matapam (pamuphoff) wrote,
matapam
pamuphoff

_Gates of Hel_ part 8

Miles smacked his fist into his hand. “Damn them. They must have spies, they must know the Army troops are patrolling somewhere else.”

“Do they have a spy inside here? How did they know Adelphie is a widow?”

“Damn. At a minimum, they’ve been watching us enough to see her without a man. Or watched you, before you got here.”

Adrasos nodded. “Foolish of them to wait until we came here, though. Most of our camps have been less well protected, and with fewer defenders."

"More like, they thought we’d cast you out, and you’d lack Father Odeil and his three to help defending the women.”

In predawn, Adrasos snuck out to cover the water intake with spells of unnoticeable, stealthed to not be seen by another wizard. Of course, if they feel like some hard work and dam upstream, All the spells in the world won’t matter.

When he got back to camp, Father Odeil and his youngsters were burying the dead bandit. Adrosos stared down at the dead man’s mutilated head.

They cut off his horns. He looked over at Father Odeil.

“We send them to God, cleansed of the Demon, and the government pays a bounty on horns.”

Adrasos thought of Yainni, slow and innocent and swallowed bile. I will have to try to conceal his horns. “How does the government know they aren’t paying for steer’s horns?”

“They have seers, who can tell the difference. As a man of God I should disapprove of them—they too are demon touched—but somehow when the difference is invisible, it is not treated as proof of Evil.”

“Seers. They do magic?”

“God forbid! No, just, well, perhaps a touch. But they cannot do anything, just see things other cannot, mostly. They are approved by the Church.”

Adrasos nodded, and went to help dig a pond.

After a scant breakfast, he took a good hard look around beyond their flimsy barrier, then led out the horses and cattle to graze. With half his men on guard. And stayed out there himself.

At noon, his sister Adelphie brought bread wrapped around meat out to them all.

“I don’t know why I’m feeding you!” She shot him a bitter glare.

Adrasos sighed. “I am sorry you wound up tangled in this mess. But may I suggest that the thief and seducer in the family is to blame?

“Those were your troops. Your friends who raped me, and mother,” she snarled.

“They are the God-King’s troops. To have stolen the property of the God-King . . . everyone knows the Gods loan jewelry for the life of the woman, to placate discarded wives and lovers. They do not give away treasure. Not ever.

“I got permission to go in first and remove Peep. I knocked out Grandfather, so he couldn’t start a fight. Sent poor dumb Yainni off to buy wine. Dragged Peep away, so she didn’t see, didn’t hear, and especially so she wasn’t raped. Or killed. If there’d been much resistance everyone in the house could have been killed.” Adrasos sighed. “I am sorry. I did not know you were there.”

“But what am I to do? I’m a married woman. Endocrates . . .”

“Endocrates is a widower, by the laws of our people. The laws are completely indifferent to your plight. You will have to decide for yourself whether you are wife, widow or divorcee.”

“Endocrates would never have divorced me.” Tears started leaking down her cheeks. “No matter what Mama says. He knows the difference between rape and adultery.”

“Yes. But you are dead to him. Grieve, Adelphie, you have every right, for you will never see Endocrates again.”

“It’s not fair!” She shrugged off his attempt to hug her, and stalked away.

***

The night was broken by a quick warning and brief fight at the back of the Archer’s cow barn. The raiders failed to get into the barn. Cinnamon was hailed as a hero, not just for spotting the sneakers, but for hitting the leader with a club.

The stream of water entering their new pond stopped midday.

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