Gygr woke with a pounding headache and found herself in a dark dank room that she just knew was underground. She tried to rub her temples but found she couldn’t move her arms. They were tightly bound behind her. Damn.
She had no idea how long she’d been in the cell. It had to have been awhile though, because she was thirsty and hungry. And she had some personal business to conduct. Soon. Very soon. Like now. Damn.
The squeeging of the door woke her. She saw the torch light float around the room, brightening it as torches were placed in wall sconces. “Well, Gygr,” the man stopped. “Couldn’t wait I smell.” He laughed.
“Balador. Why am I not surprised?” She looked up at the traitor.
“Now, now Gygr. Be civil and I’ll let you have a bath. You really don’t want to. . .,” he fanned his hand in front of his face, “keep smelling do you?”
“That would be nice Bal.”
“Bring in a tub and hot water.” He looked at the woman, “and a bucket for her personal business.”
“Well, Bal no one ever said you weren’t a gentleman.”
“My mother taught me well.” He bowed to her then disappeared out the door.
The water was hot, the soap smelled worse than the stuff Emilie had given her all those months ago. Gods has it been over a year already. But she was clean and in one of her old tunics that had been found in the bedroom. That’s the easy part. Bal has used up his allotment of concern for a fellow human being.
Balador entered with six others. One man held a legless Paula in his arms and sat the woman on the ground in front of the warrior. “Okay Gygr,” Bal sighed, “I told Jauka it was a waste of time but he wanted to give you the chance anyway.” He took a step toward her and looked down at his prisoner, “kill her.”
Gygr looked into the man’s eyes, “no.”
He bent his head, “I told him you’d refuse.” He turned to the others, “take Paula away and give our guest here a helping hand to the manacles.” Gygr was grabbed by two men and dragged to the center of the room. On each side ropes were used to lower manacles attached to chains. The warrior’s wrists were secured. The ropes were pulled and she was lifted until only her toes touched the ground.
“When you decide you want to comply you just let us know.” Bal stood before the woman looking up to the blue eyes. “Understand?”
The warrior said nothing. Bal stepped back and nodded. The whip cracked and wrapped around her body. She unconsciously shivered. Gods, doesn’t this man have an imagination? The beating continued until the woman lost consciousness.
Gygr was awakened by a cold bucket of water over her head. She still hung from the chains although she had been lowered so she nearly lay on the ground. She saw Balador enter again with his buddies and stand over her. “Will you kill her?”
She said nothing. Bal nodded his head and the warrior was again raised and administered another whipping. The tongue of the leather snake wrapped around her body leaving its bite everywhere. Her chest, her breasts, her thighs and calves. No part of her body was safe. I can do this. I’ve taken beatings before, I can do this. She tried to hold on. To last it out. But the snake never stopped biting. Finally she let go and lost herself to the darkness of unconsciousness.
And time passed for the warrior. Awakened by another jolt of cold water,
whipping until she passed out only to be awakened again for another round.
She was thirsty, hungry and exhausted. Her body was one continuous bleeding
wound, the tunic torn and bloodied hung in rags covering very little.
Dakkan and the small party had waited a full day just as the commander
had ordered. Then they waited another, just in case. When it was apparent
their commander was not coming back they reluctantly returned to Knaub.
Gygr lost track of time. Had it been one day, two or a week. She shook her head as she hung receiving yet another session with the leather snake. I can do it. I can do it. Hold on Gygr. Hold on. The pain. Hold on. I can’t. You can. No. Yes, you can. Hold on. Just hold on.
When she began cycling her worst fears were realized. She’d been their captive for three days. She awoke unaided by the usual sloshy ‘rise and shine,’ and huddled in a corner.
“You’re quite the brave one aren’t you?” Balador knelt beside her setting a pitcher nearby. “Some water. You can live a long time without food, but you need water. And I don’t want you to die Gygr.”
“Then what do you want,” her throat scratched and the words sounded alien to her.
“Dream on Bal.”
A man approached with a live chicken. “Kill it Gygr.”
“Never learned how to snap a chicken’s neck Bal?” She didn’t touch the bird.
“Actually no. We had slaves do that.” He pulled the pitcher away and set it behind him. “Kill it and you get the water.”
“Why? It’s just a chicken.”
