This is still NaNoWriMo writing, so not edited, just word vomit.
Rina did not bother carefully going through their prisoner’s pack, instead she dumped the contents out on the road and began sorting through it with the toe of her boot. Some things that she deemed to be useful were unearthed, and she picked them up, but they were mostly food and a wicked looking knife that David was very thankful the man had not had time to reach. Still no money appeared, but David was not any less certain the man had some.
“Maybe we should make him strip,” said David, thoughtfully. He did not think he imagined the look of horror that quickly flashed across Rina’s face, but it was no match to the look of horror on the man’s face.
“You wouldn’t humiliate me in such a fashion,” said the man, almost pleading.
“I would even take your clothing with me when we left,” said David, a wicked smile on his face.
“You would not benefit,” said the man. “You would find no money hidden in my clothing.”
“I might do it for spite, just for that,” said David. David could see an internal fight wage for a short time on the man’s face, but in the end the man’s honor won, as he suspected that it would. The man struck him as a man who thought highly of his honor.
“I have a false bottom in my pack,” said the man finally, though he sounded as though he was having to force himself to admit it. Rina picked up the pack where she had discarded it, and peered into the bottom. A few moments later she pulled out a large bundle of money, and smiled triumphantly.
“Leave him the money he had in his pocket, and half of the food. I don’t want blood on my hands,” said David. “Thank you for your patronage,” added David, smiling at the man, who glared at him the entire time that Rina spent scooping things into her own pack. It did not escape David’s notice that she left the items they were not taking with them scattered on the road.
Once Rina straightened up, David finally removed his knife from the man’s throat. He and Rina had discussed this moment carefully, since in many ways this was the most dangerous moment. Sometimes David and his fellow bandits of old had tied up people they were robbing so that they would not be able to give chase, but David did not like to do that. He was always concerned that they would not be able to untie themselves and would suffer if not die as a result. Instead David and Rina just turned and ran the moment that the knife was lowered. David ran slightly slower than Rina, listening for sounds of the man running after them, but it seemed that the man had weighed his chances and decided that he did not like the looks of two against one, especially since Rina now had his knife stuck in her belt.
“That went well,” said David once they had decided they were far enough away, and had stopped running. “Good job not panicking and staying calm. I can’t say my first robbery went that well,” he added, grimacing at the memory. “I lost my nerve and came away with nothing.”
“Were you on your own?” asked Rina, starting to empty their spoils from her pack so that she could take a look at them more closely.
“Yeah, it was right after I went on the run. Since I ran with only a little money and a gun, there wasn’t much else for me to do.”
“That would be why then,” said Rina. “I would have panicked on my own as well.” David was not certain if that was actually true, but he recognized it for the kind gesture that it was, and accepted it. Rina seemed less emotional than he was, in general. David suspected that it was all of the training she had received to be a soldier that would gain her family respect, and he envied it slightly, even though he knew logically that there was nothing to envy.
“What did we get,” said David, trying to change the course of his thoughts.
“Money of course, and some food. I got his knife too.”
“Well at least we will eat well tonight,” said David, inspecting the food. “We should pack it up for now and keep walking though. We are still too close to the robbery. It isn’t likely, but the man might be able to send a military patrol after us if he comes on one. It has happened to me before. I would rather be far enough away that we won’t be caught in any hunt.” Rina nodded, and started to pack the things up in her pack again. David realized how unfair this was and took half of the food for his own pack. That Rina had not complained that she was being used as a pack mule, even if it was not what David had intended, annoyed David. It was clear that Rina was far too accustomed to going along with things, though David was not yet certain how he was going to address it. He fully intended that she be a partner rather than a subordinate.
“Maybe we should do a few more robberies like that in the next few days before we leave the area,” suggested David as he cooked dinner that night. Since they had new supplies David had decided to become fancy, and they were going to enjoy a dinner of roasted potatoes and carrots, with some smoked fish.
“Why?” asked Rina.
“What do you mean why?” asked David.
“We have plenty of food and money now, I thought that was the point. Why load ourselves down with more things?”
“We’re thieves, it’s what we do,” said David, smiling, though he could see Rina’s point.
“Every time we steal we are going to put ourselves in danger, why do it more than we have to?” David liked to have a cushion just in case they were not able to find any targets for a while, but he could also see matters from Rina’s prospective. More importantly, Rina was voicing an opinion, and after worrying that she was not going to do anything but follow him blindly, David could not stand the hypocrisy of not listening to her now.
“We really should find ourselves a place to make a base camp at, that way we wouldn’t have to carry everything on our backs,” said David, remembering with fondness his comfortable room at the hideout. If it hadn’t been for the people he would have been perfectly happy to stay there forever. “It’s more dangerous to stay in one place, but I cannot deny the benefits.”
