The cawing of birds filled the wood as the dour-faced woman aimed at the red target ring affixed to dead tree before an aged but well-kept hamlet at the outskirts of Urvolsk. She inhaled, muscles taunt, closing a hazel eye. As bow and target aligned she let the bolt fly, feeling the vibrations of string on skin and vitiated air. With a muted thud, the arrow struck an inch to the center of the ring. She frowned, whereafter a strong male voice intruded upon the quietude of the verdant cloister.
The archer turned to behold two figures studying her from where she had previously stood, one, the former speaker, a tall, powerfully built man with sunkissed skin and wavy brown hair, the other, a short, slender, gold-haired woman whose elegant raiment marked her a scholar of Skyn.
“Not perfect either.” The archer replied as she turned her back on her guests and moved down the makeshift field of fire, pulled the shaft from the target ring and surveyed the travelers with a wary glare. “What do you want?”
“You are Hulmarra Ambercrown?”
“I am Esser Valyncort, Captain of The-“
“I know who you are, wolf slayer. You didn’t answer my question.”
“… and this is Tessel Silifrey, the leading lexicologist of Skyn Academy.”
“What do you want?” The bowwoman pressed more emphatically, anger entering her husky tones.
“We’ve heard,” Silifrey cut in with excitement. “That you’re apprized of all the land from here to Braen.”
“Most of it. Yes.”
“I am organizing an expedition into the Braen mountains, and am in want of a pathfinder.”
“Pity that. Best of luck finding one.”
“That range is perilous. And I have better things to do.”
“I am prepared to pay twice your standard rate.”
“I’m in no want of coin. No need to buy what I can hunt. No need to trade when I can craft. No. I have everything I need right here.”
“Except your brother.”
Hulmarra’s expression grew forbidding, dark brows knitting.
“What do you know of my brother, wolf slayer?”
“That he was arrested for smuggling and now languishes at the dungeon of the consulate, awaiting execution. I saw him there, during my last sojourn.”
Silifrey looked with surprise to her companion, lips pursing, seafoam eyes growing wide, flitting to the grim-faced archer, whose fists had balled at her sides.
“I could put in a word.”
Silifrey, inducing the soldier’s plans, nodded emphatically.
“He has Proconsul Vilmin’s ear. If he should press for clemency, the consuls will listen.”
The archer stalked toward the duo until she stood but two feet distant, leaning to the lexicologist and causing her to wince, then next to Valyncort who crossed his arms and held her gaze.
“I have your word that if I come with you, you’ll talk to the consulate on my brother’s behalf?”
“You do. A Watcher’s word is his honor, and his honor, his life.”
The archer brushed past Valyncort with vexation.
“A simple yes would have sufficed.”