Helena pulled a short blade from the throat of a deer carcase. Her breath was heavy and her brow was coated in a film of sweat. The animal had made her work for her meal today. She slumped heavily against the still-warm body of the animal and patted it unsympathetically as it bled out.
The forest was relatively sparse; the density of trees around her made it seem very little like a forest and more like a large space with a few big trees in it. The canopy of leaves however, was extensive. It was much like a large leafy hall supported by a small collection of wooden pillars.
Helena collected a handful of leaves and wiped the ruby blade of her dagger.
As the day passed night begun closing in and torches were lit in a nearby village; the perimeter of their little hamlet was aflame, warding off any “dark spirits” of the forest. Helena had created a small, concealed fire of her own during the daytime. A collection of flint rock piled carefully had acted with the dual purpose of a wind block and to prevent attracting the attention of villagers. Helena had cooked one leg of the deer and with great difficulty had hung the rest of the skinned animal from a tree. Even she admitted that it looked disgusting, but she couldn’t risk losing her kill to wolves.
Now, she sat in the treeline, curled up tight to retain body heat and to conceal her presence.
The night pressed on and the quiet flicker of internal candle light diminished. Slowly but surely, the village slept. Helena surveyed the scene, only the guard at a central watch tower remained.
Her arm pulsed briefly. Despite her filling leg of deer earlier on, her energy was lacking. She needed liquid and hadn’t passed a stream in the last two days.
She broke from cover and darted silently, diving between two torches at the village edge to reduce visibility. She rolled and elegantly segued back into a run. She found hiding spots behind piles of hay and small barns. As she passed the hay she grabbed a handful and stuffed it into her dirty jean pockets.
Her target wasn’t far now.
Now, deep in the village, shadows gave her cover and she was easily out of sight of the watch tower. It was just important she remained quiet. With ease she made her way into the central collection of buildings, all wooden and rustic looking. She approached one building in particular – the supplies barn.
When Helena had arrived near the village early that morning she had watched from a far as people carried wooden crates of dark green bottles, bags of seeds, fruits and animal skins into this building. Cold, hungry and thirsty, Helena devised a plan.
Shoulder pressed against the large wooden door, Helena barged sharply, twice. Her muscle was just enough to splinter the old rotting wood and grant her access to the barn.
Inside it was intensely dark and the moonlight provided very little light through the broken door.
She produced the wad of hay and two small pieces of flint that she had taken from the fire-wall and began knocking them together as quietly, but effectively as possible. Glimmers of sparks ignited, but it wasn’t as easy as she thought it might be.
Eventually the hay smouldered and smoked. She blew at the little embers to ignite the flames. As a little light afforded her some visibility she grabbed other bits and pieces from around her to stoke the fire further, granting her more time to survey the barn.
Once the fire was burning adequately to allow her time, Helena perused the goods. She wrapped a sheepskin around her shoulders, found some soft, suede boots and other clothing that was infinitely warmer than her jeans and thin faux-leather jacket. These clothes were also far more discreet.
Spotting the food and drink, Helena emptied a rope sack of seeds and filled it with a few bottles of some miscellaneous drink and food items. Sensing she was running out of time, she kicked the fire at the walls of the barn, which began to ignite. She approached the door, ready to return to the forest and continue her journey.
Moonlight cast a silhouette of a huge figure in the threshold. He blocked her exit route.
“Did you really think you’d gone unnoticed?”