Where?” asked Rina, though she did not seem apposed to the idea.
“The mountains,” said David. “That’s the best place for people of our sort. Easier to defend, easier to spot when people are coming for you, and not a place that the military comes without good reason. That close to the boarder too, the military does not like to be seen near the boarder, they worry that our neighbors will get the wrong idea. So long as we don’t become too outrageous we will be fine. The main thing we will have to worry about will be other bandits up there, the mountains are full of people who would just as soon rob us as travel to the highway to rob others.”
“Sounds like a peaceful sort of place,” said Rina, her voice a little sarcastic.
“Better up there than life down here where we always have to be looking over our shoulders in case the military comes. The military is far more organized than the bandits, which means that we have more to worry about from them.”
“To the mountains it is,” said Rina, clearly conceding the point.
Though he did not say anything to Rina about it, David steered them away from his old bandit haunts. Though he had said that bandits were lacking in military discipline, his troop had not been so lacking as he was willing to challenge their territory. The mountain range allowed for plenty of other places for him and Rina to hideout. At least it was hard to get lost on the way to the mountains, they loomed up ahead of them, and every day they got closer. They also got further and further from civilization. Where before had been a countryside, though admittedly a sparsely populated countryside, now they were heading into the wilderness. Though David had not realized he had been tense previously, he found he was noticeably relaxing as they got further away from other people. Now he was comfortable speaking more freely to Rina, and sometimes even raising his voice over a normal speaking voice if he was excited about something.
David had become in the habit of using every moment he could to teach Rina to survive in this harsh new world she found herself in. He taught her to make a snare, and had a laugh at her expense at her first attempt, though she failed to see the humor in it. Almost every night he now had her make at least a portion of their meal, even when he would rather have made it himself. After dinner the two sparred. At first it had been a thing that David had been forced to make Rina practice her combat skills and to remain in shape, but slowly she seemed more comfortable with the idea. This was helped by David going out of his way to tell her of every time he had needed to fight his way out of a situation. He had not actually realized how many times he had been forced to until he began to tell her of them, and then he found himself more motivated as well. Richard had been a good teacher in the past, teaching him the basics of combat, but nothing took the place of practice.
The hideout that David and Rina established was a small shanty rather than the cave that David had originally intended. This was primarily because caves proved to be in smaller demand that David had supposed. He had heard that bandits sometimes settled in caves in the mountains and so he had imagined the mountains to be very much like swiss cheese. Wood had proved to be more plentiful however, and so a shack had been judged to be the more practical option.
At first the shack had just been some branches propped together, but as the two became more comfortable, they continued to build on, as the mood took them. Both of them had no idea what it was that they were doing, and so they muddled along, and on one occasion had a portion of their roof cave in while they were not home, but in all they managed a ramshackle but livable dwelling. David ensured early on that he and Rina had separate sleeping spaces. Though he knew there was no one around to judge, he could not help but feel that it was not proper that he should share a sleeping space with a young girl. Rina seemed in agreement with this and spent several days after they built separate rooms decorating hers to the best of her ability given their resources. She offered to decorate his as well, it seemed that she had found something that she enjoyed doing, but David was not certain that they shared an aesthetic. Her room had seemed to involve far more dried flowers than he felt was really needed.
Two more times the two had ventured down to the highway, about two days from their mountain, to rob anyone who passed by. Both times had passed without anything significant happening. David continued to intentionally pick targets that looked easy to capture and were unlikely to fight back. Rina on one occasion punched a man who suggested that she was too frail looking for this line of work, but David had suggested that she not do anything that might cause his knife to slit someone’s throat and she had appeared to see the logic in this because she had stood back. She had insisted that they take rather more of his supplies than they generally did though, as punishment for his big mouth. David had been somewhat surprised by this interaction. He had thought that Rina would take the man commenting on her noncombatant appearance to be a compliment, and reinforcement of her femininity, but this was clearly not the case. It was also clearly bothering Rina that everyone assumed that David was in charge out of the two of them. David did everything he could to defer matters to Rina in front of such people, fearing what Rina might do to them if they continued in the illusion that the two were not equal partners.
“Winter is going to be here soon,” David observed to Rina one morning, the crisp air only reinforced this. They had both been stomping and shivering until the fire had grown to a more reasonable size from the nighttime embers. “We should go on a big raid before then, it might be harder to get out of the mountains when it starts snowing, and we are going to want to bunk down rather than camp. Even if we wanted to raid after the fall of winter, we’d be hard press to find prey.”
