There was just a moment of tension until Deirdre sighed. I think she hoped, like me, that there would be no one else left to ambush us. If she chose to use Dark now and there were more, we lost our advantage. But there wasn't much choice left, was there? Deirdre had probably thought of all this as well, all the possibilities going through her head. It was her choice to make, however, as I wanted to keep my attention to the horses.
Deirdre focused. It felt much stronger than anything I'd seen her do so far. She made the woman's legs and arms so weak she wobbled where she stood, lowering the crossbow for a moment.. Deirdre made sure that the woman would have a very hard time aiming like this and ran towards her. Despite all of this, the woman managed to raise the crossbow again and shot.
I'm not sure how, but Deirdre managed to deflect the arrow with her sword. Not enough. The arrow hit her shoulder, barely, before it continued into the green. The woman feverishly tried to reload the crossbow but Deirdre was with her before she was finished. With a hard blow of the bottom of the sword she knocked her out and stood still, looking at her shoulder, it was bleeding..
I guided the horses forward, back towards Deirdre and called out to her. "Are you alright?"
She looked at the wound. "Just a scratch, I'm surprised she managed to lift it."
I passed the man, making sure not to trample him beneath the horse. "Want to leave?"
She looked at the both of them. "Just a moment."
First she cut the string on the crossbow and looked on the woman for anything of value. She retrieved a small purse that she threw to me to look at. I was a bit surprised by her actions, but considering what they were planning to do to us, it was only fair. Part of this whole thing did confirm to me that this road wasn't really used to transport big things. So they must not have been expecting more than two people at a time.
Deirdre moved to the man and looked at his sword for a moment, picking it up and judging it in her hand. She shrugged and threw it away as far as she could into the forest, which wasn't that far, swords can be deceptively heavy. She retrieved another purse from the man, a much bigger one and it jingled. She threw it to me as well and stood at his body for just a moment, as if she was deciding to hurt or not hurt him.
But she didn't. This must have been bad enough for them.
I nodded and waited patiently until she was on her horse again. We set off in a slightly higher pace, both to get away from them as well as to make up for lost time. Meanwhile, I looked into the purses. The man's purse was filled with a couple of pieces of silver, a few gold and a small gem. The gem was actually nothing special, though worth perhaps another gold coin. The woman's purse was slightly more interesting, a small assortment of jewelry, two silver bracelets and a silver necklace, each adorned with a blue moonstone. I wondered how lucky they had to have been to obtain this.
I showed them to Deirdre. "Look at this."
She smiled. "Yes, they're pretty."
I wondered. "Do you want to keep them?"
She shook her head. "No, they don't belong to me. We can exchange them for gold or gems in Rockwall, it would be of more use."
I nodded. "Alright, sounds good."
The money went directly into my own money-pouch and I kept the purse with the jewelry separate, in the saddle bag for now. When I looked at Deirdre she didn't look too well, actually. It was as is she was very, very tired. She swayed a little on her horse with each few steps, as if she was about to fall off. I was worried.
"Deirdre, are you alright?"
She looked at me, her eyes not looking straight at me. "It's fine, I'm just tired for a while, it should pass in a couple of minutes. I focused too strongly."
I looked around. "Will you be able to ride?"
She smiled, taking a deep breath. "Yes, really. It just looks awful just after I let go of my concentration."
"You know, you looked amazing back there, with the sword."
Deirdre smiled even more. "My mother definitely didn't like it, but my dad taught me quite some tricks before I even went to the Castle. And there they didn't object to a girl participating in sword fighting. I've always enjoyed it, it gets so intense."
I didn't want to say it outright, but... "Well, it was amazing to see, quite the show!"
She blushed, it was cute. I think it was one of the first times I saw her honestly blush for something as simple as this. I liked it!
We rode on, through the forest through the day. We slowed down the horses after an hour as we deemed it far away from the two to calm it down a little again. Deirdre had recovered slowly but surely during that hour and was now riding and talking with me as we continued. We both hoped we'd reach the village before sunset, as it would avoid staying somewhere more insecure during the night. There had been no sight of it though. Few tracks and even fewer people. But the day passed without anything notable.
Until we finally reached Stonesthrow.