“I don’t know these guys and they won’t say anything.” Franc said with exasperation in his voice.
Cari saw the flash of the darkfriend sign, “I’ll take care of it. I’m sure Liam needs your help with that mare he’s training.” He nodded and went off to find the rogue mare. Liam had just taken over the ranch and was having some difficulty with some of its denizen’s.
“What’s the problem?” Cari had yet to respond with the darfriend sign, she didn’t want strangers putting her family or friends in jeopardy.
“We need to speak to the Master of the house!” It was almost an order and Cari fought her urge to choke the man.
“Fine but be nice about it or you will find yourself in deeper water!”
They guffawed and Cari wished they would make a move and she could hurt them. The shadow stirred and Cari fought to keep it down.
Cari took the two men to Petra who was home tending things while Sara grieved for her husband’s loss. It was still a fresh wound and the whole ranch was having troubles adjusting. Technically this was Cari’s call now, but they wanted to see the master of the house but Liam was busy with his chores, so it was Petra next.
The walk from the gates to the ranch house was quiet and Cari could hear the men speaking quietly behind her back. “Mmmm, she’s good looking.” “Maybe our Master will give her to me.” “She’s a bit old.” “That means experience.” Cari was sure that they were doing to make her feel uncomfortable but it wasn’t working. It mattered little to her what they said, but they gave themselves away far too easily, Cari only hoped that they didn’t do the same thing with their allegiances.
The ranch house door was hardly ornate, but it was clear the house was well off. Windows of colored glass filtered the sun light streaming in as Cari pushed it open. Petra was in the kitchen helping Nona prepare the evening meal.
“Petra, these men wish to see the master of the house.” Cari flashed Petra a signal they’d devised to speak about other darkfriends with out revealing that everyone who was a darkfriend was a darkfriend. The men didn’t notice the signal either, they weren’t very bright. “I will leave them with you to take care of. If you need me I won’t be far away.” Petra nodded. “Oh and be careful of these two they are vile and lustful creatures.”
Cari left them with Petra to tend as she went outside. She knew her friends would have questions, but Cari wasn’t sure how much she could tell, other than that they were in trouble and darkfriends. But Cari went back to work anyway.
It wasn’t long before Yearn showed up at her side. He was out of breath, like he’s just run from town to the ranch. Cari looked at him with concern.
“Cari, there be White Cloaks about.”
Cari raised an eyebrow. “What are they doing here?” Cari knew who they were here for but the why she hoped never to find out. It was far easier to turn over the men as long as she knew nothing of their job and of them. Far easier to lie to the White Cloaks and proclaim innocence in a house that she had seen many horrid things happen, many by her own hand.
“Come with me. We have two new visitors, I’m sure they have some knowledge of this. We shall find out the why soon enough.” Cari lead Yearn to Liam who was now watching as Franc and Vik tended the mare he was training. Liam was covered in dust and grit and looked as if he was bruised from head to toe. But he didn’t seem to be in pain as he watched Franc. Franc and Liam were a couple. Two men who were openly passionate with one another. Liam was married as cover, cover for many things, his life as a servant of the Great Lord and that of a man who didn’t love women. He had two sons to keep his cover but he did not love his wife. Though Liam provided for Petra as any man should, but their love lives were completely separated.
Yearn stood a ways away as Cari told Liam of the White Cloaks and their two new friends. Cari, Liam and Yearn made their way to the Ranch house. It was time for answers.
Their small group grew as they approached the house. It wasn’t like there were many people who worked here but it was by far a large place, but news often traveled fast. Demus joined their company and spoke quietly to Yearn. Cari smiled softly to herself, she was glad they could talk to one another with out incident. Their interactions still bothered Cari and she would always fear that Yearn would find out what Demus had done to her. They were fond memories for Cari. Demus the loyal student. The sweet pain of torture. He had done well. Cari was proud of him. But the shadow stirred at the memories and Cari pushed them aside, there were things to do.
Cari followed Liam into the house. They found the two men sitting at the table talking with Petra as she cooked dinner. Liam scurried to Petra, “My wife, White Cloaks are coming!” He looked over at the other two men. “White Cloaks are coming, what did you do? Why did you come here?”
One of the strangers spoke first, the other hushing his friend. But he continued anyway. “You must hide us, keep us safe. It is your job, we were on a mission and it has gone wrong we must not be found it is imperative.” While the command seemed real enough to Liam, Cari knew better. The man was nothing more than lackey, if he’d been more he’d have said so straight away, not give orders in someone else’s house. He was trying to bluff his way into safety. But Liam lead the men to the back of the house anyway, to one of the secret hiding places. Cari hoped that he wouldn’t hide them anyplace with incriminating evidence, or the ranch would be in even more danger. Cari looked to her two men and then to Petra. She shook her head then hung it. She knew something was wrong, but Liam was her husband and while he was not always a good husband, she was always a good wife. Always.