Rebel's Honor(7)

By: Gwynn White

Lynx marred her face with a harsh, ugly smile. Thanks to the murghi, the Norin poison, within minutes, he would be delirious and unable to move. Within days, a slow, agonizing death would claim him, befitting a man who dared slaughter her friend.

By the time the Chenayans figured where the quarrels were coming from, ten of their number lay dead or dying. En masse, the raiders at the gate swarmed the remaining five. Still, the Chenayan axes flailed, until finally, sheer weight of numbers brought them to their knees.

Lynx stood and raced to the camp. “Attend to our injured!”

She unsheathed a machete and made for Hare’s killer.

Heron grabbed her wrist. “Wait. He’s still conscious.”

“Then he will feel my machete,” she replied, voice like ice.

Heron let her go, and he and Clay fell into step with her. She nudged her boot under the guardsman’s shoulder and tossed the man over. His lips were already turning blue from the murghi, and his eyes were glassy. But that was not what held her attention. A pea-sized chunk of jasper, lodged in his nose next to his right eye, gleamed in the moonlight.

Ignoring his inane ramblings—the effect of the poison—she knelt and poked the tip of her machete under the stone.

He cried out in pain.

She ignored that, too.

With a grimace, she drove the tip of the blade deeper and deeper under the gem until it finally broke free in a spurt of blood. The guardsman groaned, and his body jerked. Before long, even those halting movements would cease as the poison tightened its grip. Then, for three or four days, he would linger in agony between death and despair as each of his organs shut down. Death, when it came, would be a mercy.

Lynx picked up the jasper and held it up to the moonlight. She breathed out a disappointed sigh.

“Nothing,” Heron said.

Clay looked on, his face contorted with morbid interest.

“Just a piece of rock.” Heron narrowed his eyes.

“I had to check.” Lynx tossed the bloody stone onto the guardsman’s chest. “Something gives these bastards their supernatural powers.” She stood, calling to the servers, who had now emerged and battled fires with water buckets. “As soon as that’s done, stake the Chenayans out in the desert. They will either die of murghi, or the vultures will get them.”

“Yes, Princess Lynx,” someone called.

Lynx knelt next to Hare. Tears of sorrow and anger spilled down her cheeks as she brushed Hare’s braids away from her face.

A hand landed on her shoulder, and she looked up into familiar blue eyes. King Thorn. Her breath caught.

“Father.” She stood. “We killed them all . . . but at what cost?”

“At what cost, indeed.”

She and her father stood side by side as raiders and servers scurried around them. The servers—Clay included—attended the Norin dead and injured while Heron led the raiders carrying the Chenayans out into the desert to die.

Lynx tucked her hand under her father’s arm. “Why? That’s what I want to know. They harry us, poach our ostriches, make life hell, but they’ve never done anything as suicidal as this.”

Her father raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Suicidal? Is that what you think?”

Lynx nodded. “Every Chenayan died tonight. What was the point? If they wanted to slaughter us, why only send fifteen men?”

A server ran up to her father and thumped his fist to his heart. “King Thorn, sir, we lost twenty-six people and have forty injured.”

Her father shook his head. “Thank you, Lizard.” He turned to Lynx. “As future Commander of the Norin raiders, what message do you think Mad Mott sent us tonight?”

From his tone, her father had some definite ideas. Sixty-six Norin dead or injured, with just fifteen Chenayan casualties. Despite the cool autumn evening, Lynx rubbed her arms against a sudden chill.

“I wish I knew,” she replied. “You tell me.”

“Tomorrow,” her father said, “after the funeral. We have much to talk about.” His blue eyes turned flinty. “Not least of all, Clay’s failed egg raid.”

Lynx’s stomach clenched at that disaster, sidelined by the battle. “You heard?”

“Kestrel told me.”

“Did she also say she destroyed Clay’s eggs?”

Her father ran a scarred hand across his face. “She did. I should have known the day could only get worse when she babbled that at me.” A sigh escaped his chest. “Find your brothers. We need to plan for tomorrow’s funeral.”

* * *

A sharp wind whipped around Lynx as she played a soft, melancholy tune on her fiddle in front of the unlit funeral pyre.