Siege (The Warrior Chronicles, 5)(9)

By: K.F. Breene

“We weren’t supposed to get caught. She said your name!”

“I panicked. What was I supposed to do?” Clumps of dirt and apples piled high in his wake, Marc took off at a jog. Looking back, he saw the blank face of someone that would soon make his life a living hell. “I should’ve left it there. S’am’s punishment only hurts for a few hours. Lord only knows what Eloise will do to us.”

“Those boys!”

Shanti stifled her smile, feeling Marc and Leilius scamper away from the house in terror as Eloise bustled into the living room with one pie and a surly expression. The older woman, the loudest voice in the Women’s Circle, looked around the room with thunder in her eyes. Her gaze settled on Shanti. She pursed her lips, obviously suspecting Shanti of putting the boys up to their mischief.

Rohnan leaned away from Shanti with a grim expression.

“Hmm.” Slowing down, her expression turning contemplative, Eloise put the pie on the small table between the couches amid the half-dozen gathered women and Rohnan. She straightened back up, eyeing the small plates and utensils placed strategically on the surface for the sake of appearances. “Molly, we need the tea.”

“Yes, of course.” Molly bustled into the kitchen.

“Which boys?” Valencia, the women who was equally skilled at killing pigs and Graygual, glowered. “Because yesterday my gardening equipment went missing and I had to pull weeds with my bare hands. If I find out who was messing with my things…”

“But yesterday was your gardening day,” Tabby said with a furrowed brow. “I can’t imagine someone could’ve grabbed them out from under your nose. Maybe they’re just under the leaf pile. You know you tend to let your mind drift and—”

“I checked under the leaf pile!” Valencia glowered at the room in general. “I remember distinctly.” She ticked off a finger. “I cleared away the petunias.” Another finger. “I planted that pretty, leafy plant—I can’t remember the name, but you remember, the one that blooms that pretty pink flower in the spring?” The ladies nodded and murmured. “I went to get the watering can, and when I came back, they were gone. Vanished. Someone must’ve taken them!”

Shanti’s lips tweaked upward and her eyes sparkled. That would’ve been Xavier and Gracas. Impressive. They were really coming along.

“I think you should check the leaf pile again.” Tabby got up to help Molly set the tray of tea items on the table amid the baked goods.

“What went missing, Eloise?” Valencia asked, ignoring Tabby.

“Nothing.” Eloise lowered down into her chair. Her fingers tapped on the arm for a moment, making a steady rhythm. “Nothing. I’ll take care of it.” Her gaze skewered Shanti. “On to important matters. Our enlisted women have grown more than twice since the battle. I’ve given orders for them to be supplied with bows, as you’ve suggested, but now what?”

“I have someone helping them with training,” Shanti said, kicking away her bulbous skirt from around her legs.

She’d been invited to attend this meeting under the condition that she wore a dress, as befitted Cayan’s wife. Since she was not Cayan’s wife, and didn’t want to go, she’d refused.

The invitation had been amended. As the woman giving commands alongside Cayan, she was required to go, for the good of the city. But she would still need to wear the dress.

She’d then amended her refusal: wearing a dress would prevent her from reacting quickly if anything should go wrong during the hourlong meeting.

If it hadn’t been for Molly shadowing her for two days, explaining the importance of meeting with the Women’s Circle and how her refusal would look on Cayan, Shanti would’ve ignored Eloise’s assurances that in no way would the dress interfere with anything that could possibly happen.

The woman was as tenacious as mold on old cheese.

“Yes. I heard about Mela’s instruction.” Eloise pursed her lips again. “Even so, she is a great resource.”

“It got me out of messing around with bows and arrows.” Fabienne looked down at her splayed hands. “I have blisters.”

“That’s because you don’t do anything,” Valencia said with a sniff.

“Is that right?” Fabienne leaned to the side enough to put a fist to her hip. “You don’t think I work my tail off to—”

“Ladies, enough!” Eloise took a cup of tea from Molly. She looked at Shanti. “We all want to make sure the women who want to be trained will be.”

“I cannot make that guarantee,” Shanti said matter-of-factly.

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