I have more planned, but this was a good stop point for this part. 673 words.
“Your target was never here.” Baram punctuated his sentence with a sharp kick to the bikers’ leader’s ribs. The woman grunted, and, on the other side of the field of battle, the nearly-dead tank made a pained noise.
Worry about it later. Baram picked up the boy. “This one stays with us. And your flamethrower.”
“Keep the girl, we need the boy.”
Even more interesting. Baram shifted his weight to his back foot, Jaelie’s cue to pick up the negotiation. “If you need the boy, even more reason we should keep him. You were the ones who were dumb enough to attack us on our home territory.”
“We were hunting down a target the boy said was here.”
“Then he’s not that good, is he? Both stay.”
“If we swear that our gang will never bother you or yours again…”
“Then you’ll be making reasonable precautions to stay alive.” Jaelie relented, just a bit. She shifted forward. “Look, we’ll keep the boy for six months. Come back then, and you can have him.”
“And the girl?”
“She’s ours. Come back in two years and we might – might – talk abut it.”
“We could kill you. I wouldn’t even have to get my hands dirty.” Baram admired, silently, the way that Jaelie made it sound casual. She was tough as nails. All of them were. “The tree will do it for me.”
“Six months on the boy. He’s yours until then. Two years on the girl. She’s her own woman, good luck holding on to her.”
“We’ll hold on to her.” Via jumped down from the wall and grinned. “One way or another. You get on down the road before we change our mind.”
Baram put a foot on the fire-thrower’s arrow-pinned wrists and nodded to Jaelie. She grabbed the seer boy and hauled him to his feet, pushing him against the wall.
The trees let go of the biker boss, and what was left of her merry band managed to get themselves onto their bikes and onto the road.
That left Baram and the girls to deal with the prisoners. “You.” He toed the girl on the ground. “You belong to Viatrix for the next year.”
The girl grunted. “Or what?”
“Or I let the trees have you.”
She twisted to look at the trees, which were reaching out to her with greedy arms. “I Belong to Viatrix for the next year.”
“Yes, you do.” Via pulled out the arrow with a yank, and the girl screamed. “Come with me.” She shot off instructions as she walked, and the girl pulled herself to her feet.
If she stayed that rough, Baram would have to talk to her. Hopefully, it settled down once she had the girl under control.
“Do you want me to get Aly, Boss?” Jaelie manhandled the boy over to him. “I mean, I already have Wish, and he’s enough for any two normal people…”
Baram showed his teeth. He’d meant it to be a smile, but Swish made him snarl. “No. No, this one’s mine.” He poked the boy in the chest. “Six months.”
The boy squirmed, and couldn’t quite look Baram in the face. “Six months.” His Adam’s apple bobbed as he tried to clear his throat. “I Belong to you for the next six months, sir.” He dropped to his knees and offered up his wrists. “I come to you with nothing, and everything I have will come from you.”
Baram shot a glare at Jaelie and Via, because he couldn’t very well glare at the kid, could he? He wrapped his hand carefully around the boy’s outstretched wrists. “You Belong to me,” he agreed, “for the next six months. To…” Aly or Jaelie would have done the words better. “to use and to protect. To shelter, to command. Yes?”
Now, the boy looked at him. “Yes.”
They still had two former “friends” in the basement to deal with. But Baram figured their actual prisoners of war might come first. “Come, then. Be Mine.”
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