Heather awoke early the next morning to the clanking sound of pipe wrenches on metal. Snuggled beneath the warm quilt, she looked at Candy, still asleep in the other single bed. As consciousness of her surroundings grew, she concluded Trebor was outside working on a drain for the bathtub. My chance to get ahead of Candy, she thought.
Climbing from bed, she primped her hair, put on shoes, and artfully arranged another of Trebor's shirts that she was wearing as a nightgown, to look as sexy as possible. Ignoring the cool pre-sunrise air, she ambled out to find Trebor.
Despite the chill he was stripped to the waist, at the moment swinging a pickaxe as he dug a leech line for sewage. She struck a pose, exposing a generous portion of slender, shapely leg and said, "Hi."
Trebor took a break, leaned on the pick handle and took an obvious good look at Heather's attributes, top to bottom. "Nice view for early morning," he said with a wide grin.
Always ready to play the female-to-male game, Heather replied with a coquettish wiggle, then asked what he would like for breakfast. Trebor climbed out of the shallow trench, took a handful of Heather's brunette locks and pulled her close, almost cave man style. She braced herself for whatever assault might come, but all he did was brush his lips ever so lightly across hers in a kind of fleeting and gentle kiss she had never before imagined. He released her, then plucked a single flower, a multicolored columbine from among the profusion of blossoms all around, and stuck it behind her ear.
"Pretty flower for a beautiful woman," he said, "and I think oatmeal with raisins."
Stunned, she stood a moment in silence trying to sort out pretty flowers, oatmeal and emotions.
"Okay?" Trebor asked.
"Oatmeal, okay, with raisins?"
"Oh yeah, fine," she stammered. "I'll call you." Her mind was spinning as she returned to the cabin. How could a man so brutal at what she had witnessed the night she was captured have such a gentle side? Adding to her mental confusion, Trebor's lean but muscular body was an attraction she could not deny. Then there was Candy - was she really supposed to share Trebor with another woman?
Perhaps in subconscious purpose she made extra noise starting a fire in the wood stove and boiling water for coffee and oatmeal. At any rate, Candy woke up and surveyed both Heather and the room.
"The flower is a nice touch," she commented on the blossom behind Heather's ear, just a bit of sarcasm in her voice. "Trebor gave it to me." There was a note of triumph in her own response.
Candy thought of a smart aleck answer, then stifled it. But to herself she thought: the competition is tough. She resolved to meet or beat any seduction tricks by Heather. Meanwhile she would adopt that saccharine-sweet phony demeanor in conversation with her as women in competition are prone to do.
"So what else have you and our new husband been up to? Candy asked as she got out of bed.
"Oh, he just told me what he wanted for breakfast, oh, and he kissed me." Heather deliberately made the kiss sound like a casual afterthought.
Concealing her anger at the fact that her competition had got a head start, Candy asked what the kiss was like. "He is different," was all Heather could think to say.
Candy changed the subject. "Well, I guess I'd better make the spider run." They had started to call trips to the outhouse the spider run.
"Could I get you to pump some more water while you are outside?"
Candy resented Heather's take-charge attitude, but then again this was a chance to show Trebor that she too was doing something constructive. So she agreed, and after a minute's primping, duly noted by Heather, she left out the back door.
Heather gloated for a moment, but then remembering the blonde's statuesque figure and Nordic beauty, she resolved to redouble her seductive routine. Men were notoriously fickle.
Candy greeted Trebor at his worksite, where he was still picking and shoveling. He gave her the same kind of obvious look-over he had earlier given Heather, then murmured, "Ummm, nice," from deep in his throat.
"You mean this?" she asked, striking a pose with one leg thrust forward, revealing a beautiful bare leg. Standing two feet below her in the trench, Trebor ran one finger lightly across her shapely calf and said, "No, the bucket you're carrying."
"Men!" she tossed back at him, catching his playful mood.
"Yeah, well, I bet Eric my life savings that you twarn't no lesbian," he challenged.
"During your act at the Palace."
"You were right, but how did you know?"
"Too pretty, for one thing, but more important right now, I'm hungry. How is breakfast coming along?"
