“Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into,” Jasna muttered, to Brynne.
They walked next to each other, Justin and Petra the younger ahead of them, Morana and Katarin behind, led by the Huntsman and the Queen. The golden-haired shrike trailed behind.
“Me?” the older girl hissed. “It wasn’t my idea to go traipsing off into the mountains in search of some rusty old shield.”
“Tarnished,” Katarin said.
Brynne glanced over her shoulder. “Don’t you start with me, too.”
“Iron and steel rust. Bronze tarnishes.”
“You want to blame anyone for this, blame her.” Brynne tilted her head at the girl behind her.
“I save her from being skewered, and
see what thanks I get?” Katarin sighed.
“The Temple of the Shield?” Morana asked. “What would possibly convince you to go on that wild goose chase?”
“It was her idea!” The rest of the Handmaidens spoke at once, each pointing towards Jasna, who slowed her pace, sputtering.
Moonlight gleamed off a bare, yellowish blade, a curved helmet of the same metal. The guard was careful to keep the sword’s tip pointed away from the girls, but motioned with it just the same.
Five other guards surrounded the girls, and a dozen bowmen walked with arrows nocked some ten or so paces away, eyes as much on the surrounding woods as they were their charges.
“I found it,” Jasna said, when she’d recovered her voice and their guards attention shifted to the snapping of twigs and branches deeper in the woods.
“We found it,” Petra chirped.
“See?” Jasna asked. “Not my fault!”