Excuse me, how can I help you?
Gwen walked over to the board and it took her a second to recognize the person on the wanted poster. Gwen did a double take.
“No, it can’t be” she mumbled. She glanced around and saw the sheriff. Gwen decided to go talk to him.
Gwen’s mouth went dry and she opened her mouth to talk. She even considered running away and letting it go, but she had to know why Rae was on that poster.
“Excuse m-me, um, sh-sheriff?” Gwen’s legs trembled, “ma-may I ask y-you a few questions about th-the wanted poster?”
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The Sheriff put his hands in his pockets and snapped, “Make it quick!”
“What exactly is this woman wanted for?”
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“Well, she’s been wanted for a year now. Not all over Tanith but just in this village. About a year ago, she was caught stealing valuable goods and now she needs to pay for what she’s stolen. We keep hoping she will return here and we can find her for her punishment. Not death, but perhaps a whipping. Have you see her around lately?”
Dahlia shook her head. “I haven’t seen her. But I’ll be sure to come back here if I do. “
Dahlia breathed a sigh of relief when she realized Rae hadn’t done anything too bad. Dahlia knew firsthand that sometimes stealing is the only way to survive.
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Keonna nodded as she overheard from the blacksmith. “Yeah, what did she do?”
Gwen gave Dahlia a thankful smile. She always came in quick with the perfect response.
Ilana walked over to where Gwen was talking to the sheriff. She, too, had noticed the wanted poster and was anxious to know why Rae was a wanted person. She hoped that the sheriff would give them some information though.
Ilana stood next to Gwen, giving her a half-smile, and waited for the sheriff’s response.
Audrey joined the others, watching them glance nervous looks to one another, waiting for the Sheriff to answer.
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Manasi’s jaw dropped. Very few things shocked her, but this felt like a thunderstorm had decided to toss her around and slam her against a mountainside.
She stood beside Julia, too confused for words. Gwen and the others were waiting for a response from the Sheriff, too.
As soon as she got over the shock of seeing someone who was supposed to be their leader on a wanted poster, the gears in her brain started to whir. Had Rae betrayed them? Was this an elaborate plan for Rae to find the scroll so she could use it for her own purposes? Were Rae and the bounty hunters that they were “chasing” working together??
Another thought whizzed through her brain- should she desert the group? Since the day she was born, she had pretty much always known that there was more potential in her. Not potential for good- potential for doing things that others surrounding her would hate. Morally grey, her mother had termed it. If phrased less politely, Manasi was ready to do anything that didn’t involve violence to survive- it was a strange sort of selfishness.
Before anything, though, she had to wait for what the Sheriff was going to say.
PS: Sorry this comment’s so long…
Julia put a hand on Manasi’s shoulder. “I know what you’re thinking. I don’t trust easily… but I don’t think Rae is like that.” Julia’s eyes darkened. “She better not be.”
“Still,” Manasi said, checking her satchel to see if she had enough supplies. If she was going to desert- which she hoped not, but she would if she had to- then she’d better start stocking up.
“Never hurts to be prepared.”
Manasi glanced at Julia.
Julia retracted her arm and squinted at Manasi, searching her face. “It doesn’t. You good, Manasi?”
Manasi paused, mulling things over. She decided telling Julia wouldn’t hurt. Hopefully.
“Say… If I was to leave, would you join? There’s safety in numbers. I don’t want to stick around if there’s trouble brewing.”
Julia froze. “Leave?” Her voice hardened slightly. “Don’t tell me you’re abandoning the group.”
Manasi shrugged, trying to appear nonplussed.
“Maybe. Maybe not. I’ll see how things pan out… Like I said- I’m not trying to hurt anyone. I just want to stay as safe as I can.”
“Manasi, you’re safe here. With the team. I have trust issues. But I do know we’re safe together.”
“This isn’t about trust! It’s about doing what ensures survival. Whether or not I trust the people here, there’s still the issue of safety. If Rae is wanted, there might be officials and other dangerous people after her. If it’s found that we’re aiding her after knowing that she’s wanted, the lot of us might get tossed into a jailhouse. I didn’t sign up to be imprisoned- and besides, it’s fine. You don’t have to come… I was just asking. I’ll manage on my own. I have a family that needs me, which is why I’m thinking of deserting.”
Julia looked away. “I have family who need me as well. But I’m not abandoning my group. You shouldn’t either. Rae… we don’t know all that much about her. About anyone here. But she’s a part of our team. We work to save each other.” Julia took a deep breath, not used to long speeches. “Manasi, I understand you want to keep your family safe. But like it or not, we’re in this together. Think about the rest of us.” With that, she turned away, swiping at her eye.
Manasi huffed, crossed her arms, and leaned against a wall. Damn Julia and everybody else. She’d still desert the group if she had to, right?
Nope, apparently not. Wrong. Her idiotic heart was getting the better of her.
“Okay, okay!” She chased after Julia. “I’m not leaving!”, Manasi yelled. She waved her mostly-empty satchel around for emphasis. “See? No supplies. I’m staying.”
