Inheritance part 2

Inheritance... continued from part 1

     The caravan couldn’t possibly have withstood such a number. Bluefoot cleaned the gore off his axe. He kept rubbing it, thinking something was wrong. The cutting edge glowed. He didn’t have time to figure out what was the problem. He sheathed it. His arm seized up in a severe cramp. He fell to his knees and gripped it with his other hand, gently rubbing it. The pain eased.

     He saw the dagger, still in his arm. Pulling it free, he realized he’d seen it before. It had a twisting snake on the hilt. The dagger belonged to Funny Hat Max. Bluefoot carted the new information away with the rest of Max’s oddities. It added to the itch he couldn’t scratch. His sense of dread should have lifted after the battle, but instead it set in like an ugly case of root rot. He tucked the blade into the waistband of his trousers.

     Bluefoot tore off a piece of his under clothing to tie around the wound in his arm and stop the bleeding. He climbed over the dark green bodies of orcs, kicking a few loose heads when he saw them. Tossing one body to the side, he found Curren face down in the dirt. He turned the merchant over.

     “You look terrible. You’re covered in green,” Curren said, his own face ashen. He pressed a bloody hole in his side. Bright red splotched his tunic and stained the dirt beneath him. He coughed and his body shook. Tears sprang to his eyes, but didn’t fall.

     “Green?” Bluefoot looked down at himself and saw it was true. Orc blood. He grunted. “You don’t look so good yourself.”

     “Where’s everyone? I smell smoke. Where’s Emma?” Curren asked.

     Max crawled out from under a wagon wheel, twisting the funny hat in his shaking hands. “Is it all clear?”

     No one answered. 

     “You were phenomenal!” Max dusted dirt from his trousers. “You practically took on the brunt of it alone. How’d you do it? Take fly barbaric mushroom?”

     “What?”

     “The mushroom the barbarians take before battle.”

     “Never heard of it.” Bluefoot paused. He had felt strange during the battle, the intense rage of the bloody dance. Gently stroking Blood Reaver, he smiled. The glow had faded. Maybe it wasn’t a reaction to orc blood. There was more to the axe than he had suspected.

     Bluefoot walked around the devastation. He found the other mercenaries and Firewheel, all dead. He bent over Firewheel’s body, and put his hammer back in his hand. “You lived as you would and fought well. Your honor isn’t forgotten. Fly well into Din’s waiting arms.” He sighed, then continued the survey.

     The horses attached to the middle wagon were all dead. Bluefoot saw the first wagon overturned in some trees down the road. He grimaced at the whinnying of the animals tied to it. They were scared, but he couldn’t reassure them yet. He finished the loop and crossed to where he saw Emma disappear under the canvas. “All’s clear. You can come out.” 

     She lifted her head to eye level and took in the scene before crawling out of the cargo. She spotted her father, and knelt beside him.

     Curren winced in pain as he took her hand in his. He smiled at her.

     “I counted two men missing from the dead,” Bluefoot said. He looked at Curren. “You’re the only injured.”

     “They ran off I bet, the cowards.” Max scowled.

     “You’re injured too,” Curren said. “Your arm.”

     “It’s just a scratch.”

     “Someone will have to fetch the other horses.” Curren rubbed his forehead.

     Bluefoot looked at Max, arms crossed.

     “I can’t.” A thin smile crept up the nervous man’s face. “I’ll look after Curren. You go get them.”

     “I’ll bet you’ll look after him,” Bluefoot mumbled.

     “But what if the orcs come back?” Curren asked.

     Bluefoot gave Max a flat look. “My stride is short compared to a human’s. You’re faster.”

     “We need the horses, Max,” Curren added. 

     Max looked from one to the other, and sighed. “Okay, but don’t leave without me.” He laughed, but it fell flat and ended in an awkward silence. Disconcerted, he left. 

     Bluefoot watched Max waving the orange hat around. He heard flies buzzing among the dead, and wondered if any would be bothering Max when there was so much dead to be had. The cart in his mind overturned. He couldn’t ignore the itch any longer. Turning his attention to the wounded merchant, he knelt opposite of Emma. “Got anything to stop this bleeding?” 

     “I’ve already applied what healing powder I had.” Curren coughed twice, then gasped. “I think it’s better, but I’ll need a doctor, soon.” Emma pressed her body into her fathers, wrapping her arms around his free arm. Her face was wet and shiny.

