Assassin's Tale

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Chapter 14

Dannia was exhausted as the rising sun lifted over the horizon and added to the heat in the hut once more. Dannia pushed open the little window in the fervent hope that it would let in some fresh air to alleviate the smell of sweat, piss and shit that was their constant companion in the hut, a cloying odour that caught at the back of her throat and threatened to make her dry reach.

She had washed earlier under the waterfall relishing its cold touch on her body bringing the blood to the surface and making the flesh tingle but it was all to no avail for as soon as she had dried herself she was soaked in sweat again in the sticky humid atmosphere.

They took up their positions once more ready for Caroline’s habitual explosive entrance fighting to keep awake in the sultry air.

But instead of the usual tirade of abuse and beatings from her cane as she entered it was a much more subdued Caroline that entered, there was even a ghost of a knock at the door before she came in.

“Come on you lot outside.” She said quietly. “Don’t be difficult today.”

She looked positively grey and exhausted even her rattan cane was firmly tucked into her belt.

“Are we ever difficult Caroline?” Hattie replied with an innocent look. Dannia was amazed how the once timid wife of the mayor, who once, not long ago, had to ask her husband for permission to speak, had changed. The woman seemed strangely more confident, more willing to voice her opinion and often putting herself in the way of any punishment that Caroline saw fit to issue out. Her surprisingly sharp mind led her easily to become their little group’s leader.

“Are you alright Caroline, you look extremely peaky?” She said in what appeared to be a genuinely concerned voice.

“No, I had food poisoning from some bad fish last night along with three others. I was lucky I didn’t have it as bad as them. One of them died, chocked on his vomit, though why I’m telling you I don’t know.” She rubbed her stomach which was obviously still tender.

“Oh dear, very nasty that, it happened to me with some bad shellfish a few years ago, completely put me off them.” Hattie said getting up from behind the desk. “Come along ladies outside now. Oh dear I think I’m going to be last again today it must be old age.” She added with a sigh. But much to everyone’s surprise for the second day running the last one out wasn’t punished in fact as they neatly lined up, from tallest to smallest with Caroline at the end they heard a quiet reluctantly muttered ‘Thank you’ from the guard.

While Dannia mused on the fact that four people had been poisoned, while she had infected only three, she noticed something different in the parade ground that brought a tight knot of fear to her stomach.

Standing at the opposite end from the dais stood a large wooden board with an X like cross attached to it in front of which six of the archers from the towers milled about chatting amicably though they came to attention when the camp commander accompanied by her devil dogs mounted the dais. She cast her single cold eye over the groups of huddled dejected weeping women from the other huts before stopping for a moment with a frown when she saw Caroline’s neat silent line.

“Hut twelve will assist Doctor Manfred’s work except for that old crone.” She said with a vile leer on her face.

The woman in question looked around to see who the commander was talking about before, with growing horror, she realised it was her. Two of the archers crossed and dragged her screaming to the cross affair before stripping and nailing her in place through her wrists and ankles with a metal band restraining her head in the upright position.

“Just in case any of you still harbour thoughts of escape I have arranged this little demonstration of our archer’s skill” The commander was almost purring with barely concealed anticipation and warped enjoyment. There was a general cry of disbelief and horror from the collective masses. “Silence or I will have you foul tongues ripped from your mouths. Archers prepare to pin her.” The poor elderly woman was so terrified she wet herself in fear.

“You disgusting, foul, degenerate creature no citizen would disgrace herself so.” The camp commander, their arbitrator between life and death seethed with barely concealed rage. “When we have swept your pollute blood from the sands of time we will have a peace, a lasting peace, built free from depravity and weakness, and that day can’t come soon enough. Carry on archers.”

The first archer stepped forward and knocked his arrow before drawing back the bow string. He then became still, very still, as he took his aim well aware of his commanders critical eye watching him then suddenly the arrow was away to thud loudly into the board barely missing her right arm pit making her look like she was hanging of the shaft.

The second archer repeated the task successfully leaving the arrow quivering under her left arm pit. If Dannia thought the first archer was still then she was to get a surprise with the third. Though three times the first archer’s size this man had a total economy of movement that Dannia couldn’t help envying. The arrow thudded burying itself into the board in such away as to give the impression that the old woman was sitting on it. It was so close that you’d be hard put to put even a hair between the wood and the flesh.

Three more arrows thudded into place around the woman’s body almost piercing her sides and head. They then repeated the act but this time facing the wrong way in relation to the woman before twisting and firing in one smooth motion.

