Ned Kelly wondered the wilderness with his band of outlawers, consisting of his friends, Steve Hart and Joseph Byrne and his brother, Dan Kelly. It had been only yesterday that they had killed the first of many coppers, having been framed for a crime that he did not commit. Now, having been forced into a lawless life, they crept about, keeping a low profile, jumping at the slightest sound for the fear that they might've been seen.
Suddenly, they froze. The distinct sound of low voices met their ears. Instantly, the assumed it was a band of police, out hunting for their hides. Looking about each other, they agreed on what had to be done. They had killed, they had spat on the law when they murdered those police men just the day before, so why would they shy away now? Their lawful days were behind them, now all that mattered was survival.
Creeping quitely among the brush, careful to keep from sight, knowing very well that if one of them was given away too soon it meant certain death. On his far left, Ned motioned Joe to peek over the bushes to analyze the situation. Swallowing his fear, the young man carefully peeked out from behind the foliage.
Through the leaves, he could clearly make out a band of robbers like ourselves, setting up camp for the night. As he scanned the scene, his eyes fell on several objects of value: trunks filled with fine silk clothing, wallets cast about the ground, the money having been looted from their folds, fancy lace parasols and the like. Instantly, he deduced that they had robbed a stage coach.
Continuing the investigation, his eyes were immediately drawn to a young lass. Quite easy on the eyes, if he might say. Her blue dress was tattered and torn, her light brown locks falling askew from what once was an elegant bun. She was tied against a tree, her arms bound behind her. She looked about frightfully, her light blue eyes dodging about, no doubt thinking through all of the possiblities that fate had in store for her as it was entirely dependent upon her captors.
His breath caught in his throat as her gaze caught his. Her eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, as if she was deciding whether his presence was welcome or another thing to worry about.
"Oi! Wha' you lookin' at?" snarled one of the three robbers to her, which seemed like a mighty stupid demand considering the fact that the cloth that they tied around her mouth muffled any words that she attempted to say.
Her eyes flung back to Joe and the men turned around in turn. Taking this as their cue, the Kelly gang emerged from their hiding places, their pistols held at the ready, "We mean you no harm," said Ned, "We thought ye were the law, but since we have ye here, tell me, what with the lass?"
They chuckled and lowered their guns. "We found her travelin' on her on."
"Ah," Joe sighed with a shake of his head, "Now, that is no way to treat a lady. Surely you know that? Why do you not untie her?"
"Then she would run." the man answered with a frown.
"So she is a hostage then?"
They smiled and nodded stupidly, "Yeah, yeah, that's the word, thank ye."
"Well me men and I don't take lightly to harmin' women folk." Ned replied as he sternly sized up the men. "If you are gentlemen, I'd ask that you let the lass go."
One of the three men laughed hysterically and grabbed the lass by the chin to give us a better view of her face, "This is no lady," he insisted, "The damn thing just about scratched my eye out." he said, pointing to a deep, fresh looking scratch running from his forehead, passed his bloodshot right eye to his cheek.
"Yeah," agreed another, "If she would'a behaved she wouldn't be tied up."
"We can take the lass out of your hair," said Ned, "Surely she is no use to you."
The third man shook his head and shrunk down next to the lass and stroked her cheek with a nasty, yellow-toothed smile. She tried in vain to move away from the man, for the ropes held her in place. The man's expression turned angry as he raised his hand and struck her hard enough on the head to knock her out cold. "We can find plenty uses," he assured Ned. "Once we, uh, whip her into line."
Joe could tell Steve, Dan, and Ned were getting just as angry as he was at these men. Pointing his gun squarely at the chest of the man closest to the girl, he spoke through gritted teeth. "Untie her or I'll shoot."
The girl moaned faintly as she finally began to come-to. Her head rocked back and forth feverishly as Joe pressed a cold cloth to her forehead. Pulling his hand away, he watched her curiously as her eyes began to flutter open, looking about her surroundings as she had done before, no doubt trying to figure out where she was.
Groggily she attempted to sit up, but was immediately halted by him, who gentle guided her back into a laying position. "Don' be so hasty, lass," said the man who watched her from above, "You don' wanna get faint again."
Her brows knit together as she obsevered him. Her eyes studied his dark, curly hair and his handsome face. His chin was rough with the beginnings of a beard as was his lip with that of a moustache. His lips held tightly together, perhaps out of concern, but then again maybe he was merely a serious type of man. His eyes, however, big and brown, they were, watched her with such intensity that she could feel herself growing hot with blush.
"Do you think you're awake enough to talk?" he asked.
Hesitantly, she nodded.
Nodding, he began his interrogation. "Will you tell me why you were traveling alone?"
Shifting uncomfortably, she desperately attempted to recollect her thoughts. "I was returnin' home from Sydney," she recalled, "Ma sent me there for my education. I had boarded a stagecoach that was to take me the rest of the way home, but it was attacked and I was taken as a hostage."
He smirked, arrogantly. "Surely you know this is a good example of why a young lass shouldn't be traveling alone? You are Irish, aren't you? I can tell by the accent."
Sitting up quicker than she probably should have, she glared at him challengingly. "Excuse me, Mr.- whoever you are, but I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself! How dare you assume such things about me when you hardly know me! And I am most certainly not Irish, thank you, I am Scottish, of the family Wallace, I am."
She opened her mouth to continue her verbal assult, when she was ultimately silenced as she realized that she and the man were not alone. Three other men sat not far from her, listening intently to their conversation, staring at her in wonder.
The oldest looking one of the lot stood and made his way over to them, chuckling all the while. "Ye got some flame in ye, lass." he said with a smile. "But if you don't mind me sayin' I think you were in need of some protection, considering you got captured."
Stubbornly, she crossed her arms over her chest, thrusting her nose up in the air obstanantly. "For your information, they only had me hostage for only a few hours before your lot discovered us. I was goin' to escape when the time was right."
Truthfully, she could've continued her verbal defenses for hours if she wished, but there was something about the newcomer that distracted her. Although she was rather certain that she'd never been formally aquainted with the man, something about him was familar. Was it the good-natured gleam in his dark brown eyes? Or perhaps his taunting smirk that seemed so daring, so defiant as if that of a...
"Great Scott!" she exclaimed in her realization. "You're Ned Kelly!"