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Beneath The Mask
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  Beneath The Mask

I wrapped my cape more tightly around my knees, forcing myself to keep watch for ships. It was good to have Thief beside me. I could not imagine being without him. I traced a blister on my hand. Wherever Pippa was she would be happy to know that at least the two of us had managed to stay together. But I doubted that she was any closer to becoming like a Spear woman than she had been the night they took her from the Grove.

Thief stiffened and my arm went to the weapon at my side. He pointed. Far out on the ocean a white blur pitched in the wind. I cupped my hands around my eyes to block out the stars. Moments later I shook my head. I made the sign for bird. He grinned and sat back down. Not long after, several gulls flew over our heads, making for the beach. Their wings tilted in the wind, then the birds sank quickly to the sand below.

The watch passed easily, and Hammoth and Rezah came to replace us. We showed an open palm before heading back to our sleeping places at the fire pit. Rezah looked nervous, and although we could not speak it was good to know that all of us were feeling the same things.

The next day we practised the sailing again, working the oars and taking turns at the tiller, turning the ship and sails at faster speeds. My shoulders and arms ached so badly I wondered if I would be able to lift them again when it came time for the raid. But over the next twelve days of training, my muscles hardened and thick calluses formed on the palms of my hands. I could feel my strength grow every time we took up our oars.

At the fireside one night there was a mood among the leaders that made me uneasy. Thief kept his shoulder pressed against mine as he sipped from a steaming cup. Although the masters’ eyes betrayed nothing, both of us could feel that something was about to happen. They were waiting for something. Or someone.

Thief and I were sent for more wood for the fire. When we returned everyone was standing. Marumuk was pointing to the ship, then down to the earth at his feet. He did not greet me and his mood was sombre, focussed on what he was doing. As I moved closer I could see that he had made scratches in the dirt, a drawing like the kind Pippa used to make on the floor of our cell. The others were nodding and occasionally pointing to the drawing. Although there was no speech, one thing was clear from the way they were communicating: the time for raiding had come.

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Excerpted from Beneath The Mask by David Ward. Copyright © 2003 by David Ward. Excerpted by permission of Scholastic Books. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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