"Leonti, stay back. I may have the plague."
Leonti stepped back, and looked around. Twenty-two was closest . . . Leonti looked down at the half glass of diluted healing potion. Looked at the Cyborg.
Healing potion? Probably nothing that could help Twenty-two. But what about Six Sixty-seven?
Leonti stepped over to the young Cyborg. "Drink half of this. Take the rest to Six Sixty-seven. Tell him to drink it."
Then he walked to the spigot and washed his hands very well.
The Plague. Should we even allow father to stay in the camp? Should we isolate him? For how long? And then isolate everyone he'd been near for the last day? Except he must have been infected earlier.
We've all been exposed.
He glanced back at the table where Makariy was pouring water onto, into a bloody wound right over the hip bone and looked away. I should send for Benedikt . . . but I have no way to know what path he took. And . . . if he's free of the plague, perhaps it's a good idea for him to stay away.
So what needs to be done?
His eyes strayed to Lord Ivan's body.
A funeral. Two funerals. Possibly three, I don't see Ninety-eight.
He walked over to One Oh Three. "Is Ninety-eight alive?"
"Right. Legally, you and Ten now answer to Anatoly. Until he returns, keep an eye on Lady Kamilla and Darya." He looked around and spotted Six Sixty-seven. Walked down to him, One Oh Three followed. "Six? How are you feeling?"
Drunk on maybe two swallows?
"Guard the camp, keep an eye on Vlasiy and Lady Anuska. I'll . . . see to getting Lord Volya's body back for a proper funeral . . . and Ninety-eight's, too."
"N,no one controls us, now . . ." Six Sixty-seven swayed.
Leonti nodded. "Father said he might have the Plague, so everyone might be free. Depending on Benedikt and Anatoly. We'll see when they get back. Six? Even if you feel better, act sick, maybe they won't even bother trying to take over. But right now . . . funerals."
He walked over to the cook as she supervised the men building a fire in a big pit. "Ludmilla? It looks like we'll have three funerals. Shrouds . . . we can replace deer skins, but not cloth."
She nodded. "The lords have been hunting, we've been trying to remember how to cure the skins . . . and not doing well."
"I'll take the three worst."
He spread one over Lord Ivan's body, then took four cyborgs with him.
It was a horrible job. He was shaking and sick by the time they found all the body parts and carried them back through the camp and down to a pretty little stretch of meadow.
His father was bedded down in the bower, with Lady Olga hovering.
He walked down to the river, shucked his boots and walked into the stream. Scrubbed down with sand, and then took his clothes off and scrubbed them too. Masha brought him soap and a change of clothes.
Then she sat down, looking the other direction.
"For a while there, I was glad to be here. Now . . . I don't know."
"They all had guns. But only Father got a shot off. The herd was so close to camp!" Leonti swallowed. "And they didn't have shields. I think the Plague had taken their power."
"Oh . . ."
"Yeah, I don't know. Never will now. I'm almost glad I don't know what route Benedikt took. Maybe he wasn't exposed. Maybe he can stay away long enough."
"What about you?" She sounded frightened, now.
He climbed out of the water and covered up the essentials with his wet shirt. Sat on a rock. "I . . . guess I'd better find out. Not that I'm very strong, yet, but I . . ." he held his hands out into the sun, and squeezed the light and heat down to glowing knots, one in each hand.
Mash looked over her shoulder, and seeing him sort of decent, stepped closer. "Yes!" a huff of relief. She looked up the bank, as Forty-nine slid down to join them.
"You can see that, Masha?"
"Yes . . ." She hunched her shoulders. "I . . ."
Leonti nodded. "Said nothing because they'd have chipped you early."
Forty-nine nodded. "I will start coaching you both, whenever there's time." He held out his right hand, and squeezed the light down to a burning point. "Although once Benedikt is back, it won't be by example."
Leonti shivered. "Yeah . . . do you want to leave, while you can?"
"No. We've just had a brutal lesson in why we need to stay together." The Cyborg glanced uphill. "They're digging the graves now. No point in waiting."
Leonti nodded. "I'll get dressed and come up. Then . . . I think we need to reorganize the camp. We've been acting like this is a big picnic, with nothing dangerous around us. Look at me, I left my rifle up in the truck. We need to build a wall or some such."
Forty-nine nodded. Then shooed Masha up the bank. "Let's let Lord Leonti get dressed. It's going to be a long day."
Lord? Well, I've been acting it, today. When Benedikt returns, or father's back on his feet, I'll be back to being the baby of the family.
And when the digging was done, everyone migrated closer, and stood there awkwardly.
Leonti swallowed and stepped forward and raised his voice. "We are gathered today to give our farewells to Lord Volya Nitya Mikhailov and Lord Ivan Serafim Kuznetsov. Life long friends . . ."
And somehow he was remembering all the old men's tales, their histories, both shared and apart . . . "And now we bid them farewell on the great unknown journey."
And the servants had been circulating and one handed Leonti the last glass. On his last words, the small crowd joined him "the great unknown journey."
He drained his glass, the vodka burning all the way down. He handed the glass to the servant, picked up two handfuls of dirt, and held them out to either side and let the dirt fall into the two graves. He faded back as everyone came forward to cast their handfuls of dirt, and shed their tears.
He walked around a thin screen of young pines to where Ninety-eight's deer hide wrapped remains still lay.
He swallowed. "What was his name?"
Six Sixty-seven heaved a deep breath. "Andre Martin Ivanovich. Fly free, little brother."
"Fly Free." They all repeated. They lowered his body into the grave and started shoveling.
They moved all the vehicles, parking the truck his parents had been sleeping in facing south across the east side, with the back facing G'ma's bower from several meters away. Then, just touching the bumper corners, Lord Ivan's big car facing west, and touching bumpers with Uncle Volya's, which just touched the bumper of Benedict's pride and joy. Then a gap for, presumably some sort of gate. Then the servant's vans filled the gap down to the start of the forest. The servants truck was parked to the west, the back open to the cooking area.
"With the river to the north, we just need to extend the east and west walls. I supposed with some sort of log fence. And gates." Leonti was staying back three meters and upwind from his father, at his father's insistence. "You must rest, and not strain yourself. So we'll wait until Benedikt is back for that. And . . . we do have an ax, so we can do some cutting by hand."
His father was pale, and his eyelids sagged.
"Sleep, Father. I'll set up sentries tonight."
No reply. Leonti rather thought he was already asleep, as he backed away. "Forty-nine? You have gotten any sleep for a day and a half." He pointed at the Old Cyborg's nest. "Sleep now."
He walked down Vlasiy. "Let's go talk to the Cyborgs."
Vlasiy nodded. "I guess Six is mine now, but he's not doing well." He scruffed his toe in the pine needles. "And someone will take him away. Anatoly, probably. And he'll take care of Anuska and Darya. And maybe me."
Leonti snorted. "You are Family Kuznetsov. Just having you here is good for us. We will all back you."
Eighty-seven Four turned and eyed him.
Leonti shrugged. "We need to present a strong, unified front to the other Families. Lord Berezin appealed for us to not attack each other. But with two of our oldest and strongest dead, and the third injured? Especially with Benedikt and Anatoly away? We must not look like an easy tidbit."