Julia turned around, a proper smile on her face. She thought about hugging Manasi, but thought better. She settled for a pat on her shoulder instead. “I.. I’m glad you’re staying.”
“Yeah, yeah. This is probably a bad decision, but let’s head to the baker’s stall and eat some chocolate cake. The others will probably have whatever news they find about Rae when we get back… For now, let’s just have a little bit of fun.”
Manasi reached into her satchel and took out a few tolkens. She’ll likely have to earn those back later at the Riddler’s.
“Come on. Guess you’re my friend now.”
“You guess?” Julia asked playfully. “C’mon, I haven’t eaten all day.”
(Replying to: “Well, she’s been wanted for a year now. Not all over Tanith but just in this village. About a year ago, she was caught stealing valuable goods and now she needs to pay…)
“What kind of things did she take? I’m sure she’s not coming back anytime soon, what did you say her name was?” Gwen asked with a plan forming in her head.
“She was caught stealing the Chaos Blade, one of the most known blades in Tanith. I don’t know where she took it, but clearly she doesn’t have it anymore because I’ve seen it with someone else. Since we can’t find it anymore, we decided we shouldn’t punish her that big, but I don’t think I will ever get to punish her because she hasn’t returned. Oh, and I don’t know her name.”
“Oh yes, I remembered she stole some baked goods too but Bernard hasn’t been too mad about it.”
“Hmm.” Gwen said thoughtfully “So there really is no reason to have her poster up there still. Don’t you have other criminals that are bigger threats than some thief who likely won’t ever be found?”
“Well, I do like revenge.”
“Revenge isn’t as sweet as you’d think.” A shadow crossed over Gwen’s face.
“You sure about that?”
“Look, the point is, you shouldn’t hold onto grudges. Is there anything I can do?”
“Excuse me, Sheriff?” Audrey asked. “Can you please tell us what we want to know without so much suspense?” Audrey was annoyed, and she didn’t mean to sound rude. The stress was really getting to her.
An idea popped into Ilana’s head. She wasn’t sure if it would work, but it was worth a try. “Sheriff, you said that the woman on the wanted poster stole some goods, right? Well,” Ilana searched for the right words to ask her question, “if someone paid enough tolkens to cover what was stolen, would you pardon this woman on the wanted poster?” Ilana held her breath, anticipating the sheriff’s answer.
“That is a good idea, I think we’d all be willing to pitch in.” Gwen nodded glancing at the others, “right?”
“Of course!” Audrey agreed. “Great idea Ilana!”
“Thanks,” Ilana said to Gwen and Audrey, smiling.
Manasi frowned a little.
“I mean… Okay. That sounds good. But let’s just wait and see what she’s stolen first, all right?”
She couldn’t help but be slightly relieved that Rae wasn’t wanted for something like murder. Or worse.
“Yeah, let’s do that.” Gwen turned to the sheriff, awaiting a response.
“I would like to help,” Elle joined them. “What did she steal anyway?”
“Well, I guess you could pay Bernard for the goods she stole and then I’ll take the poster down.”
“Psst!” Rae waved her group down to where she was hiding in the baked goods stand. “Just tell the sheriff that you paid for the goods but you don’t really have to. Bernard and I already made it up. Plus, I know that I’m hiding and everything seems like it is a big deal, but it isn’t. I stole that blade two years ago and they haven’t really been on my case. Just a super small steal. What I’m really worried about is that The Dark will see my face on the poster and spread it around. We just need to figure out a way to get the sheriff to rip down the poster and let it go. I can help you guys too, as long as I’m not seen by the sheriff. Please tell me that this made sense.”
“How much money do we need to pay Bernard?”
(Whoos, sorry I didn’t read the last comment.)
Ilana casually walked over to Rae. “Ok, Rae. Yep, makes perfect sense.” Ilana gave a thumbs up. “I’ll try my best to convince the sheriff to take the poster down.”
Ilana walked back to where the sheriff was standing. “Sheriff, I believe we’ve already paid Bernard for the stolen goods, so maybe you don’t need that poster up anymore, especially since she doesn’t have the Chaos Blade anymore. Maybe, instead, you could put up a poster of the missing blade to see if anyone knows where it is now?”
The Sheriff huffed. “Fine.” He walked over and ripped down the poster, grumbling something that sounded like, “Hate it when kids are smarter than me.”
Ilana grinned. “Thank you, sir.”
Sage bit her bottom lip, overhearing the conversation between the sheriff and some of the members in the group. The tension and anxiety enveloping everyone was palpable and even Sage found it hard to fight the growing doubt. But she would because she trusted Rae and would stand by her friend. Even if this new discovery led to some unwanted division. None of this was going to lead anywhere good, but now would be the worst time for everyone to turn their back on Rae. Especially with the important task they had to complete. Sage opened her mouth to ask the sheriff a question but then closed it. For now, it’d be best not to draw attention to herself. She turned and walked away.
Gwen smiled at the others, they did it!
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