Winter – Chapter 22 – 04

            “A little bird,” Cameron repeated, shocked his voice was as steady as it was.  His mind reeled.  Princess of Avalon.  Is he talking about Neve?
            He had to be.  Who else could it be?
            The man looked momentarily thoughtful and contrite all at once.  “Actually, it was a Dirae scout, but I took care of that for you.  I hope you don’t mind.  Was about three miles back.”  He grinned again even as the bottom dropped out of Cameron’s stomach.
            A Dirae scout?  We really can’t stay.  He dropped the bags where he stood and turned to bring more of the supplies out.  The stranger had suddenly become a secondary concern.
            If he killed their scout, he’s on our side, right?
            “Pilot or sailor?”
            Cameron froze in mid-step, turning toward the man’s impossibly cheerful voice.  “Pilot.  How did you know?”
            “You move like a warrior, but you don’t seem like the wilderness type.”
            He just blinked at the stranger for a moment, then turned to face him squarely again.  “Who the hell are you?”
            “Thordin,” Neve’s voice said softly from the entrance of the lean-to.  “I thought you were dead.”
            “I was,” the stranger said, voice still queerly cheerful.  “I got better.”
            Cameron swallowed bile and turned to Neve.  She stood on one foot, body wrapped in one of the blankets they’d slept under.  He slid his arm around her waist to steady her, to keep her weight off her bad leg.  “You shouldn’t be trying to walk on it,” he murmured in her ear.
            One hand came out from under the blanket and stroked his cheek, roughened by three days’ worth of beard.  “I can’t keep crawling for the rest of my life,” she murmured.  “I’ll be all right.”
            He kissed her temple gently and tried not to sigh, acutely aware that they had an audience that was watching them with a keen, measuring gaze.
            “I see that you’ve found more than just Caliburn’s latest choice,” the stranger—Thordin—said, grinning.  The expression softened from something just on the safe side of manic to a quiet, gentle smile.  “You spent a long time looking.”
            Neve blushed, going pink to the tips of her ears.  “Some of us are picky, cara sean.”
            “The implication is that some of us aren’t.”  He was still smiling fondly.  His eyes flicked toward Cameron then, gaze sweeping over him from head to toe.  After a brief moment, he nodded slightly.  “I approve.  Did your brother?”
            “Teague doesn’t have to sleep with him,” Neve said, leaning against Cameron.  He squeezed her gently.
            “Have to?”
            She smiled, looking up at Cameron.  “He doesn’t want to, either.  I choose to.”
            “Good to know,” Cameron said, unable to quell the wry smile that rose to his lips.  He glanced at Thordin.  “On both counts, I imagine.  So you two know each other?”
            I hope to high heaven that really means that he’s on our side.  But she hasn’t screamed or indicated that I should run him through, so maybe we’re okay.
            “So what’s a dead man doing here in the middle of the Canadian wilderness after the end of the world?”  Neve asked.  Cameron helped her over to where he’d dropped the things he’d been carrying so she could sit on top of one of their saddles, which lay amidst the pile.
            “You mean instead of minding my own business in an alehouse somewhere?”  Thordin smiled wryly again and shrugged.  “There aren’t any alehouses to be found, unfortunately, so I decided it’d be best to pick up my old pastime again.”
            “What was that?”  Cameron asked as he turned to duck back into the lean-to for the saddle blankets and the rest of their gear.
            “Killing anything that threatens the Earth,” Thordin said.  “Unfortunately, I don’t do asteroids.”
            Cameron looked at Neve, then turned to Thordin.  “You’re like Neve and Teague.  You’re not from around here.”
            “You’d be right,” Thordin said.  “Though unlike the fair maiden of the bow here, I was born beyond the Veil between worlds.  Not initially, anyway.”
            Cameron looked between the two.  “Does that make a difference?”
            “Oh yes,” Neve said quietly.  “It does.  A big one.  We’re more and less vulnerable all at once.”
            “Vulnerable to what?”
            “Depends on who you are,” she said quietly.  “But for most of us, iron.  Other things, like what the Dirae use to paint their claws.  Some poisons, plants, wardings.  Different things.”  She smiled weakly.  “There’s a lot you’ve got to learn, croí m’anam.”
            “Well, hopefully I’ll have time to learn.”  He looked at Thordin.  “I don’t suppose you cook?”
            “I could,” their visitor said.
            “Then please do,” Cameron replied as he turned back to the lean-to.  “If you killed a Dirae three miles from here, then we don’t have any time to waste.”
            “Three miles?”  The concern was clear in Neve’s voice.  “That’s damned close.”
            “Aye, they’re tracking you,” Thordin said.  “Maybe both of you.”
            The thought made Cameron shiver.  Not for the first time, he had to wonder about that.
            Why would anything be hunting both of us instead of just one or the other?

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2 Responses to Winter – Chapter 22 – 04

  1. Antonious says:

    “You’re like Neve and Teague. You’re not from around here.” I busted out laughing the moment I read that. I did not quite form a picture of a rustic person leaning their chair back while saying it, but the ghostly image did start to form. Cameron does have a down-home kind of sarcastic understatement at times.

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