Episode 6 of FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE. The Hawk swoops in Trimontium. FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE 6 Two men stared out from the shaded entrance to an alley on the other side of the street from the ostler’s yard where they’d spent many bored hours since receiving their orders two days earlier. One older, with a bald head and a cast to his right eye, the other, an almost girlishly handsome young man with dark hair, they’d been told to look out for a specific group. Two men, a woman and two children, a boy and a girl. Every inn and stables in the centre of Trimontium was being similarly observed, because their leader believed his quarry must pass through this busy crossroads city and they would take the opportunity to rest their horses and replenish their supplies. Only one more vital detail was needed to prove them correct. As the day warmed, Valerius pushed his cloak back from his shoulders and allowed it to fall on the stone wall of the trough beside him. The younger man, whose sharp eyesight had given him the name of The Hawk, whispered to the older with an authority that would have surprised anyone who didn’t know him and the bald man nodded and slipped away silently up the alley. The Hawk felt his excitement grow as he watched the children play. His commander had offered a reward for the hunter who first identified his prey, and he’d already decided what that reward would be. His pretty features hid a pitiless depravity that sickened even the most merciless of his comrades. The handsome woman who’d accompanied the children had excited him and it excited him more to picture the entertainment she would provide when she fell into his hands. It was amazing what tricks even the bravest of women could be persuaded to perform when her daughter was chained naked to the wall with a glowing brazier and a pair of red hot shears in front of her. The possibilities were endless, and the young man had an unlimited imagination. He smiled and continued his surveillance. Not long now. As long as they didn’t move on too soon. ‘That’s enough play for the moment,’ Valerius warned his children. Lucius had the piglet on its rope as he ran around the stable yard pursued by Olivia, but as he neared the open gate for the last time, the little animal slipped the noose and ran for freedom, with Olivia in its wake. ‘No,’ Valerius shouted as she ran into the roadway. But in her excitement Olivia was beyond hearing. The piglet darted this way and that, suddenly seeing its opportunity in the darkened opening opposite the gate. Olivia instinctively gave chase. As she entered the alley she was halted abruptly by a hand that darted out and took her by the shoulder. Before she could cry out, she was spun round to face her father and she froze at the sting of a blade at her neck. ‘Don’t struggle, girl,’ an almost gentle voice instructed, ‘or you’ll cut your own throat.’ The Hawk stepped into the sunlight at the alley’s entrance. Two or three people passing nearby gaped in astonishment and fear at the sight of the knife at the girl’s throat. ‘This is Imperial business,’ he snapped. ‘Anyone who interferes will regret it. You,’ he called to Valerius as the street cleared, ‘stay where you are, and the boy.’ ‘Don’t move, Lucius,’ Valerius ordered. ‘Father,’ Olivia cried. ‘Shut it, girl.’ The voice was no longer gentle. ‘Stay quiet, Olivia.' Fear, desperation and helplessness made Valerius's voice as brittle as an old man's. 'Don’t hurt her, please.’ ‘Nobody’s getting hurt as long as you stay just where you are,’ the young man smiled. ‘But if you or the boy moves, I’ll cut her. I’m not sure whether to take her nose,’ the knife flickered upwards and Olivia let out a squeal, ‘or one of her eyes. Don’t make me decide which.’ ‘Nobody will move,’ Valerius assured him. ‘What is this all about?’ ‘I think you know that already, friend. Someone important wants to have words with the one-handed man and is willing to pay handsomely for it. A few of my friends will be along soon to make sure it happens.’ ‘Then you only need me,’ Valerius tried to keep his tone conversational. He needed to make sure the man holding the blade at Olivia’s throat stayed calm. ‘I wont give you any trouble. The children are of no use to you. You can just let them go.’ ‘I might have other ideas,’ The Hawk grinned. From the corner of his eye and just out of the knife man’s vision, Valerius could see Tabitha edging cautiously along the front wall of the adjoining building.