Any sense of relief that the old woman wasn’t being harmed was wiped out as Dannia saw the woman’s hut mates being ushered into the slaughter house she had entered the other night. Dannia felt sick and helpless as the door closed behind them but her attention was dragged back to the crucified woman by her scream of agony as an arrow removed her index finger. Arrow after arrow pierced her flesh with surgical skill in such a way that no major organs were damaged.

Suddenly there was a commotion as a young man in a bloodstained overall exited the strange building the others had just entered at considerable speed. Once he reached the commander he displayed the dead scorpion Dannia had left under the Mutt she had poisoned. The commander viewed it with boiling rage as the newcomer explained before being hit with such force that he was driven to the floor.

She turned back to the archers.

“Finish it!” She commanded kicking the young man back down to the ground once more.

Dannia turned back to the poor woman who now resembled a bloodied pincushion in time to see the six archers loose their arrows simultaneously. All the shafts hit basically the same spot, sliding together to interlock in her heart smashing it apart completely.

“Guards take your charges to their tasks. Archers cut down that piece of offal and take it to the doctor he might find a use for the filth.”

With that she stormed off toward the charnel house.

It was a very subdued group that followed Caroline out of the compound later and up the path toward the tannery, each of them lost in their own thoughts so it was quite a time later that Dannia notice that Caroline was having some trouble with some local insects. While the others of the group were relatively free of biting insects Caroline had piqued the interest of three large vicious hag flies, nasty brutes with an equally nasty nip. She swung her hand at the creatures to shoo them away but they strangely didn’t seem to be getting the message with one shooting under her flailing arm and biting her on the cheek. Dannia watched amazed as the bite swelled up closing their guard’s eye and causing her to swear profusely.

Dannia looked across at Fran and lifted a queering eyebrow to which the young druid gave a slight smile and nod. But when the flies were replaced by a couple of hornets Dannia became afraid that the young woman was going to over play her hand. She looked across again but this time scowled and shook her head slightly which thankfully Fran noticed and with a slight nod of acknowledgment call the insects off with a wave of her hand.

“Fucking shit hole!” Caroline swore with some modicum of relief as the insects vanished away.

“Caroline that’s a really bad bite you’ve got there, will you let Beatrix and I look at it?” Hattie asked gently.

Though a little reluctant Caroline agreed, but she was finding it difficult to deal with people who, despite being ostracised and beaten by her, show compassion and helpfulness to her. It went against everything she expected and totally confused her emotionally.

“It’s very close to the eye and could cause serious problems if it swelled further. Do you remember little Jules Hattie, I see that you do, can you remember what was use to reduce the swelling by his eye?” Beatrix said seriously.

“I remember the incident yes but not what was used to reduce the swelling. I’m sorry that’s not much use is it?” Hattie replied.

“If we don’t do something quick she could lose the sight in that eye.” The cleric said forcefully, watching Caroline shiver with fear and saw the pulse in her throat increase. “A Dock leaf that was it, the healer used dock leaves. Look around everyone, see if you can find any dock leaves, now hurry. Caroline, have you any water on you?”

“Yes but not much, it’s in the bottle on my belt. What do you want it for?” She asked suspiciously.

“We’ve got to make a poultice bandage from the plants juice, have you a clean cloth we can use?” Such was the command in Beatrix voice that the guard pulled a clean scrap of white cloth from her pouch.

“Will this do?” She said trying not to panic as the swelling began pressing painfully on her eye.

“Yes perfect. Any luck anyone?” The cleric called.

“Yes I’ve found a patch. How many leaves do you need?” Dannia called.

“I don’t know for sure, four or five I should think.”

Within moments of Dannia returning with the leaves Beatrix set to work, using a hollowed out stone to grind the leaves in with a drop of water until she had created a green paste which she slathered over the cloth. She then took the resulting bandage over to the suffering woman and tied it around her head so the pasted surface covered the swelling and the eye. Under the pretext of adjusting the cloth Beatrix used her healing arts to reduce the swelling relieving the danger of it blinding her.

“There, you don’t look great Caroline but at least it should stop it swelling farther, but if there’s some sort of healer or doctor at the tannery I suggest you get them to take a look at it to get it properly healed.” She said.

“Why did you do that?” Caroline was totally baffled. “I am your enemy yet you treat me with kindness. You could have easily overpowered me, even have killed me and been free, why didn’t you? Why treat my ills instead.”