“Because you want me to, Bal. No.”
“You will Gygr, I promise you. You will kill anything I tell you too. You will follow orders.”
“The day I do Bal will be the day you sign your death warrant.”
The man had held his anger recognizing it gave the woman strength to see others in uncontrolled emotion. But this was too much. Balador beat the warrior with his fists until his men pulled him away from the woman. She had not even tried to defend herself. No need to expend valuable energy in a hopeless cause. He stood over her shaking in rage. “You will Gygr. I promise that.” He turned and stomped from the room.
Gygr reached for the water pitcher which had been toppled during the encounter and was thankful for the swallow that remained. She leaned her head against the wall and touched her split lips with her tongue. She already felt her left eye begin to swell.
Gygr held out two more days before killing the chicken. Her thirst was unquenchable as she drank down the pitcher of water. Moments later she threw it all up. “Too fast, Gygr.” He chuckled, “want another chicken to kill?”
Without thinking she nodded. She drank the next pitcher much more slowly. She held on to it like the thing was a security blanket. Bal and his buddies left her alone.
It was just a damned chicken. You killed at his command. It was just a chicken. Chickens are killed every day. It was at his command. No. It was just a chicken. That you killed at his command. I needed water. But you killed at his command. Yes, YES, YES I DID. I KILLED AT HIS COMMAND. The woman drew her knees to her chest and sobbed. At his gods-be-damned command.
The puppy licked her fingers, “kill it, Gygr.” Bal held a pitcher before her glazed, red eyes. She had no way to know for sure, but she felt days had gone by since she’d killed the chicken. Her throat ached for moisture. He mind reeled in agony. No. Gygr don’t become his slave. It’s just a puppy. Yeah, a puppy. An animal. Balador rose, “think about it,” and left the animal as he carried the pitcher in his fingers. At the door the man smiled and poured the contents just outside the door onto the ground. “I’ve got plenty Gygr.”
She stared at the dog as it sucked at her thumb. What’s the dif between a chicken and a dog. We eat chickens. We don’t eat dogs. Some people do. We don’t. It’s an animal. It’s a puppy, a young animal. Still . . . Don’t do it Gygr. It’s an animal. Don’t Gygr. But . . . Don’t do it. It’s just a dumb animal. She snapped the little dog’s neck and threw the dead animal against the door.
She drank more slowly this time, holding on to the precious pitcher. It was a damn animal. It was a living thing. Don’t. Gygr control yourself. You can get through this. Killing animals is one thing, killing Paula is quite another. Yes. That’s right. Animals are animals. Paula is human. Yes. Yes. She slept.
It became easier to kill the puppies, chickens, ducks, even a piglet. She killed them all. The kitten purred in her hands. It’s just another animal, Gygr. It’s a kitten. A kitten. No. I won’t do it. No. No. No.
Balador paced the office. “So you’ve gotten nowhere with her.”
“She’s refusing to kill the kittens.”
“Something . . .don’t remember the details. But, she’ll do it eventually.”
“Your time is up. She kills them today.” Jauka dismissed the man with his hand.
Gygr sat up when she heard the door open. “Not yet, huh? Well,” he motioned someone in with his hand, “I have a little incentive for you to help you follow orders.” Gygr watched at Lisi was manacled and raised just above the floor. The girl sent a questioning glance at the woman huddled in the corner, a kitten squirming in her hands.
The warrior saw the quick movement of the whip, the crack and the scream of agony that came from Lisi. She tried to rise to reach her friend. No. Stop. Her body revolted. The weakness from lack of food had caught up with her. The crack came to her ears followed immediately by another scream. Stop. No. Okay. Okay. She searched for the soft bundle, tears blurring her vision. It’s only an animal. Stop. I’ll do it. Please stop. Her finger touched the softness and she wrapped her hand around the playful bundle as it patted at her fingers with tiny paws. Another scream and deep sobs. Do it. Do it. DO IT. The soft bundle in her hands stopped moving as tears and sobs escaped from the woman’s eyes and throat.
Balador held his hand to stop the beating. Lisi was released and removed from the dank room. A pitcher was set beside the warrior and the group left.
She swung her arm toward the vessel connecting with it. I didn’t do it for water. Damn you Balador. The jar broke into pieces against the wall and Gygr lay in a fetal position holding herself as the sobs kept coming until finally she slept.
