A Tale of Thieves

Kiro poked the fire with a long stick. For a moment the flames leapt higher, then the logs shifted and the heat died down. The trees that ringed the clearing slid back into the shadows of the evening as the light diminished.

“Have you finished skinning those rabbits?”

Amon looked up from where he knelt. “You are always in such a hurry. Do not rush the artist while he works.”

Kiro laughed. “You an artist? A good pickpocket maybe, but you shouldn’t try to steal the titles of your betters.”

“My skills are of high acclaim.” Amon stood and sheathed his knife. “Did you not see me take the purse from that traveller even before your sword had cut him down?”

“Now I know you’re lying.” Kiro shifted from a crouch to take a seat on the log they had rolled into the camp. “When I killed the husband you were fawning over his wife.”

There were small splashes as Amon dropped the rabbit meat into the broth Kiro had prepared.

“How would you know where I was?” the robber asked his companion. “You have to put so much concentration into welding that oversized meat cleaver that you can’t see what else is happening.”

Kiro leapt up and reached for his weapon. “Try me then, if you think you are so quick. I will have you squirming on my sword point before you can get your fat fingers to one of your daggers.” He advanced on the smaller man, the tip of his weapon pointing at the chest of the other.

“I leave you two for a moment and a fight breaks out. It’s like working with boys.”

A tall wiry man strode into the illuminated clearing. The hood of his cloak was drawn up against what rain made its way through the thick canopy overhead. In his long arms he carried a bundle of branches.

“I was just about to teach the little one a lesson in respect,” Kiro replied, but already his sword was dropping. “He claims he had taken the traveller’s purse before I had cut the man down with my sword.”

The newcomer placed the wood close to the fire then looked at the other two. “He did nothing of the sort,” the man declared pushing back his hood.

“Ha! There you have it, Hikor agrees with my version!” Kiro exclaimed, giving Amon a wide grin.

“But then the only reason you were able to get in a clean blow,” Hikor continued, “was because my arrow had already killed the man.”

The smile on Kiro’s face died. “There were no arrows in him.”

It was the pickpocket’s turn to laugh. “That would explain so much. I always wondered how you’d been able to claim all those kills. It was Hikor’s bow doing the work.”

“I don’t know why you’re laughing Amon.” The archer sat down on the damp grass, placing his quiver and weapon by his side. “The only reason you’re with us is because you’re good at looting dead bodies. For all his bulk Kiro was in that fight before you.”

“Do not be so sure that either of you can compete with me. You, for example,” Amon pointed a small finger at his thin friend, “were the one who missed the tracks those travellers had left. Even when we had discovered them you did not spot the fine necklace the woman wore. It took a man with my sharp eyes to see that.”

“Your poor sight is part of the reason I don’t rush into fights,” Kiro joined in as he sat back down on the log. “I’m surprised you haven’t hit me in the back.”

“It would probably do us some good if I had,” Hikor retorted.

“Well you two can argue all you like,” Amon told his companions, “but I’m helping myself to this food. The meat should be tasty by now unless the pot has been spiked while I had my back turned.” He gave Kiro a wry smile.

“I wouldn’t waste good stew,” the fighter replied as he rose to join the rogue at the fire. “Besides, I left you alone while I got the first bundle of kindling; you could have poisoned the mixture.”

“You’ll just have to take that chance my friend.” Amon gave the other a mischievous wink.

Silence descended on the glade as the three men eat their meal. It was broken moments later when Hikor started coughing.

“You fool,” the archer told Amon, clutching his stomach as he tried to speak, “the rabbit is bad. I can feel the maggots squirming in my gut.”

The thief raised one eyebrow at the man, but continued to eat. Only when Hikor stopped coughing and slumped onto the grass did the other two realise something serious was wrong.

Amon rushed over to his fallen companion. As he attempted to pull the man upright he heard another sound at his back. He turned to see Kiro bent double on the opposite side of the fire, the recently eaten broth being retched onto the ground.

With suspicion rising in him the small man reached for one of the throwing knives sticking from his belt. It was then that he felt his limbs weaken. With legs buckling under him Amon sat back on the damp earth. Moments later he was laying on his back, his chest as still as a tomb stone.

A young girl stepped out of the dark tree-line and approached the bodies. On her back she carried a pack not unlike those the two travellers had shouldered.

“May your souls never find peace for the murder of my parents,” she told the unmoving figure of the archer. After a moment she kicked the corpse with one booted foot, then she turned and left.

A while later the unattended fire began to diminish and the shadowy fingers of the forest reached out to claim the dead.


26 March 2010
Akira Kurosawa, an iconic Japanese film maker, was born one hundred years ago. His influence spread across the world both drawing on other cultures and inspiring foreign movie directors and script writers.

(The story above came about after watching Kurosawa’s film Rashomon.)

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