“Shall we overpower Caroline and escape?” Dannia asked jokingly. “There doesn’t seem to be any takers Caroline.”

“Yes, we could have killed you and escaped but how far could we have got on foot before we were caught and killed, it is not as if Little Angel or Juliet could blend into the landscape easily.” Hattie explained. “It’s my job and joy to keep all these ladies alive and that is what I shall do. Besides you’re a human being just like us and we couldn’t see you suffer.”

Dannia could see that her words had struck home and were causing a dilemma for Caroline. These prisoners were degenerate scum in her view but how can they be if they could show her such compassion, to her and each other.

“Will you line up ladies?” She asked with a perplexed look and a shake of her head. “I fear you have just missed your chance to survive.” She added quietly as she led them up the path once more.

The day wasn’t improving as they toiled in the growing heat and humidity of the tannery, the smell of the urine and chemicals stronger than before, stinging their eyes. Caroline had left the two old men that ran the leather shop in charge while she went off somewhere for awhile only to return fifteen minutes later with a fresh bandage over her eye. Though it was difficult to see the swelling appeared to have abated a little. The guard caught Hattie’s eye and raising a hand to the patch and nodded a form of thanks to her which Hattie graciously replied with an almost regal wave of her hand.

It was nearing midday and stifling when the lieutenant entered the hut where they toiled. He looked very hansom dressed in his best uniform with its gold clasps and torques and other symbols of office. He stopped and spoke with Caroline for awhile obviously asking after her injury if his gestures were anything to go by. Then he spoke to the two elderly overseers gesturing to the toiling women and getting indifferent shrugs in return.

“Ladies!” He called out getting their complete attention in return. “Ladies we are ahead of quota so well done but there is still much to do for our glorious army. You are permitted to take a fifteen minute break for ablutions and to draw drinking water. Carry on.”

Hattie drew herself up and gave a studied reply.

“Though we have no interest in your glorious army beyond our own survival we thank you for the chance to freshen ourselves. Thank you Lieutenant.”

“Don’t push your luck woman!” Caroline hissed.

Dannia sat herself on a high stool next to the crouching Juliet and her work table fanning herself with her hat before dropping it onto the table.

Fran and the Lieutenant stood together at the far side of the room drinking goblets of the cool water that had been provided and wondering how she had got herself in such an emotional mess. She yearned to feel the young officer inside her and to feel the young druid’s soft yielding flesh under her hands. Her tired mind for a moment dropped into a daydream where the three of them shared the same bed and she had to give herself a shake to come out of it. Now Dannia had always prided herself on her physical and mental fitness, on her ability to be dispassionate, but now all that seemed to have gone. After arriving at La Mer it took some while for Dannia to recover from the poison and toxins that the spray and knife carried. Physically she recovered and was soon exercising once again, even if it wasn’t at the same intensity and level as before, but mentally was a different thing. She seemed to have lost that edge and was finding her own emotions getting in the way of any meaningful work.

“It’s all gone wrong Juliet.” She said with a tear that quite surprised her.

Juliet, who was in the act of surreptitiously putting some more metal items into the hidden pockets of Dannia’s hat as it hung over the tables edge, froze on the spot.

Once she was sure she hadn’t been spotted she let out a shuddering breath and carried on what she was doing.

“Don’t do that to me Angel you’ve aged me ten years.” She admonished with a hiss before realising Dannia’s distress. “What has gone wrong Angel?” She then saw where she was looking. “Ah! It’s being in this place that’s confusing you darling.”

“But Juliet how can I possibly love them both, one’s a man the other a woman? When I went with Fran I assumed it was because I was a woman lover, a denizen of Lesbos, but now I have spent time with him I find I want him too.” Dannia wasn’t making it up to keep in the character of ‘Angel’ she truly felt more than lust for them both. Dannia had a pretty ambivalent view of sex as she put it ’sex was the act of satisfying her own sexual needs whereas making love was where you satisfied each others sexual needs. One is selfish the other selfless and Dannia had experienced both in her relationship with Simieon but only the first with anyone else, until now that is.

“I don’t know Angel I have never been lucky enough to find anyone to fall in love with.” Juliet replied with a wistful sigh that made Dannia rest her little hand on the half Orc’s muscular arm and give it a squeeze, whether Juliet felt it or not is debateable but she appreciated the gesture and laid one of her own massive hands on hers in reply.

“You could have one of mine if I felt it would solve the problem.” Dannia told her.