She’d lost count of the kittens she killed. Bal would put it in her
hand and she’d snap it’s neck. No thought. No emotion. She never even looked
at them. Just find the neck and snap it.
Gustav, Yoshi and the rest paced the office in Knaub. “Damn it’s been a month now. That’s it. We’re going to attack.”
“Gus,” Yosh touched his arm, “are you sure?”
“I agree with Gustav,” Tron leaned over the map. “If we . . .” They went over the plan in detail bringing in every captain and lieutenant to explain their part of the plan. Everyone went over every detail until it invaded their dreams.
Dakkan led the gygrellas through the tunnels. It was a longshot, but
if the tunnels met up with the ones under Port Emilie the plan would work.
If not . . . Dakkan didn’t even want to think of the alternative. As tunnels
came to a dead end the gygrellas moved into one of the others until only
two continued leagues from Knaub. As each league was made their hopes grew.
Thirteen leagues, as the birds fly, separated the towns. The tunnels were
deep, but straight.
The man placed Paula before the warrior. “You know what to do,” Balador whispered, “just follow orders and kill her.”
The warrior sat there, unmoving, unmoved. . It was so easy. Just break her neck, no pain for the victim. Why was that so hard to do. I snapped Patch’s neck. No big deal. He was relieved. What’s the difference whether I kill with a sword or my hands. Dead is dead. Killing is killing. No difference. Only philosophers can split the hairs over and over. She looked into the frightened woman’s eyes and placed her fingers around the thin neck. Like a chicken’s. She squeezed and twisted until she heard the snap.
“Excellent, Gygr,” Balador smiled. “For that you get to eat.” He turned to an underling, “bring in the tub, clean clothes and something to eat and drink for our assassin here.” The man patted Gygr’s shoulder. She felt nothing.
Gygr sat in the hot tub not noticing Bal as he entered. “Brought someone to see you.”
“Oh, Blue,” Lisi sat beside the tub and stroke the woman’s short red hair. “Blue?”
“You stay with her.” Bal smirked, “she’s not quite herself,” then retreated closing the heavy door behind him.
Lisiana found the soap and began to rub it onto the sea sponge that had been included in the pile beside the tub. Gently she washed the warrior, speaking softly to her all the time. “It’s all right, Blue. Your safe now. I’m here with you.”
The woman said nothing. Her eyes never settled on the young prostitute. She did exactly as she was told. When Lis asked her to step from the tub, she did so. She bent over when asked so the girl could settle the clean tunic over her head and onto her shoulders. She ate, she slept, she even performed her personal business when asked. Not a word exited her lips.
Lisi held her friend as she slept. She felt the woman shiver when she cried. Lisiana only held her more tightly and stroked her back to give what comfort she could. Oh, Blue what’d they do to your mind?
Gygr shook in the arms of the young prostitute. “Wilem, Wilem,” she whispered over and over.Hanging from the beam Wilem’s body slowly rocked back and forth in a tiny arc. Gygr saw through vision blurred by tears Bris settle a bench beneath the young man’s swinging body so it could be cut down.
“They killed him Cristov.”
“Menden, Bythop, Pestro and Stycos. They hung him up there.”
“Gygr,” he looked into the dark blue eyes.
“Bris had to use a bench to cut him down, Cristov. How did he get himself up there without a chair, or bench, or table. They killed him. And I’m going to kill them.”
Balador entered the cell and pushed a woman toward the warrior. “Kill her Gygr. It’s an order. She betrayed you. She’s the one who put you in this,” he sniffed, “dump.” The prostitute fell before the warrior.The girl found the dead kitten and sat beside it for a long time. Menden.
Cristov raced into her room, “Gygr they have your kittens. And . . and . . I think you should come.”
They raced onto the field and watched in horror. The four boys had hung the kittens by a paw or tail and were setting them afire with a torch.
Gygr turned back to Menden who now stood before her his hands clenched and teeth bared. “One day I’ll kill you,” he hissed.
“The day you try will be the last day you breathe,” she said softly.
“Gygr please don’t hurt me. I didn’t know. Really.” She tried to crawl back but was stopped by two men standing over her. “Please.”The woman swung the net over his head and released it. The crowd seemed to go quiet as the net floated over Menden. The warrior leaped on top of the man. "You're dead," she growled as she choked him. "Gygr," he tried desperately to breath.
