Fayan watched the bandits fan out in front of her. The Fortunes Path was the quickest way to the Mountains, but it was pitted with many bandit camps all along it. Most did not travel this way because of them.
Fayan had chosen this way for them.
There were five bandits this time, against only her and Flyne, her horse.
It wasn’t really a fair fight for the bandits. Fayan almost felt sorry for them.
“It’s alright pretty lady,” the lead bandit said, “we won’t harm you. You’re not in danger from us.”
Fayan smiled. It was always the clothing that got them. The long dresses, the opulent silks that she wore. They seemed to think that because she was better dressed she wouldn’t know how to use the sword that was strapped to her hip.
A mistake many made. Which was why her saddle bags were so full of money.
“Oh won’t you?” Fayan said sweetly. She pulled Flyne to a halt, vaulting off his back with ease. Flyne flared his nostrils, stamping his hooves. He knew what was coming next. It was a well-practised routine.
“No, just if you give us those bags,” the bandit said. His eyes danced to the saddlebags greedily. Fayan almost felt pity for the man. So desperate to get gold. It was all that drove anyone these days.
Sadly for these men, they had picked the wrong person’s gold. This was Fayan’s fair and square. Enough for her to join the Arieum of Mages in the north. To learn how to use her talents and harness their power.
“Oh,” Fayan said, reaching up to unbuckle her cloak, “can you not take my cloak instead?”
She took on the most pathetic voice possible. It wasn’t hard, she just had to copy the same tone that Queen Erisa used when she banished Fayan from her lands.
Pathetic and weak, Fayan thought, I’ll show them.
Fayan threw her cloak at the bandit’s feet. It caught all the bandits’ attention for a moment. The leader reached down and pulled it from the mud, running his hand over the material. Fayan shifted her stance, hand drifting towards the hit of her sword as the man’s hands crawled up the cloak to the broach at the neck.
It was the jewel that got them every time. People hungry for gold were also hungry for wealth. And that meant jewels always caught their attention. It was as if they were entranced, overcome with an urge to touch it.
Fayan smiled as the bandit leader reached the neck, his thumbs brushing over the delicate gold metal. He giggled, his thumbs sweeping in a wider arch, just up enough to touch the ruby-
All hell broke loose.
The lead bandit fell to the floor, screaming. His hands began to blister and burn, sizzling in the cold night air.
His followers attacked. Fayan made a quick prayer to Maneyine, the Goddess of Luck, before drawing her sword.
Bandit one fell easily. Her sword came sweeping down, cutting his head from his shoulders.
Bandit two, now he put up a fight. Fayan felt the thrill of the fight run through her bones as she sparred with him. He, unfortunately, did not have a mage-made sword. His was a short sword, old and rusted. In two blows, he had been disarmed.
In three, he was dead.
Bandits four and five were trying to go for Flyne’s saddlebags. But even with weapons, they had not expected a trained warhorse. Those only belonged to the royalty, not a lone traveller by herself.
But then, Queen Erisa wouldn’t miss Flyne. Flyne was Fayan’s horse through and through. One of the benefits of being the stable girl.
Flyne lashed out with his hooves, striking bandit five square in the chest. The other tried to doge, only to be shoved off balance by Flyne. His hooved did the rest.
The final bandit, bandit three, stood by the treeline. He looked at the bodies of his dead companions, and then up at Fayan’s blood splattered face.
“Mercy!” he cried, dropping his sword.
Fayan pulled the knife from her belt. In a well practised movement, she flung it at the bandit. It embedded in his skull before his sword could hit the floor.
“Yes, there is danger on this road,” Fayan said to the bandit leader’s now shrivelled and burnt corpse, “but sadly, that danger is me.”
Flyne whickered behind her as she made quick work of the bandit’s pouches. This would do her nicely, maybe in the next town she could get a hot bath. Maybe even a new dress.
And then, I will be able to lean my full powers, Fayan thought, putting the coins into Flyne’s saddle bags and then throwing her cloak round her shoulders.
Flyne whinnied. He wanted to get going too. He knew that the more coin meant better food at the next stables. And he was hungry.
“Alright, boy,” Fayan whispered, patting Flyne’s neck. She leapt up into the saddle, encouraging Flyne to walk around the bloodied bodies on the road.
Fortune’s Path was full of danger, they said.
Now, they would speak of the girl with the ruby on her cloak as that danger. Now they would avoid this path because of her. They would fear her for what she had done on this journey.
And once I get to the Arieum, Fayan thought, the whole world will learn to fear me.