“I don’t think I’m the best person for this my Angel, talk to Hattie and Beatrix they have clearer minds.” Juliet replied clearly worried.

Dannia nodded and finished off the last of her chilled water. The heat in the hut was becoming unbearable as dark threatening clouds began building outside and without any concern Dannia stripped off and plonked her hat back on her head and picked up the empty urine pail and headed for the door. The other women followed suit and also stripped of before returning to their allotted tasks but what surprised Dannia was Caroline’s reaction. The guard had also stripped off, at least down to her underwear, as if in some show of solidarity with her prisoners but at the same time remaining separate from them by virtue of putting back on the belt that held her cane and sword. Dannia had to admit that the woman looked odd in her sweat stained chest band and surprisingly skimpy panties which were equally stained, with the bandage still over her eye. In fact she looked like some demented stage pirate from a down market play. They exchanged slight nods of appreciation as the woman called out to the others.

“To work ladies and I’ll try and get some more cold water for later.”

Once outside Dannia headed for the latrine area’s to collect the morning urine but had to stop to wipe the stinging sweat out of her eyes. She looked up at the black bottomed clouds with their towering anvil heads boiling above them and wished fervently that the weather would do something to get rid of the stifling heat and humidity but at the same time worried about how savage it would be.

She was at the third latrine hut emptying the bucket into her pail when she heard someone enter. Even though there was a sign that she put up outside to warn people she was collecting it wasn’t unknown for someone who was desperate to come in anyway.

“Just a moment please, nearly done.” She called with out looking around.

“I’m glad to hear it Angel.” The lieutenant’s cultured voice said behind her.

Dannia almost dropped the bucket before whirling round and running and leaping into his arms. At that moment she wanted him deep inside her as her legs tightened around his waist but she forced herself to draw back and act the innocent once more.

“You don’t know how much I’ve missed you!” She said breathlessly before kissing him full bloodedly on his lips.

“I think I do Angel, I think I do especially now.” He returned her kiss with an equal passion before with a deep breath he regained control of himself. “I’m off to see my father and step mother so I won’t be back tonight. But I’ll be thinking of you tonight.” His soft hands held her buttocks and roamed over her lower back with the fleeting of gentle touches that sent shivers up her spine. “I think I might have an idea to get you away but you must be patient my darling.”

She slid down his body and felt the hardness of his ardour with a detached satisfaction. The intensity of her desires terrified Dannia and acted as good as any cold waterfall in lowering the emotional heat.

“When I return we will start planning how to get you away. But not now, I must get away myself as I’m expected at the châteaux before nightfall which I think will be early this night.” He kissed and cuddled her once more as the room was lit up by a flash of lightening before he left the room crying for his horse leaving Dannia shivering despite the day’s heat with pent up emotions, as the first roll of thunder rumbled loudly above them.

The scene inside the tannery was like some scene from hell as smoking torches flickered in their sconces and making the naked sweat soaked bodies of the women shine and shimmer in the dim light. Every so often a flash of lightning would light up the room with its bright light seeming to catch people for a split second in a frozen tableau like a fly trapped in amber. Rain roared on the walls and roof and mighty growls of thunder added their frightening noise to the sound of striking metal from the forge. They toiled for another hour or so like this before Caroline now just as naked as the rest of them called a halt to the proceedings.

“Ladies finish what your doing it’s to dark in here to continue.” She told them her soft rounded body glistening with sweat. Dannia had expected the guard to be well muscled with out any spare flesh and was surprised how soft she looked in the dim light.

“Not a bad body I suppose if you like squiggly.” Fran said in her ear.

“What’s this? Jealously? Or are you just sizing up the next conquest?” Dannia whispered back a little cattily.

“Sorry Angel I just thought…” The young druid spluttered.

“I know what you thought and you couldn’t be more wrong.” Dannia whispered back fiercely before adding more considerately. “But I see what you mean. Do you fancy your chances?”

“Lord no, I’m not that desperate, besides I have you.” Fran smiled down at her little friend.

“No contest then.” Dannia said giving Fran’s hand a squeeze.

Soon everything was safely battened down and put away even the forge had been doused and cleaned of clinker.

“I don’t know about you ladies but I’m going out in the rain to wash this muck off.” Dannia called out to the others. “Will that be alright Caroline?”