Gygr was grabbed from behind. Quickly she snapped Menden's neck "two," and turned. She pressed her foot onto Marcus' chest and shoved him away. Pestro turned toward her with his short sword and shield and watched as Marcus fell onto his back. Gygr pulled the net from Menden's body and grabbed his sword which she raised over her head and plunged into Marcus' chest.
She took a few deep breaths and approached the last trainee as he fell to his knees. "Please don't kill me."
They are so big. So big. Didn’t know they came that big. She recognized her traitor. She told them who I was. She betrayed me. Gygr reached up and pulled the shaking woman toward her. Lisi was pulled away from the warrior a large dirty hand over her mouth. The warrior stroked the milky neck and held it gently. Wonder what . . . she pressed her thumb against the woman’s chin . . . her name . . . and twisted her wrist until she heard the crack . . . was.
Lisi was released and fell sobbing as the intruders departed the cell. “Oh, Blue what are you doing?”
“Following orders,” the warrior leaned against the wall and closed her eyes. “Just killing traitors and following orders.
"You would come out to kill innocents? Then beg me for your life? You disgust me." She hissed spittle hitting the quivering man in the face.
Swiftly Gygr swung the sword opening Pestro's chest. She reached into the still kneeling body and twisted her hand pulling out his still beating heart. She raised it over her head as the crowd went wild.
The six guards returned and escorted the survivors back to the arms room. Gygr turned to the captain of the guard who had come to congratulate her. "Give this to Jauka with my compliments." She pushed the heart into the man's hands, "and tell him I don't kill innocents."
Dakkan knew they were getting close. There was now only one tunnel and he was sure it had to go all the way through to Emilie. Why else have tunnels if they don’t meet?
Yoshi, Gustav and Tron were settled ready for the attack. For some reason Jauka had kept his entire force in Emilie. They were sitting ducks. The archers settled into the hill overlooking the port waiting for the order. They roasted nuts over the small fires. Since it was day they would not be noticed.
Tron shook his head. Damn idiot. He’s got perfectly good troops trapped in that town with no place to escape to. And still more on the ships. Idiot. Jauka you are a real idiot. I will slit your throat if you’ve harmed Gygr. Idiot or not. You are a dead man.
Yoshi settled her horse. She’d sent a patrol out to deal with one of Jauka’s and they returned without prisoners. Weapons were tossed into a pile they would later add to the cache. Never know when you’ll need more weapons. Jauka has pretty good ones too. Unfortunate his soldiers use them so poorly. Come on Jauka. Let’s get at it. I swear to the gods your life is forfeit if you’ve harmed the commander. I swear to the gods.
Gustav looked up. The sun was not yet at it’s zenith. That was the signal. When the sun was at it’s zenith they would begin the attack and pray to the gods Gygr was safe. Every man in that camp is dead if she’s been harmed. Every man. I swear. Every man.
Dakkan pushed the torch closer. “Door,” he could barely get the word out. Grest slipped past him from behind and grabbed the rope handle. He swallowed and pulled softly. The door opened without a sound. Everyone released a collective sigh of relief. It sounded to Dakkan like a wind. “Shhh,” he looked back.
The door opened into one of the tunnels Dakkan recognized as being under the HQ in Emilie. He nodded at Grest and the two slipped through the door and searched the tunnel for the symbols Dakkan and Kelt had left so long ago. Grest found them and made a small whistle.
Dakkan saw the symbol and knew exactly where he was. With a nod the
rest of the party began to pass into the tunnel following the young Dorian.
Grest was proud of his team. After Mishal’s accident he’d requested a transfer.
The near loss was nearly too much for him. Tron had put him in charge of
one of the gygrella platoons and was pleased with their performance and
that of their leader. Grest, recognizing silence was imperative in any
operation necessitating stealth, drummed it into his troops. They would
go over every aspect of movement until everyone could perform silently.
It seemed to take forever, but the training paid off. The gygrellas made
no sound. Nothing rubbed against the wall, they were far enough apart that
if one stopped suddenly the others had plenty of time to stop as well instead
of running into each other.
