He looked back over the edge. The troops had three pots on the fire. Huh. The slop for the little gods, the same with some meat for the troops and something better for the priests. He looked at the mushrooms. He plucked them, chopped them up with his new little knife and wrapped them up in a scrap of the torn sack. Holding his spells around himself, shivering in terror, he circled around to the canyon entrance. The guards didn't notice when he stepped out of concealment. He walked right in between them, something like hysteria bubbling all through his mind. He walked past his fellows. Giant Three did a double take, and then pretended to not see him, distracting the twins, who might have also seen through his spell.
He wound through the soldiers and approached the fire. Half the mushroom in the big pot for the troops, the other half in the pot with the spicy scent.
He dodged away as the troop cook stomped up and stirred all three pots. He grabbed bowls and glooped out the little gods' meal. Troopers took it all down stream, handed it out.
Dwarf Two dodged away, ducking down beside the corral, where a great deal of squealing was happening among the mares. He hustled back out of the camp, and around to his lookout spot.
The cook was serving the troops. The priests were sitting at their tables eating their spicy food. Had the mushrooms cooked long enough? Or did they not need to be cooked? Would cooking destroy the poison? Damn. Damn, damn. He let his spells go; his head was aching something awful.
Two soldiers walked out to the canyon entrance, and two different ones walked back. The little gods spat and pissed on them as they walked by, then cringed as Priest Wang stepped over and frowned at them. They finished their food, licked their bowls and scooped up water from the trickle to drink. It beat lapping like a dog.
Dwarf Eight wasn't careful enough, and got within reach of the Twins. He cursed as he got butt fucked, then to everyone’s surprise, leapt on them and returned the favor. Dwarf One and the other Dwarf Eight cheered him on. The Twins appeared to be enjoying it.
Senior Priest Sears stomps angrily down to the wagons, the ordinary priests following him. "Enough of this. You know you are not to harm each other." They all cowed under his glare, and slunk back to their mats beside the wagons.
The priests walked back past the corral, not even noticing the invisible stallion.
The priests all looked perfectly healthy. Damn, damn, damn. Could he find a different sort of mushroom tomorrow? Try again?
The sun was getting low, the floor of the canyon was getting dark fast. The little gods snuck back out to the trickle of water and drank more, and then back at their mats, where those chained close enough started fucking each other. What the Hell? He eyed the corral. Every single mare seemed to be in heat. Was that wine some sort of apro, apha . . . joy juice? The dun had dumped it in the water, and downstream it seemed to still be having an interesting effect. That canny old dun was still keeping the geldings away from the water.
Dwarf Two sighed. Pity there wasn't a single female in camp. Apart from the mares, and that just wasn't going to happen. He looked at his mare, still patiently tied up. He spent sometime ripping up grass and bringing it to her, led her off to a small stream so she could drink, then tied her in a concealed area, and climbed even further under the bushes and slept.
A shriek of agony woke him. He crawled out of the bushes, past the mare and the old dun, and stood where he could hear. The gods were screaming. A bit of pain throbbed through his own head. His connection to Initiate Sutter had been weak in the first place. Newly established. He didn't know his fellows well enough to know if they were linked strongly enough to be killed when their controllers died, or not.
He drew a deep breath. "Too damn late to think of that." He kept his distance until dawn, then climbed a tree to get back on the mare and rode around to the camp. The old dun followed.
No sentries. The little gods were laying in curled bundles, but raised their heads as he rode by. The mares all nickered at the dun, and he bounced over the fence and started snorting and pawing at them. A couple of the soldiers were still twitching. There was a pervasive smell of vomit. The really dangerous ones, the priests, he eyed carefully, from a distance. The youngest initiate seemed to be thrashing a bit. None of the others moved.
He slid off the mare and tied her to a little bush. He sidled into the Priest's camp, looked inside the High Priest's tent. Senior Priest Sears was face down on the floor, breathing irregularly, unconscious. Dwarf Two dug into his remaining sack and pulled out the other bottle of wine. Worried the cork out and took a couple of gulps. He shoved the cork in then jerked the Senior Priest's robes up and fucked him. Then cut his throat. It was disgusting, but just what the damn priests deserved. He raped the dying Initiate too, getting a big zing of energy out of it. Cut his throat. The other priests seemed dead already, but he sliced their throats anyway. Then he sliced his way through the soldiers, fucking the five that were still breathing before he killed them. He got a bit of a zing out of one of them too. A real young one. He thought it out carefully. The youngest Initiate, the youngest soldier. Virgins? He'd heard about deflowering virgins and gaining power, breaking curses . . . his hand went to where the chain had hung around his neck. Had raping that woman done it? He didn't know if she'd been a virgin, but he had been. And the other inhibiting spells . . . he couldn't feel them.
