The scale was a shiny, translucent blue hue and it wasn’t much bigger than Kachina’s hand. She marveled at it, twisting it around so the surface caught the sun’s rays to see rainbow dots glinting off of it and onto the walls.
“Can I keep it?” Cecil asked from beside Kachina. The blond girl’s fingers delicately brushed the scale.
“I suppose for now,” Kachina said. “Be very careful with it, though. We may have to sell it.”
“I hope not,” Cecil said, taking the scale into her own hand gingerly. “It’s so pretty.”
“It is,” Kachina agreed, “but it could have just come from a fish. If I discover that it’s worthless, then I’ll let you keep it.”
“This can’t be a fish scale,” Cecil said. “It’s too nice. Why would someone want to polish up a fish scale? Maybe it’s from a rare reptile or something. Oh, what if it’s from one of the dragonfolk?”
“Then pray that they don’t find us with it,” Kachina said. “I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a dragonfolk’s wrath.”
Cecil giggled at the thought and cradled the scale. “I’ll go put it away somewhere safe.”
“While you’re doing that,” Kachina said, “I’m going to get ready to go to the market. Some of this other stuff I swiped from those refugees should give us some decent coin.”
“I’ll start dinner while you’re gone,” Cecil said. “Can we keep the mutton?”
“Sure.” Kachina took the wrapped meat out of her bag for their supper before packing up the other supplies. Wool, cloth, and even a couple of mage tomes had been traveling with the caravan that Kachina had robbed. “I’ll see if I can buy some vegetables, too. Like carrots?”
“If you have to,” Cecil said.
Kachina nudged the smaller girl. “C’mon, I know they’re not the tastiest, but vegetables are healthy.”
“I like meat.”
Kachina rolled her eyes. “I know, but vegetables will help your body too.” Instead of further arguing with the girl, Kachina continued with, “Stay inside until I get back. If someone happens to find this place, run. Run as far and as fast as you can. You know these woodlands better than anyone else that can come in here.”
“And we’ll always find each other again,” Cecil said, a mischievous twinkle in her golden eyes, and gave the other girl a brief hug. “I know your speech, Kachina. Good luck at the market.”
Kachina bid Cecil good-bye and darted off, hoping that enough time had passed between her robbery and that moment that the refugee caravan was long gone. Thievery wasn’t the best way to live, but Kachina had to make due, not only for herself, but for Cecil. Kachina only stole what she believed the pair needed, especially when her victims weren’t the rich merchant or noble variety.
That was the price with impending war. Not many could take advantage of battles and bloodshed, destroyed villages and farms, but Kachina’s kind could.
Kachina walked along the marketplace, acting as if she belonged there with the other customers and merchants that could afford basic living necessities. She bartered and haggled with store owners, swapping out the bolts of cloth for a coat for Cecil with the coming cold months and the wool for a scarf and a pair of gloves for herself. She had just used some of the silver coins to buy a bag of mixed vegetables when her green eyes spotted a familiar face among the crowd.
There was the tall swordsman, dark-featured with short brown hair and lean muscles, that had been with the refugee caravan Kachina had robbed. She tiptoed away from the merchant that had been haggling with her, but she wasn’t quick enough. The swordsman turned her way and saw her.
At the shout, Kachina dropped her packages and fell into a run. Commotion erupted behind her, signaling that she was being pursued. She twisted, following the tall, stone buildings into their alleyways until she encountered a low wall. With a running start, she ran up the wall, taking out a dagger to stick into the wall as an additional handhold to help her over the top. Once she landed on the other side, she was sure she was in the clear and planned the best way to return to the woods and Cecil. Glancing back, however, Kachina’s heart sunk as she watched the swordsman vault over the wall right after her.
“There is nowhere in this city that I don’t know,” he called after her. Kachina grimaced, accepting the challenge, and increased her speed. If she hadn’t been nervous about being caught by the city officials, Kachina would have enjoyed the game of cat-and-mouse, her lithe body darting in and out of alleyways and buildings.
Eventually, however, Kachina lost the game. She had come to a dead-end and, before she could double-back and escape, the swordsman was blocking her path.
His sword was drawn and he pointed the tip at her. “You’re under arrest.”