Lisiana and Gygr huddled in different corners. She’s afraid of me. Well she should be. I kill. That’s what I do. That’s what I’ve always done. That’s what I’ll continue to do. I’m good at it. And I don’t care anymore. She lay her head on her arm and closed her eyes.
She’d never felt the whip before that. But it was worth it.Stycos laughed. “Prove it.”
Gygr raised a brow, “Pestro already admitted it.”
“So. Hey the guy was cursed. We saved all of us from being cursed too. You should be thankful.”
She slowly shook her head as she approached him. “There is only one curse you need fear Stycos.”
“Y . . .” he cleared his throat, “yeah, what’s that Gygr?” The young man tried to laugh as he watched her slowly coming closer and closer the wooden training sword in her hand.”
“Me.” She took three quick strides forward and swung the weapon across her chest at shoulder level. It wasn’t clean, but it did the job. Stycos’ head bounced on the ground attached to his body just by the spinal cord. “One,” she whispered to herself.
“Kill him, Gygr, that’s an order” Belacius was crumpled before her shaking in fear.
The warrior tried to stand. She backed up in the corner and spread her arms so that each was against a different wall and forced herself to stand. She wobbled a little, it had been a long time since she stood. Balador snapped his fingers and someone passed the warrior a tin of water. She drank and tossed the container aside. She waited until the dizziness subsided and slowly walked behind the fallen man. She pulled him up by the neck of his tunic.
“Gygr don’t,” Lis begged softly.
The warrior glanced at the young woman and pulled the man with his back against her chest. “Knife,” she whispered. One was placed in her outstretched hand. It was so easy. The blood spattered when the arteries were severed and she tasted the metal tang of it on her lips. She held out the knife and it was taken from her hand.
“Excellent Gygr. Excellent.” Balador slapped her on the shoulder, “now we can go upstairs. An old friend wants to see you.”
Lisi huddled alone in the cell sobbing. Gods, why? Why do they want
to make her a killer? Why?
Dakkan let Grest lead and he slowly fell to the back of the line. Grest
had memorized the map and would be better to lead the gygrellas when the
Tron held his arm up as the archers settled their arrows in the fires to light them. When his arm went down hundreds of arrows rained over Emilie. Those that struck the dry wood of the structures began to burn with the new fuel to lick.
Yoshi hit her mount with the flat side of her sword and with a soul piercing scream led her troops up the road and into Emilie.
Gustav heeled his horse and charged from the north into Emilie entering
just north of the tannery. He was never so glad to have that foul smell
in his nostrils. Home.
Gygr was manacled, hand and foot, and held in the tight grips of two very strong soldiers. She stood between them not moving. She did not acknowledge a recognition of the room, which was her former office, or the man who stood before her with his hands behind his back.
“Nice to see you again Gygr.” Jauka smiled and waved the soldiers aside. He walked around the woman until he faced her again. “You’ve been very destructive.” He slammed his fist across her cheek, “and I don’t like that.” He followed it with a blow to her stomach and another across her jaw. New blood found it’s way into her mouth. He continued to rain blows on the warrior until she fell to the floor and then commenced to kick her.
“Jauka,” Balador cleared his throat, “Jauka.”
The tyrant stopped and looked at the young man and yelled. “What?”
Jauka kneeled beside the woman and lifted her chin with his finger. “Get one of those sluts in here.” He looked into glazed eyes. “And we’ll see if she is or not.”
“She’s the youngest, Jauka,” Balador faced her. The girl shivered when she saw the warrior bleeding and beaten on the floor. “Name’s Tina.”
“Gygr,” Jauka knelt beside the woman again, “I order you to kill this slut.” He helped the warrior to her feet and then stepped back.
Kill the slut. Kill the . . . killing is killing. Makes no difference if it’s with a sword or your hand. It’s an order. A gladiator follows orders. Follow orders damn it. When she held her hand out a knife was place in it by Balador who saw Jauka stiffen. Bal shook his head at the man and received a nod back. Gygr played the knife, dancing it through her fingers then held the hilt even with the girl’s midsection.
“Kill her Gygr,” Jauka whispered. “Now.”
The knife entered one side of her front and was forced across making a smile across the girls abdomen. Gygr dropped the knife and held the girl with one hand as she pulled her entrails out with the other.
Jauka stood with his mouth open not believing what had just happened.
