Tag Archive | spoils of war

Spoils of War 18 – The Talker

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender

In the front of the room, a man stood, taller than everyone else, taller than people ought to be and made mostly, it seemed, of leg, and he was speaking, but she couldn’t hear him.

He was still speaking, even though the floor was shaking. He looked straight at Nikol and glared.  Even though she had no idea what he was saying, his presence seemed to surge through her. 

She sat down.  She didn’t pay much attention to where, just in the nearest chair.  Clearly he was saying something very interesting.  If only Nikol could hear it.  Continue reading

Spoils of War 18 – Promise

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender

“Look…”  Nikol tried to twist to look at the cat on her shoulders without dislodging it. “Look, I’ve got to get Aran. I’m – I’m kind of fond of him, and, I mean, I have a responsibility to him. And — okay, look, if I promise?”

Why was she negotiating with a cat?  She twisted this way and that, scooped the beast up, and, mindful of its claws, held it so she could look it in the eye.  “I am going to go get my friend. But I promise you – I promise you – I will be back and I will pet you when I get back.” Continue reading

Spoils of War 17 – The Doors

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender

The door.  The door.  Nikol slipped out of bed – Aran wasn’t there anymore; of course he wasn’t there anymore, the door had just closed – and peered out the window.  There he was, walking down the street. Walking, which was odd. She’d imagined if he was going to run away, he’d take a horse. And one, no, both cats were following him, but he didn’t seem to notice them at all.

She ran down the stairs and slipped out the side door, hurrying to follow him. He was moving deliberately, not slowly, but not running. Where was he going?

The remnants of her nightmare stuck with her, making his movement seem sinister. If he was running away, she was going to feel rather stupid about following him. Hadn’t she more or less said that she’d let him get it out of his system? And then she was trailing him like she didn’t trust him.

But it wasn’t that she didn’t trust him, it was that her dream was still screaming in the back of her mind and something seemed off, wrong.   Continue reading

Spoils of War 16 – Quiet

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender

“You have to wonder what happened here.”

“I don’t have to.  I mean, unless you tell me I do.”

Nikol looked around the town.  As far as she could tell, it had been left completely intact, except for the ruined bridge on one end and the broken road on the other.  Someone had laid planks down over the hole in the road. 

But there were no collapsed buildings, no signs of fire, no skeletons – there were quite a few things left in the houses, as if people had packed up and left in a hurry, but they had, it seemed, all left. 

“You don’t have to,” she agreed evenly.  “How about this one? It’s pretty.” She gestured at a house with a Victorian feel, a matching garage, and three-tone paint with relatively intact gingerbreading.  Continue reading

Spoils of War 15 – Rest Stop

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender

Content warning for this chapter: Clumsy field medicine on rat-induced wounds. 

~*~

They were far enough from the Mountain that nobody looked too worried at soldiers riding into town, but close enough that people were cautious. 

“We need clean water, preferably some alcohol for our wounds, grain for the horses, and a sheltered place to sleep,” Nikol told the townsfolk (for a generous definition of “town”), when they were asked what their business was.  “We made a bad choice of resting places, and the rat-things in the factory back there—”

The bigger of the cats made a spitting noise and a very indignant face.  The four people — three women, one man, all armed — laughed. 

“That cat is right.  They’re not good eating, I can tell you that, for man nor beast, but they think you’re a pretty decent dinner.” The four of them shared a look.  “Toby’s barn on the edge of town is clear right now, there’s a little grain and a clear-water pump.  You have something to pay with?” Continue reading

Spoils of War 14 – Dirty, Rotten…

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.  Continue reading

Spoils of War 13: Enemies

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender

Nikol peered over at Aran.  He was looking her way. Feeling her out?  

“You could,” she agreed slowly.  “Pretty sure I haven’t given you an order about that.”

“Not many orders, actually,” he agreed.  He sounded cautiously agreeable. “I bet there’s a catch.  This stupid thing has way too many catches.”

“There is.  Everything I’ve heard says it’ll make you more and more miserable the longer you’re away from me.  You could do it, but eventually you’d end up finding your way back. And then you’d have to deal with guilt and, well, if I wanted to punish you for it.”

“You don’t strike me as the punishing sort.”  He almost made it a question.   Continue reading

Spoils of War 12 – Flee!

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender
Previous: Animalia

The slug. Aran was looking behind them, where the slug-thing was still screaming on the salt. I feel bad for it.

Nikol swallowed a It wants to eat us and then a Well, for fuck’s sake, come on, and then, for good measure a Are you fucking kidding me?

What the hell was she supposed to say to that?

She stared at Aran while she considered those options and a few others and then, finally, decided to dump it back in his lap.

“What can you do for it that doesn’t endanger us?” Continue reading

Spoils of War 11 – Animalia

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender
Previous: Out of Hell

Aran left a solid block of the road converted into salt and then, for good measure, the two cross streets.  The slug could move around it, sure, but it would take the thing time.

By that point, hopefully she could figure out how it was trailing them.  She closed her eyes again. Maybe-

“Wait.  It’s an animal, right?  I mean, we hope it’s not a person.  So why don’t you steer and I see if I can figure it out?”  He poked her in the arm and snorted. “Come on, you worked in team.  A troupe. So why are you trying to do everything yourself?” Continue reading

Spoils of War 10 – Out of Hell

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender
Previous: Future

It was another hour before they cleaned up the dishes from their dinner, packed up everything in their packs, and lay down together on a bed that was surprisingly comfortable.  Nikol made a soft noise as she settled in. This was – well this was good.

Aran laughed.  “You can’t be surprised that it’s nice.  You were just telling me about putting curtains on your tent, right?  You’re good at making a place feel like home.” Continue reading