Running in the Bear Empire 47: You Will Die

 

First: Running in the Bear Empire
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You WILL die.

The soldiers had begun backing up again.  Deline raised her chin in defiance at the enemy commander.

He had clearly had enough. ¬†With an angry grunt, he shoved Teshone in front of him. ¬†‚ÄúYour turn,‚ÄĚ he snarled.

The big man balked and stumbled.  His forward foot barely missed hitting the outer circle.  There was a blade pricking at him, urging him forward. Teshone looked at Carrone; he looked like he was pleading.

“No help in this direction, my ‘friend’.” ¬†Carrone hissed it out quietly. It sounded like final rites for the dying.

Teshone looked at Deline.  He took a step backwards.

The commander’s knife pricked into his neck. ¬†The big man gave a sound like a final sigh and leaned backwards.

The commander’s knife pricked into his neck. ¬†The big man gave a sound like a final sigh and leaned backwards.

The commander shouted and slashed wildly with his blade, but Teshone was a small mountain and he was already in movement.  Nothing short of the Bear Herself could stop him. He toppled backwards like a force of nature; the commander tried to get out of the way too late and was left with half his body under the falling man.

The sound was something Deline hoped never to hear again.  The remaining soldiers looked between each other.

“We’re supposed to bring you in,” one of them muttered, stepping forward. ¬†Three more stepped backwards, as if not wanting to get hit in an explosion.

“The problem with that,” Deline explained — if she could talk her way out of this without damaging anyone else, she was going to give herself a medal when she got home “–is that the person giving your orders is currently, ah, indisposed. ¬†I don’t know about Teshone there, but someone ought to bandage that wound or he’s going to bleed to death,” she added, not sure they cared, not sure she cared. “So what you have is an illegal military action on foreign soil with nobody to take the blame except you twelve-“

“What about what you did? ¬†You’re not saying that’s bad?”

“What I did was talk to some people. ¬†There is nothing against any treaty against what I actually did.” ¬†Of course, that was because of some very careful treaty-writing, but that was not the point at the moment. ¬†“I didn’t kill anyone in Dekleg.”

“So you admit you killed someone!”

“I haven’t admitted to killing anyone.” ¬†She glared at the speaker, a tall, broad-shouldered woman. ¬†“But if some of your soldiers died in your illegal attack on my companion and I, I will pay honor-gild to their families.”

“We had fifty soldiers when we came after you, and now there are twelve capable of standing. ¬†Even if not all of them had died, that’s a great deal of money paid out to enemy soldiers.” One man took another step forward. ¬†“That’s just a lie to save your own hides.”

“I am not lying to you.” ¬†Deline wanted to get a better grip on her weapon, but there was a slim chance they could still talk their way out of this. ¬†“And I am trying to save your hides as well,” she added dryly. Nobody was going to believe that part, and she wished she could be angry about it and not just sad. ¬†

“You’re out of tricks.” ¬†The one who’d been talking took another step forward. ¬†One more and he’d hit her outside circle. “You’ve killed too many of us and injured more who will never fight again. ¬†There’s nothing you can say to save your own hides now.”

She lifted her slingshot. ¬†“So be it. It cannot be said that I have lied to you, or that you have not been warned.” ¬†She took a moment to kiss Carrone. “You have been an amazing companion,” she murmured.

There was, she knew, a good chance that they would not make it further than this.

“And you,” he whispered back at her, “are cold as the northern slopes and I think I love it.”

Deline found herself wanting to smile at that, so she did.  No time like the present, especially when that might be all she had.

“Have you said your goodbyes?” ¬†She thought the talking soldier sounded — concerned? ¬†Polite, at least.

“Yes, we have. This is your last chance,” Deline told him in return, as politely as she could. ¬†“To surrender and go home alive and intact.”

He snorted. ¬†“You’re quite brave, I’ll give you that. ¬†You live up to everything I’ve heard about the Claws of the Bear.”

“Thank you.” ¬†She winced as he stepped forward. ¬†If this worked-

He touched the line of her outer circle and burst into flames, every flammable thing on him burning at once.

One of his soldiers grabbed him and rolled him on the ground immediately.  The rest of them stepped back and watched.

Deline set a stone in her sling and gave herself as much room as she could. ¬†“We did warn you.”

A woman stepped  to the side and unlimbered her weapons, leaving them on the ground.  She put her hands behind her head and knelt.

Deline nodded. ¬†“I accept your surrender. ¬†The rest of you?”

Four others knelt.  The rest charged the circle.

Deline’s stones hit one mark; Carrone’s darts hit two more. ¬†The circle burned two more; one of those and one more plowed forward to the second circle.

The diamond seemed to crawl up their legs, freezing them in place.  One managed to push through to hit the next circle.

“Stop!” she shouted, but of course they didn’t listen. ¬†The lone remaining soldier stepped into the third circle of protection.

Long gashes appeared all over the woman’s body, especially down her face, like acidic tear tracks. ¬†She moaned and tried to push further through, only to fall down.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Carrone muttered.

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