Grest noted the gold no longer was in the room Dakkan had marked and continued down the tunnel toward the secret door. The second room had an obviously new door. He listened carefully but could hear nothing. The man pulled the bar from the top of the door releasing it from the hole above, then pulled at the rope handle. Inside he saw a bunch of rags piled in a corner.
Lisi heard the door open and looked up to see a soldier. She began to cry. Guess they came for me now.
Grest motioned men in and turned to find the secret door. His men could take care of the girl. I have to get into the HQ before the archers burn the place down.
“They have Blue,” she tried to tell them, but no one seemed to want to listen. Lis cried as she was lifted into strong arms. “Have Blue,” she sniffled. “Have her killing.”
Grest found the cord and opened the door carefully. The storeroom was lit which was good. He heard footsteps. That was bad. He listened noting they were not approaching. He opened the door a little further so he had a better view of the interior and counted three soldiers. Gently he closed the door and leaned against it. He signaled for three archers and when they arrived whispered his instructions. Each would take a specific target. The archers took their place beside the door and Grest snapped the cord and quickly pulled the door open. The archers entered and had their targets down before they even knew anyone was in the room with them.
Before her Gygr stepped over another body. “One more Gygr,” Bal smiled. “You’re doing real good.”
She held the neck of another woman, “just squeeze it, Gygr,” Jauka, his eyes wide, “I want to see her choke to death.”
Gygr squeezed. The woman clawed at the warrior’s hands staring into dark blue eyes that held no emotion. Her movements slowed, then stopped and the prostitutes arms fell limp at her sides. Gygr released her.
“Fire, fire,” the yells could be heard from outside, “. . . attack.
We’re being attacked.”
Yoshi slid her sword into the chest of one of Jauka’s men, then turned and slashed at another who tried to maneuver his way to her left. His arm fell onto the ground as he screamed in shock then pain.
Tron gave the order and his archers began picking off Jauka’s men who fought the Destroyers within the town. It was something they had practiced for months and he was pleased with the accuracy of each shot. Every one hit it’s intended target.
Around them Yoshi’s troops watched as Jauka’s men began to panic. They pushed horses in an effort to get out of the town. Yoshi sounded the whistle and her troops let them pass into the road. Callow and his platoon boarded one of the ships unlucky enough to still be in port and they quickly suppressed all resistance.
The town taverns and shops began to blaze as the fire found new fuel. Sparks scattered onto the roof of the HQ and found a place to burn.
“Damn,” Jauka watched from the window as his men were cut down by arrows and swords. “To the ship,” he called to his officers in the room, “bring Gygr,” he told Balador and they ran from the building toward the wharf.
Bal pulled the warrior, still manacled, but her leg restraints wouldn’t allow her to keep up. “Come on, Gygr,” he yelled at the woman. An arrow struck him and he fell grabbing his thigh. “Gygr, help me up.”
She looked down at the man writhing in pain, then toward the ship and watched Jauka and his men board as dozens ran, swords raised into the fray. Arrows stopped their advance and the men lay dying or dead between the ship and the fight. The warrior watched the ship sails raise and the wind lift them up and out. She shook her head. You won’t make it. Wind’s too strong for that many sails.
Gygr stood surrounded by dead and those who soon would be. She turned
and watched the carnage. The warrior sat on the ground, back to the sea
and watched. She felt nothing.
Grest, Dakkan and the platoon that came through the tunnel poured onto the porch of the mansion, smoke following them. Lis pulled away from a soldier when she saw the warrior and raced to her. Gygr lay her head on the young woman’s shoulder and slept stroking the girl’s arm as she did so.
The fires were allowed to burn until nothing of Port Emilie remained. By the time the battle was over even the wharf had been destroyed. The lone ship anchored on the other side of the bay was saved to become a part of the new Dorian Navy. The Destroyers assembled Jauka's wounded and those who'd had sense enough to give up. In manacles they began the long trek to Number One where they would join fellow soldiers.
Lisi tended to Gygr who said nothing to anyone. She did anything the young former prostitute told her to do. She even ate porridge. The young woman never left her friend's side. Lisiana was worried. Gygr's officers were worried. The Destroyers were worried. Troops remained in Port Emilie to help with the cleanup and eventual rebuilding of the town and wharf. Gustav and his troops began the long journey back to Tang Te Lake. The soldiers were exhaused but relieved their beloved Commander was safely with them once agian. At least they hoped she was their Commander. No one knew for sure anymore.
