Walking along with your hand held up is quite tiring. It was too dark to see where we were going without the light, but very awkward. Dragging Dag’s body through the long grass was no easy matter, either.
There weren’t many trees in the marshlands, and we’d passed a group with distinctive white trunks when we first arrived, so I had a rough idea of where we were going. Still, not an easy task in the dark.
Dudley was as untalkative as ever and I was busy ignoring all the doubts trying to force their way into my thoughts. The obvious thing to have done was leave. Dump the body somewhere and deny we had anything to do with it.
But some of the things Dag had said made me think Tin wasn’t the type to just leave it. I really didn’t want to spend every day looking over my shoulder, waiting for him to catch up with us. Plus, I had eagle-eyed Dudley backing me up.
It took us about an hour to get to the copse of white trees. By that time, my hand was barely flickering. Apparently, it used up some kind of energy to keep the magic going. How I replenished it, I had no idea. Rest? Food? In any case, the huge fire burning in the middle of the trees was enough to show us where we needed to go. Tin obviously didn’t worry too much about attracting the attention of monsters. Possibly, he even wanted to attract them, which was enough to worry me.
I sent Dudley off to find a good spot. My hand was no longer aflame, just my regular old hand. I grabbed a boot in each and dragged the body into their camp.
Tin was standing, staring at me as I approached. The two girls—their names were Mandy and Amy, but I wasn’t sure which was which—sat close together by the fire chatting. They didn’t notice me until I was standing by the fire. The other guy, let’s call him Shifty, was on the far side of the camp busy living up to his name.
I dropped Dag’s feet and stepped aside to reveal his body. One of the girls screamed, then covered her mouth and looked to Tin. His expression didn’t change, he continued to stare coldly.
“I know this looks bad,” I said, “but I can explain.”
I expected some sort of response, but no one said anything, so I carried on.
“First, I want you to know I’m not here to start any trouble, but if things do take a nasty turn, I’m not alone. Dudley!” I called out. “See that waterskin?” I pointed at a waterskin hanging from a branch of one of the trees. “Shoot it.”
An arrow flew through the camp and hit the tree, missing the waterskin by quite some margin.
“For fuck’s sake, Dudley, focus!”
“Sorry,” came a distant reply. He shot another arrow. This one struck the waterskin right in the middle and water started pouring out.
“As you can see, he’s quite accurate. Most of the time.”
Another “Sorry,” drifted through the night air.
“Anyway, Dag’s dead. I killed him, but it was in self-defence. Plus, he attacked Jenny. I just wanted you guys to know what happened, in case you were worried or thinking you’d have to send out a search party or something. Any questions?”
They all continued to stare at me.
“Okay. Well, we haven’t taken any of his gear—none of are collecting the full rapist set—so you do what you want with him and good luck.”
One of the girls—the better-looking of the two—stood up. I just want to point out that they were both pretty good-looking, it was just the easiest way to differentiate between them.
She scowled at me. “Are you saying Dag tried to rape Jenny? Because he wasn’t like that.”
“He was like that, you just didn’t know it.”
“I think I knew him a little better than you did.”
“Okay. Then Jenny gouged a hole into the back of her own head and came stumbling into our camp with half her clothes missing as a prank?”
The girl didn’t seem convinced by my version of events. “I don’t know what—”
“Mandy,” said Tin, “sit down.”
She didn’t look too happy to be cut short, but she did was she was told. I have to say, I was kind of jealous. No one ever followed my orders that quickly.
Tin folded his arms across his chest and fixed me with his piercing blue eyes. “Do you really think you can come in here and tell us you killed our friend, and that we’re not going to do anything about it?”
“I told you what happened,” I said.
“I don’t give a shit what that bitch told you.” He turned his back on me but kept talking. “I don’t know what kind trick you used to kill Dag, but it won’t work with me. And your little friend out there isn’t going to save you.”
Tin bent down and picked something up. When he turned around, I realised that I had made a mistake. I’d always thought of him as the Captain America of these Avengers, but he obviously saw himself more as Iron Man.