Candy felt the sexual tension being deliberately broken. Although that was frustrating, there was no immediate way to revive it. So, with forced cheerfulness she let him know she was on her way to get water and would find out how breakfast was progressing.
While pumping water she pondered the unique situation. Normally men practically begged to get her into bed at any and every opportunity. Yet, Trebor, who obviously had the power to take either her or Heather any time he wanted, and who had shown himself to be a ruthless killer, hadn't done so. And then he had kissed Heather, but not her. She thought to herself: I can't be losing my sex appeal, I'm only 22.
After breakfast, Trebor put the girls to work, performing the kind of manual labor they had never before experienced. Collecting stones, carrying them to the leeching trench, and finally re-covering the drainage system with dirt were the hardest physical labors either had ever imagined. Meanwhile Trebor was installing a sink in the corner of their cabin that served as a kitchen and hooking up plumbing to it, and to the bathtub. By late afternoon it was obvious that partitions inside the cabin would have to wait at least another day, but at least the girls were rewarded in the evening with long, luxurious baths. Amenities were improving.
While they eased their aching muscles in hot water brought in buckets from the wood stove, Trebor went to the community library. He returned with thick books for each girl, and asked them to read the tomes, end to end, as soon as possible, although his "asking" left no doubt it was expected.
After their bath, the girls donned revealing lingerie and terrycloth robes acquired on their shopping trip. Then they carried on the most personal conversation with Trebor yet, while he soaked in warm, wet, luxury. Under probing questions they told of their earlier lives, childhood, schools, etc. As could be expected, they were products of the "politically correct" teachings of the System. Like most of the few remaining young White women outside Kinsland, they had been born and reared in rural communities. Attracted by the glitter and gold that awaited the last young White females, they migrated to a big city, in this case Denver. There they were seduced by drugs, glamor and the machinations of the Sons Muspell or Muspellheimers, as Trebor called Sid Cohen's tribe. Cocaine and other recreational drugs were used freely at the never-ending parties they were invited to, and once hooked they needed a supplier. That's how they met Sid Cohen and through him each other. Finding that they got along with each other, they had agreed to share a two-bedroom apartment in Lakewood, a western suburb of Denver.
Although Heather was several months younger than Candy, she was the more practical and reserved of the pair, and also more "educated," if education was what one could call the propaganda of System colleges. At any rate, she had spent three semesters attending a junior college in eastern Colorado. Meanwhile Candy had spent three years after high school working dead-end jobs in Limon, Colorado, before moving to Denver.
Like all captives - and that's what they still considered themselves to be - Candy and Heather worked hard to ingratiate themselves with their captor. Instinctively attempting to "humanize" themselves with one who had power of life and death over them. Of course, they could not know that the killing of Sid Cohen was absolutely no indicator of Trebor's true nature.
Determined to keep conversation alive, and coming from a so-called "culture" where males loved to talk about themselves, Heather asked, "Is Trebor your real name?"
"It is now."
"Oh, so you just picked it out or something?"
"Um, yeah, you might say that. Trebor is Robert spelled backwards. I use it to honor Robert Jay Mathews, leader of the Order Bruder Schweigen."
That prompted questions about who and what were the Bruder Schweigen, which led to discussion of the formation of Kinsland. Trebor emerged from behind a sheet serving as a privacy screen between the room and bathtub. Wearing only a towel around his waist, he padded to a newly acquired dresser containing his clothing and pulled on shorts and jeans while the conversation continued. The unselfconscious display of his body was duly noted with poorly disguised interest by Candy and Heather. Flat belly, thought Heather. Nice ass, thought Candy. Each scolded herself for thinking that way about a kidnapper and murderer, but in their heart of hearts each also knew that she wanted to be first to share the dangerous man's bed.
The next day, with the girls' help Trebor completed a major partition dividing the log cabin in half, with the three beds and sleeping quarters in one end, while the other half served as living room, kitchen and, of course, a spot for the bathtub. He then announced that the partition work would have to do for now because he and others were going to begin Eric's cabin in the next couple of days.
"Oh, yeah, he's gonna, um, uh, 'get' a mate pretty soon, huh?" Candy almost said 'kidnap'.
