Inheritance: Part Six
Mabelle peered through the trees, squinting her eyes as she looked into the darkness. She was on the ground, though she could hear the beat of hooves coming from the Unis and the rustling of branches as they brushed by branches and ferns. She could see a bright, orange glow from far off, and it gave them just enough light to go on. Theo and the Ambassador were nearby, though where they were precisely the Ixi could only give a vague guess.
She paused for a moment, shuddering, then stepped forward, trying to move as quietly as she possibly could in such unfamiliar territory. They didn’t exactly know who it was that the fire belonged to, and if they could just get close enough without alerting any possible sentries, they would be able to tell. Mabelle was supposed to stay as far away as possible, but she didn’t think that was wise. After all, what if the sentries were the ones that walked around, never staying in one place for very long?
Her companions had gone to scout the area out, and she knew they expected her to be in the spot they had left her in, so she rotated around the vicinity in a wide circle. When they returned, they’d find her sooner or later. Probably the former, as she wasn’t very deft.
“We’d best turn left now, miss,” said Frederick. “I’m getting a nervous feeling.”
The Ixi nodded, forgetting that he probably couldn’t see the motion, and changed her direction.
All of a sudden, a solid thud reached her ears, and Alan started to shout an alarm. Automatically, Mabelle ducked. She knew the two had been trained to fight in battle, and even though the woods restricted their movements, their built-in weaponry was still incredibly deadly. She darted as fast as she could toward the nearest piece of cover, holding both of her arms out. Even if her wrist was injured, she could still use the rest of her arm in bracing herself in case she fell.
More voices broke out into the darkness, and it was at that point that she realized she didn’t recognize any of them. If anything, that was worse. For all they knew, they could have stumbled into a thieves’ camp. She grabbed the knife that had been hidden in her belt and held it, just in case.
Where were Theo and the Ambassador? Had they already been caught? Was this why she and the Unis had been ambushed? Her heart pounded as she slid down a steep embankment. She paused for a moment, and looked up. Against the small bit of starry sky she glimpsed, she could make out the edge of the ground. It sounded as if nobody were following her.
Pain flared up from her sprained wrist as somebody grabbed it and yanked her back, and the surprise and hurt made her drop her weapon. She screamed, more out of anguish than anything else, and her knees buckled. She stumbled weakly backward, practically walking right into her captor’s arms. He—for the bulky limbs could only belong to a him—used the advantage to pin her own arms behind her.
Dazed, but her heart sinking, Mabelle could do nothing but allow him to lead her back to his camp.
The failure she had expected from the start was finally here, though not in a way that she could have expected. Instead of being imprisoned by those who had been her family for so many years, she was now going to get executed by villains for intruding upon their territory. Whoever believed that there were happy endings obviously didn’t live in the real world.
Her vision was torn apart as they neared the flames that made up the campfire. The bright light made it hard to see anything else, and she ducked her head, trying to look away even as the person pushing her along forced her toward it.
“Francois, what do you think you’re doing!”
“I found her and two warriors out in the woods, ma’am,” said a voice from behind her.
“Release her at once! She’s not here to harm us or steal anything!”
“Don’t ‘but’ me! Your mother taught you to treat women better!”
Suddenly Mabelle’s arms were free. She pitched forward, having not expected to be released, and a couple of hands caught her shoulders and propped her up. The Ixi found herself looking up into the face of an old shadow Zafara, deep black curls peppered with silver running far down her back. There were wrinkles spreading all across her face, and frown lines around her mouth. She had several earrings in her long ears, and patched, dark colored clothing was draped across her body. She grabbed Mabelle’s dress around her neck and shook her, as if testing to see whether an item inside a gift was fragile or not.
“So this is what was found poking around our camp? Five scruffy pets?” She wrinkled her nose and released her. “Put them all in my wagon and I’ll deal with them soon enough.”
Francois, who turned out to be a Kougra with deep red fur when she looked behind her, hesitated before reaching out for Mabelle. After a sharp look from the Zafara, he settled for only putting a firm hand on her shoulder. He led the Ixi across the small area surrounding the campfire and past the stares of cocky looking gypsies of both genders. The stare of one particular red Wocky made her feel as if she were a gummy rat that was about to be eaten.
Mabelle shivered. What were they going to do to her?
The Kougra guided her to the back of one of the wagons, the pine needles crunching under her feet as she walked. It was dark back here, with only a dim lantern hanging from one of the eaves to illuminate the way. Were they going to mug her now, and steal the little money she had left from when she had purchased their necessities earlier?
