Beatrix didn’t have as long as she would have hoped to enjoy her selfish romantic fantasy: Carla and Gideon returned the very next day, and with them came responsibility and duty, heavy as a worn cloak.
Beatrix was, as ever, practising with Keiran in the field, learning to predict what kind of moves he would make from the way he stood and how he held his sword, when Moll came running, her cheeks flushed and eyes bright.
‘They’re back!’ she shouted joyfully. ‘Gideon and Carla are back!’
Immediately, the Beatrix dropped her weapon and ran towards the camp. She marvelled at her own speed - just a week ago she’d been unable to run very far or fast at all, and now here she was keeping pace with Keiran, and it was Moll who was falling behind. In fairness to her, she had just run this distance only minutes before, but it made Beatrix feel confident and happy all the same.
Carla and Gideon had barely dismounted when Beatrix and Moll were upon them.
‘Carla!’ Beatrix shouted, leaping towards her friend and pulling her into a fierce hug.
‘You don’t know how I missed you!’
Once she’d got over her initial surprise at the vehemence of Beatrix’s emotions, Carla returned the embrace with as much joy. However, when Beatrix pulled away a moment later, she was all business.
Carla began to open her mouth to answer her mistress, but Keiran said: ‘Leave them, Beatrix - they’ve only just returned, and Carla must be tired.’
‘No! I have to know now. Everything depends on this information. Carla can rest later.’
Keiran frowned at her authoritative tone, but Carla said with a smile: ‘Don’t worry. I’m not tired. Really.’
‘Well, at least come inside,’ he motioned to his hut. ‘There you can sit and get warm. Moll, will you get some food, please?’
Moll unentangled herself from Gideon’s embrace and, with a wry look in his direction, disappeared.
Inside the hut, it really was much warmer, and everyone sat - save Beatrix, who hovered, impatient for information: ‘Now you can tell me.’