A bandit raid would be great about now. It’d been months since anything had come close to threatening the troupe and she was starting to feel it. Ferra didn’t count the bear a week ago, even if the adult’s still talked about it over their fires. The confused animal had wandered too close to their camp and been promptly chased off. Ferra, even at fourteen, hadn’t been impressed.
Part of her felt duly guilty to be actively wishing danger on her home. But really, what was the point of training to be a guard when there was nothing to guard against? Her hours of self-imposed training each day felt entirely wasted.
Now that they were safely posted outside the city walls it was unlikely to get any more exciting. The stages were half built and the tents were up. Until they moved on again in a few months Ferra would keep a perimeter and help haul out the occasional drunk and disorderly.
The city’s lord even offered them extra men, which her Aunt, the de facto leader of the troupe, politely declined, preferring to keep security a family matter.
A shadow fell over her perch. Ferra looked up at Nico. “Watch is over.” He said.
“Was Aren at breakfast?” She asked.
The older man shook his head. “Still not back.” He noticed her slight frown. “Stop worrying over it, he’ll wander in, they always do.”
Ferra stood, readjusting the sword at her hip. “He’s never been a week late.” She pressed. Two months gone and now more than a week late, there was no reason Ferra’s older cousin shouldn’t be back, trading didn’t take that long. Her concern was a little selfish. Aren was the only one outside the guard willing to spar with her, and her only relative in the entire camp who didn’t grumble when she pestered for second and third matches.
Nico put a hand on her shoulder and pushed her towards the camp proper. “Let the actors worry about actors. Go eat.”
Breakfast was packed away but her grandmother snuck her strawberries and a thick slice of brown bread before shooing her away, also not interested in Aren’s absence. Ferra licked the red juice from her fingers as she went about taking Nico’s advice.
She didn’t bother checking the stages where most of the actors blocked their steps or mouthed lines. Instead she turned towards the dicing tables in the camp commons. Aren’s younger brother was currently taking the stage hand’s wages at cards.
“Aren’s not back yet.” She said in way of introduction, standing at his shoulder and looking at his cards.
“Strait to the point as always Ferra.” He glared at her annoyed and flipped the hand, hiding the cards on the flat of the makeshift table. “I’ll tell him his shadow is looking for him when he comes back. Hmm?”
She shook her head. “He’s late. Something might have happened.”
“He likes being late, thinks it’s fashionable.” He said. She glared at the dismissive spin of his wrist.
One of the other men chimed in. “If he’s not here you might actually have to learn some lines Eli. That is what an understudy does, you know.”
The young teenager grinned at them, pointedly ignoring her.
“Eli.” She warned.
“Aren can handle himself Ferra.” Eli rolled his eyes and pushed a substantial amount of silver into the middle of the table. “You two share an unhealthy obsession with sharp objects and sticking people with them, remember?”
She didn’t point out that it wasn’t an obsession and it wasn’t unhealthy. “You are being unhelpful.” Ferra stated flatly instead.
“I’m endeavoring to be. If Aren’s away from this dull little city enjoying himself do you really think I am going to help you ruin his fun?” He looked over his shoulder and smirked, taunting her.
Ferra weighed the benefits of giving in and showing Eli just how far her ‘unhealthy obsession’ with weapons went. But then she would have to explain why she beat the troupe leader’s son into a black and blue mess. She didn’t have the time. Especially if Aren was in trouble.
She met his laughing eyes. “He’s got cards up his sleeve and another stack in his boot.” Ferra said loudly. She enjoyed the way Eli’s smirk froze and then slid off his face. If the men were worried about explaining bruises to the camp masters they didn’t show it. Ferra walked away as the stage hands shoved aside chairs and proceeded to literally shake their money out of the cheat.
Any desire to deal with glib actors entirely shot, Ferra sought a more practical source of information.
This story will continue next week. Thanks for reading all.