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Sidony’s not having a good day either.
SIDONY DID NOT sleep well. Unsurprising, considering she was sitting on a damp forest floor with only Hawk and a ragged blanket for warmth. Her shoulders ached from where her hands were tied behind her back and her arms were numb from the elbow downwards.
No, sleep was not easy to find. She was scared too, perhaps a little terrified, although she refused to show it. A pampered daughter of a march she might be, one who’d never been further than three miles from her father’s lands, but she wasn’t useless. She knew how to embroider and paint silk screens. She could smile and make small talk with all levels of society, from farm labours to princesses. She even knew the historical lineage of the Roscoes all the way back to the Unification of Wrystan, six-hundred-and-fifty years ago. All the regular things a noble daughter like herself might be expected to know at the age of eleven.
If that was all Sidony knew, perhaps she might have been forgiven for dissolving into tears and burying her head against Hawk’s muscled shoulder. But Sidony was tougher than that.
Until she’d found Cricket hiding on the back of a pantry shelf, while she’d been serving a month of punishment duty in the kitchen, she’d wanted to become a knight. She’d known it wasn’t possible, that girls weren’t allowed, but that had never stopped her from wanting it or spending every possible moment in the training yard amongst her cousins and brothers. Nor had her short stature, stumpy arms and disastrous form with a blade.
She hadn’t wanted to be a knight for the shiny sword and a pretty shield, nor because of the prancing horse and the great status. She hadn’t even wanted to be a hero. All she wanted was a chance to stand up for the little people, understanding all too well how they felt. She wanted to support the underdog, to put heart in the downtrodden and the bullied.
Instead she’d found Cricket and her magic had literally leapt into life. Which was much more useful for dealing with bullies.
That was why Sidony wouldn’t show she was scared. Even though she was. All her life, from almost as soon as she could walk, she’d been picked on, ignored and belittled. Whenever a group of children got together she was always the last chosen for fun and games, and the first for work and punishment. Because she was small. Her parents loved her dearly, but they were busy people and they couldn’t protect her all the time. Not that she’d wanted protection.
Sidony hated bullies, and if these kidnappers weren’t bullies then she didn’t know who else possibly could be. Even now, as she squeezed her eyes shut and wriggled to get comfortable, she could see the faces of poor Merro and Danny. Their cheeky, joking faces replaced in her memories with grimaces of pain and terror as their eyes dulled with death.
Hunching her aching shoulders, Sidony wiped her nose on her sleeve and sniffed back her tears. Now wasn’t the time to weep. She didn’t want these bullies to think they’d made her cry.
“Can’t sleep, Sid?”
Giving up the fight, Sidony huddled closer to Hawk’s back. “No. You?”
He gave a gruff snort, his covered fingers brushing over hers and reaching for her bindings. Sidony tried to do the same, but her fingers were numb and she couldn’t feel anything.
He must have been suffering from a similar pain, because he gave up with a thwarted growl. “Don’t worry, Sid,” he muttered, touching her hands again. “I’ll think of something.”
Sidony wanted to believe him, but she’d only known him a few days and he wasn’t that much older than her. Surely he was just as scared and frightened as she was.
“Is Cricket with you?” he murmured, almost too softly for her to hear.
Closing her eyes, Sidony focused on the a knot of warmth against her belly, where her little wood mouse was snuggled beneath her tunic. He twitched his nose and she bit back a giggle at the tickle of his whiskers.
Hawk rested his head back against hers. “Does he like the taste of rope?”
Sidony blinked and almost sat up, but Hawk pressed his back hard against hers. “Don’t move,” he growled.
She froze as a sentry paced around them, muttering in his own language. He didn’t come too close, merely called something to one of his companions.
“Mihagei,” a voice replied from the dark, followed by the sound of spitting.
The sentry grunted and spat on the ground. “Mihagei,” he agreed, not sounding at all friendly. “Hungry One wait for you.”
His accent was so thick that it took Sidony a few moments to realised he’d been speaking Wrystani. By the time she’d deciphered his words the man had returned to the darkness, pacing around the unhappy guardsmen.
“Hungry One?” Sidony whispered as Hawk relaxed against her. She felt him shrug.
“Could be any of us,” he murmured. “I didn’t get any breakfast and I’m starving.” His stomach wasn’t the only one to rumble at the reminder.
Sidony stifled her snickers. “Should I ask Cricket to chew through the ropes?”
“Not yet,” he replied softly.
“Why not?” she demanded a little too loudly, bringing the sentry out of the shadows again.
“Hsst, viper.” His dagger flashed along with a grumbled threat in his own language.
Rolling her eyes, she waited until he went away before nudging Hawk. “What do you mean not yet?” she whispered.
“Just that,” her infuriatingly calm companion replied. “We watch and we wait.”
“Shouldn’t he free us first?”
Sidony clenched her cramped fingers and wished she could thump him. “Why not?”
“Keep your voice down,” Hawk hissed, and they waited breathlessly for the sentry to come back and make good on his threat. When nothing stirred they both sighed with relief.
“Keep calm,” Hawk murmured. “We don’t know what they have planned for us yet. Best not risk Cricket until we have to.”
Even though she didn’t like it, Sidony could see the sense in that. She slumped against his back and wished she could pull the cloth off Hawk’s fingers. Her arms could do with a little healing right now. Maybe Cricket could do something about that.
Which reminded her. “Where’s Cyrus?”
“Waiting,” Hawk replied in that horribly calm voice.
Apparently she wasn’t going to get anything more out of him tonight. “I hate waiting.”
Hawk’s shoulders shook as he laughed silently. “You know, Sid, I’d never have guessed.”
“Oh, shut up.” But she was smiling as she settled down again. She had a feeling she’d need all her strength come the dawn.
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