In Cloverleaf, they don’t kill their attackers if they can avoid it; they make future assets out of them. Here’s a flash of that.
“Look, it’s not like Cloverleaf actually kills anyone.” Hecherak had coaxed. “They’re weaklings. We’ll be in, out, steal a few sheep, maybe some… ha, cattle, and then we’ll be back. Good practice for a real raid, no trouble, and we won’t really be risking anything.”
At the moment, Tekliek was having trouble discerning the fine points of difference between death and his current situation: that was, impaled with three hawthorn stakes that had been sent into him with surgical precision, missing anything he actually needed to survive. Death hurt less, he was pretty sure.
Death might involve a beautiful redheaded halfbreed straddling him.
“Here’s the situation,” she began, and Tekliek passed out.
When he came to, his hands were chained above his head, his feet were chained to something, and he was in the sun. He was no longer pierced through with anything, but from the burning, he could tell he was cuffed with hawthorn.
The half-breed woman was there again. “Here’s the deal,” she began again. “You are going to swear to not attack Cloverleaf for five years or anyplace flying the cloverleaf circles for three years, to not enter Cloverleaf during that time without the freely-given signed permission of the gate guards, and to leave Cloverleaf trade caravans alone for ten years. Then I’m going to mark you with my thorn, and what that means is that the next time I see you, you will do one favor for me. It won’t kill you, your children, or any Students you might have and it will not bring harm to any children still in your care or students the same. Understood?”
Tekliek nodded slowly. “Under-ah!” She had pressed her fingers into his skin, just under his collarbone on his right side. When he looked down, there was a thorn marked in red ochre.
“Good. Someone will be along to take your oath in a moment.” She moved down the line, repeating her speech. To one side of Tekliek was Poesl, from their clan; to the other side was his friend Fijsk. Past Fijsk was Hecherak, and the red-headed halfbreed was straddling her now, ready to mark her.
“Oh, not your first time, is it? Third. And I see you still owe me for the last time.”
Tekliek shared a look with Fijsk. They looked over at Poesl, shook their heads, and looked back at each other.
With their new tattoos burning on their shoulders and their new oaths fitting like cages, they waited patiently at the gates of Cloverleaf for the guards to acknowledge them. There was never going to be a better time or a better reason to slip Hecherak’s leash.
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