"The Gods willing," Trebor agreed. They had discovered that Trebor used that phrase whenever risks were involved.
After lunch Trebor advised them to start studying the books he had brought home, and that he'd be home for supper when it got dark.
From a couple of hundred yards away through thick forest, the girls could hear the sounds of construction. Dutifully they sat down with the books, which turned out to be a collection of writings by men with names like Nietzsche, Spengler, Rockwell and others they had never heard of. Try as they might to concentrate on the material, their minds wandered and they kept turning to conversation. They seized the time of being alone to discuss what was really on their minds. "We've got to escape," Candy began.
"Well, we sure can't walk out through a hundred miles or whatever it is, with bears and mountain lions everywhere."
Always practical, Heather replied, "Well then, we'll have to steal a car, huh?"
"They have their cars and trucks hidden somewhere so they can't be seen from the air. All I know is, there aren't any in sight from here," Candy advised.
Heather speculated, "They might kill us if we got caught. I keep remembering what they did to Sid."
"Yeah," Candy mused, "you know what, though, I don't care about that creep. I was getting real tired of his demands, especially the private sessions."
"I know what you mean," Heather agreed. "I can't hardly believe all the things we did for that fat little weirdo."
"Actually, we were doing it for the cocaine, not him," Candy corrected.
"What would you give for some nose candy right now?" Heather asked.
"God, you name it, but I've got an idea it's gonna be a long time."
They agreed that they'd better learn a little about what was in the books before Trebor got home.
"Hey, according to this, a White man named Edison invented electric lighting, another White man named Alexander Bell invented the telephone system, and Cleopatra was a White woman," Candy exclaimed.
"Naw, my teachers said they were Black."
"Well, they have supposed photocopies from a 1930 encyclopedia here," Candy continued.
"Hell, who knows? Anyone can write a book." Heather's views were usually utilitarian.
The more they read, the more evident it became that either the books they were reading were complete fabrication, or what they'd been taught all their lives was false. It wasn't possible to throw out many years of indoctrination, but it was necessary to please their "Lord and Master", so they read on.
By now they were beginning to learn how to cook for Trebor, who was almost a vegetarian, although on occasion he would indulge in a little meat. When he returned home as darkness settled in they had supper ready. For all the world like long time spouses, they recounted their respective days. Trebor was enthused about the progress on Eric's cabin. The walls were up, a floor in place, and tomorrow they hoped to finish a roof, windows and doors. From there it would be Eric's chore to finish. For their part, the girls tried to impress him with what they hoped were intelligent questions derived from the books they had studied most of the afternoon.
"After supper, we'll go out for the evening," Trebor said. "You need to see some evidence of the truth in those books, and then there is something else I want to show you since it's a new moon and a clear night." He could sense that they doubted the authenticity of the volumes he had given them to read.
"What's a 'new moon'?" Candy asked.
"That's the opposite of a full moon. In other words, no moon."
"So why is that so important?"
"You'll see," was all he said.
After putting on sweaters, the girls were led by Trebor first to the community building with its library. There he showed them textbooks, encyclopedias and other reference works dating from the 1850's to the 1930's, in which all he had told them was verified.
"As you can see, we at Kinsland don't have the resources to print and fabricate these books," he explained. He spread out a map of the world. "See this little nation over here," he said, pointing to Germany.
"That's Germany, that little speck, the size of one American state. That's the country that your teachers told you set out to conquer the world. These reference works will show you that Germany was outnumbered 144-to-1 in land area by its enemies. Outnumbered thousands to one in natural resources, and hopelessly outnumbered in population. Other books will show you that the Teutonic people, later called Germans, were the defenders of the White race for thousands of years against invaders from Africa and Asia, like the Moors and the Mongols of Genghis Khan. To exterminate the White race, the Sons of Muspell first had to destroy Germany."
Trebor went on for two hours, and by the light of a kerosene lamp, the girls were shown contradiction after contradiction in the political and religious systems they had been exposed to or controlled by all their lives. Finally he said, "That's more than enough to blow your minds for one night. Come on, let's climb a mountain."