“What’s wrong with her?” Gustav couldn’t take it any more. “Damn, I want my Commander back.”
Bris sat beside the fire and tossed in a small stick, “from what Lis tells me Gygr has retreated into someone we do not recognize.”
“Yeah, a killer,” Yosh threw the empty mug across the tent, “damn Jauka’s eyes.”
“But at least she lets Lis stay close.” Callow looked at the others, “isn’t that good?”
“Yes it is,” Bris sighed.
“I don’t understand why she attacks anyone who comes toward her. Doesn’t she know us?”
“I don’t believe she does, Yosh,” Bris poured more ale into his mug and took a deep swallow. “We must give her time. Our Gygr is in there, but she must be given time to come back to us.”
The return to Tang Te Lake was uneventful. They made good time, mostly because the troops encountered no trouble. It was difficult for Gygr's officers to come to terms with the woman who now seemed to not only be someone else, but also knew only Lisiana. She failed to recognize any of the troops and would visciously attack anyone who crossed an invisble line known only in her mind.
Lisi and Gygr settled in the small cottage that had been originally built for their Commander and Mishal. Mishal and Stefan having taken over Melinda's quarters. Lis and the woman with red hair and dull blue eyes soon fell into a routine. The morning meal was followed with a long walk around the lake during which Lis would yammer about anything and everything. Gygr said nothing. After the midday meal the warrior took a nap. Lisi felt the more the woman slept the sooner her mind could rest and recover from it's ordeal. After the nap another walk.
The young woman was surprised one day when Gygr stopped at the new seedling bed and knelt in the dirt to finger the young trees. Arrangements were made with Jonni to let the woman help replant the seedlings in the area that had been set aside for a new forest.
The tall woman sat in the bath as Lisi washed her. “Gygr, you been very good today. You ate everything. Had a nap. Dug all them holes for the new little trees. Would you want ato go for a walk?” She tapped the woman on the arm and the tall warrior rose and stepped out of the tub. Lis immediately began to dry her. Then settled a bright blue tunic over the broad shoulders.
The young woman led the warrior to the bed, “guess no walk tonight. Lay down and go to sleep Blue.” She kissed the woman on the cheek as she covered her against the mid December chill. The former gladiator closed her eyes and obeyed orders. She fell into a deep sleep.
Gygr woke when Lisi touched her shoulder. The former prostitute wanted to cry, but knew it would do no good. Her Blue never showed emotion any more. Even when she was accidentally hit in the head with a wood post being carried to form the fence around the garden, she didn’t make a sound. Until she saw the blood pouring from the scalp wound Lisiana had no idea the woman had even been touched by the post.
The former gladiator ate the porridge the young woman set before her. A light tap called Lis to the door. Callow stood there with three squirming kittens in his hands. “Uh . . . Aldo’s cat had eight and these are what’s left. Thought you’d like one.” The animals squealed in his hands and the man’s eyes widened as a tall form approached them.
Gygr stood looking down at the furry things. Tears slipped down her cheeks as she pushed a finger into the soft bundles which immediately began playing and licking the digit. “Uh . . Callow why don't you come in and put them on the floor near the fire.”
The warrior followed her small friend and watched as they began to sit near the fireplace. Gygr pushed them away from the crackling flames and bared her teeth hissing at them.
“‘Kay, Blue don't want us near the fire. So,” Lisi moved further away from the hot area of the room, “this okay, Blue?” They sat and placed the kittens between them leaving room for the warrior if she should want to join them.
The three kittens were as different as they could be. One was all gray with green eyes. He seemed to enjoy attacking fingers. The black one had gold eyes that always seemed to want to close for a nap. The third was a calico. Equal parts rust, black and white. She sat looking at the fingers then charging and grabbing one nibbling it until the owner pulled it away.
“Should we name them, Gygr?” Callow took a deep breath hoping he was doing the right thing. When the warrior nodded he was relieved and Lis was ecstatic.
“What you want to name them, Blue?”
Gygr laid a long finger on the gray one and stroked his soft fur as she played with his tiny paw. The warrior had the biggest smile on her face Lisi had ever seen. “So what do we name him?”
