We scouted out the walled encampment just after dusk fell, and took refuge in trees for a good view. An hour after dark, most of the bandits left their camp. A skeleton crew remained to guard the site.
Quietly, I asked Jace if we wouldn't be better just taking out the guards now and replacing them with ourselves. He explained that as things go, there would be a changing of the guard at least once if not twice before we were to go in, and beside that, someone was sure to notice their buddy was missing or peg us as outsiders.
Time seemed to drag into eternity before the bandit group came back from their raid on the merchant caravan that was just passing through the Rockwall Mountains. They came back in a cheery mood, apparently successful. Partying and drinking started almost immediately. Music and merriment poured out of the camp.
The hours dragged on. I wondered how long we were supposed to wait, and got fidgety. Jace kept telling me to relax and sit tight. If I listened very hard, every now and then I could hear Tiara and Kyle in the next tree over, hissing arguments at one another. Kyle was probably on about how he wanted to party, too, and Tiara was probably telling him to shut up. That thought made me relax a little.
At great length
, there was the sound of an explosion on the far side of the camp. Fire shot up one of the far walls, which were made of thatch and bamboo. Someone near the fire shouted loudly, crying out in pain. If I had to guess, I would say the guard closest to the flames had gotten hit by the flammable liquid Mara had filled our bottle bombs with. That would be Crim, Twest, Mara, and Angelis setting them off as a distraction on the other side.
From where Jace and I were, we could see the other two entrances to the camp, but not the one on the far side near the flames. The guards at the two spots we could see, all went to arms, visually searched the woods for a moment, and then became obviously occupied with what was happening at the other entrance. They remained at their posts, but the distraction had done its job.
Jace and I dropped out of our tree. Tiara and Kyle dropped out of theirs. We all made a dash for the wall. The boys each laced fingers and gave Tiara and I hoists over it.
In the few seconds it took us to jump over and land between the wall and the treasury tent, we had a brief glimpse of the chaos inside. The main bonfire was surrounded by piles of people who had apparently been sitting around eating, drinking, and singing, but now it was a jumbled mess as people scrambled for weapons and tried to not fall over one another or themselves. I suppose waiting until they were good and drunk was wise after all.
Inside the camp, Tiara and I slipped under the tarp, into the treasury tent. The initial scouting party earlier today had found that there were guards posted outside the front flaps, so we had to be quiet while stuffing our bags full of loot. Hopefully the chaos outside would cover most of our noise, though.
Once we'd each bagged up the maximum amount we could carry, we lifted up the back tarp flap, because the tent pretty much backed into the wall we'd come over. Jace and Kyle were supposed to be hacking a hole in the wall while we bagged stuff, so we could get back out. However, since there was no hole was visible yet, we were left to assume they were still working on it, left the sacks of loot there, lodged between the back tarp flap and the wall, and turned around to bag a second load.
Right as we were tying new bags shut, the front tent flaps opened and two black-clad women came in. Tiara and I froze. So did the two girls who had just come in.
"This is a males-only camp!" one of the girls hissed at us.
"So what're you doing here, then?!" Tiara snapped back.
"What do you think?!" the second girl said, pulling out two small, but curvy-looking daggers.
Tiara and I each drew our weapons as well.
"We were here first!" Tiara said.
"Well we've been following these guys for days
!" the first girl said. She had pulled out twin swords from some sort of back-case.
"Guys, to be honest, I think there's more than enough for all of us," I said. "So why don't we call this a truce so none of the bandits find us before we can get out?"
"No!" said the first girl, "This is our
The second one came at me with her double daggers, each from a different direction.
"WE brought the distraction!" Tiara shouted, swinging her scythe at the double-sword girl.
I had to move back to avoid getting hit with Tiara's scythe AND to avoid dagger-girl. "GUYS, there's not room in here for this!" I said.
"Then we'll make this blood money!" The twin-swords girl said, taking a twirling step forward and jumping. She gracefully got over the blade of Tiara's scythe by using her one blade to force it down lower, and swung the other at Tiara.
Dagger-girl, like me, noticed the lack of room that Tiara and twin-sword-girl were causing. "Hey, Mary, maybe they're right. There's not a lot of room in here, we'll hit each other.
The twin-sword girl, Mary, and Tiara didn't seem to be listening.