He led them several hundred feet up a winding trail in the darkest night they had ever seen. He knew every step and pointed out obstacles. Soon they arrived at an outcropping of rock. They scrambled their way to the top, which was a small level space perhaps ten feet square, rising just above tree level.
Panting from exertion, Candy and Heather paused, too out of breath to ask why they were there.
Then Trebor said, "Look," pointing to the sky. Above them in the thin mountain air, unhindered by pollution or reflected city lights, the vast panorama of the universe stood revealed in its magnificent splendor, billions upon billions of stars creating designs against a velvet black background. The Milky Way truly looked like a ribbon of white.
"Awesome, isn't it?" Trebor asked.
"God yes. I never knew it could look like this," Candy breathed.
"And it goes on apparently forever, millions of light-years beyond what we can see with the naked eye. It makes a person feel kind of insignificant, huh?" Trebor mused.
"Like a little bug," was Heather's agreement.
"Did you know that there are spirals in those galaxies that show the same mathematical progression as the arrangement of sunflower seeds and fern leaves?" he asked.
"No, what does that mean?" Heather asked.
"It means that when our ancestors, the great Aryan philosophers of antiquity, said, 'As above, so below,' or, in other words, that we and the world are a reflection of the cosmic mind, they were right."
"You mean 'God'?" Candy asked.
"I mean a force and intelligence in the universe that we call God. That we as Wotanists who follow our true religion symbolize as Allfather Wotan."
"I don't understand. What do you mean, symbolize? Is Wotan real, or not?" Heather asked.
"I think we have covered all the esoterica we can handle for one night," Trebor replied, then added, "For tonight, just consider the majesty of all that" - he gestured again to the heavens - "and realize that while we are insignificant in the size of things, we can be valuable beyond comprehension as a link in destiny's eternal chain."
"Meaning what?" Candy asked.
Trebor's only reply was an enigmatic, "One day you will understand." Standing between his new mates, Trebor rested one arm across the shoulders of each in a continuing but slow increase of physical familiarity. Almost without thinking, they each circled his waist with an arm, and together they gazed at the incredible spectacle in the skies.
Yet it was Trebor's mind most focused on the cosmos. Heather's mind drifted elsewhere. What a strange man, she thought for the umpteenth time, so strong, so dangerous and ruthless, yet gentle and intelligent. And, yes, desirable. She could feel Candy's arm against hers where they encircled Trebor's waist. Could she be happy sharing this man with another? No, she told herself, I've gotta escape from Kinsland. Candy's thoughts were along the same line.
Trebor broke the spell. "Well, work days start early. I guess we had better get on home."
Back at the cabin, partitions had not yet been built to divide the back half of their abode into separate bedrooms. Soon all three were immersed in their own thoughts in their own beds, yet only feet apart.
"Trebor?" There was a question in the name from Heather. "May I ask you a question?"
"Don't know why not."
"Promise you won't get mad?"
"No," he answered, "I'll probably blow my cool", but his remark was clearly humorous.
"I'm serious," Heather persisted.
"Okay, okay, I promise."
"Don't the women around here get jealous when their husband has more than one wife - I mean, 'mate'?"
"Why should they?"
Both Heather and Candy found his answer frustrating. Candy butted in, "Don't you believe in love?"
Trebor answered, "When you have your second child, will you love your first any less?"
"Um, I'll have to think about that," Candy replied.
Heather got more to the point. "Do the guys sleep with two or three mates at a time?"
"Ye gads, woman, I'm a Wotanist. How would I know?" Again there was encouraging humor in his voice.
"What's being a Wotanist got to do with it?"
"A Wotanist figures it's no one's business what others do in the privacy of their own homes."
"I like that," Candy said.
Heather persisted. "Well then, since you promised not to get mad, what kind of sex do you like?"
"Well. Well, kind of a loaded question. Let me think a minute." After careful consideration, he opined, "I guess there's a time for everything, sometimes romance, sometimes a caveman, sometimes gentle, sometimes a little kinky. Keeps it exciting."
"I like that," Candy repeated.
"So what are you waiting for with us?" Heather continued. "Don't we turn you on?"
"Do you think its time?" Trebor had this disconcerting way of answering a question with a question.
"Time? How does anyone know that?"
