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Running in the Bear Empire 38: Loyalty

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Halorans

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“Like this place?”  Carrone shook his head.  “No, you weren’t. You were going stir-crazy staying in one place.  I can’t imagine what you’re like at — at home. Cooped up in a single building…”

“Well…” She let a smile linger on her lips for a moment. “It has its benefits.”

“I was trying to explain those to our friend here, but she didn’t want to hear it.  I mean, if she’d listened to me telling her it was an Imperial Cabin…”

“Well, then maybe she might have left when she had a chance.  Unless you were offering to show her exactly how nice the Imperial Bed is…?”

The woman squirmed but said nothing.

“Would you be jealous if I did?” Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 37: Halorans

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Guests

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Deline froze.  The voice in the cabin didn’t sound like the Talon, but she couldn’t be sure.  They were both female voices, that was certain, and how, otherwise, had she gotten past the wards.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“Fine.  Settle in, here, have a drink, and we can wait for whatever you’re waiting for.  But you can move that knife any time now.”

“What, so you can attack me?”

The accent was different.  It was probably – probably – not the Talon.  

“I’m not going to attack you. You attacked me first, remember?  And we’re both Halorans.”

“Yeah, so what are you doing way out here in the middle of the Bear-Empire Mountains?”

“I could ask you the same thing.  We’re in the same cabin together, after all.” Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 36: Guests

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Hunting

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She watched the pebble flow true and thunk hard against a forehead before she had time to process who was standing there.  No weapons out, no Imperial insignia, not someone she knew — they looked startled and took three steps back.

She dropped her slingshot in a pouch and grabbed her longknife.  “Hello.” If they had darts, they’d be going for a pouch; a wrist-dagger, they’d be shifting their wrist, a sword or blade, reaching for their back or thigh.  Sher shifted her weight to her back leg and got ready to block with a wrist or an elbow if she had to.

The woman had her hand halfway to her neck when the “Hello” seemed to make her pause.  With her hand still hanging in the air over her shoulder, she cleared her throat. “Hello.”

“Are you here to kill me?”  The woman had the same blonde Bear-family hair as Deline, the same blue eyes and broad shoulders. Probably not a Deklegion bounty hunter, but it didn’t do to take stupid risks.

“Depends.”  The woman rubbed her forehead where the rock had hit her.  “Who are you?” Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 35: Hunting

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: What’s Your Name?

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“Are you sure you know how to hunt things that aren’t people?”  

Deline was teasing Carrone – mostly.  They had been living in the cabin for four days, and she was beginning to get more on edge than she wanted to admit.  

It was easy enough to settle in to a routine – gather and hunt in the morning, cook a big meal in the afternoon and settle in to bed in the evening.  It was easy enough to pretend that they were just having a little rest stop along the way, getting to know each other. But Deline knew that they were hiding, and she knew that she had to get back to the capital, and she knew that with every day she didn’t – with every day she didn’t make it back, there was a chance that they wouldn’t make it back, and if they didn’t, her information died with her.  And that wasn’t acceptable.

So she was teasing Carrone for losing another deer.   Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 34: What’s Your Name?

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Consummation

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“Wait.”

The thing about an Imperial Bed was, even if it wasn’t exactly comfortable in an emotional sense, it was always perfectly comfortable in a physical sense. The spells that Deline used to keep her lodgings tolerable were the basis of the magic on the Imperial bed, but then there were layers and layers of other work there.  One could lay here forever and not get the slightest bit uncomfortable – or at least for decades, until the spells wore off.

Continue reading

The Visit

He could have had any man or woman in the whole nation — probably in several of the adjacent nations as well. He was a brilliant man,a dashing pirate, and his airship was one of the finest known to navy nor fleet. He was a folk hero the likes of which had not come since Dywin Talizen in the age of stories and myths.

And his airship had ducked in, dodging the royal navy ships and the cannons, to visit a political prisoner in a quiet exile in a mountainous corner. He had brought her a rose, the sort of gift that fit the stories, risking everything for a romantic gesture.

He couldn’t stay long; he couldn’t even risk a kiss, even if she would have accepted it. But he brought her a rose.

And he brought her a key.

Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 32: Buttons

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Imperial Bed

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For a moment, Deline thought that Carrone was simply stuck on a never ending circle.  Then she realized that he was smiling.

She smiled back at him.  “Well.” She raised her eyebrows. “I’d say ‘wouldn’t you like to know,” but I think we already established that you have an interest and an opportunity. But if we’re talking about the furniture… you could go upstairs and take a look yourself.  It’s not quite as modern as the one back in the Capitol, but it’s an Imperial Bed.”

Continue reading

Running in the Bear Empire 30: Job Description

First: Running in the Bear Empire
Previous: Third

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Deline found that she was staring at Carrone; rather, she realized that she was staring at him when he shifted uncomfortably.

“So,” she spoke carefully.  “You want a life, a life that isn’t being a bounty hunter any more.  You want someone to go home to at night, or someones, a marriage or a joining.  You want people you can look at as partners, as equals; you don’t mind being the junior in a marriage, though, as long as you have a place. But you were planning on settling down and then you went after the wrong rabbit.  Am I close?”

“That’s – that’s it, yeah.”  He huffed and lay down on the floor, staring through the glass at the fire.  “That’s it. So you see why you – you being the wife of the Emperor, that means that you’re in line for the throne when he dies, doesn’t it?”

“Don’t  – you probably shouldn’t make it sound like it’s an imminent thing,” she protested. Continue reading