"Shut it, Tobi!"
Tiara hissed in pain as one of the Mary's swords nicked her shoulder, but she caught the second blade on the shaft of her scythe.
I bit my lip and made a quick decision; I tossed the dagger-girl some of our empty bags.
"Here," I said, "We're wasting time by fighting."
She looked unsure at first, but warily put one of her daggers away and started shoveling treasure into a bag. I went back to tying mine shut, and carefully shoved it under the back flap before starting to fill another.
"Carmine what're you doing?!" Tiara asked around the fight.
"Maximizing efficiency," I said curtly. "We'll get out of here with more stuff if we're not making a run for it! Same with them. And there is very obviously
more than our team can carry!"
"We've got backup behind the camp," the dagger-girl, Tobi said to me.
My stomach knotted and I nodded over my shoulder. "Behind the wall behind the tent?"
"Yeah," she nodded, standing to tie her first bag.
I glanced over at Tiara, but she was too wrapped up in fighting sword-girl Mary to have heard. "That's why Jace and Kyle didn't have a way out for us yet," I called over to her. "Our outside teams must have run into each other!"
"Then we'll have destroyed your team mates the same way we're going to destroy you!" sword-girl Mary shouted.
For some reason, anxiety of a fight stopped buzzing in my head. Annoyance at this whole situation replaced it. I left my newest bag half full and marched over to Tiara and this Mary girl.
"ALRIGHT, ENOUGH!" I shouted over them. They were both so occupied with each other that Mary didn't notice me pull a quick staff move and take her feet out from under her. Tiara was mid-move at the time, and missed widely when her target was suddenly absent its prior location. "BOTH OF YOU, KNOCK IT OFF!" I barked. "If our groups are outside fighting then we're about to be discovered by a batch of drunk and riotous bandits! We need
a way out or all four of us are dead! YOU TWO have the biggest weapons," I pointed to the back flaps of the treasure tent. "Prop those up and get us a way out! Once we've got an out, we'll all take what we can carry and run for it. If one
of you two," I said to sword-girl Mary, and Tiara, "Injures the other, dagger-girl Tobi and I will kill you both for not working together and further endangering all
of our team mates!"
There was stunned silence from the three other girls in the tent with me.
"MOVE IT!" I shouted, trying to do my best Crim voice. He wouldn't have been overrun by this stupid nonsense of bickering females; he would have taken control of the situation from the get-go.
To my surprise, Tiara and sword-girl Mary both marched, grumbling, to the back of the tent and started hacking at the back wall.
I went back to filling the bag I was working on.
Dagger-girl Tobi was just tying up a second bag. She looked at me uncertainly and said quietly, "Well done."
I tried not to look at her. "Thanks for not opposing the idea."
A few moments later, Tiara and Mary had a hole in the wall. Tobi and I each tossed them a heavy bag and told them to run. A few feet outside the wall, they dropped them and we had to have a repeat episode of my yelling commands. Jace and Kyle were engaged in combat with two tall girls who must have been the rest of Mary and Tobi's team. All four were skeptical of me, the shortest, giving commands, but when Mary, Tobi, and Tiara all hefted bags of treasure to make a run for it, their minds made up in favor of getting paid.
The guys were able to carry two bags each, and somehow, so did Mary and one of her other teammates. Tiara, myself, dagger-girl Tobi and their fourth team member each took one large bag. Once we were out of the camp, both crews split.
By the time Crim and the rest of the Scarlet Skye crew caught up with us, the bandit camp was a good ways behind us and we had no idea where Mary and Tobi's team had gone.
Crim's team had run into more girls in black on their end of the camp. During the fight, Twest had gotten splashed with some of the burning liquid that had been used on the wall. Mara kindly doctored both Twest's burn and Tiara's cut arm while stories were exchanged about how everything went for everyone.
"You shoulda seen it, dude!" Kyle laughed toward the end of our team's tale. "It was like Mini-Crim just... SPOKE, and the masses listened! It was hysterical! No one knew what to make of her!"
I blushed horribly.
"Well," Crim smirked, propping his bright red hat on my head, "She had a good teacher, y'know." He dramatically examined his nails.
I gave him a light punch in the stomach. He doubled over in fake pain, grinned at me, and said, "Yes, good job."
I shouldered him. "Thanks."