A blast of light lit the night sky. Yellow hilltops and trees briefly reflected its radiance. Beneath the blast, two figures were visible for a split second as they abandoned their hiding places on the hill.
“Hurry it up back there!” Darshan shouted. He heard the already restless activity around the supply crates increase. The thieves were stuffing what they could into bags of their own, and saddling up the packbests. If his band was caught by the kingdom’s knights, they would die.
The scout who slipped passed them had actually managed to find a nearby patrol.
Just their luck.
Derak had warned him of the risks of letting him go, which Darshan had ignored. The man and a few others ran past Darshan, from fruit crate to the humped animals they were using to carry their supplies.
Darshan looked over what remained of the supply wagons they had jacked. The drivers stood tied up against a tree nearby, bored and a bit ruffled, but otherwise unaffected. They realized that their endangerment had passed. The wagons were filled with food, canteens, and clothes.
Going to a walled city, filled with snotty, privileged people that didn’t need them.
Darshan had told Genth and Kalvin to watch for rogue kingdom scouts, and dissuade any that might be coming in their direction. They couldn’t stop a full patrol from closing in on the thieves as a whole. They had done well, signaling as they had.
They’d be vastly outmatched if the knights did catch them. Darshan was the only one with any real experience on a heist. Everyone else would freeze up and die.
Their blood would be on his hands.
Derak and Alyssa came and looked over his shoulders. They looked as flustered as Darshan felt, but he refused to let it pierce his exterior. “Start getting the beasts and the newbies out of here,” Darshan gritted out. They were leaving a lot of supplies behind, he regretted taking so many new recruits along. Youth like Genth, who had only wanted to prove themselves.
Only they were half as useful as Genth, at least he could shoot.
“And you?” Alyssa asked.
“We’ll meet you at the rendezvous.” She ran to carry out his orders.
“Boss?” Derak asked. The man was fiercely loyal for all his faults. He would stand against the incoming horseman if Darshan ordered it.
“We’re going to do some digging.” Darshan tipped the fruit crate over, its contents spilled onto the path, he heard else something move inside. He couldn’t believe they were lucky enough to get it first try. “They aren’t sending a full cavalry patrol for a few boxes of food.”
A beating of hooves sounded on the horizon. They were close. Derak frantically moved to look inside the crate, while Darshan yelled at whoever lingered behind. “Get out of here! Derak and I are fine!” His voice carried over the monotonous beating of the horses, and startled the newbies into action.
“Do you see anything?” Darshan asked. He watched as the rookies, and some of his usual crew like Alyssa, led their camels into the undergrowth. If they were followed, Darshan would have to serve as a distraction.
“Anything we might be looking for?”
“There are a few orange — wait. There’s something in here. A box.” Derak pulled himself out of the crate and handed it to him. It was a wooden construct banded in iron, roughly the size of a shoebox.
Was this what the knights were coming after? It seemed to simple to be true, but what was he expecting? A giant pile of jewels to be hidden beneath all the fruit? Of gold? Such a shipment would have been under escort long before the thieves had arrived.
The knight’s shadowy figures became visible through the overgrowth. One more turn, and the men would be in plain sight of the patrol.
“Boss?” Derak asked. He loosed his saber in its scabbard, despite the tremble in his voice.
Cursing the man’s ineptitude, Darshan pulled him off the path as the first of the knights arrived on the scene.