A/N: Here we go, another excrutiatingly hard story to write... ^^ I hope you like it, King Arthur's fans!
So, before you go in, any passage in italic are British speaking, and as Leera's a Woad, it's only normal she doesn't get it. It will get better in the next chapters, hopefully... :p
Chapter one: Mission
Leera walked up on the forest' soil, her leather chest bindings making it hard for her to breathe. Her bow and quiver, attached to her back, bounced with every move. Her thick brown hair, plaited on her back, fell in bangs on her round face, highlighting her strangely piercing green eyes.
She chose not to look back at the remains of her tribe, and continued straight on, the rain tapping on the trees leaves and falling on her on refreshing falls.
She stopped walking and looked straight before her.
Merlin was standing in front of the young Woad, his stick firmly held, his blue face looking determined.
She nodded. "Merlin. I've come as asked."
He nodded and turned around, gesturing her to follow him.
The forest wasn't as silent as it had been moments before. The rain was heavier, pushing on their heads. Leera could sense the wind and clouds above them.
But it was her land. She knew it. And loved every inch of it. Rain or sunlight.
"Leera." She turned her head many times, seeing Merlin's most trusted men nod in her direction. She nodded back, though never talking.
She was still wondering hard why the chief himself had asked for her. Her. Merely a woman. A warrior, indeed, but nothing more. Or less.
Once Merlin had reached his coveted bonfire, Leera sat herself on a log, surrounded by men all as painted as Merlin. Herself only had tattooed her arms and chest. Lines coming up her stomach, dividing in two up her breasts, and coming down her arms where they came into volutes, ending by rounding her two middle fingers on each hand.
The marks of an archer.
"Leera. Thank you for coming."
She looked up into the ancient's face and nodded. "What is it you wish of me, Merlin?"
His men all stared at her in wonder. She just glared back. Even if this mission was beyond her, she hated people to doubt her abilities.
"I must ask something of you. Something that will put you in great danger."
She nodded. "That wouldn't be new."
He nodded again. "You know Arthur Castus."
Leera repressed a growl. The Roman. Merlin had been thinking for years that that man, half-Briton by his mother, was their rightful king. King of Britain. She didn't share his thoughts. But she nodded nonetheless.
"I must ask you to follow him and make sure he gets back to the Wall unharmed."
Leera knew the Sarmatians Knights and their commander had crossed the borders to secure some sort of mission of their own. Some of their scouts had been following them for hours.
"Why should I do that, Merlin?"
The eldest sighed, and one of his men growled at her impudence. But Merlin wasn't her patriarch. Merely an old man pretending to be a magician and a wise among the wisest.
"Arthur will be our king. But the forces he is about to meet are far beyond his reach. Saxons are coming." Leera's eyes darkened. The Saxons were known for their barbaric ways of enslaving the lands they subdued, but they hadn't come to Britain in ages.
"Saxons? How many?"
Taun, one warrior who had been spared by Arthur a few days earlier, spoke up. "Thousands."
Leera looked down and thought very fast. She could follow the Knights easily. She was light and discreet. She could kill a fly from yards distance. Her only disadvantage was that she was totally oblivious to the Romans language.
She made up her mind quickly. She looked up into Merlin's face. He was waiting for an answer. "Where have they been spotted last?"
Some of the men roared in content, others still looked doubtful. Merlin merely made a move. "In these woods. A little farther north. Taun will show you the way." Leera nodded and got up, preparing to leave at once. "Leera. May the gods be with you."
She put the back of her hand on her chest, and waited for her guide to get up.
Taun and Leera didn't exchange a single word on their way north.
The young woman was barely aware of the soft sound of their feet knocking the ground.
She was about to chase the Roman. And his powerful Knights.
And she knew she had to be careful.
One of them had hawk-eyes.