I place my hand over Wes’ mouth and wake him. His eyes are wide; working out what I’m doing, and where we are. My dream about the woman with flame-red hair and the talking panther who knew my name is still heavy inside, but I place my finger over my lips and shake my head. I point to the entrance to the shelter and then back to my ear.
He nods and listens. Another footstep crushes dew-drenched leaves.
My hips ache already from my crouched position. I don’t dare shift my weight.
A gruff voice breaks the twilight. ‘Yeah, but did he ever make any sense?’
‘It doesn’t matter whether he makes sense; you still have to follow him.’
I hear the sound of thick clothing being ruffled and more leaves being crushed. I feel Wes tense beneath me.
‘Yeah, but what we did last night was brutal, I mean, did you see the stage and stuff? They were having a party. Moronic sods.’
I take a deep breath. The compulsive and senseless Eva prepares to launch herself outside and slice their Achilles tendon out from beneath them like the neck of a doe. But the smart Eva wrestles to be heard. I don’t know how many men are outside; there could be more than two. Wes shakes his head beneath my hand. I tilt my head at him as if to say ‘would I?’ He glares at me. I remove my hand.
‘You heard him as well as I did, they had a thief hidden and the king wanted her arrested and brought to the castle for trial. The burn-out was what he wanted.’
‘Erikk, a burn-out for a petty thief who lives over a hundred miles from the king, who we could not find? Don’t tell me you’re that gullible?’ I hear a splash off the leaves just outside the tree. ‘Aah… God my bladder was about to burst.’
I scrunch my nose as the stench of ammonia hits me.
‘As I said, it doesn’t matter what I think. What the General says goes. Now we need to get moving, I don’t think there is anyone following.’
The stabbing from my hips has spread through my pelvis and into my lower abdomen. I shift my footing an inch to prevent the cramp I feel coming.
‘Did you hear that?’ says the voice belonging to Erikk.
The air is heavy with silence.
‘It’s probably nothing.’
The footsteps fall away and I hear something that sends my blood aflame. ‘You’re second-in-command Erikk, if you don’t question the General, who will?’
Second-in-command, I mouth to Wes.
He shakes his head. ‘No, Eva.’
When I am sure that we are out of ear shot, I gather our things and stuff them inside Wes’ bag. ‘He could lead us to the General.’
‘And then what?’ Wes hisses.
‘Then… well, I don’t really know what.’ But I can’t just sit here.
Wes grabs my wrist. ‘Eva, stop.’