05. Clash of Arms

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Ha! Reuben was immensely pleased with himself. Leisurely, he flipped open his visor and took a deep breath of the sweet-smelling air. It was a really nice day. He smiled to himself as he rode along, towing the girl's horse behind him. What a robbery!

The girl had really been funny, especially the way she had stared accusingly up at him after he had plucked her off her horse, as if she expected him to ravish her at any moment. She had honestly thought he had let his hands wander on purpose!

He chuckled lightly. As if a thin little slip of a girl, or any woman for that matter, could interest him! Women only cost money, caused trouble, and possessed no more brains or bravery than a rabbit.

Though now that he thought about it... He had to admit that the girl hadn't seemed frightened when he had revealed his intentions, not even when he had held the sword to her throat. She seemed to have more guts than the usual specimen of her sex.

On the other hand, she seemed underdeveloped in the brain department. Not being afraid when a sword was pressed against her throat was a pretty good indication of that.

All the girl seemed to have felt was anger. Reuben had robbed enough people to appreciate the unique reaction. It got a bit tedious over the years when everybody just handed you their money without protest. The girl had been fun. Her accusing expression had almost made him want to slap her on the rear, just to see if she would try to stab or strangle him.

He smiled to himself again, for no particular reason. Yes, that would have been amusing. And she had actually had the gall to threaten him with death! As if she would ever be in a position to have his life in her hands.

At a place where the path widened a little bit, he stopped and went to the girl's horse. This was always the part of being a robber knight he enjoyed the most: reaping his rewards. Appreciatively, he felt the bulging saddlebags and reached for the clasp.

“So,” he muttered to himself, “let's see what riches or delicacies this fine lady has stored in her saddlebags.”

He opened the first saddlebag, reached inside, and felt something heavy and lumpy. Ah, this was sure to be a purse, full of gold! He pulled it out and blinked at the small sack of corn he was holding in his hand.

Huh?

Was everything all right with his eyes?

Quickly, he reached into the saddlebag again and unearthed the following, in this order:

A second sack of corn

One hammer

Two little barrels filled with pickles

One rusted old horseshoe

Three dirty wooden bowls

One ugly little leather doll.

Sir Reuben stared at the leather doll for some time, although it was no very pleasing sight. She (or he, or it, it was hard to tell) had a painted face that looked like she was being pinched in the butt and didn't like it.

What kind of girl would be riding around the woods with this in her saddlebags? Reuben was reconsidering his assessment of the wench. Maybe he should consider himself fortunate to have got away from her with his life. He had heard that witches used dolls in their evil ceremonies. And who but a witch or a madwoman would be riding through the forest with such a load? Who knew what she was capable of?

Best to get as far away from her as possible, as fast as possible. Closing his visor, he sprang back into the saddle and brought his horse to a brisk trot that the animal could keep up over long distances.

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