"You know, for a moment, upon the mountain top under the stars tonight, I thought we were getting there. I had a feeling of -- of -- well, if you don't know, it's a waste of words. When the day comes that lust and love combine, I reckon we will all know. Now dammit, let's get some sleep."
Sleep was slow in coming for Heather and Candy. Their minds drifted back to those days of innocence when, as teenagers, love and lust indeed combined in girlish fantasies. Back before drugs, easy sex, booze and night life had made them women of the world. What was reality - Kinsland, or what Kinslanders called the System? Was Trebor a brutal murderer and kidnapper, or the stuff of a girl's dreams? Finally they drifted into fitful sleep.
The exterior of Eric's cabin was completed by sundown the next day. At Trebor's request, the girls had prepared a picnic style noon meal for the workers. Even to their relatively insensitive perception, the unselfishness and camaraderie of the Kinslanders was obvious. Eric endured incessant ribald kidding about the sexual adventures he was sure to enjoy in his new home, with embarrassed grins.
"They're like a bunch of big kids, huh?" Heather had mused to Candy.
"Yeah, sometimes, but then other times they are so damn serious and dangerous."
"Romantic fools?" Heather asked.
"I guess so, but it's kinda neat, too, know what I mean?" Candy waxed a bit philosophical.
They would spend most of the rest of the day reading the prescribed books and so were prepared with questions in the evening. Instead, events began which would lead to a very painful lesson for Trebor's mates.
There was a knock on the front door which Candy went to answer. It was the young girl, Freta, who sometimes helped as an aide to Anna, the nurse.
"Anna needs help." There was no mistaking the urgency and distress in Freta's voice.
All of them rushed down the hill to the nurse's home. The rear of Anna's cabin formed an immaculate if crude emergency room. When they arrived, Anna was efficiently preparing for surgery on a young man whose blood-covered body lay on a four foot high table.
"It's Bragi," she told Trebor. Without pausing to see who the women were with him she ordered, "You, get his clothes off." Candy and Heather hurried to obey.
"Laser rifle, I'd say. Went right through his vest. Must have severed or nicked a major vessel judging from the blood." Anna talked as she worked. "Roth and Rick brought him in. Found him at the first cabin on the Fort Collins run. While he was still conscious, he told them it was La Porte cops that stopped them. He was with George. George's body was in their car, been dead some time."
Anna already had an IV bottle hooked to Bragi's arm. "Got him on painkiller now." She named a synthetic drug known in the System's streets and among druggies as Tope, short for Utopia, because of its euphoric effects. In fact, Tope was a drug abuser's fondest dream and most treasured possession.
"I've got to give him something to knock him out now, but I thought you might want to try to talk to him first," Anna told Trebor. The clear implication was that Bragi might not live to talk after surgery.
Trebor took hold of the wounded soldier's left hand and leaned close. "Can you hear me, Bragi? This is Trebor."
Bragi's eyes flickered open, and he tried to answer, but blood in his throat provoked a bout of coughing.
"Hang on, Kinsman. We'll talk later," Trebor told him. He turned to Anna who was showing Candy and Heather where to dispose of the bloody clothes, and said, "No use, better get inside of him quick."
Trebor, Anna and Freta each knew what to do and were immediately engrossed in controlling anesthesia, monitoring vital signs, and surgery. Candy and Heather exchanged the knowing glances of druggies and each pocketed a vial of Tope while no one was looking. Then they watched the desperate operation with interest that was only partly feigned.
"Yep, nicked the aorta," they heard Anna mumble. "Gimmie that, and that, and that" - she would point and Freta would hand her surgical tools. A long hour passed before Anna began to sew the KD soldier's chest closed.
"He's got a lot of life force," Trebor murmured.
"Yeah, but he's lost a hell of a lot of blood and his system is in serious shock. I'll keep him loaded with painkillers and antibiotics in case of infection. The rest is up to the Norns and him." Like all Kinslanders, Anna was extremely fatalistic.
Trebor sent his women home and went outside to talk to the two men who brought Bragi in.
