Not so far away another had his sights set on the tavern, but for an entirely different reason.
"You checked everything?" Jack whispered into the darkness, only half expecting an answer. Lyon was known to be very serious on their raids, but Jack didn't mind, his right hand man was always loyal when it mattered. Like now.
"Of course, sir." Lyon replied, grinning slightly at his Commander's grumble. He knew that Jack hated to be referred to higher than his men. "This manfisa is going to find himself very poor in the morning, if not dead."
Jack shook his head ruefully, although in the darkness no one could see it. Lyon was born on one of the many islands off the Withbore shore, and he tended to lapse into his old language when angry or nervous. Jack's father, a sea merchant with a streak of righteousness, had saved Lyon from a life of slavery aboard a pirate ship, thus securing his loyalty for life.
When Everest Foxx had died at the hands of the New Law, for refusing to pay the crippling taxes set by the king, that loyalty had been given to his son, Jack Foxx, Lyon had joined him in a quest for vengeance. They signed up with the then fledgling Rebel Order, which had sprung up during what most called the Great War. The original Head, known only to his followers as The Arrow, was caught and hung in Burnshall. He was the second father the Law had taken away from Jack.
Soon the Order was taken over by a new leader, and Jack Foxx officially became an outlaw. He made the Gold Cross extremely nervous, enough so that they put a twenty thousand star bounty on him, the only other recipient of that honor a female assassin that had slit the throats of many major Clan members. The commonfolk whispered about the Foxx Clan, as they grew to being called, how they stole from the king's coffers and Noble's purses.
How they fought for the people.
A pattering of feet rang from the darkness, and Jack reached for his shortblade, a dagger-like knife as long as his calf, whipping it out instinctively. A young man stepped into the circle of scant light; he smiled and held out his hands palm up to show peace. Jack sheathed the weapon, sighing.
"Nervous, are we?" The blonde youth grinned and received an affectionate cuff.
"Of course not." In fact, Jack's nerves were frayed to a breaking point. "Is it done?" Cimban winked and pressed his index and middle fingers to his lips, a universal code for an insolent yes. Jack nodded back briskly.
He had recruited the boy in Burnshall, when a dirty urchin had had the audacity to snatch his coin purse; he was impressed with the level of skill the young pickpocket engaged. When he caught up to the boy, Jack gave him a severe lecture, and employed him on the spot.
Cimban had brought along his little sister, Mariah, who died soon after of a mysterious lung disease. The shadow of grief had only recently lifted from his eyes. He was about fourteen how, about the same age Jack was when his father died. Jack knew that Cimban saw him as a mentor, and he was proud to be a father to the young man.
Jack reached out and plucked the silver string, smiling when the bushes forty spans away moved correspondingly. The plan was a simple one.
What they had tied to the not-so-nearby leafy shrub was a nearly invisible lute chord. As they could safely tug the string, one of the guards at the carriage would have to notice the suspicious activity, hopefully going to check things out. Cimban had come earlier, to dig an inconspicuous hole in the middle of the undergrowth. The reaching brushwood of the plant shielded it from casual view.
With any luck the guard would be partially intoxicated, or perhaps downright stupid, and fall into the clever trap that was there. The three men could easily take out the second sentry.
"What I don't understand," Cimban stroked his chin thoughtfully, "Is why we are after the coach. There must be better stuff for the taking in the inn."
Lyon rapped his knuckles on the young man's head, "Don't be talking back to the master, younlin' you still have much to learn."
"Lyon is right," Jack gave the string another tug. "We are after a big fish this time."
"Oh yeah? How much?" Cimban snuffled, rubbing the top of his skull.
"Try a hundred thousand stars." Jack turned around, grinning at his apprentice's open mouth gawk.
"B-but how-" he stuttered, trying to regain his wits, the amount was probably more than he ever even thought about in his life.
"It's simple, really," Jack watched the pair of guards; finally one of them noticed the bushes shaking. "Baldsin is carrying his tribute to the king, which is why he rode out in such a big envoy. Most of the stars are in the carriage, which doubles as a safebox. It just looks dandy to escape suspicion; we've been tracking this bastard down for several moons now. I really don't know how they could avoid suspicion when more than half of the men were assigned to guard the thing."
"But the storm caught 'em unawares and he had to send most the men toff to inform that falu king," Lyon chimed in, steadily sharpening his dagger. "His Godliness hates to be kept waiting."
"But there are still twenty men left," Cambin bit his lip, "It still makes no sense why he would only let two guard the treasure. Is it a trap?"
Lyon lifted a shoulder in a half-shrug, "Seems a bit of luck, but ther' been a rumor around that someun' wanted 'im dead."
"By the by," Jack grinned, showing a surprisingly boyish pair of dimples, "I forgot to congratulate you, Lyon, for that awesome piece of weather witchery."
Lyon cocked his head and gave a grave half-bow. The two men chuckled, much to the bewilderment of Cimban. Jack, with a casual flick of the wrist, tugged the line a third time. The guards talked quietly, than the taller of the two walked over to the bushes.
Little did Jack know, however, that his trap had already been sprung.