Suddenly one-minded, all eight members of the makeshift covey simultaneously turned tail. As one unit they swam through the swarm of festival participants, shoving individuals old and young out of the way with half-hearted apologies. The Marcelian guards charged after the group like a pack of wolves on the hunt. In fact, Hataru could have sworn that she’d heard one of them growl when she dove out of the way to evade the capture of his colossal, gloved hands. These men were the flawless incarnation of their country’s beastly emblem.
Further ahead, the prince and the pirate led their conjoined band of escapees deeper into the crowds. To the naked eye, they both appeared to act as one. Years of training and leadership provided them with the knowledge they required to become a dangerous duo of skill and steel. Whenever an obstacle crossed one man’s path, the other was there to provide him aid, executing each maneuver as if it had been rehearsed. However, despite this bond of adeptness, the air between the two was tense and sparked with electricity as they ran, altering their flight for freedom into a foot race of prideful rage. What seemed to be a fellowship between two warriors, was quite the opposite ─ a private battle in which no one else was allowed to interfere.
“Tell me, you thieving rat, what did you have to go through to steal away the young miss? Did you swipe her right out from under her father’s nose? Or did you kill him first and then take her?” Tarin hissed through his teeth, as he knelt so the captain could use his knee as a foothold to front-flip over a couple of free-roaming hogs.
“Oh no, I just stole his jewels and took her as an after thought.” Using his claws, he slashed through a pair of ropes that bound a cartload of wine kegs, sending the barrels rolling into one of the wolfish guards that was still in their pursuit. “But as a pompous patriarch, you should understand such things. Taking what isn’t yours is as second nature to your kind as it is to mine.”
The crown prince frowned, “Not all royals are the same.” Luring two more guards away from Levi, the prince scaled a nearby construction ladder that had been left leaning against a wall. When he reached the top, Tarin fearlessly leapt into the air, his arms stretched far above his head.
The pirate was ready. Beads of sweat streaming from his bearded chin to his brow, he hung upside-down from a flagpole like a circus acrobat and caught the prince with his hand and claw, swinging them both safely to the ground. “Neither are all pirates.”