Through the Woods Pt. 1

The girl sat on the ground, knees tucked to her chest trying but failing to not to cry.

“Stay right there, I won’t go far.” Kanin said, “I’m going to start a fire.” He walked a bit away scooping up sticks and bark from the forest floor, then sticks and some bits of branches. As he started to build the fire Kanin looked at the young crying girl and spoke softly. “Do you have any other family?” Kanin asked.

“My uncle…” the girl sniffled, “He’s the only family I know that’s nearby.” Anika told him, but started to look around, “I don’t know which direction to go…” she squeezed tighter into her shell.

“Hey, hey it’s fine. We’ll figure it out in the morning.” He said, as the fire flickered to life. “Just need to get a bit of sleep, okay?” He asked her, “Then we can find your uncle and try to get this whole mess figured out.” he tried to reassure her.

Anika nodded, and looked around again “Where do I sleep…” she seemed unsure having probably never having been outside for this long or at the least not in the woods.

“Oh…” Kanin said, taking the small pack off his belt. “You’ll have to sleep on the ground.” he said, “But you can use this as a pillow.”

“The ground?! I am a lord's daughter!” she whispered loudly and stamped her foot.

“Keep your voice down.” Kanin said in an authoritative voice. “If you just try to sleep till the sun comes up, we’ll stay at an inn tomorrow, the nicest we can find. Nice beds, bath, the whole lot, just get some sleep.”

Anika narrowed her eyes at him and puffed her cheeks a bit, but Kanin returned a blank stare. “Fine…” she relented but moved over next to Kanin to lay down. “But it’s because I want to not because you told me to.” she said curling into a ball on the ground and trying to sleep.

Kanin just gave a silent chuckle and shook his head. Once Anika’s breathing had slowed down a bit Kanin started to zone out the more natural sounds of the forest focusing only on the movement of bipedal feet. Drawing all his attention to the foreground.

Kanin travelling alone for so long had quickly become good at half sleeping, keeping his senses sharp and focused but managing to get a little sleep, and it was just as sunlight started to bathe the forest and the birds began to sing their songs, Kanin heard the sound of a stick snap, zeroing his attention on the source he heard voices.

“This way.” He heard one voice say.

“Are you sure?” another came questioning the first.

“He’s right, how can you tell?” a third asked.

“Who’s the hunter here? Now shut it and be quiet, we don't know where they are.” the first responded. “Besides, the boss wants that rabbit man dead yesterday for what he done.”

“If he took out the boss that quickly, why do you think we stand a chance?” The third asked the first.

“Because if you shut your mouth you gobshite.” the first spat, “We’d have the drop on him, while he’s snoozing.”

“Okay boss, we’ll be quiet.” he responded.

“Then do it you twit.” the first snapped again.

Kanin listened to this exchange as the trio stomped through the woods. “No wonder he’s not a hunter anymore…” Kanin thought, checking on Anika to be sure she was still asleep Kanin stood, rolled his shoulders, the second they dropped his posture changed. So unlike his rabbit look would suggest he moved from the campsite like a predator stalking his prey.

Anika slept soundly in the camp, unaware of what was transpiring, stirring only once at the first distant scream of abject fear, but settled back into her slumber. Unfazed by the sound for breaking bones, shouts, or the sound of dragging in the distance.

Kanin returned to the camp a short time later, settling back into his place like he’d never left. Giving the sleeping girl a few more minutes of sleep before rousing her from sleep, “Let’s get going.” he said quietly.

Anika woke and panicked for a moment before remembering where she was. “But…but it’s so early.” she rubbed her eyes. “Can’t I sleep some more?” She asked.

“We can sleep when we get to town.” he said, “We don’t want to give them time to catch up to us do we?” he asked her, not once considering they’d already caught up once.

Once on her feet Kanin helped Anika to get all the leaves out of her hair, and he clipped his bag back on his belt. “Come on, let’s get you to your uncle.” Kanin said.

The two walked down that road, Kanin keeping Anika at the outer edge of the road. To make sure any horses or carriages saw him first and would run the girl down. Kanin’s nerves were already starting to frazzle, and he was on edge, wary of anyone on the road they were. Atypically paranoid knowing he could take care of himself but this poor child was alone and had nobody to keep her safe but him, and paranoid of how many they’ll send when the last three don’t check back in with their boss. This morning Kanin had kept his word to himself and finished the job in not letting anyone go after they came after him or the girl.

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