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Heros (Crows) Part 3
The sun had not even attempted rising yet when a tall lanky man strutted through the door with two short portly men. I quickly stood and was shocked, a gasp escaping my lips before I had time to catch it.
“Brother!” The man and I bowed at the same time before we hugged.
“Tell me sister, what is your name and why do you come as a messenger from the Hawks?” I sat down on the cot I had been sitting on since I had arrived.
“My name is Amelia of the Crow, a crow; I come from my home with the Hawks in need of assistance. I must ask the same for you brother, what is your name and why are you among Doves?” Our native tongue slipped easily from my mouth. It felt good to speak it again with someone of the like. Speaking with Poe was never as fulfilling and in the village all I spoke was Hawk. He sat next to me and gripped my arm.
“I am Maximus of the Crow, a raven. I roost here as home, as an alliance with my tribe. What of you? You are not yet fully fledged, what are you doing away from your murder?” I pressed my hands together and stared off into the room.
“I too am roosting with another in alliance, although no alliance can be wrought any longer from my being there...But that is not for now.” I looked to the portly men who were watching us suspiciously. “The Hawks require assistance. We are being starved out, the Vipers plan on watching us surrender or die that way. My tribe is on the verge of attack. I was sent to secure an alliance with the Doves and Sparrows and sign in my own blood that we should have their support.” The man handed me back the parchment I had been carrying with a fingerprint in red.
In a throaty, low tone he spoke. “You have our word.” I nodded once, bit the skin of my thumb and pressed it next to the man's.
“Thank you. I must be going now. I have to make quick time.” Maximus laid his hand on my wrist.
“Just a moment. Would you please leave? Leave her clothes, I will help her dress.” He didn't bother looking at the men. They both frowned as I did, but neither said a word otherwise, leaving in a shuffle of white cloth.
“Tell me, I fear for your well being. Why, if your alliance has soured, do you not return to your parent's nest, why risk your life for another tribe?” He lightly touched my elbow, then shoulder, then jaw, cheek and finally my temple. Once more I looked away, standing to collect the pile of my belongings.
“I can dress myself, I do not require help. You may leave.” He 'tsked' and rose slowly.
“Now child, do not shun your brethren. We only mean you well. I will leave good enough as it is, but I will help you dress. I haven’t prepared a warrior for battle in some time and with the news you bring, I feel as though I will need a refresher.” I pursed my lips. I didn't like it one bit. When I had lived with the Crows, nudity had been a trivial thing in homes. Murders were close and there was no need to be concerned, but father had raised me otherwise. The Hawks were proper, men and women separated to bath and dress. Never to be in the same house alone unless mated. It was all very complicated, but it was what I was used too. My feelings were torn two ways, drifting off to the way I had been raised as of late and the loyalty to my people. Had I really forsaken everything my parents had taught me? I turned on him so suddenly he took a step back out of habit.
“You are a fighter, your reflexes are quick.” I murmured quietly. He just eyed me cautiously. I nodded my head in his direction. “Turn around, I am self conscious.” He smiled condescendingly but did what I asked. I was grateful. I turned my back on him and yanked the white shift over my head, shivering when my braids fell hard against my back. I tied my loincloth and sarong tight around my hips and was about to slip into my harness when a warm hand was pressed against my back, warming the place between my shoulders. I arched back to stare at him, fixing him with a glare.
“Where did you get such a scar?” I pushed my shoulders back and pulled away from his reach, yanking my harness on tightly. I was quick to slip my blades in each of the slots, pressing some against the skin on my hips as they were placed in the folds of my sarong.
“I must be leaving for the Sparrows now.” I shifted around to give him a half bow before striding through the door. A horse was waiting outside the house and I mounted quickly, wanting to be home. My bow and quiver were strapped to the back of the saddle. The sun was just rising and I had to speed this up. A Dove walked up to me with a cloak in hand. I took it, draping it over my shoulders and tying it around my neck. The heavy material was smooth, made of some type of cotton. It instantly cut the chill of the air.
“In the fold, there is a map to aid you to the nearest Sparrow tribe. Travel swiftly and with good time, the outcome of this battle rests on your shoulders.” He bowed his head and moved on. Looking about, I noticed that more people moved through the village with a hurried swiftness. The sun hadn’t even fully risen and people were rushing about.
“They ready to aid the Hawks in any way they can. The Birds will defend one another no matter the cost.” I whipped my head around to gaze at Maximus standing in the door way. His black eyes pierced me with fear. Was this what others felt like when I looked at them? Did father or Everett feel this way? No wonder the Hawks were reluctant to trust me if they feared me even looking in their eyes. Shuddering lightly, I pulled the horse’s reins to move. It was time to move on.
