Seventeen: Crossing, Cross

“You’re old enough to be out on your own, yes?”

“Of course I am.”  She wrinkled her nose at him.  “I am here, aren’t I?  Everyone may keep calling me child, but I have an apprenticeship, I am carrying the weight of my family to the capital, and I – yes.  I’m old enough.”  She threw up her hands.  “Why.  What did I miss?”

“Oh, no, I don’t think this boy whore was putting you on or anything of the sort,” he reassured her, although the thought had not been on her mind until he said it.  “No, it’s just that a fox – well, that sort of fox – it’s,” he coughed.  “Well, you’re on a trip, it’s the right sort of time to make that, I suppose.  They’re…” he looked away, blushing.  “Usually made from bottle-brush and red-tail, which you can find on the side of the road a lot. And then you use some scented oil and carve a piece of the bottle-brush, and it’s, ah.  Used in sex.”

“Oh!  One of those!” She grinned at the blush on the Diamond Raven’s cheeks.  “I’ve made those before, although not with the red-tail.  That must tickle…”

“I think that’s the idea.  You’ve… made those?”

“I’ m a woodcarver,” she reminded him.  “And there is a special pair of people I have an interest in, back home, so I made them… a thing or two, on occasion, when we could sneak out.”

“…So you really were… ah.  Visiting this boy-whore?”

“What did you think I was doing?  Playing cards?”  She blinked at him in indignation.

“Well, you look… ah.  Young.”

“And if I looked broad-hipped and broad-chested, I’d already be married, no?  With two babies on my hip and another on the way?”  She snorted. “I’m wearing a laced vest because bouncing on a bumpy road is no fun, you strange-minded wizard, you.  

“Who’s calling who strange now? You sand for a Prince and weren’t even fazed!”  If he were the Raven his name suggested, his neck-feathers would be standing up in indignation.  As it was, he glared at her, the golden lasso around his neck seeming to glow.

“You still haven’t told me what you were going to say about mountain people!”  It had nothing to do with strangeness, but then again, maybe it did.  “Or why you were all worried about how old I was when the whore I was sleeping with wanted me to make him a sex toy!”

“Because I thought you were a child.  It’s not my fault you mountain people look young until you’re old and you are all adult when you’re barely off the teat!  They say don’t ever cross a mountain person, and they don’t mean the ones who live in the foothills, they mean the ones like you!”

“So why in the world are you trying to make me cross?”  She glared at him.  “I mean, what is wrong with mountain people, for one, and for another, why would you be trying to irritate said mountain-person-like-me if that’s what – let go of me!”  There was a hand on her arm yanking her backwards.

“I’m not holding on to you oh by the veil of Martania give me permission to use magic, mountain woman!”

“And what, have you blast me?”  She yanked her arm, but the grip was like iron.  “Let go of-” she spun around to see who was holding her.  “…Shit.”

The man holding Raizel’s arm was a head and a head again taller than her, broad in the shoulders, and dressed in a stinking and ripped uniform which had seen better days in the realm of the Tzar’s grandfather or perhaps great-great-grandmother.  The insignia had all been ripped off, and there was a brand on the man’s cheek that declared him a deserter, as if the stink and the wild hair would not have told her that already.  “You must help me!”

“No aid for those who desert,” she quoted, pushing the man – the once-a-man away from her. “No solace, no comfort, no-”

“Enough!”  He roared it at her, drowning her out.  She felt the Diamond Raven coming up next to her.  “Enough!  I know the rote.  I know it better than you, whelp.  I know it like I know the stink of my rotting corpse that will never lay down, don’t I?  But I know something else.”  He leered at her.  “I know why the Seventh War ended as it did.”

“The Seventh War?” Then his uniform might truly have been from the Tzar’s grandfather’s days.  “We won it.”

“We won it, she said. We won it, did we?  Did we win?  Did the Tzar’s soldiers march home triumphant then?  Were we the victors?”

“Off of her, you foul thing.”  The Diamond Raven put his hand over the deserter’s and hissed.  “You are poison through and through.  Do not touch her.”

“Ah, I will be off and more than that, I will lie down, but first you must do something for me”.

7 thoughts on “Seventeen: Crossing, Cross

    1. (Oops, never mind. See email.)
      So… this is a, not a zombie, but walking dead, eh? And lying down, I guess, means finally dying into true death.

  1. Hm, so it seems Diamond Raven truly is bound to Raizel. I wonder when she’ll understand that as well as Diamond Raven does, because it sure looks like she hasn’t quite twigged to it yet.

    Deserters — presumably when caught — are cursed to walk forever, in full awareness? And the process is probably done in the most excruciating manner possible. I’m surprised they can accost someone like that; I’d expect the curse to also make them unable to affect others. (Then again, I’m also surprised that a dead walker from that long ago isn’t flat-out insane.) Or is his ability to grab her also part of the draw that will let him lie down — I’m guessing, actually die — once she fulfills his quest.

    And now I’m suspecting that the Seventh War was at best a propaganda victory.

    1. It’s going to take Raizel a while to get it; this is magic of a sort she’s never encountered.

      And yes. Deserters are…. really cursed badly.

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