The four day stale snow covered the land like a tattered blanket or corpses on a battle plain. Overnight chill froze the horse-trod slush in the roadway and crusted the still white lumps under the shadowed firs. The sun may have risen or it may still be mired in the horizon. Either way, grey clouds had hammered the earth shut in a dim lit coffin.
Back from the empty serf-road Jora squated to see below the branch-line. A small dark-metalled dagger appeared in her hand. If you hadn’t been just hovering over the narrator’s shoulder you’d be dead now. Jora ranged ahead of her three sisters scouting. Sometimes she waited for them to catch up and sometimes she traveled back to them. She waited.
In this weather Jora’s ears picked out voices in the distance with preternatural ease but the clarity cheated distances and timing. Jessa, Jemma, and Jia arrived later than Jora anticipated. Jia clomped down the road because she just didn’t give a shit. She could kick your ass if needed too.
Jora scowled at Jia. The youngest sister gave Jora the finger but hushed her tromping and jumped the ditch to join the other three gathered in the grass and frost.
Jessa, the oldest, gestured for Jora to share her scouting.
Jora shrugged a silent ‘all clear’.
“Then why are we being so fucking quiet here?” asked Jia. Jemma elbowed her. Jia replied with, “Cut that shit.”
“Maybe the gypsies will share their coffee. Right now you need to hush,” Jessa said, “How far to the camp? I’ve been smelling their cookfires for a while now.”
“Just over the hill. They’ve split the road and put up a shop or two. Jia can get her coffee and some food from what I saw,” Jora said.
“Strange. They know something we don’t?” asked Jessa.
“Or they don’t know something we do,” said Jemma.
Jia snorted. “Let’s just get something to eat. I could have eaten last night’s rabbit myself.”
No one looked to Jessa for leadership, but they waited for her assent. “Fine, but don’t stuff yourselves. Be alert. We should have found Crotter by now. And you,” Jessa tapped the hilt of Jora’s concealed blade, “eat last and keep watch.”
“I’ll second,” said Jia.
If you’re thinking this is a trap then you’re thinking the same as all four women, but they’re hungry and confident. And gypsies are fun.