It was long past sunset when they heard the trumpet sound.
Nikol didn’t let her guard down. Just because the treaty had been signed didn’t mean the enemy would-
She spat out a Working as someone tried to hamstring her and kicked him in the face. He must have good night vision – or, like her, know where everyone on the field was in a ten-foot radius.
She put her boot on his neck and spat out a couple more Workings, her blade poking into him where it would slip through his ribs and cut into his intestines if he got too rambunctious. “Surrender,” she suggested. Nobody else was moving. She didn’t have to kill him.
The trumpet sounded again. The man under her boot spat out something that was probably not a surrender. “Prisoners of war go to the Mountain,” she told him, letting her blade break the skin. “On the other hand, personal prisoners stay with their captors.”
“Not a prisoner,” he grunted. He was not trying to get away, which was clever, but which also made her wonder what he was trying.
“We won.” Around her, soldiers were moving forward into the enemy camp. “We beat your army.”
“Not my army,” he muttered. His breath was labored. “Not my fight.”
“That’s why you were attempting to hamstring me, then?”
“Hrrph. Gut you,” he explained.
“Thanks. I’d prefer a hamstringing, if it comes to it.”
She pressed her second blade against the back of his leg, just above his knee. “That could be arranged.”
He grunted hard into the dirt. She shifted her blade and the leg moved oddly. “But someone’s beaten me to it and broken your leg. Surrender,” she repeated.
The trumpet blew a third time. “They’re wiping up the last of the troops of this other force that isn’t your army or your fight. And you tried to gut me, so I’m not feeling like letting you try to crawl off into the night. Come with me, surrender to me. Or I break your other leg and leave you here.”
He grunted into the dirt again. This time, she could easily make out bitch among his curses.
Nikol wasn’t exactly offended by that. She pressed both blades a little deeper into her prisoner. She knew what her employer was going to do with the rest of the captives. She knew – now – what the Mountain did when it had grist for its mills.
She wanted to be out of here and on to someplace far away before they decided they didn’t need their mercenary troops anymore and could feed them, too, to the Mountain.
He coughed wetly. “Fine. Fuck! I surrender to you. Yours. In your hands. Bitch.”
“In my hands,” she agreed. “Can you ride?”
“Can you ride?” she repeated.
“Yeah, better than walking.”
“Come on, then. We’re getting out of here.”
She managed to get her arm around his shoulders and help him up before anyone noticed them. The rest of the troops were still moving, heading for their tents, gathering up prisoners, or, like them, leaving quickly.
He started muttering under his breath, the words for Control and Body clear in the grunted, reedy breath. Nikol tensed, but his next words were “Aran oro-”
“Nikol,” she offered, and he kept going. She pieced together the Greek he was using to complete the spell and snorted. “That’s how you managed to nearly gut me.”
“That’s how,” he agreed. He stood straighter, barely leaning on her. He was using magic to make his legs move and his body stay upright. “Sucks, but works.”
“That’s good enough for now. Only a few feet to go and we’re there.” There were two horses milling about, one trying to get what remained of its rider off of its stirrup. Nikol helped the horse out, then helped Aran onto that horse. “Stay.”
“Talking to me or the horse?” he muttered. She didn’t answer; she was too busy convincing a second horse to cooperate. “Hey,” he added, a little louder, “don’t you have gear? A tent? That sort of thing?”
“What I have right now is two stolen horses, you, and a burning desire to get away from here and get away from here fast, before someone decides that I’m not needed anymore. Got it?”
“… got it,” he muttered. “Can we move yet?”
She settled into her saddle. “Yes. Stay close, and look casual for as long as you can. We’re going to put some distance between us and this war.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice.”
And with that, they rode.