It was late afternoon when Finny felt a hard nudge.
She had been sitting on the seat next to Joe while the wagon lurched and rolled down the sandy, rock-strewn road towards somewhere she did not know.
The sun, the rocking and her full belly had done their work, and Finny had nodded off.
The nudge from the half-giant brought her back to life with the realisation that she had fallen asleep leaning against him. Either he had not minded, or he had not noticed.
Finny, her understanding of grown-ups diminished by her recent experiences, assumed the latter.
"What?" She asked, rubbing her eyes with one hand while the other wiped the drool from her chin.
Joe nodded towards the farm they were approaching. As they drew level with the rutted path that led up to the few clustered buildings, he hauled the wagon to a halt.
Joe turned to her, an enormous finger as thick as her wrist pointing at her nose.
"You stay here, I'll only be a minute."
Finny nodded, and the half-giant clambered down from their high perch. The whole wagon, big as it was, seemed to relax as the berserker's weight left it.
She watched him lumber off, half crouching, his head turning, continually scanning the fields either side of the path. Finny frowned.
By the way he was moving, she doubted he was going for milk... Unless he was going to steal the cow.
Figuring that Joe was up to no good, whatever it was he was doing, made Finny realise that her being with him might make the people in the farm think that she was part of it.
Even at only four years old, Finny was very aware that just because they were together, it usually meant that she would get punished too if he was caught.
Thieves, she knew, usually ended up hung and their bodies left to rot in gibbets by the side of the road. The age of the thief didn't seem to matter.
Finny looked around anxiously, an unwilling lookout in whatever was going on.
It actually took three minutes, not that Finny was counting, or even had a way to do so.
When the berserker returned, it was from behind the wagon, and his sudden arrival at her side made Finny jump.
"Here, go and put these on," he said, climbing up and dumping a bundle of clothes into her lap.
Not waiting to see if she moved, the berserker then cracked the long reins, and the horses stumbled out of their lethargy into a clumsy, slow canter.
Finny parted one of the items of clothing from the others and held it up. It was a shirt... a boy's shirt. She held up a pair of heavy trousers... boys' again.
"These are boys' clothes!" Finny looked less than happy. "Even these! Ewwww!" She was holding up a pair of once-white underpants.
The berserker spared her a glance.
"Just get inside and get changed. Stop holding everything up for the whole world to see."
Finny climbed into the back and, fighting the sway of the moving wagon, pulled off the homemade dress. She reluctantly pulled on the well-worn and threadbare undergarment followed by the shirt.
There was a clingy uncomfortableness about the clothes against her skin.
The berserker's voice came from the driving seat.
"What do you expect? They came off a washing line."
Laying on her back, Finny pulled the damp, heavy linen britches up her legs.
When she had managed the feat, not easy in the swaying wagon, and used the cord belt from her dress to cinch the too-big trousers around her waist,
she climbed back through to sit next to the half-giant on the wooden driving seat.
"There's no shoes."
The berserker frowned at her.
"Sorry your ladyship, but they don't hang shoes on a bleedin' line, now do they?"
Finny folded her arms and stared ahead. Her grumpiness subsided. They might be boys' clothes, and they might be damp... but they were better than a flour sack.
A quick sideways glance and then a grin threatened to form on the berserker's face.
It was dusk when the wagon moved slowly along the single proper road of the small village.
The few pedestrians hardly cast them a glance, even the guardsman at the entrance just waved them through without looking up.
Joe stopped the wagon outside the only inn.
"We're going in to eat." He started to climb down but stopped with his head level to the four-year-old's. "You're a boy, okay?" Finny nodded. Joe grunted. "Good, don't forget it."
"What's my name?"
"Well, you can't call a boy 'Feelya."
The berserker gave a little gasp of exasperation and then sighed.
"Fine, you're name's... I dunno, John."
"Dun like it," Finny said, shaking her head.
The vast hands tightened their grip on the side of the wagon.
"You don't have to bleedin'...." The berserker took a deep breath. "What DO you want to be called then?"
Finny thought. Only when the giant's brows started to cross with impatience did she make a decision.
"Finnamena." She said.
"Still a girl's name."
"Oh. Okay, Finny then."
