As soon as the Honest was tied and secured to the shoreline with ropes and stakes, Amaris, Evorlette, and Karet looked around themselves with a sort of overdue awe. The mainland was lovely, even at night, and with the moon shining bright and full above the horizon, it was bright enough to see. They could easily begin their search this night, and all agreed with spoken agreements that it would be so.
The pace, while somewhat brisk, was just slow enough to allow meandering thoughts and worries to creep in, but each woman had her own, and these were not admitted at all to the others. As for Amaris, she would not let her fear show even in her eyes. Her countenance betrayed not a single note of worry, though in truth it did lie within her, buried deeper within than anything she had ever cared to hide.
For, though she had been training her entire life, she had never been in a true battle. The others did not know that, and she would never tell them. They all spoke of her incredible skill— but how hard was it, truly, to dispatch dummies made of hay, and to shoot arrows into the hearts of stationary, colorful targets? So, her fear this night was that a true battle would come upon her, and she would find it hideously, grotesquely different than training.
If not her face, perhaps the only thing in her mannerism that betrayed this minute fear was the grip she had on the sword belted at her waist. Her hand sat on top of the hilt like a hawk gripping a mouse, so tight that her knuckles and the ends of her fingers paled visibly, even in the dim moonlight.
The others attributed this quirk to readiness, and actually tried to replicate it. Surely, they thought, Amaris’s grip was vise-like in strength in order to ensure that her tiring senses stayed at full aptitude and operated to the best of their ability.
With the moonlight illuminating the ground before them, the grass seemed an ocean of waving, blue-green spikes. A chill wind it was that had propelled their sails to the mainland, and that same chill wind continued to blow, south to north. It was, however, a quiet wind, and did not prevent or even hinder the arrival of a long, apprehensive silence. The three women fell into the expectant alarm of mice bolting from their holes, fearful of the night owl that they knew was on the hunt this very night.
And suddenly there it was, a flash on the horizon. A beacon, a warning perhaps. Amaris and Evorlette did not recognize the sign, but Karet, by her gasping reaction, did.
“It’s Ketsu!” she cried. “He’s in trouble! He needs our help!”
“Hold!” Amaris shouted, grabbing Karet’s arm as she tried to dash past. “How do you know that’s Ketsu?”
The words flooded from her mouth in hurried slurs. “It’s a warning that he and I worked out before we came! If he was ever in trouble, he said that he’d make a bright light!”
Amaris nodded, and quickly they were off. In their haste, the other two did not notice when Amaris visibly paled. They set off in the direction of the light, which was just now fading back into the darkness of the horizon. A second flash rose up after the first, nearly simultaneous. They increased the pace once the second light began to fade.
In hardly any time at all, they began to see the campfires on the horizon. There were shouts— barbarian whoops, the deep booming of tribal drums, and the flickering, dancing shadows in the night. The women drew their swords, and let the work of butchery commence.