Lakisha feels the coach slow. Craning she looks forward out the small squares of window, left and right, but she’s facing backward and doesn’t see much for why they might stop here.
“There’s a log in the road.” Comes a call from above.
As the coach stops, the driver calls down. “Trouble!”
Asante stands, opening the door. He directs at Lakisha, “Stay here. Out of sight.” He nods to the couple.
The coach creaks and sways as overhead the driver and guard climb down. Lakisha can’t help peeking out the small window.
Freeing his sword, and walking away from the coach, Asante asks, “Can we back up?”
The driver shakes his head. Pulls a long knife out. Bowie knife. “that’ll take too long. If’n someone comes.”
“Aza. There.” The scout points to the rear of the coach. Lakisha can’t see the guard. Must be on de other side.
Leaves shake as men stride onto the road. Lakisha sees four. One big, darker than the others, with a sword. A shorter one with a bow Lakisha thinks, Cain’t be more’n her brother’s age. A third hold a club but don't look like he knows to use it well. And the last, a thinner one, hold a sword.
Asante flicks his hand. Lakisha’s eyes move to Aza's creeping shape. Low to the ground. The dog slowly padding, rounding behind the men. The bowman shifts his aim between the stage-men and Asante, and the dog to his side.
A big sword flashes, held by the leader of this quartet. In a leather vest. Dirty from top to bottom. Black sandals. And the huge sword.
“Drop your weapons!” He waves his at the driver. “Give us your valuables. No one gets hurt.”
The driver shakes his head. “We can’t do that.” He looks to the guard, coming up on his right, and over to Asante. “Leave now, and we’ll let you go.”
The big bandit laughs. His other men smile. All but the young archer, trying to decide which of the three to aim at.
“You don’t want to fight us.” The bandit boasts. “We’ve robbed five coaches this spring. One guarded by deputies. Not a scratch!”
Asante raises his sword, Slowly. Straight up. It glints. When everyone is looking at him. He calls out, “This stage is under the protection of the libraries.” His head moves from one bandit to the next.
Aza lies still. Tensed. Less than a meter behind the archer’s hamstrings. “On library business. Stop us, and there is no where you can hide.” He again swivels his head, eyes locking on each bandit in turn. “The libraries can track you across this continent. And any other.”
Club man shifts his weapon, from left to right. “Sam!”
The boss gives an angry scowl at the fool. “No names.” This leader looks back at Asante. At that sword straight up in the air. At the driver’s long knife. The guard’s staff. And then back to Aza. Quiet and still.
Lakisha watches, breath on her throat, Mebbe he's counting.
“Okay.” He addresses the driver. “You all’re lucky this time. Next time you pay a toll.”
The men turn and walk away. Hardly a backward glance. They melt into the trees like the wind into the swamp. In a moment they’ve disappeared.
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