This time the thick plank the berserker was gripping actually split.
"Fine, Finny it is." He looked hard at the little girl to make sure.
Finny nodded, smiling.
Joe lifted her down.
"Glad we got that settled."
But 'Finny' was already running for the door of the inn.
"Can I have pie an' mash?"
Joe followed the little 'boy' into the hot and smokey interior.
"If they know what's good for them, you can." He mumbled.
Finny ate until she almost fit the stolen britches and sleepily followed Joe back out into the cool night air. The air wasn't the only thing that had cooled since the sun had gone down.
The hard-packed mud of the street sucked the heat right through the soles of her feet.
"Urgh! My feet are cold. You never got me any shoes, like you said."
Finny looked up to see that the grown-up's attention was elsewhere.
A few houses along, on the other side of the street, a family group had just left their home, and the father was locking the door. Well-dressed they were, even the little girl, who was about ten.
Joe took Finny by the arm.
"Come with me."
Finny found herself half led, half dragged across the road and into a dimly-lit alley.
Moments later, they were outside the darkened windows of the back of the same house the small family had emerged from.
Finny followed where the berserker was looking upwards and saw the tiny window, its single wooden shutter open onto the back-street.
Joe squatted down in front of Finny, holding her by the shoulders. He glanced up and down the deserted ally.
"Right kid. I'm going to lift you up, and you're going to climb in that window and then come and open the back door. Got it?"
Finny stared at him.
"But it's someone's house."
Finny found the now-familiar thick finger, with its broken and dirty fingernail, once again held in front of her nose.
"Just do as you're told. And don't make a noise."
Not waiting for any further response, Joe put his hands under Finny's arms, and she found herself being boosted up into the air.
She only had time to gasp when one of the half-giant's hands was removed and quickly wrapped around an ankle before she was pushed further upwards towards the waiting window.
Finny automatically reached for the sill, and she pulled herself up the rest of the way. Scared she was going to fall, Finny had no alternative but to climb into the dark opening.
It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, but when they did, she discovered that she was in the garderobe,
standing astride the hole in the seat and looking at the closed door in front of her.
She poked her head back through the window to where Joe was looking up from the ally below.
"It's the lavvy."
"Never mind that," Joe hissed impatiently. "Get your little arse downstairs and open this bleedin' door."
It was not the berserker's instruction, but something bordering on the same nasty anger that had earned her more than a clout in the last couple of weeks that made Finny's stomach tighten.
Heart pounding, Finny disappeared back into the darkness. Cautiously, she opened the lavvy door.
The house smelled a bit like home had, warm and cosy and... Finny banished that memory immediately.
As quickly as she could, she made her way downstairs then followed the smell of old cooking to the kitchen and the back door.
Fearing what might wait for her on the other side of the door, Finny lifted the latch and pulled on the rope handle. As soon as the door opened a crack, it was pushed from outside.
The enormous figure of the berserker pushed past her, and the door closed again. Finny backed against the wall, eyes wide and already flinching from the expected back-hand slap across the face.
Instead, what she got was a gentle pat on the top of her head.
"Good girl. Well done."
Finny opened her eyes to see Joe grinning down at her.
"Exciting, innit? Come on, let's find you your shoes."
Finny snuggled down under the thick feather-filled duvet.
After burgling the house... Finny's new shoes weren't the only thing the grown-up had taken from it...
They had driven the wagon a mile or two out of the village and parked up in a small clearing off the road. First, they had fed and brushed the horses and then Joe had made tea.
Finny had tried on her stolen shoes and had been delighted they had fit.
Then Joe had shown her what else he had taken, letting her examine each object while he explained how much it was worth and how much they would likely get after it had been fenced.
Finny, despite her fear of them being caught, had positively tingled with excitement as she handled the stolen objects that had belonged to the unknown family, but now belonged to them.
Now warm and still full of pie, she felt her eyes closing.
Beside her, Joe finished the small flask he had brought to bed with him and then leaned across her and snuffed out the candle. Body odour aside, Finny felt safe beside the berserker.
She just hoped that he didn't roll over in his sleep and crush her. That was the last thought before sleep finally took her at the end of that first day.