The second the men are out of sight, I leave my seat near the campfire. I wasn’t lying when I told them I hadn’t seen the young woman they’re looking for, but I did fail to mention that my beloved crow familiars had seen someone I assume is her. How many pale-haired runaway brides can one section of forest hold?
According to the men's testimony, the woman is barefoot and dressed only in a shift, which prompts my second in command to hand me her cloak and another soldier to hold out a pair of shoes. We always carry spares of basic uniform items because our ranks expand so frequently. The women don’t always stay with us, but they need clothing while we get them to safety.
Magred, the eldest of my three crows and their leader, caws for me to hurry up and I give her a half-heart sush. “We don’t want them to hear you and wonder what you’re excited about,” I whisper to her. Really, though, I think the odds of these particular men figuring out something like that are slender, for they truly weren’t the brightest examples of humanity I’ve seen. That combined with the way they looked at my soldiers not as the warriors they are but as objects of lust is part of what kept me from helping them. The way they phrased their search was the rest of it. They made it very clear that even though one claimed to be a father and the other a husband, the woman they’re looking for isn’t loved by either one of them. They’re looking for a lost possession; not a person.
I follow my crows as they lead me down the path the men had come up and then down an embankment to a stream. There’s a footprint on this side, but none on the other. I’d think she had decided to walk in the stream to through off trackers where it not for my feathered spies. Millicent taps my shoulder to make sure she has my attention, then flies up into a nearby tree.
“Clever girl,” I mutter under my breath as I look up into the branches. Even expecting her to be there, it’s hard to see the woman cowering by the trunk.
“Are you cold?” I call up to the runaway. “I have an extra cloak and some shoes that may or may not fit.”
There’s no response, like she’s hoping that if she stays still I’ll go away.
“You don’t have to come with me,” I tell her. “But if you do, there’s food, clothing, transportation to somewhere far away, and combat training, if you want it. And those dingus brutes looking for you won’t be able to find you. I swear by the Moon.”
A chilly breeze ruffles by. “Are they your crows?” she asks.
She moves, looking down at me from her perch. “Are you Crow Moonsdaughter?”
My lips curl. “They’ve given me that name, yes.”
“Then I’m to tell you that Rabbit says hello.” She begins to climb down. Even from here, I can see the dress is torn and bloodied.
“Good old Rabbit.” I smile fondly as I think about my brother. We weren’t named Crow and Rabbit as children, but we adopted the names after being rescued by the spirit of the moon. We could just as easily be Reclamation and Retribution. I help victims reclaim themselves while he punishes those who victimize. The men who hurt this woman may well be dead already, and most certainly aren't going to make it home if they're not.
I let the woman make her way down without help, then hold out the cloak for her to slide into as I try not to glare at the burgeoning bruise on her cheek. She's shaking, either from cold or from nerves. “I’m not a goddess,” I tell her. “I’m not even really a demigoddess. Sure, the Moon is my father, but he’s adopted.”
From how wide her eyes are, I don’t think she takes much comfort in that. But that’s alright; the awe will wear off eventually. For now, I lead her back to camp and her new family.