The guards opened the door of the tavern so forcefully that the hinges cracked. Everyone turned their heads to the sound, even the innkeeper, who was really to shout and damn the newcomers. He stopped when he saw their shiny swords and the king's emblem in their shirts.
"Where is he?" One of them asked. He was two steps ahead of the rest of the group, he stood with his back straight and his head high. His hair was perfectly combed to the back of his head, whatever was keeping it there make the black shine.
"Where is who, Captain Yerter?" The innkeeper asked, his voice trembling, even if his eyes stayed high.
The captain of the guard laughed loudly. It wasn't a nice sound, just like it wasn't a real laugh. "Samuel Hawkstar. The traitor. I have heard he comes here often." The air shifted with those words. "Now I want you to tell me where he is." His words were like daggers, and the innkeeper took a deep breath before shaking his head. "Talk, you filthy excuse of a man."
"He hasn't been here for weeks," the innkeeper finally said. "The last time I saw him he was not a traitor." And he still isn't. And even if the sentence wasn't finished, everyone heard it. Even the captain.
He approached the bar, his steps echoing in the silent tavern, and grabbed the man's neck. "I've heard you were close to that traitor," he said, "You've got to know something."
The innkeeper shook his head.
"His sister lives in the forest, Captain Yerter," someone of the crowd said.
In all the years Hawkstar had been working for him he never mentioned having a sister. Perhaps he had known he'd have to hide sometime. That would be reasonable.
He let go of the innkeeper's neck, and fixed his eyes on the other man's. "I am not going to close this- this dump, because you are still useful, Perrin, but if you hide something from me ever again, this place will be burned. With you in it."
If it was any other man saying this, everyone in the tavern would have gone crazy. However, being the captain of the guard, Yerter was allowed to say whatever he pleased. That's how things worked.
He looked at the cowering people in the tavern and then turned away. He'd be back, once he found the traitor, and he'd drop his useless head in the dirty floor, just so that this people knew not to mess up with him, or the king.
The forest was silent until they arrived.
Arwen heard them as they slowly walked to her front door. She didn't know who could it be, but she could imagine it was not a friendly visit, as they were trying to be silent, trying to sneak on her. Gladly, they weren't as good as they probably thought they were.
She grabbed her favorite knife and went up to her room. If they were at least a little intelligent, they would have her house surrounded. Perhaps, they weren't intelligent enough, but she wouldn't risk going for the back door. Just as she got to the room, she heard her front door being forcefully open.
She didn't hear voices, but she knew enough about the guards to know they'd be communicating with signs. She had no way of anticipating their movements. She took a deep breath and stayed where she was, under the bed. It was not a smart please to hide, really, but she didn't have a lot of furniture and therefore, not a lot of places to hide.
Even if she managed to get out of the house, she knew she wouldn't get far. They had horses, and even if they weren't familiar with the forest, they would easily outrun her, and if what she'd heard about the Captain was true, she would pay for trying to escape.
The Captain of the Guard was a smart man, so it didn't take him long to figure out her hideout.
"Hiding was such a rude thing to do, Lady," he said, smiling at her in a way that made her insides turn. "Please, get out of there," the Captain said, "if you are smart you will not try anything."
She didn't try to get away because he was right, it would be a fool thing to do. By that point, it was impossible, at least while they were still in the house. For that reason, she left her dagger behind as she got out of under the bed. One of the Captain's men was on her before she could react, and she had to stifle the impulse of trashing as he put handcuffs on her. She looked at the man and smirked at him. It had taken her years to achieve that kind of smile, the one that said I will get back at you. And it was often enough to make anyone tremble.
"What is this about, Captain?" She asked, turning her gaze towards Yerter.
"We want to question you about your brother. We will take you to the castle and there, you will answer to all of my questions because you don't want trouble—right girl?"
She should have known that.
"Samuel Hawkstar is not my brother," she growled.
"That's not what it's said at Perrin's tavern."
She rolls her eyes. "We both come from the same mother. We share blood. But we stopped talking years ago. I know nothing about him—I don't even know how he looks like!"
"Sadly, we are still taking you to the castle, sorry," the Captain declared, not looking sorry at all. "Take her to the carriage."
The same man that had put her handcuffs forced her to walk while he was comfortable on his horse until they reached a dark carriage. It had a single window with bars in it. Arwen was sure that was just part of the theatre, those bars served no other mission than to intimidate whoever was inside.
It was midday when they finally reached Vertlea, the city underneath the castle. The air there smelled of rotting eggs and fish. It was disgusting, just as it had been the last time she'd been there, two years ago. She didn't bother looking out from the knew everything there was to see. They had probably taken the way that went through the suburbs, and she knew the missery and the poorness Vertlea held.
Once they were finally in the castle, the carriage's door opened, and the Captain smiled at her sardonically again. "I will show you the way to your chambers, Lady."
Those chambers he spoked about were the dungeons.
"Are you planning on making me starve before you get to question me, Captain?" she asked, her eyebrows raised. They had interrupted her dinner when they took her, and they hadn't feed her while they travelled, not even when they stopped for breakfast. She was hungry, and a little bit defience wouldn't hurt.
At least, she thought it wouldn't.
The Captain proved her wrong when he slapped her in the cheek. "You, woman, should learn when to close your goddamn mouth."
After saying this, he left, and only when he was out of sight, she touched her cheek. It was warm and in hurt, but it wasn't so bad. He hadn't even used his full force. Fool. He wasn't the first man to underestimate her. It was a common mistake caused by men's ego. It surprised her how many men were so proud that they thought women weren't comparable to their wits or their strength. Those were the foolest and the easiest men to defeat.
The thing about those men was that they ignored that a woman was born a fighter meanwhile, a man had to be molded in one.