On his head he had a helmet. Not like a hat or down to his ears and neck, I mean covering everything. Other than a slit across his eyes, nothing was exposed. He drew his sword out of its scabbard.
An arrow hit him on the chest and bounced off. Another hit him on the side of the head, and splintered into pieces. The helmet didn’t even have a scratch on it.
“He can keep trying, but it won’t make a difference. First I’m going to kill you, then him.”
“I’m the one you want. I killed Dag. You don’t have to kill anyone else.” So brave! What a hero I was being, right? Don’t be stupid.
“All of you are dead.” Tin swung his sword a few times. You had to hand it to him, he was being very professional, even warming up first. “Dag was an idiot. I told him to wait for me, but he never could keep it in his pants. Once I’ve taken care of you losers, I’m going to teach that little cock-tease a lesson.”
Mandy stood up again. “Tin, what are you saying? You can’t mean that? What about me? I always….”
“Shut up and sit down,” said Tin without even looking at her. “I’ve had more than enough of you. You know, some guys actually like a bit of a challenge. Feel free to leave any time you want, slapper.”
She looked shocked and upset. Whether because he had revealed himself to be an evil scumbag or because he’d just dumped her, I couldn’t say.
“What about the other girls?” I asked. I felt really calm considering the situation. Actually, I felt like I had a massive advantage. It almost wasn’t a fair fight.
“You must be joking. I wouldn’t touch them with ten foot pole. Rank.”
For the first time I felt a twinge of concern. If he had no interest in the girls, I was in big trouble. Luckily for me, Tin’s libido was big enough to save me.
“Tell a lie,” he said. “That little fat one looks like she might be some fun, once I knock all her teeth out, that is. I think I’ll keep her as a pet. What the fuck are you smiling about?”
It was true I was smiling. But then, I knew what was coming.
The arrow hit Tin right in the eye. It was a wicked shot. Through the slit in the helmet without even scraping the sides.
The thing about Dudley was, nothing focused his mind like Flossie. I’d seen him pull off some amazing shots when I’d wound him up about all the dangers she might encounter. I often wondered if he’d be able to repeat that level of skill in a real fight. He surpassed my expectations.
Tin dropped his sword and fell backwards like a felled tree. He seemed dead, but you never know. I walked over, took out my sword, and plunged it into his chest. There was some resistance from his chain mail, but the sword was sharp enough to snap through the links.
I was expecting a fountain of blood, but nothing came out.
A whimper drew my attention to the other guy, who I had almost forgotten about. He was skulking next to a tree. His eyes shifted from mine to the ground where Tin’s sword lay. I rose from where I was kneeling and walked towards him. He scrambled towards the sword. Why he didn’t have one of his own, I don’t know.
He grabbed the sword at the same time as I stuck my spike in his ear. I know it’s pretty gruesome, and not very valiant, but at least it was quick. He lay spasming on the ground for a few seconds, and then he was still.
I turned my attention to the girls. They both looked terrified. I retrieved my spike and then pulled my sword out of Tin. “Don’t worry, I’m not going to—”
The girl who hadn’t spoken until now, suddenly shot to her feet and pointed at me. “Murderer! Murderer!” she screamed. Then she turned and ran into the dark.
“Hey!” I called after her. “Be careful. It’s dangerous out there.”
There was no response.
“It’s quite dangerous in here, too,” said Mandy. He voice was cold, as were her eyes. She looked down at Tin’s body. “I didn’t know he was like that.”
I shrugged. “Maybe.”
“You didn’t have to kill Marlon. He wouldn’t have done anything.”
Marlon. That was the other guy’s name. “Do you not watch war movies?” I said. “It’s always the creepy guy you feel sorry for and let off that comes back at the end and shoots you in the back. Fuck him. And fuck you. If you weren’t such a bunch of horrible dicks I wouldn’t have to do any of this. I just came here for the fishing. See ya.”
I turned to leave.
“You can’t just leave us here. We’ll die. Amy will come back once she’s calmed down a bit. At least take us back to Fengarad.”
