Once the others had caught up, Quinn quickly outlined what had happened.
"Well at least we know it was Freedom Fighters." Larn said gruffly. "You see where they were headed kid?"
Quinn nodded, still obviously scared. I lowered my bow.
"Look, if you take us to them, we'll let you go." I said, taking pity on him. He turned to look at me and his eyes widened in recognition.
"Aimee?" he gasped. "What happened to you?"
I looked away. "Get moving." I replied harshly.
Quinn looked confused. Bran stepped forward. "You heard the lady." He said flatly, in his deep tone. He cracked his knuckles once to make a point. "You were mistaken."
I glanced at Talon, who hadn't said a word. He smiled once at me then followed Quinn, who was taking us back to the bodies. We got to the road again soon enough and when we broke out again, the bodies were not in sight. Quinn pointed to the road where track of a wagon could clearly be seen.
"They put Jarl in a cart and drove off." He said, not looking at me. His gaze settled on Alex, who appeared to be the least threatening. "Please help him."
"So, a good old cart-hunt then?" Talon grumbled. "I was hoping for something a little more challenging."
I lauged good-naturedly. "Yeah but theres a fight at the end of this remember?"
He grinned and winked at me. I turned to Quinn. "We'll go and if this Jarl is still alive, we'll bring him back to the village."
Quinn flashed a smile at me, clearly grateful. "I think there were a couple of houses that survived and I heard people nearby a couple of days ago."
Alex handed him some bandages and a pouch. "Use these if anyone is badly injured, but only where its life threatening- make sure everyone is clean and everything. Church people will be here in a day or two and help rebuild everything else."
Again, Quinn smiled his fragile smile. "Thank you."
I turned, following Talon who had begun to walk off. "Take care Quinn." I replied quietly, so no one else would hear.
The group fell into our normal marching pattern, Talon in the scrub and me in the trees, Larn and Bran either side of Alex, about ten second's run behind. The tracks took us to a camp, surrounded by oak trees. Earth ramparts about one and half times as high as a man surrounded the small camp and the wall was dotted by trees. A gate made of planks was shut and beyond it we could hear the sounds of people talking quietly, their metal armour clinking. Guards. Talon and I returned to the others, quickly telling them what we saw.
"Larn and Bran, if Talon fights with you, I can shoot in from one of the trees and draw them out. Alex, you can take my sword and fight with them."
"Seems like a good plan to me, Aimee." Alex replied, "Except I'll use my sword this time, I've been practicing and a lighter sword will put me off."
I laughed "Alright then Master Swordsman" I replied jokingly "Is everyone else okay with it?"
Everyone nodded in response.
"Semper fi." I said and ran off in the direction of the camp. Semper fi, meaning always faithful, was the code of out Hunter's group. It was a reminder to our faith as well as our bond with each other. As often as I had to work with others, these people were like a family to me. As I was to them. We had saved each other's lives so many times.
I selected a tree that allowed me to see into the camp easily. I took in the cart, lying half empty in the centre; and nearby to a low, roughly built building, a cage. I could just make out a boy lying in there. He was pale, gangly, with dirty brown hair. He was dressed only in rags. I tore my gaze away, seeing a Freedom Fighter guard close by. Time to get to work. Silently, I loosed a volley of arrows. The sunlight flashed on their swords and metal armour, making them easy targets. Yells quickly went up as many of the Fighters fell. I pushed the thought of their deaths aside, the thought of the charred village keeping my hatred of killing at bay as it would always.
A flash at the ramparts below me caught my eye. The boy who had been in the cage was climbing over, using the confusion to break away. He wore the black tunic of the other fighters. I let an arrow fly and cursed at it missed his ear by a hair's breadth. His green eyes flashed a cheeky wink at me as he slid the rest of the way over. I let another arrow fly, but he had already disappeared. I threw him from my mind again, focusing on the main battle, until I heard a familiar voice yelling in pain close by.
"Alex!" I yelled back, quickly leaving the tree. The others had surrounded the remaining Freedom Fighters. Shortly after, I could hear them following me. I tracked Alex to a clearing not too far away. He was unconcious, barely breathing and bleeding heavily from a deep wound to his calf. It looked as though he had been robbed as well. Talon broke out of the scrub, quickly followed by the others, who cursed in unison.
"Do what you can okay? I'm going after whoever did this." I said, after checking his pulse.
"I'm going with you." Talon said instantly. I nodded, picking up tracks headed towards the coast. They looked like only one person, light and running. "This way." I replied, running to follow them, pushing my worry for Alex to the back of my mind. I had seen wounds like that before. I knew very few people who had survived them. If it wasn't the shock, bloodloss usually killed them. Not to mention the fact that Alex had a nasty cut on his head and was already unconcious. It didn't look like he would make it and if he did, his career as an active Hunter would be over.
The image of the dirty-haired boy I had missed rose in my mind's eye. I swore that if these tracks belonged to him, he would pay dearly for what he did to Alex.