Excerpt from The Owners, Volume VII: Hunter's Moon.
Matilda awoke before the others. Taylor lay beside her, his face partially obscured by the arm he had thrown over his eyes to block out the rising sun. Part of her longed to move his arm and gaze at the face she had known so long and so well but her resolve would not let her do so. She had taken on the role as leader of this hunting party and if it killed her, she would neither ask for his support nor subordinate herself to him.
She owed it to their people to be strong and more than that, she owed it to the little child, Verity, who might already be dead.
Did I cling to her because I have no children of my own? It was a fair question and one she wasn’t entirely sure she could answer. Would I have felt differently if I had had a brood of my own children, clinging to my shirttails like all the other women? she wondered. Either way, does it really matter? Things were how they were, after all. She rose quietly, moving with a catlike grace, unwilling to wake the others until she was no longer sharing a space with Taylor.
On her feet, she circled the group. Everyone slept deeply and she was surprised into a revelation as she bent to shake them awake, one at a time.
“We could have been attacked and killed in our sleep, slaughtered without us even knowing we were in danger,” she said, once she had their full attention.
Taylor sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Well we weren’t. And I think that’s a little unlikely…”
Matilda didn’t give him time to finish. “Why not? You think that monster is afraid of us? After he snatched a little child right out from under our noses and left without even a scratch? Oh yes, he must be very afraid!” She heard the sarcasm in her own voice but was unable to reign it in.
She saw Taylor’s eyes widen in surprise and she instinctively knew it was not from either her words or her tone of voice but the way the criticism was directed straight at him.
“He was too high too fast for the arrows to reach,” he said simply.
“I know,” she agreed, hoping that he understood her frustration. They had been speaking as if there were only the two of them in the conversation, only the two of them standing there, with nothing and no-one else around for miles. Now she turned so that her words addressed them all, equally.
“From now on, we post a guard. If we do somehow manage to find him, the battle has to be on our terms, at a time and place of our choosing, not his.”She was right, and they all knew it. Enough had been said, there was no point in pressing the issue. She bent and began to pack up their meagre camp.
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