First: Spoils of War I: Surrender
Author’s note: oops. Please check http://www.lynthornealder.com/2019/07/03/frenemies/ first and pretend I posted these in the right order. Thanks!
Aran pressed his back against Nikol’s as they made, sideways, for the exit. There were strange giant rat-creatures coming out of everywhere – almost literally everywhere; they seemed to have some sort of camouflage power. The horses had fled. The cats were by their ankles, attacking their share of rat-things with glee.
“They really – really don’t like rats,” Aran panted. “Shit, fuck, ow.”
“Almost there.” Nikol couldn’t do a Working right now without it sending blinding pain through her head, but she could still swing a sword. And she did, sweeping it through seven of the things in one long go.
The cat caught one that she’d missed and they backed another two steps towards the door.
“I have to say, ” Aran panted, as he used a pipe to skewer two of the things and swung that at two more, “I didn’t appreciate how useful that power of yours was.”
“You never told me.” She used a swing more useful for some sort of pre-war ball-based game than for fighting and sent a rat thing flying in two parts. “What your power was.”
“I-” He grunted and spat out a Working that sounded like it hurt him nearly as much as magic was hurting her. “-talk to things. Urm. Some plants, some animals. Not the horses, not without a Working, or the cats, but anything food-like.”
“Don’t suppose rat-monsters count as food?”
“Would you want to eat them?”
They were almost to the door. She hoped their horses were waiting for them and hadn’t run off with all their gear — not that she’d blame them, to be honest.
“We had rat stew last night.”
“You have a point.” He growled at the rats.
They growled back at him, a sound that was, she had to admit, more frightening than his noise.
His next growl, however, was far more intimidating.
And the third one sent the remaining rats running.
“… well done,” she panted. “Let’s – let’s get out of here. I think you can pick the next place to try.”
“Willingly. Are you bleeding?” He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and hurried them out the door.
“Oh, yeah. All over the place. Fucking things.” She was limping pretty badly. Please let the horses have not run too far. She didn’t think she had enough juice left in her to heal herself.
“Okay, here.” He pushed her gently into a bench — must have been where the workers sat, back when this factory had been operational. She wondered what it’d made.
He ripped pieces from his shirt and ran his hands over her legs, binding up the worst wounds before going up to her torso. “Nasty.”
She shivered. “We’ll have to clean them all out. But first, we really have to rest.”
She hoped to hell and heaven he didn’t take the opportunity to run away. She thought about adding on an order, considering the weird way he was looking at her, but decided it would just make things worse.
“Come on.” He spun out a tired Working and their mounts came cautiously closer. Their cats, too, licking their own wounds, nuzzled against them. “I’ll pick the next place, for sure.”
“Definitely for the best.” She didn’t argue with his help into the saddle – noting that he lifted both cats to their saddle-back positions as well – and held on rather tightly to the pommel. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt this bad, and it was only rats. They were screwed if they ran into a real threat today.
She didn’t realize she’d been dozing in the saddle until Aran’s knee bumped against hers. “Easy,” he murmured. “There’s a place ahead, but there’s people there. Do you want to risk it?”
“Do we have anything to pay them with?”
“Really nice leather gloves and – urm – five Red Kingdom Crowns. Saddlebag,” he explained. “I thought I could use them to get away, but we need to rest more.”
She smiled crookedly at him. “We need to rest,” she agreed. “Okay. Let’s see what we can do.”Want more?