Blood and War

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Chapter 11 - Philosophy

“Is that what one of your kind would expect of a female servant?” Dillon asked with some reserve and yet curiosity.

Catherine could see in his eyes that his opinion of vampires was not very high and her answer was not about to lend itself to changing his mind to a more favorable set.

“Servant, no, a slave girl, yes,” Catherine admitted. It hadn’t occurred to her that humans would treat their servants, or slaves, differently than vampires would.

The humans living in these vampire controlled lands took their lead from their masters. She had very little knowledge of human lands and their customs.

“Thank you, but where I come from you don’t piss where you eat,” Dillon turned from her and made himself as comfortable as he could on the hard ground.

At hearing Dillon’s words, a small involuntary smile tugged at her lips. A week ago he would not have dared speak directly to her, using such uncouth words.

She could not deny her relief at their meaning. Just like she could not deny how thankful she felt for him saving her this final indignity.

Catherine just stood there. She wasn’t offended. She was used to soldier’s talk. She’d heard things a thousand times crasser in her life. No vampire male would allow a human to say something so common in the presence of a high-ranking female.

The concept of having regard for a slave was just so novel, so human and yet not. She was told these Highlanders were strange. They were different from vampires and other humans, with lofty ideals and values, she just never noticed them before.

The Highlanders tended to keep themselves apart, something the other humans did not like. The size of the highland kingdoms and their armies, kept the rest of the humans sufficiently respectful within hearing distance, anyway.

Catherine stood guard while he slept and when he woke, she chose to sleep too, as much as she dared. She could tell he hadn’t expected her to. Humans liked to spread silly little rumors, stupid things like vampires don’t sleep or eat human food.

They slept, not much, but they did. They ate, but human food was an indulgence, it could not sustain their bodies or ease their hunger.

Catherine could explain to him that she was young, strong, but her body had suffered too much. She needed to rest, more than she dared to admit even to herself, but they did not have the luxury of time.

She’d been through hell and back. Something else she didn’t care to admit to, because she could not afford to lose her perspective on their current dilemma.

Catherine could not allow herself to think of the last few days. She dared not allow herself to fall into the spiral of emotions that would be unleashed. No, it would be a while before she had enough mental distance from this day to not risk going feral.

It was still too dark to travel safely when they moved on. The darkness beyond their sight felt like a living presence. An unseen monster or an ever present enemy. They were risking the horses, but horses could be replaced, people not.

Every small sound alerted them, startled them and needed to be taken into account, sorted out. Every second stretched into an eternity as they traveled faster than good sense, and caution would allow.

Dillon’s hand never strayed far from his sword. His face became grim and serious. His eyes became hooded and his body tense.

Their unease transmitted to the horses and the animals were restless and overly skittish. These were animals meant for travel, not trained war horses and it became tedious to keep curbing their natural instincts.

If she was alone, Catherine would have chosen to leave the horses and continue on foot. She would have covered a large amount of distance in the same measure of time, but she was not alone.

Her human master was not capable of moving as Catherine did, nor did he possess of her stamina. It did not stop her from being irritated at their, as she saw it, slow progress and it did nothing to ease her growing fear. Hellenic would not encumber himself with horses or humans.

It took them two days of hard travel, hard on the horses and hard on him, to start wondering if they were being pursued, being toyed with or actually got away.

They didn’t doubt that Hellenic would come for her. They didn’t doubt that some game was being played. Inside them was a tiny spark of hope that by some quirk of fate, they managed to evade their followers.

Catherine did not trust the peace. Hellenic would not give up so easily. The woods should have been crawling with vampires. She saw him hunt for some criminal, escaped slave or crooked trader, a hundred times or more.

Catherine knew how Hellenic operated. She knew how his mind worked in these situations. With each passing moment, her panic grew, and her fear escalated.

Dillon never stopped looking over his shoulder. He also never stopped taking precautions, and like him, the hair on her nape kept standing on end. They were waiting for an attack which never happened.

At times, Catherine felt as if it would be easier if Hellenic just appeared and all of this could be settled once and for all. Neither of them could take much more of this.

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