“I don’t see why not it might cool us all down a little. We might even enjoy it.” Caroline surprised them by using the word ‘we’ and actually leading them out. It was absolutely pouring down but to the women it was utter bliss as they used it to wash themselves. The dirt and coal dust formed pools at their feet before being swept away by the torrent. Even Caroline was enjoying the feel of the water using it as an opportunity to clean her hair. For a little while the women forgot their fate and played in the rain, chasing each other and laughing their heads off as the lightning cracked and the thunder rolled. Caroline watched her arms folded under her ample bosom with a smile on her face, a smile that showed to Dannia how young she truly was.

Dannia then caught sight of her distorted reflection in a puddle that had formed under the eaves of the tannery roof and almost cried out in horror at the gaunt bald image that stared back at her. It wasn’t even a week since they had arrived but already she had lost weight and form. It wasn’t Dannia the assassin she saw it was somebody else some stranger in her skin, it was frightened Angelica looking back at her. It was Angel whose ribs showed clearly through her skin, who was bald and thin and that terrified Dannia.

Whether their guard had seen Dannia’s reaction to her reflection or not was hard to say but within seconds she had called a halt to their scampering which even the older Hattie had joined in with and had led them back inside.

“We’ll warm and dry ourselves by the forge it’s still throwing out heat.” She told them adjusting her now soggy bandage more firmly over her eye.

“Thank you for letting us wash ourselves and have some fun Caroline.” Hattie said.

“I think that makes us even don’t you?” Caroline replied as she wrung the bandage out and laid it near the still hot coals to dry.

“I expect it does, but for the record thank you just the same.” Hattie said with some dignity. “The swelling has gone down under your eye but you’ll have a black one for awhile.”

“At least I still have one. Our medic told me if it wasn’t for what you had done to keep the initial swelling down I would have lost it so thank you for that.” She paused to gather her thoughts before continuing. “But it doesn’t change anything I am still your guard and you are still my prisoners I am sad to say. But if you still remain compliant there will be no need for punishment.”

There was a sad strained look on her face as she said it that gave Dannia some reason to hope.

The women carried their sacking dresses over their arms as the walked back to the camp with the now fully dressed Caroline at their side. The storm had rumbled away for awhile but hadn’t lowered the temperature much when Caroline decided to take them back. Night had fallen early due to the dark lowering clouds and made the going over the muddy ground more difficult than usual leading to several of them tripping up over the tree roots and slipping on the wet ground.

When they reached the compound once more the storm could be heard rumbling and flashing ever nearer.

“Fall out ladies and get into the hut before the rain starts again. I will knock for you tomorrow. Good night ladies.” Caroline pivoted round and left them to make their way inside where the hot porridge affair waited for them.

Hattie took up her position at the desk and patiently waited for the women to finish their food.

“Fran did you organise that insect attack on Caroline?” She asked.

“Yes and do you know it was quite pleasing when they bit her, I hadn’t asked them for that.” The young druid smile with pleasure but it was soon wiped of her face when a far from happy Hattie interceded.

“I remind you that I didn’t sanction its use and would ask you most strongly not to do something so foolhardy again.” She stared at the young woman with beetle brows and an angry look on her face that somehow didn’t quite fit her florid chubby face. “Never the less well done for being able to summon them, but their bite could have blinded her which would have resulted in the powers that be replacing her, so no more trials with out consent. Thankfully Beatrix under the subterfuge of the poultice managed to halt any further swelling.”

“Sorry Hattie I didn’t think, I just saw the opportunity to get our own back.” Fran replied with only a scant amount of remorse.

“Yes I can understand that but it could have back fired disastrously. What did you make of her reaction Beatrix by the way?”

“I think the way we responded confused her. It wasn’t what she expected but whether it will be reflected in a softer attitude towards us over the coming day’s remains to be seen but it certainly softened her outlook today.” The cleric responded as a roll of thunder echoed around them.

“What else have we learned today, I noticed that the Lieutenant followed you out Angel I think having you flirt with him could pay dividends?” Hattie said not realising the problems this flirting was causing Dannia.

“I managed to get a talk with the junior overseer, if a man of over fifty could be classed junior. He told me that there was a river not more than a mile away down which boats go down to fish in the Inlet Sea. He used to skipper a small fishing dory like my husband had so we had quite a chat about the sea.” The fisherman’s wife said a little more cheerfully than was normal. “I could get us there if need be and pilot a boat out.”

“Good. If you can try and strike up a conversation with him again and see if you can get a description of any obstacles.” Hattie said with a start as a lightening flash lit up the hut. “Angel?”

