They travelled for two days, resting only for short periods of time in the day, and a light nap in the night.
Finally, they arrived at the outskirts of a small village.
“Is this it?” Layke asked.
“The village where my women are gathered? Yes.” Waiye peered around the bush that they were hiding behind. “There are only two sentries patrolling the village. We could sneak into it, but what’s the point? We want to present ourselves as friendly and harmless, not people wanting to start a revolution.”
It was the first time that Layke actually felt dangerous, like a bandit or outlaw.
“You follow me and pretend to be a servant. I’ll be your master.”
“You don’t look like a master,” Layke said, looking at her hunting garb. “Especially with those clothes on.”
“At least I’m not wearing my rags. And trust me, it’ll be fine,” Waiye said. She stood up, tucking her hunting knife into a hidden sheath in her belt that Layke hadn’t noticed before. She seemed impatient to go. “Come on. Act humble and duck your head. Never make eye contact with anyone. You know what to do.”
So I’ll just be acting as me going to the markets with my mother, then, Layke thought. Easy enough.
Waiye gestured for Layke to stand up, and he did. “Start acting now,” she whispered to him. Layke nodded, and cast his eyes down to the ground. Waiye moved off, striding forward purposefully as if she knew what she was doing. Layke followed behind her, keeping the distance between them even. Waiye strode up to the guards, smiling at them.
“Hello, there. Just getting this mangy mutt into the village,” Waiye said. Now Layke believed her when she had said that it would be fine. She’s a mighty fine actor, Layke thought, impressed. He hadn’t thought a mysterious forest girl like her could pretend to have so much authority.
“Alright, go through,” the guard said, signalling for her to go in. She went in before the guard could observe that she didn’t look very rich or important. As soon as she passed through the gates she stole to the side, hiding in the shadows.
Layke passed through after her, jumping when someone grabbed his elbow.
“It’s me,” Waiye whispered, and Layke’s muscles relaxed slightly. He turned, looking at her.
“Why did you have to do that? You scared me.”
“Sorry,” Waiye said, then put a finger to her lips. “Now just follow me and I’ll lead you to the women promised to our cause.”
Waiye quickly walked through the streets, barely waiting for Layke to catch up. When she finally did stop, it was in front of a stable that looked like it hadn’t been used in years, let alone ever have a horse occupy it.
“Shh, they’re in here.”
Layke’s eyes widened in surprise. “There?”
“Yes,” Waiye said, and pushed open the door.