Forty-nine walked the perimeter of the corral, reinforcing the predator repulsing spells he laid on last week. We've been lucky. But if the herds have moved away, those wolves I've heard, and things like Benedikt's saber-toothed cat will be ready to try a non-standard animal for dinner. And that means people as well as Leonti's horse.
He tossed the critter a little extra hay and told him to stay inside.
A stallion? Surely we just overlooked rather obvious testicles. That healing wine can't possibly . . . he flexed his mechanical fingers. So . . . if I ripped off my arm, would a real one grow back? But if it didn't work, I'd be crippled for life. Guess I'll keep the cyborg part. Parts.
The house full of women and children had plenty of firewood and food and they all claimed to be ready for the storm. In fact the kids were running around in gleeful anticipation.
Magda laughed at him, all wrapped up in front of her own fireplace. "You worry too much. Come back and spend the storm with me."
"Deal." He got the grin off his face before he checked the big house briefly, and found Anuska'd moved in with Vita for the storm. He hauled in more firewood. "If the storm lasts very long I'll bring supplies in for you."
Then he walked out to the road and dropped his shields to look carefully for living things away from the houses.
Five miles south, the wolf pack. Probably cleaning up camel guts. And cat. Stay away and live. If you get too close I'll hunt you down and kill you.
He couldn't reach much further. Even "looking" across the lake he could only detect three indistinct heaps of mentalists, the lodges most directly across the lake from them.
The wind was picking up and the temperature was well below freezing. He hunched a bit and walked into the wind. Grabbed more firewood and carried it inside.
Magda snorted. "I doubt we'll be snowed in for three days!"
"Never hurts to be ready." He topped off her tea and poured a cup for himself. "How much have you got left?"
"I might make it through the winter. Then I'll have to learn to like dandelion root tea."
He looked guiltily at his cup.
"Don't be silly Illya." She sighed. "Funny, isn't it? This is how I envisioned us living, back when we were naive teenagers."
He settled down beside her. "Yes. Well, our fathers never would have allowed it. Maybe if I hadn't been a servant's child . . . I thought after so many generations of the Zarkov Family Mentalists and their Mentalist friends using their servants that Lord Renatt would present me. Well, naive teenager. I was sorry when I found out I'd left you pregnant and your father had rushed you into a marriage. And a chip."
"Lord Renatt's cousin. He helped arrange it, and when Olga arrived much to early . . . He soothed Vlad's temper by gifting him the most disobedient Cyborg in all creation." Magda chuckled. "And you tried so hard to behave so you wouldn't get sold on."
He sighed. "I tried, honestly. But sending me off with Olga when she married Klim was, in the end, a good thing."
She snickered. "Funny, how I never had another child after you left. Lord Rudolf was sterile. I . . . kept an eye on the servants and their children. None of the women ever conceived when they were his exclusive mistresses, poor things."
He snorted. "Good. And the boys all did well . . . and we'll never know what happened on Novaya Moskva."
"We all hope for the best there . . . but we don't actually want to be found again. So we'll just have to resign ourselves to never knowing." She was silent for a long moment. "They were such fine boys."
He heard the first tick of snow, or maybe ice hitting the roof, and settled in to keep an eye on the storm all night long.