Wolf and Fox
It was a stormy night when they came. Thunder cracked and lightning lit the ships that rolled in. War traveled to big cities and capitals but this was the first time war had touched this small village in generations. No one knew what to do when the hulking figures ran into the village that they all call home. The villagers were all in shock and they stayed stock still in shock until it was too late. The conquerors began taking women... and the trouble was just beginning.
Three men walked on a road through the village green. They had their heads together whispering. One was thin and wiry, one was a tall man with blond hair and one was broad shouldered.
The thin man was called Matt. The blond was named Lewis. The broad shouldered lad was Pete. The men of the village all spoke quietly now even when they were only talking about crops. These three young men could be whispering about the strangers who conquered the village but they weren’t. They were whispering urgently about some girls who had been forced to leave the village.
“We could do it,” The thin one declared. “You know that they would thank us for it if they knew.”
The tallest boy smiled. “Tell that to the woman’s circle at Winding. They don’t appreciate any man putting a nose in their business.”
“They would appreciate this... after awhile,” the first persisted.
“Lewis is right. They would club us before we had any chance to explain. It’s too risky.”
The thin man rolled his eyes. “We have to do something. Those girls might be irksome but I would not wish this on any of them on their worst day.”
“The foreigners brought them onto a ship earlier. It is supposed to sail at dawn. We need to do something but we are running out of time,” Pete, the largest of them, reminded the other two. They all stopped and thought about the current situation.
Soldiers from across the sea had come into their small village. These shipmen swore that the people in Winding Village had broken a covenant of some kind. The foreigners warned the Winding Village that war would come if the entire village did not take an oath to the empress of Eratin, the empire across the sea. The Winding Village is famous for two things: wool and stubbornness.
Old fashioned stubborn pride won out over since and farmers fought trained soldiers. Anyone can guess who won the battle. The victors took the mayor and anyone else who refused to give their oath in a ship. When the people came out they were willing to swear... or they did not come out at all. Some people were forced into the boats even after swearing. Gangs of Eratian came and took the women and girls to be tested.
No one really knew what they were testing for but everyone knew that the results of the test could change the life of the test taker. Failing the test meant being sent home but no one knew what happened to the people who passed. The women and girls who passed were taken to a ship and never seen or heard from again.
Parents and friends would come wailing at the Eratian general’s door and beg for the people to be returned. The family would be told to leave and if the family refused than the guards were called in and the trouble causers were beaten.
It was not a pretty sight to see children with bloody faces.
The three young men knew that something had to be done and they did not see anyone willing to do them... That meant that the responsibility was left to the three young men.
“Some things just need to be done,” Pete reminded the other two. He was a big lad but he was careful. He was used to braking things easily and hurting others without meaning to. He learned that doing things quickly led to people getting hurt. He thought before he did things and moved slowly giving thought to each movement. “Still, it has to be the right something -- something that will help the girls that were taken -- not just the first thing that comes to our heads.”
“Thank you so much, Pete,” Matt said sarcastically. “I would have never thought to do that myself.”
“Good to hear that you’re learning from your past mistakes. Acting is usually the first thought you have and the only one you follow,” Pete joked back.
Both boys laughed but Lewis’s voice cut the sound off with a sharp, “Focus! The girls are depending on us.”
All three of their faces turned serious.
“There’s a side entrance,” Matt said surprising the other two.
“You’ve been there?” Pete asked.
“No, but I’ve seen them take people out from the side. I know where the door is.”
“We have an entrance. We can use the same door as an exit. Any idea how we find the girls between the two?” Lewis looked at the other two as he spoke but the words were spoken more to himself than to anyone else.
“They take the girls out for air every day,” Pete reminded the other two.
“That doesn’t tell us where they are!” Matt’s face got red with anger and frustration.
“We know they are on the ship and we know how to get in the ship. All we need is some idea of what is inside,” Lewis reminded the other two.
“I bought a few Eratian guards a drink or two.” Matt smiled thinking of the guards who acted like idiots. “They talk freely enough then. I’ll steer the conversation towards the ship.”
“You’re drinking and gambling with Eratian guards?” Pete’s voice went up an octave or two. “Do you know how dangerous that is?”
“Matt, they’re trying to talk you into joining the army!” Lewis declared loudly.
“Relax guys. I’m not doing to join the enemy. I’m just stealing some information -- and a little money.”
“Just be careful, Matt. We can’t rescue the girls without you,” Pete said putting an arm around his friend’s shoulders.
“You two worry too much,” Matt declared, laughing.