Crag gently started to lead her away, walking slowly and carefully with her little hand tucked in his. He took it one step at a time, keeping his eyes on the ground in front of her.
Crag slowed down a little more, watching her downcast head. He stopped altogether, crouching down in front of her and putting his other hand on her shoulder. He was silent for a second, just staring at her face with concern.
"I'm going to carry you again." He finally said hoarsely. "Too many rocks on the ground." He lied, starting to scoop her up in his arms. He didn't like seeing her this way, so crushed, so dejected. He wanted an excuse to hold her in his arms and comfort her.
Crag held her close, even though she squirmed. He stifled a yawn and started walk again, cradling her close in his arms, keeping a protective grasp on her.
"Mara, hold still." Crag said quietly, his voice rough. "We have to keep moving." He held her even closer and walked a little faster.
"It's okay, Mara. We're going to a safe place." Crag soothed in his raspy voice. He held her tighter, continuing to walk forward. He held her even closer, pressing his lips together hard. "We'll be going to a nice, safe, place."
Crag's face got stonier, his expression going hard as he held the tiny girl. He started to reach his hand up to smooth his hand over her hair, but slowly lowered it again.
"We can't go back, Mara." He said quietly. "But now, we're going somewhere safer, and I'll protect you." He spoke slowly, quietly, trying make his rough voice sound soft and soothing.
"It's gonna be okay, Mara." Crag said. He walked just a little faster. Hesitantly, he brought his hand up to gingerly pat her head. "I'm here." He swallowed hard, choking a little on the words. He had to lower his hand again, pushing down his emotions once more.
Crag squinted off in the distance. He could see smoke. Not the black smoke of destruction and burning, but the quiet wisps of smoke that formed a village. Maybe even a town. He frowned a little. On one hand, a town was good. They could stop an rest more and get supplies and maybe even a horse to make their trip easier. On the other hand, it could be bad. The soldiers could be at the village, looking for Elfin survivors.
He held Mara a little tighter in his arms, stopping in his tracks, thinking an trying to decide what to do.
Crag was silent and still for another moment before starting to walk again. He moved slowly, but steadily towards the village. As he walked, he started to pull the blanket back around Mara, particularly her head and ears.
If they were going to get anywhere, they needed supplies. Crag set his jaw hard. His heart twisted in his chest at the thought of putting Mara at risk, but he gritted his teeth and moved on carefully, his whole body tense. If it came right down to it, he would die for her sake.
"Mara..." Crag spoke slowly, calmly. He started to tug the blanket back over her head. "Mara, you're going to have to be a good girl an do what I say, alright?" He tucked the blanket carefully around her, hiding her from view again. He stared straight ahead, moving quietly through the trees towards the village.
"Mara, I need you to stay quiet, okay? Can you do that for me?" Crag kept walking, his stony gaze fixed straight ahead. "No noise at all, okay?"
"That's a good girl." Crag said softly. "Now stay quiet, no matter what happens, alright?" He held her tighter and walked on, keeping his steady pace. They got closer to the village with each stride, every step he took. They got closer to possible danger as he marched on.
Crag shifted his careful grip on Mara as the village came into view. It was bigger than he thought it would be, and people were already bustling around despite the early hour. He wrapped the blanket tighter around her. His hand went to the knives that hung on his belt. He frowned a little, but kept walking calmly.
Crag moved calmly, casually. He stepped slowly but purposefully. He held Mara carefully in his arm, while his other hand swung loosely by his side, fingertips brushing the hilt of one of his knives. He kept a sharp eye on his surroundings. He glanced calmly to one side. There were the soldiers horses tied up outside a tavern. His grip tightened on Mara.
Crag walked calmly and coolly. He moved towards the marketplace, ignoring the stares from the villagers as he walked in. He was a stranger here, and strangers in villages like this never went completely unnoticed. But as long as he stayed calm and cool and acted as though he knew what he was doing, he would be able to avoid too many questions. He walked up to a stall where fruit was being sold, eyes flicking over the wares.
The man at the stall looked Crag up and down, trying to seem casual despite the suspicion in his eyes. Crag ignored the man's looks and silently started to pick up the fruits, examining them with a steely eye.
"You're a new face around here." The fruit seller said with a forced smile. Crag just nodded.
"We don't get many new faces around here." The vendor tried again, narrowing his eyes.
"Passing through." Crag grunted, picking out his fruits and tossing money down in front of the man. "Enough?" He asked, already starting to slide the fruits into the pouch on his side. The seller silently counted the coins before nodding reluctantly. His eyes latched onto the bundle held protectively in Crag's arm.
"What do you have there, stranger?" The man asked. Crag growled at him in response, making the smaller man back away.
Crag started to walk away, moving away from the stall of fruit and the cowering vendor. He moved on, eyes slowly scanning the marketplace for other useful stalls. He started to walk towards a stall selling leatherwork. As he walked, he carefully an quietly slid one of the fruits he had purchased under the blanket, offering it out silently to Mara.
Crag pulled his hand away silently, looking around to make sure no one saw. He kept walking towards the leatherwork stall, eyes on a tiny pair of shoes. He moved to stand in front of the stall. The vendor was busy working away on a pair of leather gloves, the kind that were used for falconry. He glanced up at Crag, looking him up and own before setting aside his work.
"Can I help you, stranger?" This man didn't even try to hide his suspicion. Crag barely blinked. He pointed at the tiny pair of shoes.
"How much for those?" He rasped. The vendor raised his eyebrow.
"You don't look like much of a family man."
"How. Much." Crag asked again. The vendor looked Crag up and down once more.
"Ten silver." He finally said, expecting Crag to argue down the price. Crag just grunted and reached into his pouch. Even as he pulled out the coins, he was calculating what he had left. He had enough money for these shoes, a little more food, and maybe a horse. Maybe. This money was all that he had managed to save besides Mara.
The vendor reluctantly handed over the tiny shoes as Crag set the money own on the counter. Crag carefully examined the stitching on the tiny boots. Their purchase had made a dent in the money they had left. It would be harder to find supplies, harder to get things for their journey. But to Crag, it was worth it if he could ensure that Mara didn't hurt herself when walking.
Tiny boots in hand, Crag started to walk away. Instead of going to another stall, or looking around the marketplace, he started to move away from the bustling place and more towards the houses. He silently slid down into an alleyway, quietly moving into the shadowy gap between two house after glancing over his shoulder to make sure he went unnoticed.