“The lieutenants gone to see his father, the general that’s taken over the country, but they don’t get on that well as he’s a bastard, quite literally. A reminder of a less than pure life which doesn’t fit the generals image of a pure superior race.” Dannia wasn’t only using her conversations with the lieutenant as a source of information but what she had overheard in her nightly explorations and what she had found. “The grounds in front of the palisades are heavily trapped except for underneath the towers and the path leading to them. The mages and sorceresses have been drugged with a substance that keeps them in the feeble shape we saw, it stops them using magic.” She paused to gather herself and to decide how much to tell them. “That weird shaped building in their compound where we saw those women being taken is a torture chamber where the doctor experiments on them. What they precisely do in there he doesn’t know.”

“Well done Angel. Juliet I assume you’ve created something today?”

Juliet confirmed she had and withdrew from Dannia’s hat three pieces of metal and three small very sharp stars. Two of the pieces of metal she slotted into one another to produce a six inch dull edged blade. The third piece had a slot in it and when dropped over the top of the blade slid down to lock in place to become its cross piece. Except for its blunt edges it looked a formidable weapon.

“And what are these star things?” Hattie asked.

Dannia demonstrated by slipping one between her fingers and with a flick of her wrist launched it at a wooden wall where it stuck fast.

“My sister Dannia showed me some the last time we were on speaking terms so I asked Juliet to create some.”

Hattie was pleased.

“Well done all of you. We will continue to work on Caroline but I think a more gentle friendly approach for tomorrow will bear dividends. Angel if the good lieutenant is back with us tomorrow work on him and find out the lay of the land and drop hints about working in that brothel you found out about.” Hattie commanded. “If we can get transferred to there we will be better fed and have access to weapons and horses for our escape. I know the thought is not pleasant and we may have to endure it for several days before an opportunity presents its self but while we wait we examine other possibilities.”

Another mighty crash and flash filled the room as the storm strengthened its grip.

“Hattie, Fran and I would like to try and control a lightning strike if you’ll permit it?” Beatrix asked with a slight smile on her face.

“You have my permission as long as you leave no traces of interference and I think I know the perfect target.” Hattie’s face lost its forced sternness and she smiled broadly at the thought.

Beatrix and Fran climb up to the window by Dannia bunk as Juliet hid away what she had created, their faces set in frowns of concentration.

The storm roared down on them, lightning flash after lightning flash lit the sky with the cracks and rumbles of thunder almost a continuous cacophony of sound. A tree beyond the wooden walls was struck and burst into flames with the sound of an explosion. It was into this maelstrom that the two young women extended their combined senses and with the sweat of intense concentration began to divert its destructive powers. Later when they tried to explain, all they could come up with was a vision of a incredible mix of colours, some they didn’t even recognised, coming and going in parts of a second all mixed up and yet all separate against a swirling black background. They found a thread of violet and strengthened it by adding other threads of violet until it bucked and twisted against the pressure of their minds desperate to be free. Suddenly the other colours flowed over it encasing it in scintillating light calming it but increasing its power hundred fold, thousand fold, and a hundred thousand fold. It looked for a place to discharge itself like it was a ravaging beast looking for prey and coming upward from below the clouds was a faint line of energy coaxed up by the women, a path down which to travel. As they touched the women let go and returned to their own bodies in a split second, in that split second the lightning struck straight at the accommodation block of the guards. The roof exploded in gouts of flame as the windows shattered outward from the force, the guards pounded out into the rain and tried vainly to put the fire out but it had got too much of a hold and soon the whole building was a blaze.

Though they couldn’t see what was occurring they could see the flames and went to their bunks satisfied with what they achieved.

A little later Dannia slipped down to Fran’s bunk but the druid was in a deep exhausted sleep her arm trailing on the floor. Gently she lifted it and put it under the meagre cover that was draped over the slim form before bending to kiss her forehead gently as she had done once before.

“Angel?” Whispered Juliet her large brown eye’s full of concern.

Dannia turned and gave her a watery smile.

“This thing called love; I just can’t seem to handle it.” She said quietly. “I’m in love with both of them Juliet and I mustn’t be in love with either of them if we’re to survive.” They hugged each other for a moment before Dannia returned to her bunk.

She lay their listening to the storm raging outside relieved that she wouldn’t be going out that night and consoling herself that if she got a good night sleep all things would be clearer in the morning. She felt ashamed at betraying Simieon even if it was just in her mind. Lust she could cope with, a simple animal attraction and transaction, but this mix of emotions was something totally different. She was still pondering as she drifted off to sleep unaware of the two eyes watching her with deepening concern.

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