One should never wish for bandits, Ferra realized, just in case the universe chose to oblige at inconvenient times. She was only hours from Westport, the only place she knew to start her search, and now had to stop for a rather disappointing robbery attempt.
The men were skinny, not much older than she, and lacking the quintessential verdant wardrobe a childhood spent around the stage promised. “Git down girl.” The first barked. Between the three they had two knives and what could have been called a club. She thought it more likely one of the bandits hadn’t wanted to be left out and had picked up a hearty stick. Ferra made no move to obey. Not only did she need the horse, but she felt somewhat insulted by the effort.
She shook her head. “I’m in a hurry and you are very bad at this.” She nudged her horse forward but the animal shied to the side, less sure than her rider. The first and bravest shook the knife at her. Ferra rolled her eyes. “You are scaring the horse.”
The bandits looked to each other, unsure how to deal with the girl who was not responding appropriately to her situation.
But as long as they were delaying her… “I’m looking for someone. He is sixteen, hair like mine and if you bothered him like this he would probably just talk a lot.” She thought for a moment. “And if he felt bad for you, which he probably would, he might give you something for your effort. Have you seen him?”
The bandits blinked between themselves. “Are you addled girl? We are robbing you.” One of the men took a step forward, and made a swipe at the reins. Ferra maneuvered her mount to the side and glared down at them. She was not crazy and they were not robbing her. So far they’d only gotten around to threatening. Ferra reached behind her to the rolled blankets behind the saddle. With a quick motion she drew her sword and leveled it at them. “Let me by, or tell me something use—“
It was at this point that Ferra’s horse reached the end of its patience. It was troupe animal, happy to spend its days pulling carts and letting the occasional scout ride ahead, but swordfights and armed ruffians were entirely out of the question.
The animal reared and Ferra, currently distracted and not an experienced rider, tumbled over the saddle and onto the ground. The horse took its chance and promptly sped away from those who would steal it or brandish swords on top of it.
Ferra, flat on her back, blinked up at the late afternoon sky. This was not how she’d pictured this adventure. When she pushed herself up, wobbling a little from impact, the bandits had circled her.
“Give us the sword.” The leader licked his lips when he looked at the impeccably maintained steel in her hand. Ferra watched the tension in their shoulders, they were braver now.
“No.” Ferra moved her foot through the dust, shifting into a defensive stance. She looked him in the eyes. “Let me go or I will hurt you.”
That was enough for the men. The one behind her grabbed for a shoulder. Ferra spun, sword darting like a viper’s strike. His wrist bloomed with red and he screeched stumbling back.
The leader swore and made his fellow’s mistake, his hand brushed her arm, Ferra’s blade whipped around slashing across his chest. He screamed and Ferra stepped close to flick the knife from his fingers.
The third jumped forward, aiming to cut where the other’s had grabbed. It was a clumsy rush that Ferra sidestepped, pulling her sword across the back of his leg, cutting muscle. The man crashed into the dust. Aren had taught her to dance but Nico made sure she knew how to end the steps.
Ferra straitened, sword in guard as she regarded the now bleeding thieves. Shallow cuts all, she’d not aimed to kill. Nico’d promised it was an experience no one should rush to. But the way the bandits looked at her, it was if she’d murdered someone.
“Please.” The leader said, his hands holding the rags of his shirt to his chest wound. “We didn’t–”
Ferra did not alter her flat expression nor lower her guard. They had meant to rob her at the very least, she wasn’t naive. But she didn’t care, they could lie, it wasn’t her problem. “You’ve lost me my horse. Give me your knives.” If she was walking to Westport she didn’t want them dogging her because of hurt pride or desperation.
“What?” The leader said. The third bandit had turned himself over and was attempting to stand.
“I’m robbing you. Leave your knives and walk away.” She didn’t move, didn’t start towards them, just waited staring. The two standing looked to each other. The man with the club made to toss it and Ferra shook her head. “You can keep it, its just a stick.”
He left her with an affronted look, helping his fellow from the ground before the three hobbled back into the treeline. Ferra watched them go before picking up the knives and resuming her journey to Westport.