Blood and War

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Chapter 64 - Goran

“Not my war?” Goran demanded of council member Warren with his fury well under control and an expression that portrayed that he thought the vampire a fool.

The meeting was called as soon as they returned from the battlefield. They didn’t take into account that the men were bone weary or that they had no right to summon King Goran as if he was some common lord and it did not sit well with the Northern King.

“When they finish with you, they would not stop until they have defeated us all. I will not let these barbarians reach my kingdom. I’ve killed my fair share of them on the way here. I crossed your borders with an army and you didn’t know of my arrival until I was upon you. You are not winning this battle, you are just keeping them off,” Goran stared at each one of them and even their arrogance could not argue with him.

“Well, I don’t see the problem, we need help and he’s here,” Gunther muttered and if looks could kill, he would be dead.

“And if he decides to take your country as a price for his help?” The councilman asked coldly and Gunther stared him down.

“If he can help us kill these bastards and drive them out of our lands, our people would be safe. Our men would not have to die. Our women would not have to suffer. Our children would not be captured, abused and killed or our cities burnt. I would say that is a fair price,” After all the battles and all the wars he fought to retain his lands, it was strange to hear him say those words.

It meant he finally found an enemy he could not defeat and a war he knew he could not win. One look at the faces of most of the human men and even some of the vampire lords told you that they agreed with Gunther.

“I am not interested in your lands, your gold, or your petty little worries. My only concern is to destroy this threat before it becomes a monster that swallows us all. I will fight and when I am done, we will leave,” Goran stood abruptly.

“For now, my men and I are tired. We traveled far and fought hard. We will eat and rest. In the morning, I will speak to your generals and to them alone. I have no time for your petty politics and insecurities,” he turned on his heel and left with his son and his general in tow. The room erupted in anger.

“Enough!” Aldrich barked the word in irritation and the room silenced immediately.

“We need all the help we can get and this is more help than we could ever have dreamt of. This meeting is adjourned and that is my final word on the subject,” his voice carried enough ice-cold fury that not one of the lords even dared challenge him, their mutinous stares despite.

* * * *

Catherine stalked into the sunlight. Her only thought was to get out of her damnable armor, wash the blood, filth, and sand from her body, then sleep. She’d never been so tired in all of her life and she had no idea how the humans could still be on their feet.

“Catherine,” she became aware of him in the instant that he spoke. The only reason she did not jump out of her skin at his unexpected appearance was that her fatigue had dulled her senses and slowed her reflexes. If he was an enemy, she might have been seriously hurt or dead.

“King Goran,” she greeted him and he fell in beside her.

“You may call me Goran, you are my daughter in law,” he corrected and all that kept her from protesting was the odd look in his eyes, almost as if he was trying to hide some old hurt.

She shrugged. She didn’t know his agenda and right at that moment, she didn’t care. He had done enough to show all of them that he meant to help. She nodded.

“I know you’re tired. I know that right now, all you want is a bath and sleep, but we will have to talk sooner rather than later. It is important to you and to me, if no one else. I’ll leave you now,” She came to a standstill as she watched him leave. A frown creased her brow, while his words ran through her head.

She was too tired to wonder what went on in his mind. It had to do with Dillon, that much she knew, but right then, she couldn’t bring herself to care. She was dead on her feet.

As is, she fell asleep in the wooden tub and Althea’s voice ripped her from the comfort of oblivion just as her head would have slipped under. It would be an unpleasant experience. The water had grown tepid and she hadn’t even started washing yet. She’d only meant to rest for a second.

As she sputtered, Althea shook her head, took the sponge and started to wash Catherine as if she were a child. Catherine would have protested, but Althea’s mouth was set into that familiar determined line and it was warning enough.

She didn’t like the way Catherine drove herself past the limits of her body and she didn’t have to say a word. They knew each other well enough by now that words were unnecessary.

Dina walked in with fresh towels and a clean set of clothes. A small smile touched her lips as she watched Althea scrub Catherine like a naughty child.

“Someone fell asleep in the tub again?” She asked to no one in particular and Catherine felt herself blush. She loved that these humans were so familiar with her, although they only did so when they were alone. She loved that they felt that comfortable around her.

“Hmmmph,” the way Althea turned the disgusted sigh, into a self-explanatory sentence that told of her unhappiness and her anger at the situation, made Catherine smile, almost... wisdom negated the impulse, she wanted to have some skin left by the end of this bath.

“Gunther asks if he should keep an eye on the four guys King Goran put up to guard your tent?′ Dina asked and Catherine surged upright. Her sleepiness entirely gone and a frown between her eyes, but then she sighed and sat back. Water sloshed over the side and nearly drenched Althea.

“No, he’s just trying to do what he sees as his duty,” Catherine acknowledged and this time both humans frowned.

“Why now Dillon is dead?” Althea was the only one with guts enough to say it out loud.

“I don’t know yet...” Catherine answered quietly and Dina nodded.

“He’s still going to keep an eye on them,” Dina meant Gunther and Catherine knew and a small smile touched her lips. She never expected any less. He still felt he owed Catherine for saving Dina’s life and the price it cost her to do so.

“If it makes him happy, let him,” she sighed and Dina smiled back. She was so different now, happy in the middle of all this. Catherine only hoped Gunther came to no harm it would kill Dina. Then again, she was strong, a survivor.

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