I stopped. She was right, they probably would die. But why was it my problem. Fuck.
“We aren’t going to Fengarad. We’ll take you to the nearest town, and then you’re on your own. Get your stuff together. And you’ll be carrying your own shit.”
She started grabbing stuff. Dudley came wandering in like he’d just been passing and decided to pop in for a cup of tea. “Oh, hello there. It was getting a bit lonely so…”
You would never have guessed he’d just made the shot of the century.
“That’s fine,” I said. “We’ll be leaving once—”
There was a piercing scream from somewhere out in the dark. It was full of terror and then it was cut off, stopped dead, I’m guessing literally, and replaced by a familiar barking laugh.
“We’ll be leaving now,” I corrected myself, and ran.
A faint glow in the west indicated dawn approaching. It provided just enough light for us to see the ground ahead of us as we ran for our lives. The other two kept up fairly well, not that I intended to slow down for them. They should have got up early and done laps like I had. This is what I’d trained for.
After about ten minutes of solid fleeing, I chanced a look over my shoulder. There didn’t seem to be anyone in pursuit, but I wasn’t going to stop to check. I did slow to a jog, though.
We made it back to the camp much faster than I expected. Not having to drag a corpse through the rushes probably helped. Maurice and the girls were sitting around the fire, the girls on either side of Jenny with their arms around her. Jenny’s face looked a lot better.
They all stood up when we came storming in.
“Let’s go,” I said. “Pack everything up. Time to go. Go, go, go.”
They just stood there, not moving. I should have asked Tin for some tips on giving orders before I killed him. Both Flossie and Claire’s eyes were glued to our new guest.
“What’s she doing here?” asked Claire, her previous gentleness no longer troubling her.
Both girls had reacted very positively towards Jenny, even though she was a pretty girl. But Mandy was a different animal. To sum it up, we were in the middle of a fantasy world, far from civilisation and it was barely morning, but Mandy had full make-up on—immaculately applied—and what looked very much like a push up bra. The only thing missing was a tattoo that said 'Ima steal yo man' to complete the look. And I hadn’t checked her tramp stamp.
“We’re going to drop her off at the nearest village. The others are dead. Oh, and lizardmen are coming, so...”
This got their attention and we all got to packing. It didn’t take long, although it would probably have been quicker if Claire and Flossie didn’t keep stopping to glare at their partners. I’m not sure what they were worried about, both Maurice or Dudley looked at Mandy like some kind of alien lifeform. Fascinating but also very scary.
Jenny, on the other hand, took great care not to look at Mandy at all. So much tension, it was hard to breathe. Lizardmen at least let you know where you stand (usually in a pool of blood).
Once we had all our gear sorted, we went to the lake to tell the frogmen we were leaving. Mandy was understandably nervous as she watched us talk to creatures she had always seen as monsters.
“Will you be okay?” I asked Nabbo.
“We will go further into the marshes. There are more of our kind and the lizards are less likely to follow.” He looked over my shoulder towards Mandy. “I see you’ve picked out a second mate already. You’re a very surprising human.”
This conversation would have been embarrassing enough in private, but it wasn’t. He was speaking nice and loud.
“She isn’t a second mate. I don’t even have a first mate.”
“Hmm,” said Nabbo, not sounding very convinced. “She looks primed for spawning, if you ask me. And she hasn’t taken her eyes off you since you got here.” Again, very loud. “You, on the other hand, don’t look very ready at all. Are you feeling alright?”
Both Claire and Flossie were glaring at me. Honestly, it’s flattering to be thought of as some kind of stud, but come on. Me and Mandy? I’d have to tie a plank across my backside to stop myself falling in.
The marshes had become too dangerous for all sorts of reasons. We headed north towards Dargot. Perhaps this city would offer us peace and safety? Perhaps not.
End of Volume 2
Thanks for reading the second book in the HTADDB series. You can pick up the eBook at Amazon or any outlet that sells epubs (iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords etc.).
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