“Your weapons,” he demanded.
The Ixi paused for a moment, and then decided that it would be better if she complied. Who knew what they could do to them if they discovered she had ‘forgotten’ one? She pulled out another couple of daggers and handed them to him.
Satisfied, he took his massive paw from her shoulder, and opened the door. When he saw her hesitate, he rolled his eyes and gestured for her to go inside.
“Come on, your friends are already in there.”
“What?” came a voice from inside, and that was all it took to persuade her. Mabelle clutched her skirt with her hands, wincing when she remembered her wrist and removing it, and hurried up the steps. Francois shut the door behind her, and the Ixi turned around.
The large Kyrii was sitting on the ground, a beaten—and bitten—old apple in one of his paws, and his jaw was moving up and down, popping as it moved. He was sitting on a small pile of pillows, and seemed to be surprisingly content. Theo was looking in her direction, his eyes wide, but his expression solemn. He seemed to stiffen when he saw her, but forced himself to relax. He wore no sword anymore, and it appeared that the only thing any of them had on their person were their clothes.
“It’s alright, son,” said the Ambassador. “I’ve dealt with these guys before.”
“They disarmed us before we had a chance to even pull our own weapons!” insisted Theo, throwing his hand out in the air. “These gypsies knew what they were doing, Sir Borano!”
“Would you expect them to know little about protecting their camp?” asked the Kyrii. “These are gypsies. Most people consider them easy targets, son.” He looked at the Lupe, who looked thoroughly disgruntled and unhappy, and then turned his head to gaze at Mabelle. “Come here. There are plenty of pillows to sit on. With the amount, you’d half expect to be sitting in the desert!”
Mabelle walked forward, and when she sat down she smiled gently. She’d heard all of the rumors about the kind of sitting arrangements one had to be found in Sakhmet.
“What happened?” she asked, and jumped, because Theo said the same thing at the same time.
“I was circling around the spot you told me to stay at,” she said, scratching the back of her head. “You know, making less of a target of myself...?”
“Not sure that was the smartest thing to do, lass,” said the Ambassador, and then he echoed some of her previous thoughts. “You’re not exactly the quietest traveler.”
The Ixi flushed, and cast her eyes to the floor.
Things were quiet after that, as they sat in silence, waiting for the arrival of the Zafara who had quarantined them here.
Though Mabelle hadn’t received an answer to her question, she really didn’t need one, nor had they, really. She could guess what had happened. They had gotten too close to the camp and were sighted, or one of the groups patrolling the area had found them. Either way, the result was where they were now. No beating around the bush with that bit.
Finally, after some time, the door creaked open once again. The Zafara from earlier strode in, slamming it with quite a bit of force, and came directly right up to them, the bells all over her clothing tinkling.
“What are you doing here?”
“Honestly, ma’am, we had no idea you were he—”
“I repeat,” she said, impatience coloring her tone. “What. Are. You. Doing. Here?”
“We were trying to figure out who you were,” said Mabelle, trying to ignore the throbbing in her wrist. “We’re trying to get to the capital, and hiding from some people who would hurt us.”
The Zafara looked at her, surprised, as if she hadn’t expected the young Ixi to speak up before the men did. Mabelle knew that she came off as a timid creature—and most of the time she really was—but the fatigue and the ache had started to wear at her patience. She really just wanted to have the day over and done with.
“Two noblemen and a peasant girl,” said the gypsy, folding her arms. “This should be interesting. Who are you?”
“Didier Borano and Theodore Perrot,” said the Ambassador. Then he gestured toward the Ixi. “This here is Mabelle Daviau.”
“Daviau?” asked the Zafara, even more surprise etching her aging features. “I heard of that. The rich family that burned in that fire. The child was sent to a greedy thieves pit.”
“She’s that child.”
“Ah.” The Zafara folded her arms, and closed her eyes for a moment. Nervous, Mabelle glanced at both the Ambassador and Theo. The Lupe shrugged, but gave her a thumbs up, trying to give her some hope. The gypsy’s eyes then flew open. She eyed them all as if they were pets who could potentially steal all of her belongings in the blink of an eye. “As long as you behave, you three may stay in here tonight, and if anybody asks, tell them Anhan said you could. Mabelle, child, you’re going to be sleeping in this wagon with me. The boys shall sleep with the rest of the men. Also, we need to get that arm of yours looked at. It’s starting to swell.”
To be continued...