The warrior placed her finger on her eye. “Eyes?” Callow asked as he looked at the woman. He nodded, “yeah, look at his green eyes. He leaned over just a bit to look again and Lis followed suit. “Okay, Eyes it is.” Callow lifted the little bundle and held him up so they could all see, “so Eyes is your name now.” He laughed and Lis did too. “Well,” the man stood and placed Eyes into Lisi’s lap and picked up the other two in one hand. “Need to find . . . aughhh!”
Gygr held his empty hand and was squeezing it forcing the man down. “Blue, what are you doing?” She saw the fear in her friend’s face. “Let him go.” Lisi placed her hand lightly on the woman’s arm, “let is hand loose.”
Gygr immediately obeyed and dropped her head in defeat.
“Do you want these kittens too, Gygr?” Callow settled the kittens on the woman’s lap and was rewarded with a huge grin and teary eyes. “They are yours, but you must promise to take care of them.”
The warrior picked up all three kittens, moved to her bed and began playing with them.
Callow took a deep breath, “thank the gods.”
“She hurt you?”
“No, but she sure cares for those kittens.” They watched her play for quite awhile. “Well, I have to go, Tron’s got a new group for me to start training with Grest in the gyrella fighting.”
“Yeah, they shortened it. Actually I think it sounds promising.” He smiled, “like the name too,” nodded to Lis and left after one final glance at his Commander playing with kittens.
"So, Blue what did you name them?"
Gygr held up the black kitten and smiled, "Black." Then she stroked and gently lifted the Calico, "Commander."
Blue eyes sparkled, "bossy." Gygr giggled.
“Jili, I want you to teach me how to read and write..” Lis kept an eye on the kittens while she served the warrior her stew and set a bowl in front of her guest.
“Lisi we have classes every day, just come.”
“I can't. Got to stay with Blue.” She slapped the warrior’s hand as the tall woman tried to pick out the meat with her fingers, “use the spoon, Blue.” She put the utensil in the large hand and watched as the woman ate.
“She’s like a child.” Jili whispered.
“Not in eveyting. Just in some.”
“Why don’t you bring her with you?”
“She won’t leave her kittys.”
“Bring them too. We’ll work around it.” Jili leaned toward the young woman. “You need some time to yourself and if she can make some friends at the school maybe some of the burden can be lifted from your shoulders.”
“Ain’t no burden Jil,” Lisi glanced at the warrior as she mopped the gravy with her bread. “She’s my friend who's been hurt real bad. And I want her to get better.”
“You’re right, I apologize.” Jili finished the stew and watched as Lis refilled Gygr’s bowl.
“Want another loaf, Blue?” She placed one beside the bowl when the warrior nodded.
“I’ve never seen the Commander eat so much.”
“Oh, she’ll eat anyting I put in front of her. Even if she ain’t hungry. Even if she gets sick from eating too much. So I have to watch how much I let her have.”
“Well, from what Bris’ been saying itt’s cause she’s obeying my orders. Whatever I tell her to do she does. So I have to watch what I say.”
“That’s like having a powerful weapon,” Jili leaned into her chair, “gods.”
“Jauka wanted it. That’s what the did it for. To have a killer do their bidding.” At the word ‘killer’ Gygr immediately looked up and became upset. “Blue, just be calm and eat your stew.” Lis patted the woman’s hand and stroked her forearm. “Sure we can bring the kittys?”
“Absolutely,” Jili finished her second bowl of stew and sat with Lis discussing the expanding forest and the local gossip. Jiliana asked if she could correct the young woman’s grammar and as the conversation continued she did so with Lisi turning red every so often. “Actually you’re doing very well Lis. I’ll see you and Blue in the morning.”
The two women took a walk with the kittens trailing after them. Gygr would turn to watch them periodically smiling at their antics. “Eyes happy,” she said softly.
Lisi suddenly stopped and turned to warrior to face her, “what you say there, Blue?”
The Commander smiled, “Eyes happy.”
Thank the gods. Lisi pointed out the seedlings they would dig holes for the following day. “Do you like to dig the holes, Blue?”
The warrior nodded, “yeah,” and sighed.
Copyright 1999 by Frances Spinella
All rights reserved.