~10 YEARS LATER~
“Father!” a small girl cried.
She ran to a man seated by a fire, cooking a meal. Tears were pouring down the child’s rosy cheeks. She sniffed and her bottom lip quivered.
“What is it, Merilwen?” asked the man, his brow furrowing in worry.
“The boys are making fun of my ears again!” she said in a carping manner.
Her father pulled her into an embrace, thinking of the first time he held her. His calloused fingers traced the slight point of her ear.
“Don’t worry now, love. They’ll think differently when you’re older.” he said, peering down into his daughter’s gray eyes and stroking her red hair. Her mother’s hair.
~9 YEARS LATER~
A breeze moved untouched grass as a hind ran swiftly past. It was being persued by thunters. It thought that he would lose them in the overgrown, dark parts of the forest. Unknown to him, an accomplished tracker was on his trail. THe hind stopped suddenly in the brush, hidden by shadows. Its brown eyes looked at the surroundings warily.
An arrow whistled by, and death claimed the hind immediately.
The thud of boots landing on earth broke the silence of death. A figure had dropped out of the trees. A tall slender maiden gazed down upon the corpseof her prey. Her gray eyes, outlined with long eyelashes, looked upon the tan blood-stained coat of the creature. She knelt and put her pierced, pointed ear to the hind’s chest, listening for any signs of life.
Her nimble fingers broke off the shaft of the arrow, and gently lifted the body of the hind over her shoulder. As she walked, the chain links of her mail clinked with every other step.
When she returned to camp, she pulled out a knife, skinned, tanned, and placed the meat on a spit. A few men came over and began a fire, so that the food would be done by nightfall.
Horse whinnies sounded in the distance. The woman stood up slowly and looked towards the sound. The bandit party had returned.
Young lads dismounted from their steeds and emptied heavy packs of treasure. The glint of the gold reflected in her eyes. She turned away. She did not care for treasure, and lookedc down upon others that were greedy.
“Merilwen! I see that you have found us some dinner.” said a hearty voice.
Merilwen turned to see a lad of twenty approach her. Sandy blond hair fell about his face, slightly mussed. Almond brown eyes peered out behind wispy strands.
“Aye, I did, Braunomen. This one thought he could outsmart me.” she replied, geusturing at the roasting hind and chuckled.
Braunomen had joined her bandit camp when he was about thirteen. He was quite shy and was always excluded by the other lads. She had taken pity on him and began talking to him. ‘Twas not long until they became companions, like brother and sister.
A gruff voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Merilwen. I need to speak with you.” said a middle-aged man, approaching the two.
Merilwen sighed. “Excuse me, Braunomen. I’ll be back when my father is done.” She left Braunomen and went to her father.
“Merilwen, seeing that you are almost twenty, I think you should join the bandit party. As a um….well like a coming of age gift. You need to create your own dowry to marry one of the lads.” said her father.
“Marriage…bah.” muttered Merilwen. “Do you know how many boys will be out in front of your tent, asking to marry me? I would say, many.”
“Well let us put those thoughts aside. Our next thievery is tomorrow. You shall join us then.” her father stated, and he ended the conversation.