Maruc listened to the conversation with interest, this wasn’t his theatre, so he stayed silent and watchful. Awaiting any sudden movements.
Miklos tried to to play devils advocate with his inner desire to mistrust this elf. The goblins may have handed over the horses to the Iron Ring and their associates may have sold them to her. Maybe her only fault was asking a lack of questions? No, elves are cleverer than that.
This is going to end badly.
Hasan could hear little from his distant post, but what he saw suggested the two parties were in a holding pattern, circling around one another. He tried to get all the way around the confident strange elf, who was beautiful in a raw way his own refined Rahasia did not share. Nonetheless,his instincts pitted him against her. Directly opposite his companions, he now saw only the backs of the strangers. He stayed hidden but prepared to advance from behind.
“Ah”, Stephan feigned patience, “you are in a hurry to sell, it seems.” He turned to eye the horses.
“They do seem to be a fine lot.” He started walking toward the corral, leading the group and Fyodoryll. His horse-trading sense was kicking in. “And only just arrived. Did the seller say why he needed to make the sale here, in the woods? The real trading is in Rifllian and often good prices.”
The Sukiskyn clansman approached a white mare.
“There, there, lovely,” he spoke softly, easing her. The horse responded with a cautious exhale but she turned to Stephan, obviously interested.
“She seems a bit spooked.”
His hands gingerly caressed the mare’s neck. His fingers probing behind the ear for the Sukiskyn mark: a tattoo of two curving “S” marks crossed by two bars — the same emblem that marked his ring recently parted in oath to his brother. He was not too surprised to see the mark had been crudely burned into a ragged patch. The goblins must have taken some time to erase any marks of ownership. The brand was recently burned. The horse winced at his palpitations.
Stephan made no secret of the ear check. Fyodoryll clearly saw his action and the horse’s reaction. He shot the she elf a side glance to make sure they had an unspoken understanding: the horses were clearly illicit.
While Stephan and the others seemed intent on the horses and playing the part of prospective buyers, Feldard hung back to keep watch on the four hired help. He noted how they watched him warily. The dwarf grunted and moved closer to the covered wagons.
“Bah, all this concern over horses,” the dwarf muttered to himself. Feldard had no interest in the stolen horses—not really; what he wanted to know was where the goblins had gone to after off-loading the herd.
Bending to check the back left hoof, Stephan spoke. “From what I’ve heard, you’re lucky to have no troubles in Dymrak of late.”
He examined the inside of the hoof, there, clearly carved was the Sukiskyn brand. The secret, secondary mark was a trick his grandfather concocted to better ensure ownership.
Stephan’s patience ran thin at sight of the mark. Turning to Fyodoryll, “I don’t know from where you hence but in this kingdom trading in stolen horses warrants death under hoof!”
A telling glance to his scabbard directed the she elf’s eyes to the clearly embossed Sukiskyn emblem decorating the metal clasp.
“Check the hoof, she elf! Your purchase is forfeit! I claim these 24 whites in the name of Sukiskyn!”
Fyodoryll gasped and covered her mouth with both hands in shock at Stephan’s accusation.
From the woods opposite Hasan, an elven voice shouted—“Halt! Drop your weapons!”