died away, all eyes turning to the dark red haired boy who held the much smaller boy aloft.

Paul licked his lips, and an impish smile spread across them, "We aint your men no more Icewalker,"  Icewalker unceremoniously dropped Paul who landed in a crumpled heap at his feet.

"Traitors," He snarled, turning his eyes upon every one of them.

I had a feeling this fight was far from over.


The End

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