South had taken them down out of the mountains, into warmer weather, and onto the grasslands. Robin was a speck riding on a fleck in a sea of green overcome by blue vastness. They had left the shelter of mountains and trees behind and her back itched, a sparrow awaiting the talons of a hawk.
“Stop cringing,” Gordon said.
“How am I to endure this?” Robin said.
“Endure what?” Landon said.
“I can be seen from every angle. How can I hunt and keep from being hunted?”
Gordon shrugged. Landon laughed and said, “Silly girl! Here you can see when an enemy comes for you. That forest of yours was a nightmare.”
She scanned the horizon, a flat disk topped with a giant blue bowl. A smudge caught her eye. She studied it.
“Trees.” Gordon said.
Robin laughed. Gordon’s “trees” didn’t get much taller than a house.
Gordon rode his horse in the direction of the trees.
Robin rode ahead and dismounted. She walked toward a gnarled group of trees and heard water running. A creek? A path parted the grass and went into the trees toward the sound of water. She crouched and looked at the ground. The turf was thick and she couldn’t see any prints. The path was man-width not deer-width. It went between the trees, where the branches where high.
“What have you got?” Landon asked as she stood.
“Someone’s been here.”
“Looks like deer,” Landon said.
“No,” Robin said.
“How long?” Gordon said.
She shrugged. It was hard to tell in this new place. She noticed a tall plant trampled and the leaves were not yet wilted. “Hours.” Just past the plant there was something in the grass. “That’s odd—” she said taking a step toward it.
Gordon slammed into her and knocked her to the ground. “We don’t explore odd things.” He motioned to Landon and Landon crept around the stand of trees. Crept was a relative word with Landon. Both he and Gordon were large men wearing armor. One does not creep in armor. Creak, maybe. And lumber.
Robin raised her eyebrows at Gordon. He nodded to the grass behind them. She saw an arrow stuck in the turf. She slithered through the grass and plucked it. It had been meant for her. She studied the fletching. It was done well. Nice feathers, but not from a bird she recognized. The shaft was straight and strong, but a different wood than she used. She listened to the two men lumbering about. They would never find the archer. He was a hunter and this was his land. Those two lunks were going to get an arrow through the eye.
What would she do? Going through the grass would leave an obvious trail, so… the water. He’d sneak up the creek. She crept through the grass, following the sound of water. She came to the creek and watched it through the grass. Had he come past already or gone the other way? She took a chance and slipped out of the grass and ran along the creek bank and near the trees, slipped into the grass again.
She’d made it without an arrow in her chest, so her archer was watching the others. She heard them crashing around and followed the noise. When she was close, she paused and watched the trees. That would be where she’d hide if she were hunting those two lunks.
She heard the hum of a bowstring and saw movement on a tree branch. She watched and when the archer shifted his weight, she saw him. It was a clear shot, but she did not take out her bow. She’d never killed a person, and saw no point in starting now.
His back was to her and she could sneak up on him easily. Then what? These trees weren’t tall, and she could reach the archer. Knock him out of the tree? Or grab his bow? She couldn’t hear her lunks. Terrific. She needed them now. Would they come if she whistled as they had taught her? She couldn’t wait. That archer was likely to turn around.
The grass didn’t grow tall under the trees, but it did grow enough to muffle movement. Robin crossed the distance quick and quiet. She jumped and grabbed him around the neck and pulled him down with a twist so that she landed on top of him. She whistled. His bow had flown off to the side and his breath had whooshed out when she landed on him. He managed to knock her off and role away. Gordon thundered through the trees and put his boot on the man’s chest and pressed him into the turf. Landon rumbled up and put his sword at the man’s throat.
Gordon looked at her sitting on the ground and raised his eyebrows. Robin shrugged.
They let the man stand and Landon tied his hands behind his back.
“Why are you trying to kill us?” Gordon asked.
He didn’t say anything. His dark eyes looked Robin up and down. He smiled. If he had walked into the tavern back home, she probably would have had an ale with him.
Robin got up and dusted herself off, turning so he could see all of her. She slowly walked toward him, letting her hips swing and throwing her her shoulders back to show off her breasts. She smiled slowly and licked her lips. When she stood face to face with him she pouted. His eyes never left her breasts.
“Oh, my,” she said breathlessly.
He smiled and looked at her face.
Her hand whipped out and cracked him upside the head.
“Son of a—” he said.
“You stupid whoreson! You just tried to kill me! Did you really think I’d spread my legs for you!”
Gordon smiled and Landon laughed until he couldn’t breathe.
“A guy can hope,” he said.
Landon collapsed on the ground, laughing so hard he couldn’t keep his legs under him. Gordon shook his head.