“Good-bye my sister, Amelia of the Crow. I hope that we met again someday.” I hoped we did not, but I nodded anyway. I kicked the horse into a run knowing we had to move fast.
We pushed through a mountain pass and reached the other end by dusk. The last rays of the sun peeked over the tall pines that crowded the land. It was pitch night when I was forced to slow the exhausted horse to a slow gait. Sweat and mud covered both our bodies and I was sure the animal was as hungry as I, but I didn’t stop. We were walking sedately when black figures dropped from the tall branches surrounding us. The horse startled and reared dropping me to the ground. Pain exploded in my wrist and I fought to my feet. I stopped abruptly when I saw the metal tip of a stout broadsword leveled with my face. I dropped the blade I had been holding and raised my hands in surrender.
They spoke rapidly and in high pitched voices, even the men. They must have had a complete conversation and I only caught my mind spinning. It was impossible to understand!
“I come as a messenger from the Hawks. They require assistance.” I spoke slowly and loudly in the universal language. Surely that would gain their attention.
Sur enough they all stopped speaking and looked from one another. One woman with small brown feathers stuck to her face stepped closer to me. My own crow’s feathers were braided into my hair. It was a sign that we were devout followers of our tribes. A man at her side raised his bow, aiming the arrow straight at me. He called to her, an obvious command to fall back into position but she continued moving toward me. The horse ambled slowly toward me as well but I didn’t move from my position. I didn’t want to be shot through. I watched the man more than I watched the woman moving toward me with an out stretched arm. He was the one who was aiming an arrow at me. I watched his chest closely. He’d have to straighten up a bit more to shoot me properly. He called to her once more and fear flashed through his eyes. It wasn’t the kind of fear you saw when someone frightened you, no this fear was the kind you saw on a dying man. I blinked slowly, letting my mind mull over what I was seeing. Other fighters began to murmur and one closest to the moving woman tried to snatch at her coming up short. She placed her small fingers on my shoulder and I tensed. My eyes never strayed from the man. It was obvious this was his mate and if I wanted to outlive this mission, I had to make sure I didn’t do anything to endanger this woman. The sword tip leveled with my throat shook ever so slightly and I focused on that. Dropping my shoulders, I leaned my chin against my chest. I loosened my muscles, doing everything I could think of to show I wasn’t a threat. The horse brushed its nose lightly to my back and I startled. The tip of the sword nicked my collar bone and I pulled back out of reflex. The horse reared back as I smacked into it and before I could react, I was slammed to the ground with a knee pressing my face into the dirt. Groaning, I tried to alleviate the pressure on my chest as the cartilage in my nose screamed. I was yanked up with my arms twisted behind me, blood dripping off my chin. They forged through the things tied to the horse and came before me with the piece of parchment. A man with red lines across his face unrolled and silently read the piece. Once he was finished it, he bit his thumb and pressed it to the paper. He then swiped a finger across the drying blood on my face, pressing the mark next to his. The person, or people, holding me let me up and pressed the horse against my side. They repacked everything where is had been and slapped the horse’s flank once I was on. The animal lurched into a gallop and we were off once more, my brain still trying to figure out what had just happened.
We rode on through the woods and through the mountain pass. We passed a desolate village of the Doves and moved on, never stopping. I found myself nodding off as we traveled into the forests of the Hawks. I was woken when a second set of hoof beats sounded. I looked around and found Maximus riding along side me, maybe a hundred feet to my left. More hoof beats called and I realized that the Doves had gathered in the woods. I gave a slight nod to Maximus and pushed the beast I was on harder. I would need no stealth breaking through the lines again. I yanked my bow from the saddle, knocking an arrow. I tied the reins to the horn so have my hands free and readied myself for what was to come.
The horse’s hooves thundered down on a dozing sentry. He woke to have an arrow pierce his chest. I quickly reached for another, standing in my stirrups to get a better view. Adrenaline pumped through my veins, warding off the exhaustion for the moment. I broke through the tree line with ease, signaling for the Doves to follow me. The thunder of hooves shook the valley and I watched torches in the village light up. I kept moving, pushing on through the village to place the parchment to Councilor Idik’s waiting hand.
“It is done.” I coughed, heaving for air. He frowned and looked to the valley and the forest. Light was now visible and I knew what was happening. An alarm went up in the village.
“But what have you started?” His gravelly voice sent chills through my body.