He laughed incredulously. "I'm free. I'm completely and totally free!"
He danced around, making doubly sure every single soldier was dead, and then searched the Senior Priest for the keys. He jogged down to eye his fellow little gods.
"So. I've killed all the Priests and all the soldiers. Now I'm going to get as far away as I can. Who wants to come with me?"
Giant Three frowned at him. "They'll send more soldiers and priests. You are going to be very, very dead."
The twins looked over at Giant Three and both shook their heads. "We all need to go, right now. Real soon."
Uncertain nods all around. Dwarf Two trotted up confidently and started unlocking the chains. "Let's load up all the supplies and tents in the wagons, harness the horses and go." When Rabbit One grabbed him, he sent a tiny little zing.
Rabbit One jumped back. "What did you do?"
Dwarf Two displayed his bare neck for them all to see. "I've broken my chain. You will be able to eventually, but until then, don't try anything. I'm a lot more powerful than you are."
They shifted uncertainly, but they all helped take down the tents and pile them in the wagons. They collected all the blankets and clothing and spare everything everyone had, and all the food. Dwarf Two took the pot the gods' food had been cooked in, and left the other two.
Under the watchful eye of the dun, the horses all allowed themselves to be harnessed by amateurs. He caught all the riding horses, and tied them on to the backs of the wagons, and added their saddles to the wagon loads. He bravely remounted his mare. Giant Three drove the first wagon, and the Twins the second. The two Dwarf Eights were bickering over the reins in the third, and the Rabbits drove the last one. The others rode in the wagons, occasionally eyeing the riding horses. No doubt they'd be wanting to ride.
"Follow me," he called putting all the confidence into his voice that he could. No need to mention that we're going to go to wherever the dun leads all the horses.
He rode confidently forward, almost beside the dun for most of the day. The horse stopped to drink and graze about mid day, and Dwarf Two acted like he'd planned it that way. Two of the Giants tried cooking, so they all ate better than they usually did, even burned. The dun wandered around loose, getting it on with a couple mares and snuffling all the little gods.
After a couple of hours they got back in the wagons and drove on. Dwarf Two gave serious thought to not getting back on the horse, but it was so leader-like he didn't quite dare.
It was sunset when they got to the stone road, and turned right. Which he rather thought was south. Was this good? Was the dun simply going home? Dwarf Two had a bit of a religious crisis when he contemplated the possibility that the dun was just a horse. The stallion was prancing on the stone road, raising a considerable clatter in a constant rhythm that was making him twitchy. The horse stopped for a moment and snorted all over him. He felt some sort of magical spell wrap itself around him, but it soaked in and was gone before he could do anything. Whatever it was, at least he knew the horse was not just a horse.
He eyed the dun nervously as he went back to prancing, this time snorting on Giant Three. The horse kept it up until he'd snorted on each of them. And then Dwarf Two saw the Gate. He gulped. Had any more priests come through? Something caught his eye, and he stared at the next hill. There was a Gate there, too. Which Gate was theirs? They'd come out . . . and spotted the Death Trap Inn right away. He hadn't looked for other Gates, and here he was seeing a third one. This was amazing. Did they go to yet more Worlds? Or other parts of his World? The dun led them off the road and up a gentle slope. Toward one of the Gates. The horse stood aside.
Dwarf Two gulped. "Thank You. Thank you for helping us. We'll take good care of your foals."
This time when he tugged on a rein, the mare turned. She hesitated, then bounced though the shining circle.
Freed of the Chain and any other inhibiting spells, Dwarf Two found life easy. Food was no problem. He could sneak up on anything and kill it with a slice. The other little gods used snares and made bow after bow, trying to get one that worked well enough. They gathered nuts and wild grains and found some really nice caves. The cliffs cut the wind, so the horses were comfortable as well, and the snow was light enough for them to graze. They kept the grain for themselves, and for planting in the spring, and the horses got a bit thin, but not even close to desperate.
"Next year, we put up hay." Giant Three scratched the horses' itchy spots.
Dwarf Two nodded. "I promised the Dun I'd take good care of them."
Giant Three thwacked him. "No more of that. It sound like religion. We all agreed we wouldn't have any religion."
"Oww! It wasn't religion." He stalked off angrily. No one believed him about the Old Dun Horse. He hunched into his crudely tanned buffalo hide cloak as he left the shelter of the cliffs. He climbed to the top of a low hill and surveyed the snowy plains. They were the only people in the whole world, and with luck it would stay that way for a long time.
Although if some women were to show up, he certainly wouldn't chase them away.