Among the cadre, she kept to herself. While others might boast, sing and drink around the fire, she sat to the side concentrating on honing her knives, or with travel- lantern sparked, scribing annals or sketching plants into a slim leather-bound volume she always carried in her sling bag.
The members knew it best to leave her alone; an approach without consent was greeted, often as not, with a near-missing knife and an almost nicked an ear or worse. She came to the fire only to gather her night’s rations, or morning’s brew. She displayed no need for warmth and companionship.
During the day’s or night’s marching, she strode alongside Tamasin; positions assigned by the cadre’s commander. Tamasin cautiously stole glances at her; he found her strangely fascinating in her aloofness. She was neither fair of form or face; her eyes mismatched in size and coloration; a thin scar upon her cheek; her body all at angles with itself. Her severely plaited hair was the thousand colours of an autumn wood. She togged herself in long shirt, jerkin, and hosen in earthen shades. She favored short boots, and belted her sheathed knife about her waist. Her only adornments were wristlets, woven in some strange metal that at times seemed liquid fire. Not his sort of woman, and yet, somehow, she crept into his dreams.
A newly-crowned king retained the services of the cadre to weed out pockets of resistance to his reign. These rebel bands consisted of landers, liege, guild and soldiers, low and high born, not deigning to swear alliance. “Take no prisoners,” was the edict; a common request given to a band of mercenaries such as themselves. They killed not for passion, revenge nor politics; blood ran the colour of gold.
Gold, too, is the colour of betrayal; the cadre were well informed of the movements of their quarry. To signal the start of the pre-dawn raid, she dispatched the sentries swiftly and silently. Then, the others fell upon the camp. The cadre were professionals; the rebels had little chance, the last dying protecting a wagon. Rebel groups needs travel nimbly; such baggage was a surprise. Huddled inside were the camp’s followers, wild-eyed women and wide-eyed children. Roughly pulled from hiding, they clung to each other, fearing what awaited.
She placed herself between the captives and the members of her cadre. Drawing her knife, she steadily said, “Scavenge the bodies of their kin for plunder, but touch not theirs. These are of no worth to you.” When it seemed few were dissuaded, Tamasin stood next to her. “Would you fracture the cadre for a moment’s lust?” His comrades grumbled but retreated. To survive, they needs act as one. “We will walk you safe passage,” she said. Tamasin turned to her, “You have found your voice,” he said. She gave him a rare smile, “I was not aware I had lost it.”
for mlmm’s Sunday writing prompt: “the quiet one”