Blood and War

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Chapter 27 - Weapon

“From now on, these are the rules. You are my soldiers, you either obey my will or you resign your commission. While you are searching for new employment, go find a hole to crawl into so you can wait for the eastern army to come extend its friendly welcome to you and your family.

If I command you to treat this woman with respect, you will do so. If l command you to walk over hot coals, you will do so.

Anyone who disobeys me will be punished. If I cannot trust you around my property, how can I trust you at my back?” That last comment hit home like a boulder through a glass window. It shocked the troops to their foundations.

“This woman is my property. I am not her property. She is a convenience to me and a useful tool, but we will be coming to that in a moment.

The ground rules are simple. This is as close as anyone of you will ever come to Catherine’s body. She is mine, and I will kill the man who touches her. In fact, I will allow her to slaughter the man who touches her, in front of you all.

Cambridge, since you started this... Catherine, bring him to me,” Dillon commanded, and she moved with a speed that left them unable to believe their eyes.

Before Cambridge could open his mouth to protest to his master, she hauled him bodily over to where Dillon stood. She made him kneel to the ground with a simple touch of her hand on the back of his neck.

“Dress,” Dillon ordered her curtly, and she was clothed in the instant it took Cambridge to attempt scrambling to his feet. Dillon’s fiery gaze brought a terrified Cambridge back down to his knees.

“Here’s a sword Cambridge, defend your honor,” Dillon reached out, and Derrick placed his own sword in Dillon’s hand. The startled man automatically gripped the weapon.

Dillon hauled him roughly to his feet and shoved him into the clearing, which was created as the men scrambled away from Cambridge and their furious master.

Catherine was unarmed. Where Cambridge hesitated, looking for all the world like a startled deer, she didn’t, nor did she wait for him to recover.

She knocked the sword from his hands half a dozen times, without him ever standing a chance. He was like an untrained child to her, nothing in his life prepared him for the likes of Catherine.

The silence was complete. No one cheered. No one jeered. They were too afraid to breathe. Too scared Catherine would notice them as their slow minds processed the facts of the matter.

This was a true vampire and a female. Cambridge was a skilled swordsman, not great but good and she made him look inept. She would make any of them look incompetent. What chance did they stand against the East if one vampire could kill them all?

“You ten, why don’t you help the man?” Dillon ordered curtly, and this time only his challenging glare made Derrick stand down. No man hesitated.

Their fear made them attack. Their need to prove to themselves that Catherine could not possibly be as invincible as she seemed, made them strong.

She saw it in their eyes, and she glanced at Dillon, who stared into her gaze as if he tried to tell her something.

Catherine fought her way clear of them all, without really harming a single one of them or picking up a weapon in her own defense.

They, Dillon, Derrick and their men, watched the uneven battle for a while. Until Dillon realized she was growing bored with their inexperience and their mindless hate.

It was only when Catherine’s irritation started to threaten to translate into violence that Dillon’s voice cut across the clearing like a whip.

“Enough,” it took only a heartbeat for them to come to a standstill. Dillon glared at them.

“Now, aren’t you glad Catherine mine? Any man that speaks of this to anyone will die. She is the only weapon we have on our side which they don’t know about.

Either you are with us, or you are with them,” Derrick drew his sword and so did several others, but no one moved. They were more afraid of the East than the vampire who just made fools of them.

“We are always on your side, Lord Dillon. Always have been and always will be,” Gunther strolled into the clearing and men moved out of his way.

His eyes were cold on the group of soldiers who fought with Catherine. Gunther nodded at her briefly, before he returned his eyes to Dillon.

“Vampire or no vampire, there will be no more trouble, Lord Dillon,” it was a promise. With Gunther staring them down and Derrick reclaiming his sword from the ground, the hostility was gone from the air. The stench of fear was not.

“Gunther, come tomorrow, Catherine will teach those willing to learn to actually use a sword,” Dillon intoned, and Gunther nodded.

“I’ll make sure the lady vampire has enthusiastic students,” Gunther’s droll voice made the men glance at each other.

Gunther was not a man to be messed with. If he hadn’t just arrived in camp from his last mission, Cambridge would not have been allowed to speak so freely. Gunther was not a man to take nonsense lightly, nor insurrection against his master.

“Derrick you are on guard. We will move in two hours, choose your men,” Dillon ordered almost shortly. When he turned to walk back to his tent, he motioned for Catherine to follow and she did. He need not have, she would have followed him anyway.

No matter what Dillon said or what he did, she would not be comfortable around his men, and they would never be comfortable around her. Now, at least, they would think twice about trying to harm her. Insurrection was punishable by death.

Catherine knew what the men thought he was going to do with her. She didn’t miss the dark, impotent look of barely controlled fury, in Derrick’s eyes.

A look dispelled by a single glance from her with mocking laughter hiding her anger. She made him sheepishly look the other away. Derrick knew better than to think Dillon would take her now, or that she would willingly allow it.

Catherine’s moral compass might not be that of a human, but she had a definite set of values. Those rules did not include messing around, and until recently, Derrick was of lesser virtue. Catherine knew, and Derrick knew she knew.

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