Avoiding the Road Less Travelled

“Is that my nickname now?” I winced as Marion scrubbed my wounds.

The queen crossed her arms. “I’ll consider changing it when you get us back safely.”

I groaned, hanging my head. “We could take the scenic route.”

Marion smacked my good arm. “You can’t be serious. At this time of night?”

“What is she talking about?”

Marion looked up at the queen after she finished tying the last bandage. “She wants to cut through the forest. Go around the village to avoid the men that attacked you.”

“I’ve got my knife. What’s so bad about it?” I stood up, stretching as I tested movements in the bandages.

“No one goes there this late unless they have a bloody death wish!” Marion shook her head as she packed up the first aid kit. “I don’t want to see your body is pieces next time.”

Alexandra gasped. “It can’t be that dangerous, can it? So close to the castle?”

“The forest is fine during the day, but when night falls, only well-armed soldiers stand a chance.”

“Against what, Marion? Don’t tell me this is about that story you used to tell me.” I turned to her as she stared at the floor. “That was just a tall tale-”

“It was no tale!” She revealed a bite-shaped scar on her forearm. “Those bloodhounds are real!” She traced a few distinct outlines of teeth etched in her skin.

Alexandra’s hands flew up to cover her mouth, and I looked away. Marion rolled her sleeve back down, closing the gap between us.

“Anyone who goes in there at night is nothing but a damned fool.”

I threw up my arms. “What do you want us to do then? We can’t stay here much longer.”

“You don’t think those men are waiting for us, are they?” Alexandra gripped my shoulder.

Marion sighed. “It’s possible they’ve gone to scrounge up what they can or steal from another poor soul, but if you go out there now, you’d be risking another run in with them.”

“That’s a risk I’m willing to take. I held ‘em off once, and I’ll do it again.”

Marion gestured to the queen. “What about her? She’d be in danger too, you know.”

“I’d take a knife through the heart before I’d let anything happen to Alexandra.”

She and Marion fell silent at that. Alexandra pulled me into an embrace, and Marion rummaged through a few drawers.

“I never could talk sense into you, but the least I can do is send you off with an edge.” She handed Alexandra a folding blade.
She hesitated taking it. “I’ve never had to use a weapon before.”

“Trust your instincts, your majesty.” Marion pressed the knife into her hand and closed her fingers around it. “Keep it hidden but well within reach, understand?”

Her hands shook when Marion let go, but she nodded. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Good, now off you two go. If you can run, maybe you’ll make it through without an issue.”

As we reached the door, Marion spoke up again. “I expect to see you here again for tomorrow’s delivery.”

I waved. “You know I keep my promises.”

Marion laughed. “Yeah, but you get into a lot of trouble, don’t you, Scrapper?”

“Oh, come on! I don’t need you two double-teaming me.” I shook my head as I caught Alexandra covering a smile. “See what you started?”

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