"We were on our way out on a fruit run," one of the men named Roth, began. A fruit run was a trip to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for the community, in treaty towns. We found him and George in their car about a quarter mile from the first cabin on the Fort Collins run. Before he passed out, Bragi told me it was La Porte cops and they had a laser rifle. He and George jumped out and George caught a full load. Probably dead before he hit the ground, Bragi emptied a clip of .308 into the cops' car, but they must have bulletproof firewalls now. Anyhow, the cops had time to recharge the laser rifle enough to put a quick burst into Bragi. He managed to pull George's body into the car and headed west. Apparently the cop car was disabled, because they didn't follow. Then Bragi got weak from loss of blood and didn't quite reach the cabin. That's all we know."
"Was fruit their only mission?" Trebor asked.
"No, there was surveillance on a CSU professor. I think an 'accident' was planned."
Trebor had a good idea who the professor might be. There was an 'educator' named Goldberg of Colorado State University who delighted in promoting miscegenation between Skraelings and the few White coeds in his classes. In fact, one of the Kinslander's mates was a former student of Goldberg who had been rescued a couple of years earlier.
"Well, I'll be headed east in the morning if you all want to join me," Trebor remarked, with a casualness that belied his deep emotion. Rick and Roth both quickly volunteered to join him. It was the rule in Kinsland: if the System killed one of theirs, then immediate retaliation, at least two for one, was called for.
Trebor trudged to Eric's new cabin, where he found the young soldier just getting ready to turn in for the night. After hearing the events of the evening, Eric too was ready and eager to join the revenge team. They agreed to head out the next day as soon as there was cloud cover.
At home, unfortunately, there was to be no rest for Trebor. No sooner had he arrived home then there was another knock on the door. This time it was Anna. Looking very somber.
"Bragi?" Trebor asked.
"No, he's still plugging along. Freta is watching over him."
"Oh good." Trebor's relief was evident.
"It's something else," Anna said, clearly reluctant to begin.
"I'm missing two bottles of painkiller." Anna let the words hang along, pregnant with portent.
Trebor considered carefully. Quite clearly he didn't want to accept the obvious, but his new mates were the only druggies in the community. And they'd had the opportunity.
With sad resignation in his voice and posture, he turned to Candy and Heather, who had heard the conversation.
"Alright, where is it?'
They both vigorously denied any knowledge of the missing Tope. When a search of their pockets revealed nothing, they trumpeted, "I told you so." But when he searched their dresser drawers, they knew they were caught and their attitudes became apologetic, on the surface anyway. All druggies justify to themselves what they do for their drugs.
Trebor returned the vials to Anna, saying, "I guess this means a Thing first order of business tomorrow."
"I'm afraid so." Anna's voice showed sympathy for Trebor's anguish.
"You'll have to bring the charges."
"Yes, I know," were Anna's last words upon departing.
Trebor strode to the bedroom and gathered his sleeping bag and a few other items. On his way to the exit, he stated, "I don't care to stay with liars and thieves. Tomorrow you will be tried at the Thing."
"What's a 'Thing'?" asked Candy.
"A community meeting," was his terse reply.
"You know, we didn't ask to come here," Heather said with some defiance and sarcasm in her voice.
A withering look of disgust was Trebor's only answer. He would sleep on the floor at Eric's cabin this night.
The girls were blithely unaware of the seriousness of their offenses in the eyes of Kinslanders and Wotanists. Lying and stealing were virtually unheard of, partly because everyone had a sense of being one large family with a unique destiny, and partly because defense of the communities demanded integrity.
"Screw their damn 'Thing'. Let's get out of here," Candy spat out.
"Wonder how far we'll get in these woods at midnight?" Heather countered.
"A little damn Tope and they act like it's the end of the world." Candy was incensed at the injustice of it all. Heather agreed, but counseled that defiance was not going to make matters better.
"He said Anna had to 'bring charges'. This 'Thing' must be like a trial," Candy speculated.
"So what, men run things around here. What are they gonna do to a couple of girls for swiping some painkiller drug?"
"Yeah, and we're the best lookin' women here." The bravado in Candy's agreement evidenced a need to reassure each other there was no real problem, but in the back of their minds the image of Sid Cohen's last moments lurked like a spectre of disaster.
