Several months later, as Carthinal and Wren were just leaving on a job, The Bull charged into the headquarters.
“Green Fish on our patch.” He paused for breath. “Their boss is with ‘em., too. Think they want to try a takeover.”
The Rooster surged to his feet and began pointing and giving orders. “Fox, Wren, come ‘ere. Job’s cancelled. Porcupine, get th’ weapons. Bull, find th’ other big guys and come back ‘ere. Quickly. Everyone oo’s ‘ere gather round.”
Porcupine arrived pulling a large chest. The Rooster opened it and began handing out weapons. Daggers in the main, but he gave a bows to a couple of the stronger lads, who set about stringing them. Carthinal watched as they heaved on the heavy wood, realising the bows would need a great deal of strength to draw.
“Fox, take this knife.”
“I’ve never used one before.” Carthinal looked at the weapon, turning it over in his hands.
“Mind.” The Wren came up and took it from him. “It’s sharp. Very. You c’d cut yer fingers off.”
Carthinal grimaced and took it from her. “I’ll be careful. What happens now?”
“We go and fight Green Fish off our patch.”
Carthinal frowned and looked at his dagger again. “I don’t know how to fight.”
It was Wren’s turn to grimace. “Then you’ll ’ave ter learn quick. That or die.” She gave a little laugh. “I’d ’ate ter see that ’appen.”
The gang was making its way through the door and into the street. Wren and Carthinal rushed to catch up. Green Fish had set themselves up in the park where Carthinal had slept when he first found himself on the streets. The gang, about thirty strong, stood in the entrance to the park.
A few citizens were strolling in the park as it was a pleasant spring day. One of the first of the year. They stopped, frozen in their tracks.
The Rooster stepped in front of the rest of the gang. “You’re on our patch.”
Another young man stepped in front of the group facing the Beasts. “Sez oo?”
“Sez me, and we’re gonna see you gone or dead.”
He beckoned the rest of the gang, who rushed through the gates. As soon as the gate cleared, the citizens rushed out. Carthinal watched them go, wishing he could go with them, but he must fight. How should he do it?
“Come on,” Wren whispered. “We’re missing all the fun.”
Fun? What’s fun about probably getting hurt, or possibly getting killed? In spite of his fears, Carthinal rushed towards the fight, after Wren.
It looked like chaos to Carthinal. He grasped his knife trying to find someone who he didn’t know to stab. He looked around. He recognised everyone. Then he saw someone he knew. Someone who was not one of the Beasts. Someone who had tried to rob him.
He felt his anger rise from somewhere in his stomach. Carthinal deserved to have his own back on this young man, and, although smaller, he rushed through the melee. He almost tripped over a body lying on the ground, but managed to catch his balance. The trip propelled him forward towards his selected victim. He held his dagger before him and thrust it forwards.
The young man in question had his back to Carthinal, and the dagger entered between his ribs, and pierced a lung. He went down with a cry. Carthinal smiled.
He found himself in the middle of the battle. How dare these people try to take over his gang’s territory? His anger had not been assuaged. The stabbing of his enemy only fed it. He swung the knife at random, but, as luck would have it, he made contact with a young woman’s eyes. She screamed and fell.
So it went on for what seemed to Carthinal like hours. When the last of Green Fish ran away, leaving their friends groaning on the park grass, he looked at the sky. The sun had not moved far. The battle had taken no more than half an hour. He looked around to see how many of his friends had been injured.
There was The Rooster, covered in blood, but checking those lying on the ground. Some he helped to their feet, calling others to take them away. Some he sighed over, bent and closed their eyes, but most he left.
The sound of pounding feet brought Carthinal to his senses. The Cat, blood running from a cut on his cheek, called “Fox, run. It’s the guard. If they catch you, you might as well have been killed here.”
All those who could, scattered in all directions. The guards tried to pursue them, but quickly lost them as soon as they got into the poor quarter. Gradually all made their way back to the headquarters.
The Rooster counted them. “We lost five. I hope the injured make it back. I sent them off with help before the guards arrived.”
Slowly the injured, and those helping them arrived.
“Did we lose any on the way?” he asked The Scorpion, who was helping the injured.
“No. We all got back.”
Carthinal looked round the room. Some had minor wounds, others more serious. He had a cut on his hand, and one young woman had managed to cut his shirt, but the knife had not gone through.
“Where’s Wren?” he asked. He felt a hollow feeling in his stomach as he realised she was nowhere to be seen.
The Rooster searched the room with his eyes. He turned to The Scorpion. “But we didn’t all get back. The Wren isn’t here.”
The Scorpion hung his head. “Sorry, boss. I thought she was with Fox.”
“Thought? Thought?” The Rooster paced up and down. “What do you mean, ‘Thought’? Did you think to check with Fox?”
The Scorpion shook his head. “Sorry” he repeated, shuffling his feet.
“We must find her.” The Rooster began organising the search. “She wasn’t among the dead, so she left the park. Let’s just hope she’s not been caught by the Guard.”
Where is Wren? Has she been caught? Find out the first Tuesday in October.
This is the story of Carthinal’s youth. Carthinal is a young man in my Wolves of Vimar series which begins with The Wolf Pack. You can buy this, and my other books, by clicking on the images in the side bar.
I hope you are enjoying this story. Please let me know in the comments.