Blood and War

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Chapter 30 - Condemned

Despite Catherine’s doubts, Dina made it through the night, but by dawn, Dina showed disturbing signs of restlessness and pain. Even though the wound was almost completely healed.

Dina moaned in her sleep and progressed into a worrying sensitivity to light, by then Catherine was convinced. She knew the symptoms intimately because she suffered from them herself.

Intense pain caused by a hunger Catherine could no longer ignore and which forced her to make a decision. She discreetly took Gunther aside.

“Dina’s suffering from vampire thirst, do not indulge her. Tie her to the bed and keep her calm. Make her drink water and lots of it.

I doubt if she will turn, but this will last for days, maybe even longer. I can’t wait that long,” Catherine explained and for a second Gunther seemed almost manic in his fear for his beloved, then he calmed. He was a seasoned soldier who had seen it all. He was the master of his own emotions and a man of duty.

“I’ll tie her down myself, but Althea can stay with her. I’m going with you,” he decided, and Catherine did not waste her breath by arguing with the man. He would not be swayed, and he was trusting her, wasn’t he?

“Wait for me,” Gunther ordered with his eyes on her face. His fear of her had gone, and Catherine nodded. She was amused by his guts and touched by his trust. He was not gone long, and when he returned, he was not dressed in his battle gear.

No one would mistake them for soldiers if they encountered either friend or enemy, but he was armed. A massive bow was slung casually across his back, along with several well-crafted, blue fletched arrows in their holder.

Gunther indicated for her to take the lead. Within seconds they disappeared into the forest without anybody noticing them. They barely spoke as they slipped into the concealing foliage.

There were plenty of small game, but nothing big enough for Catherine to bother with. She settled for a small antelope and several rabbits. Despite her barely sated hunger, she knew they should keep their hunt short.

Catherine feared what may happen in their absence and she felt unwilling to keep Gunther from Dina for longer than necessary.

Gunther never let her out of his sight, and when Catherine found a suitable prey, he merely glanced away. His unease was easy to sense, but his face remained stoical.

She knew he pictured Dina doing this same thing, but with a human and without any of the finesse.

Catherine didn’t have the same fear. She knew it would be too much to ask of him to just take her word for it. She watched him quietly and saw his growing tension.

“Let’s go back,” Catherine announced before she turned on her heel while she tied the gutted rabbit to the others.

“You are still hungry,” Gunter stated, and she shrugged.

“I’m good, and I can wait,” Catherine didn’t even glance at Gunther and left him without any choice but to follow. The route back to camp was short and silent.

Gunther didn’t bother arguing with her, the matter was not open for discussion. He could see it her manner and the set of her shoulders. He frowned as he followed her.

Despite his pretense of being in charge, he knew he wasn’t. Like some of his men, not many but a few, especially those she helped recently, Gunther found himself in awe of her.

His rational mind knew exactly how dangerous this creature was. He saw it first hand, every night since this war started and yet he experienced no fear of her.

If she meant them harm, nothing could stop her. Despite having all the opportunity in the world, Catherine only ever helped where she could.

She helped them fight, healed their wounds and taught them Warcraft. She trained them in hand to hand combat, and risked her own person every day, doing any one of those things.

Instead of it inspiring dread in Guther, Catherine’s loss of control the previous evening actually had the opposite effect.

It proved to him that she wasn’t just some perfect predator. She wasn’t always in control or untouchable and definitely not uncaring or some superior being.

Catherine was just like them in many ways. She had her own personal demons, her doubts and fears like any human.

She wasn’t cold and distant, just more in control of herself than seemed good for a person. Her calm and her cool were a mask which protected her from their irrational antagonism.

Gunther knew she went through hell in her life. No one got to be the as fierce and cold as she was in battle without a lifetime of hurt behind it. He knew most of his men and all of the others, they would and could not see what he saw.

Gunther sometimes caught Dillon looking at Catherine with compassion in his eyes, which said to Gunther that their master knew what fate brought Catherine to their door.

Dillon knew her past, but he also knew her strength and the things she would not allow mere mortals to see.

* * *

They were barely back inside the camp when they noticed a commotion. Althea stood at the entrance to Gunther’s tent. Blood ran freely from a cut in her lip, and there were livid bruises on her cheek.

Catherine took stock of the situation in a heartbeat. She took her instant anger and disappointment firmly in hand.

Althea looked like an Amazon, warrior woman. She was fierce and protective as she used her body to physically block Derrick from the entrance to the sickroom.

Derrick’s rage was palpable, even from a distance and Catherine felt alarmed at the sight, but she also felt a bitter coldness settle in her soul.

“She isn’t a vampire,” Althea shouted into Dillon’s face, and a ripple of anger shifted through the crowd of men behind him.

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