“My name is Xara.” Despite her friendly words, the young woman’s posture was stiff as she stood by Sky with one hand on the mare’s flank and the other inching toward the sword at her side. Her skin was tanned and her hair dark, contrasting with her blue eyes that darted back and forth between Quill and Flynn.
“Nice to meet you,” Quill said, attempting to sound casual to help the woman relax. “Thank you for finding my horse.”
“Your horse?” Xara’s gaze glanced at the blue roan and must have noticed the way Sky was staring at Quill, her front hooves occasionally dancing in place. The woman’s face whipped back around and Quill took a step back from her glower. “I found her wandering alone in the field. How dare you leave her like that? She could have been hurt, she could have been killed–”
“Which was a guarantee if we had left her to the bandits,” Flynn interrupted. Xara gaped as he continued, “We got ambushed a couple of days ago, our supplies and horses stolen in the process. We were able to rescue them, but Sky got lost during the confusion when she had been released with the others.”
“Where were these bandits?” Xara asked.
“Toward the Jagged Gardens,” Quill said as he descended from Canvas’s back. The pinto heaved a sigh of what Quill assumed was relief from being unburdened of the extra weight. “May I have her back?”
“That’s up to her.” Xara stepped away from Sky, allowing the mare to make her own choices. Sky’s gaze was momentarily caught by a butterfly before she trotted over to Quill. She stuck her nose toward his hands, trying to find something to eat.
“Glad you missed me for me rather than food,” Quill said with a chuckle. Sky nuzzled his head and proceeded to graze when she found his hands to be empty.
Xara swung up onto her black horse. “Careful out there,” she said.
“What of you?” Flynn asked. “What is a noble doing out here on her own?”
Quill glanced from the easy-going smile on Flynn’s face to Xara’s suspicious expression, and he imagined that his own face was mirroring hers. When no answer was forthcoming, Flynn added, “Your clothes gave you away. There’s not many families that can afford a silk riding cloak lined with fox fur.”
Xara inched her horse farther away from Flynn and Quill, despite the fact that neither of them had made any move toward her. “That is my business alone.”
“Forgive me,” Flynn said, “but bandits around these parts aren’t going to mind their own business, not around a pretty lady with an expensive riding cloak.”
“I know,” was all she said before commanding her horse into a gallop.
Quill climbed up on Sky, grateful for having the mare with him again. Flynn was frowning as he watched Xara rider further away. Quill waited a heartbeat before asking, “Are we going after her?”
Flynn shook his head. “No,” he said.
“But she’s all alone. She’s going to get ambushed.”
“I think that’s what she wants.” Flynn tore his gaze away from Xara’s retreating figure and looked at Quill. “We’d be unwelcomed and probably be labeled as creepy if we followed her. We gave her a warning and that’s all we can do right now. Let’s keep heading toward the Goddess’s Lake.”
Quill took one last glance at Xara off in the distance before directing Sky to follow Canvas once more.