First: Running in the Bear Empire
The bounty hunter took a couple breaths, studying her. “You know what they say about the Bear-stone bracelet in Halor, right?”
“I can hazard a guess or two.”
“They say it eats your brain. They say that when you take it off, there’s nothing left of you. And they say only certain people in the Empire’s hierarchy are allowed to use them.”
“I did say I could kill you without compunction, didn’t I?”
“Who are you?”
“You haven’t decided yet. You don’t get to know that until you decide. And maybe not then – in case you change your mind.”
“If you’re going to kill me, you don’t care what I know.”
“If I’m going to sell you to slavers, you’re banking on getting away. In that case, I assume you make it back to hunt me again.”
“And then you offer me three choices again?”
“If I catch you a second time, you’re going to find your choices severely limited.”
“Down from three?”
“Indeed. So. What will it be?”
He looked at her as if he was trying to read something in her face – her ancestry? Her reason for offering him the Bear-stone bracelet, for offering him any choices at all?
She doubted that he’d find anything useful there; she had far too much practice showing only what she wanted to — or she’d never gotten out of Dekleg.
Looking at him, she couldn’t tell.much either. He had a long scar over his.forehead, through his eyebrow, and down to his cheek. His skin was sand-colored; his hair bark-brown, his eyes golden. The eyes said Reansu, but Reand traded with Halor.
“Why offer me anything? Isn’t two choices a priest thing?” He shifted away, rolling back onto his heels.
“The priests of Axes do offer two choices. I’m not a priest of Axes.” She shifted, too, wondering if he’d try to run.
“That didn’t answer my question.”
“I offer three choices because you didn’t know what you were hunting. Because you were doing a job. And because I’m not surprised the Dekleg sent someone after me.”
“Three reasons.” He snorted. “I don’t think today is the day I die.”
“I don’t think it is, either. Or you’d already be dead.” She waited. He still hadn’t given her an answer.
He swore for a few minutes in Halorin. “I’ll take the damn bracelet. And on your head be it if it strips me of volition.”
The Bear-stone bracelets were hard to come by, but she’d made a stop-off at a Temple of Axes when she realized she was being tracked. For her, they’d provided one, a golden band with a bear-stone embedded in it. It looked like any other piece of jewelry. On him, dressed in reasonable travelling clothes and looking like a member of the Empire, it would look like a gift from a lover or a weathly client.
She walked around behind him and locked it on his wrist, pricked her finger and let her blood and her Spirit stain the stone. “By my hand, by my will; be my hand and move by my will.”
He shuddered. “Infernal demon-magic, blasted soul-stealing Elherion ice-magic storm-surging violent — what is your will, Lady?”
She didn’t smile at him. That wouldn’t have been kind. “Tell me your name.”
“I don’t have a name for your sort, you – Carrone.” He twisted against the spell-rope and glared at her.
“All of your name.” Common knowledge – such as existed for something as rare as the Bear-stones – said that it was best to accustom your victim – although most people didn’t use that word – to the feel of obedience as quickly as possible.
“Red-Night Carrone hy’en Doroon of the West.” He pulled himself to his feet with clear effort. “Lorkappen.”
The Halorin insult was an interesting one, usually used for a higher-ranking officer or crafts-Master one hated. Deline let it lie.
“I would like to sleep. Tell me when the last time you slept was.”
“Why do you care? You nearly killed me.” He struggled with the ropes again, dropping his hands down to his ankles to get his arms in front of him. “Three nights ago. Horseturds!” His wrists were bleeding from the spelled-rope.
“You were trying to kill me,” she pointed out. All right. Sit on the bed. It should still be useable, but the fee for the damage is coming out of your purse.”
“Everything I own is yours now,” he pointed out dully. “I’m your slave.” He sat on the bed with a thump, staring at his wrists. “Worse than your slave.”
“You were given a choice.” She had, she had to admit, forgotten how the Halorin viewed slavery. But he had been planning on decapitating her and taking her head back to the Deklegion. And even if the Deklegion had every reason to think she deserved it, she was prone to disagree with that.
“Some choice.” He rubbed his wrists against his pants.
“Stop that. I’m going to untie you now. Try not to stab anyone in your sleep.”
“Victim” definitely feels like the right word to me! 😀
*grin* Indeed. He might have bitten off more than he can chew.
Forgetting to comment or mention an edit till I’m further on in the story has the advantage that I get to go back and reread. 🙂
• or she’d never gotten out of Dekleg.
→ never have gotten