     Bluefoot retrieved the few uninjured horses from the first wagon. He pulled the orc bodies away from the middle wagon, dragging them with his shield arm. After unlatching the dead horses, he used the horses from the front wagon to pull the wagon back. Now that the dead horses weren’t in the way, he had room to attach the lost horses to the wagon. Max arrived with the horses from the last wagon, still reigned to each other, as the orange and red sunset began to fade. Bluefoot strapped in the horses while watching Max from the corner of his eye.

     Max looked lost in thought, the orange hat back on his head. Bluefoot punched Max in the side and nodded at Curren. They lifted Curren onto the wagon. Little Emma climbed in after and curled up beside her injured father.

     “Before we go, there’s something that’s been bothering me.” Bluefoot grabbed the bottom of Max’s tunic and pulled him out of the wagon. “It’s that hat. You should give it to the girl.”

     Max wiped at his forehead and glanced around at the shadows in the woods. “I don’t think so.”

     “We aren’t leaving until you do. Are you afraid?”

     “There’s orcs out there.”

     “What’s that got to do with your hat?”

     “Nothing. But this stupid conversation is keeping us here too long. It’s dark.”

     “Then give her the hat so we can go.”

     Max looked at the sheathed axe. He frowned. “Fine.” He tossed the hat to the girl. She touched it, but didn’t put it on. She looked at Bluefoot, her face full of misery. She wasn’t crying.

     “One more thing.”

     “What now?” Sweat dripped from Max’s forehead.

     “Where’s your knife?”

     “Huh? What are you talking about.” He peered into the trees again. 

     “Is this it?” Bluefoot pulled the dagger from his belt.

     “Yeah. I guess I lost it in the chaos.” He smiled weakly.

     “It’s odd that you lost it while hiding under the wagon.”

     The smile fell. “I wasn’t hiding the whole time.”

     “I believe that, because I found it sticking in my arm.”

     Max’s eye’s turned flat, a withering look of anger covering potent fear. “What are you getting at.”

     Bluefoot handed the dagger, hilt first, to Max. He didn’t speak until Max took it. “You want to pretend you didn’t set us up?”

     Max jerked his head, eyes wide. “That’s ridiculous!”

     “Yeah, I thought so.” Bluefoot loosed Blood Reaver and struck Max in the chest. He preferred the head or neck, but didn’t want that image burned into Emma’s mind. 

     Max’s mouth gapped. His eyes bulged. Bluefoot pulled the axe free and wiped it clean while Max crumpled onto the blood smeared road. Curren didn’t look surprised.

     Bluefoot put away his weapon. He retrieved Firewheel’s hammer to take home. Weapons should stay in the family. Using Max’s body as a stool, he climbed onto the wagon. 

     Curren and Emma hadn’t moved. He held her face to his chest.

     “He betrayed us.” Bluefoot shook his head. “I don’t know why.”

     “My father was a bounty hunter.” Curren paused, body tense from sudden pain. The moment passed. “A renown orc killer.”

     Bluefoot scratched at his beard. “But wouldn’t the orcs’ place a bounty on his head rather than yours?”

     “They did. He’s dead.”

     “Ah, revenge. Deep revenge.” Bluefoot nodded.

     “The sins of the fathers fall to the sons.” Curren smiled. He looked weak and fragile lying on the canvas. The bleeding hadn’t stopped. Red stained the girls clothing and the canvas near Curren.

     Bluefoot maneuvered to the front and grabbed the reigns. 

     After pushing the exhausted animals forward until a few hours before dawn, Bluefoot crossed the canvas to the others. Sometime during the night, Curren died. 

     The girl held her father’s dagger, and looked into the darkness on the left. “You think I’ll make a good warrior?” She turned her quiet eyes toward him waiting for the answer.

     “You don’t need to worry about that. When we get to town-“ Then he remembered. She had no family. “The road’s no place for a female.” He crossed his arms, but couldn’t look away from those sad eyes. His voice softened. “I thought you were a merchant?”

     She looked down at her dead father and took his cold hand in hers. “You’re the only one left.” A tear slid down her face.

     Despite his best defenses, the girl burrowed deeper into his heart. The job was over, a disaster, but the lose ends were tangling around him, complicating things. His life wouldn’t be simple anymore. It wouldn’t be just his own. “Let’s go play at being merchants in the city. We’ve got a wagon of goods to sell. Then we’ll figure out something.” 

     She scooted closer and hugged him.

     He froze, but didn’t have the heart to push her away.

     “You won’t leave me?” she asked.

     “You don’t leave females on their own. It just isn’t done.” He patted her shoulder. “I’ll look after you.”

References: Barbarian, Human, Orc

 
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