Bren tried to melt into the side of the barn as he looked around nervously. He kept his head absolutely still, only his eyes shifting from side to side until he was convinced no one was nearby. Only then did he allow his head to move, making a more thorough sweep of the area.
The cabin was a good fifty yards away from the barn, one of the reasons they'd chosen this place to rob. That and the fact it was the only place for leagues with anything worth taking. Achen had been almost trembling with excitement when he'd come back from scouting. Horses, goats, vegetables--all theirs for the taking.
The chimney was still, no fire burned in the hearth. The job was supposed to be a breeze, in and out and off they would be. Four horses would carry them all if the lightest of them doubled up.
Not to mention they hadn't had meat in months.
Tucking his hands into his pockets and biting his lip against the urge to suddenly grow four legs and scurry away, Bren peeked around the corner of the barn, silently urging his companions to hurry up before they were caught.
He caught sight of a huge, bear-like man carrying a thin, dark-haired girl through the trees. The child's laughter rang out, free and happy.
"Oh, Da! The flowers were so pretty! And the butterflies! And that little baby deer."
"Fawn, baby girl. It's called a fawn."
The pair was heading directly for the cabin, directly for the animals, directly for them.
He swallowed, trying to find breath to call out and warn those inside the barn; his eyes shifted from the bearded man and his girl to the barn and back again.
Finally he found his voice. "Achen. Someone's coming." He hissed the words as loud as he dared.
The man entered the clearing and, as the sun lit upon his nut-brown skin and turned his braid to bronze, his nostrils flared as if he smelled something, sensed something off. He put the child down slowly, keeping her close to his side. Squinting for a moment, he suddenly frowned and began to lumber toward the barn, pulling a heavy axe from his belt.
Oh, goddess, they were in for it now. No longer caring about being heard, Bren banged against the barn door. "Get out, get out!"
The wide barn doors shot open, sending him onto his backside as a horse came barreling out, carrying Achen and Sern. Behind them ran Danid and Sulli, each with a bleating goat in their arms. Zindel brought up the rear, burlap bag over his back, long legs quickly overtaking the other two.
"Da!" The child's scream was piercing, startling the animals.
"Rian, get back!" The huge man rushed forward, brandishing his axe and roaring. "Thieves! I'll split you all in half!"
"Achen!" Bren shouted as he tried to scramble to his feet, calling for the leader of their ragamuffin group to turn the horse and help him. But the horse kept moving, far ahead of the boys running after it, all leaving him to scramble as best he could out of the way of the big man heading toward him.