Osanna watched the white-hot piece of steel skitter off the anvil and reached to catch it without thinking. The narrow edge was not yet sharp enough to cut a palm and the steel glowed prettily between the cage of her fingers. Osanna smiled to herself before the utter silence of the forge hit her like ice water. She looked up. The blacksmith was standing with her mouth open, staring at her in shock and the beginnings of fear. Her apprentice made the sign against evil across his chest and was taking slow shaking steps away from her. Deliah was backing away her face flushing with anger.
“I, it’s not…” Osanna turned and fled. The shouting started, so Osanna lifted her skirts and ran faster. She ran down the street, taking turns at random before twisting to head back to her lodging with Deliah. She was inside and bundling what few belongings she wanted into a makeshift satchel. She ignored the tears that dropped onto the muslin. She took too long. The dark chiming of armor and the clatter of hooves charged down the street. Grabbing her bundle, she bolted. Tearing out the door and turning quickly. Someone screamed and the men and women in armor chased. Three lefts and a right, down a short flight of stairs, dodge through an alleyway. Think your prayers, save your breath for running. Run toward the gate but not too close. Hold your satchel close and try not to regret. There were too many rules to remember when your lungs were burning and tragedy was chasing your heels.
A mailed arm wrapped around her waist and Osanna sobbed as she was pulled into the knight’s grip. She struggled, but he’d turned her so her only targets were mailed arms and gauntleted hands. She ceased struggling, still shaking with sobs. Her satchel was taken from her fingers as another figure in mail and tabard approached her captor. The woman took a deep breath when she got a good look at Osanna.
“They didn’t mention it was a child,” she said.
Her captors voice rumbled through his chainmail when he replied. “You’re surprised? People panic when confronted with them. We’re lucky they managed to point.”
“She’s shaking.” Osanna didn’t hear how flat the woman’s voice went. She was retreating inward. Away from the swords and the tabards and the symbols that scared her more than torches and pitchforks ever had. “Lind, she’s going into shock.”
Osanna was turned around and the knight holding her went down to one knee to look her in the eye. His dark brown eyes examined her teary blue ones and his shoulders got a little stiffer, but he said nothing to her as he stood back up. “She’ll be taken care of at the camp.”
Osanna’s breath caught and she sobbed again. She wrapped her arms around herself, but it didn’t help.
“Shut it, changeling,” Lind said. He gave her shoulder a brief shake, but he couldn’t meet the woman’s eyes.
“In the name of….” The woman stepped forward and took Osanna’s other shoulder. “Go find the regiment. I’ll take charge of the girl.”
“You know they lie, Rowan. She’s just playing on our sympathies.” The justification was obvious to both adults, but Lind’s grip on Osanna’s shoulder lightened, already anticipating giving in.
“And some of us can manage conviction and empathy at the same time.”
Osanna bit her lip to stay quiet as Lind let her go and Rowan took a good hold on her shoulder. Lind passed Rowan Osanna’s satchel before walking off, eyes low and shoulders tight. “Not all of us think like Lind.” She kept her eyes on his retreating back as she spoke to Osanna. “You weren’t causing mischief or harm. That counts. I know you don’t believe me, but it does.” She pressed Osanna’s satchel back into her hands. “I’ll be watching you okay?” Rowan bent down to get Osanna to meet her eyes. “That means don’t try anything and I’ll keep the others away, fair enough?” Her tone gentled as she spoke and it was enough of a change that Osanna nodded. It was better than nothing. But as Rowan walked her toward the row of armored and antagonistic knights, Osanna thought about what her father had told her before they got separated: all tabards lie.