The Dragon Who Loved MeBy: G.A.Aiken
“YOU ALL RIGHT?” VIGHOLF ASKED.
Rhona nodded. “The universe began to spin, so I decided to sit until it stopped.”
Since he didn’t know how long she’d need to sit, Vigholf sat beside her. He careful y took her raised finger and tucked it back into her fist.
“Thank you. I didn’t seem to have control of that talon.”
“Whatever.” She smiled a little. “You can let go of my hand.”
“I could, but probably won’t. What with your universe spinning and al .”
“Any opportunity. You Lightnings take any opportunity.”
“There’s truth to that, I’m afraid.”
“You are, however, surprisingly light of touch.”
“The way you’re holding my hand. I always thought you’d be more of a mauler. Like a diseased wolf chewing the knuckles off me fist.”
“That’s very nice.”
“Not real y.”
“I was being sarcastic.”
“Oh. I see.” Rhona gazed off for a moment, then asked, “Where are we?”
“Okay. That’s it. I’m taking you to bed . . .”
The girl slept. Not hard, though. She no longer slept hard—or without a weapon. Too many times there were attacks on their camp in the middle of the night. Too many times she’d found fel ow soldiers trying to sneak into her bed, hoping to get out of her what they couldn’t afford to buy from the camp girls. Those who survived were usual y sent back to their homes. Not because of what they’d done, but because the body parts they were now missing made it impossible to expect much out of them during battle.
Yet she’d never be able to say whether it was her light sleeping or her much-more-honed instincts that told her she needed to be awake and moving. Silently stepping past the other sleeping squires, she eased into the night and fol owed where her instincts led, to a copse of trees right outside the camp. That’s where she found her. The woman sneaking out of the camp without her guards, troops, or horse, carrying only one travel bag, her two swords strapped to her back. Going alone. Because she was brave. Because she was desperate. Because, on a good day, she was more than a little crazy.
Without saying a word, the girl ran back to her tent and grabbed her own travel pack, her own sword and battle-ax, her warmest boots and cape.
She returned to the woman’s side, smiled.
“You didn’t think I’d let you go without me, did you? My place is by your side.”
“And your death may wel be by my side if you come with me. I can’t al ow it.”
“You leave without me—and in seconds rather than days everyone in this camp wil know that you’re gone.” Bright green eyes glared and, after five long years of seeing that look on a daily basis, the girl no longer recoiled in fear. Then again, over the many years this war had been going on, she’d learned how far she could push—and how far she couldn’t.
“I’l not be responsible for you, little girl. You’l have to keep up.”
“When don’t I?” the girl lashed back.
“And watch your tone. I’m stil your queen.”
“Which is why you need me. No war queen should be without her squire.”
“Squire? When was the last time you washed my horse?”
“When I couldn’t get anyone else to do it for me.”
The queen grinned, the scar she’d received in battle four years ago crinkling across her face. It went from her right temple, down across her forehead, the bridge of her nose, her cheek, final y slicing into her neck. The blade had missed major arteries and, with stitches, had healed wel enough. But the scar remained and the queen left it there. To the enemy, it seemed to suggest that the rumors of her being the undead were true—
for how could someone survive such a cut? As for how the queen felt about her scar . . . wel , she never looked in a mirror that much anyway.
“Let’s be off then, squire, before they realize we’ve gone.”
They headed deeper into the forest surrounding their camp, but were forced to stop after a few minutes when they found the human body of a young dragoness passed out in front of them, the victim of too much drink.