“This time let me hold the knife,” said Rina. She had adopted a wide belt that she wore with all of her dresses, and now carried the knife she had taken from their first victim attached to it in a leather sheath. She now drew it and brandished it, as an example of what she wanted to do.
“That’s more dangerous,” objected David.
“So why should you always be the one to put yourself in danger?” asked Rina. David did not in fact have an answer to that question, so he just shrugged.
“I guess, if it is what you want,” said David.
Rina was giddy all of the way down the mountain and to the highway, though she got slightly less bubbly as they waited several days in the cold for anything to pass them by. It seemed as though commerce had already slowed through the mountain regions for the season. A car passed them by at one point, but there was not enough time for them to think of how they were going to tackle a car for them to do it. In any case, the sort of people who could afford a car could also afford armed guards, with guns. Finally the two of them heard the sounds of a group of people coming down the road, and looked to Rina, who nodded. The two of them had never robbed more than one person at a time, but with winter coming they could not afford to be cautious. They were going to need the supplies.
“Take one hostage, as fast as you can, I’ll do the talking,” said David. Rina nodded. No matter how determined she had become to prove that she was as much a bandit as he was, it was clear she had not gotten over her reluctance to talk about people that she did not know. David doubted that she ever would.
The group of people that they heard coming, came and a run, much to the surprise of both Rina and David. Rina was not to be deterred however, as one of the people at their head ran past, she grabbed him,and held her knife to his throat. Since she was standing in front of the others while she did this, she clearly expected them to stop running, they did not. Instead, screaming that there was a trap, they continued running past her, while the man that she was holding hostage was shaking with nerves.
“We got one, that isn’t bad,” said David, coming out of hiding himself and trying to reassure a clearly frustrated Rina. The last thing he wanted was for her to kill the man just out of pride, and he was not entirely certain that she wouldn’t. “Out of curiosity, what were you folks running from?”
“Bandits,” said the man, looking at him like he had gone mad, though David suspected the man was only a few moments from madness himself.
David was about to ask a lot more questions when he heard more rowdy shouts behind them, and he realized that there were more men running down the road. These were clearly in pursuit of the men who had come before them by the way they hollered when they saw the trio by the roadside. They were quickly surrounded by several men, while the rest continued to run after those who had come before. David put his hands up in a conciliatory manner but Rina continued to hold her knife to her prisoner’s throat with grim determination. It was clear that since this was her first prisoner she was not going to be robbed of him so easily.
“Who are you?” asked a man towards the front of the group.
“I could ask the same,” said David, though he had a vague feeling that they were in a lot of trouble. These men were not so well equipped that he thought they were in the military, but they were certainly well enough equipped that they were clearly more organized bandits than he wished to deal with. It was just his luck that they had set up shop near David and Rina’s regular hunting grounds.
“These are my men,” said a woman’s voice. In a few second a woman had shoved through the group of her men that surrounded them and presented herself. It was true that everything in her body language spoke of her being in charge. David had a sudden recollection of the conversation he had had with the landlord of the inn so many months ago now. A female bandit had set up in the mountains a county over. He wished that he had remembered it sooner, it meant that he and Rina had been poaching, something he had no wish to be accused of.
“A pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” said David, doing his best to be respectful. “I had no idea we were interfering with your hunt.”
“That doesn’t answer who you are,” pointed out the woman. “Though I think I recognize you from the television.”
“Likely, ma’am,” said David, wishing it wasn’t. He had hoped that he had changed enough of his personal appearance that no one would be able to recognize him from the well publicized mug shot. This woman at least was clearly not to be fooled. “This is my comrade Rina Adcock. We were hoping to hunt enough to hold us over this winter, and when we saw your prey, we thought it was open to the public as it were.”
“I suppose we can share,” said the woman, eying him. David wondered just what she had heard of him, there were plenty of rumors that went along with the police reports and the news broadcasts that had surrounded his arrest, trial, and escape.
“No need,” said David quickly. The sounds of displeasure that Rina was making under her breath did not escape him, but he was going to be happy enough if they did not make an enemy of a woman who was making a name for herself in the bandit world as a strong leader he might want to attach himself to.
“There’s plenty for us,” pointed out the woman, jerking her head in the direction of where there were sounds of her bandits still chasing the men who had run past. “I’m more curious about where you folks are from.” David considered lying but stopped himself. If they were on the same mountain and the bandit troop was to go hunting around, it would be awkward later if they ran into each other.
“We live right up that mountain there,” said David, pointing it out. “We hadn’t realized it was your territory.”
“It isn’t,” said the woman. She pointed to another mountain, taller and more wooded than the one that David had chosen as their home. “We live only a short way up that mountain there.”
“I hope you don’t mind if we stick around,” said