After the attack on her home, Aralyn goes on foot to see what has happened in the nearby village of Sathria and to sell her wares.
A horse thundered up and stopped. The man astride it spoke from under a cowl that hid his face. “What’s your business in town?”
She put on a passive face, having no idea if he were a tax collector or some kind of peacekeeper. What she was doing in the village was none of his business. But rather than ignore him, Aralyn replied, “I go to the village to beg for what I can. The Rogues took everything but a few weeds.”
She couldn’t see his eyes but could feel them boring into her.
“Not everything,” he said. “You’ve got plenty in your pockets.”
Aralyn pursed her lips. How did he see what lay under layers of skirts?
“And you have a weapon.”
Before she could formulate an answer, the man leaned down to her. “Why are you lying to me?”
“I’m not…I mean…I have weaver plants, yes, to sell to the herbalist. That’s all, I swear it.”
The man pulled up in his saddle, leather creaking. “I’m checking all who pass by. ’Tis my job as a Ranger. No need to lie to me.”
Aralyn nodded. A Ranger. Mysterious men who could disappear before your very eyes. Or so it was said.
She motioned to the men working. “You’re having them rebuild the walls?”
“Yes. But your people are doing the hard labor of it. My man and I are watching the roads. We have also appealed to the king to bring some of the young men back from the border skirmishes.”
“This seems like almost too much for such a village.”
“Our king does not like his villages—no matter how small—being attacked by these Rogues.”
Rage sprang up, surprising her. She literally saw red around the edges of her vision. “Someone should have been here before now to take care of this…”
The man pulled back his cowl, and Aralyn looked up into eyes kinder and younger than she had expected. He couldn’t have been more than seventeen. “You’re right, miss. But that is up to the guards to make sure they, as well as civilians, keep training. Even after we are gone.”
Yes, that was part of the problem.
He studied her and pulled his shoulders back. “Just make sure you get your business done and back to your home.” The bite in his words returned, and he nodded at the bow in her hand. “You know how to use that?”
“I do.” And how to use it well, she almost said. If he heard her indignant tone, he gave no indication of it.
“Good. Keep it close.”
“I will.” Of course she would.
Cowl back up, he pulled on the reins and turned his horse up the road.