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They would leave the kidnappers with the Encladi to judge them. The attack on the children and the kidnapping had happened on the edge of Encladi territory, so they had the right.

K'reeth looked up at the moons to judge the time of night as they came out into the wide clearing around the stockade. She would check the girls' wounds again, and they could rest a few hours before continuing the journey home. She looked forward to telling her sister about her adventure. K'rin would scold her for facing danger without her and they would laugh, and their moonbirds would dive and swoop over their heads, creeling in avian laughter with them.

Talon flinched as he dismounted and pressed his hand against his arm, frowning. K'reeth turned Neetsa around so the little girl straddled her hip, then dismounted holding the child.

"It's infected, isn't it?" she demanded, striding over to catch up with Talon before he met the Encladi headman, who crossed from the gates of the stockade to meet them.

"Temporary," he said, gesturing away her concern. He patted his healer's bag at his hip. "Just let me brew some tea to boost my healing and I'll be ready to ride."

Something warmed inside her, even as she despaired over the stubbornness of men who always had to prove their strength by refusing to take better care of themselves. "Did you at least wash your wound?"

"Yes, Mistrada." He sighed and turned his gaze heavenward in a show of strained patience. But one corner of his mouth twitched.

"It's a good thing I like you very much, Wind Walker, or I might be tempted to spank you like one of my stubborn little boys." She caught hold of his uninjured arm and gestured at the stockade. Warmth flashed over her, along with an ache in her arm. "You're coming with me." She managed to keep her voice steady, though something hummed inside her, a sense of connection with him, of sharing the ache in his wound.

"I like you very much, too, Mistrada," he murmured, just loud enough for her to hear.

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