All in all, they were apprehensive enough that they were up and dressed early the next morning. Figuring to influence the men who would presume to judge them, they primped to the nines with their hair, make-up and perfume. Then they dressed in the most demure clothing common to the community.
They were thus prepared and sipping coffee when Trebor arrived shortly after sunrise. His attitude was cold, but they had expected that. They knew that a woman's looks were her weapon in life's struggle, and both were confident in their weapons where men were concerned.
They found themselves seated in the front row of the combination school, library and meeting hall, behind Trebor. Looking about as the hall filled up, they noted that each man brought his mate or mates with him. Perhaps twenty men and nearly twice that many women filled the room before Trebor rose and addressed the crowd.
"I've called for this Thing for two reasons, neither of them pleasant," he announced. "First, as most of you know, our good Kinsman George was killed by the System's police yesterday. George leaves two mates and nine children behind. The funeral pyre will be tonight, though of course a few of us won't be here, as we have the usual business to take care of in the east. Respect to George's mates will, I am sure, be paid by all.
"Second, I am sorry to say, this is about a wrong for which I am at least partly responsible, since I brought the accused into the community. Anna, would you please state the facts?"
Anna rose, faced the audience and detailed the charges of theft and lying. "This crime is particularly inexcusable in light of what was stolen," she added. "This painkilling drug is vital to injured KD soldiers. In fact, Bragi was on the operating table at the exact time of the theft. Stealing medicine could condemn heroes to pain or death. Regretfully, as the offended party, I must ask for severe punishment." She sat down and the floor opened for debate.
Trebor rose first, confirmed all that Anna had said, and then added, "However, please bear in mind that these two are new to the community and have no knowledge of our ways or why they are so important. If they can be re-educated, aren't they potentially more valuable to our folk alive than dead? Nonetheless, let the will of the folk be done." He relinquished the floor.
The seriousness of their situation now struck home on both Heather and Candy. This was about life and death, their lives or deaths. The way Anna put it, stealing medicine from wounded soldiers did indeed sound awful. Worse yet, it wasn't just men deciding their fate. It appeared each family had one vote in decisions of the 'Thing'. The man of the house cast the vote, but only after consultation with his mate or mates. Not only that, the men seemed to respect their mates' opinions, and the women who spoke from the floor were uniform in their condemnation. They heard one woman specify, "If my man or my son were denied medicine by a thief in the community, I'd have no mercy."
The debate raged for two hours before decisions were reached. In accord with common practice, the injured party - in this case, Anna - delivered the verdict. In clear, somber tones she announced: "Candy, a prospective Trebor's mate, and Heather, a prospective Trebor's mate, it is the judgment of the Thing that you are thieves and liars. For such the appropriate punishment is that you should be stripped naked and flogged in view of the entire community. A second offense requires capital punishment.
"However, because you are new to the community, and out of deference to Trebor, we deem it improper that you should be unclothed to the eyes of the community's male members. Therefore your punishment will be administered in the privacy of this hall, by women, with only women present."
"Be aware that your punishment does not result from malice. Those who have no conscience will only follow the rules necessary to the survival of the folk and community out of fear of pain."
The men rose as one and departed the meeting hall. In moments, Candy and Heather found themselves naked with their hands tied above their heads. No amount of pleading, promising, tears or - later - screams would save them. One of the women administering discipline was in fact heard to say, "Stow the tears, thief, that trick only works on men."
Later, as they limped back to Trebor's cabin, carrying their clothes because anything touching the welts on their bodies was too painful to bear, the last words they'd heard rang in their ears.
"Are drugs, lying and stealing worth all this? Are they worth dying for?"
At least, thankfully, at the cabin there were no accusing looks or words from Trebor. In fact, he wasn't home. On the kitchen table was a terse note that read, "The past is over. The future is what one makes it. Do right. The Gods willing, I will be back in three days."
"So what now?" Candy asked.
"I don't know. Keerist, I thought I was dying. I didn't know a person could hurt so bad."
"It still hurts," Candy moaned.
At that moment there was yet another knock on the door. The girls exchanged apprehensive looks. It couldn't be a friend - they didn't know any in the community.
Heather sidled to the door, holding her clothes in front of her, and cracked it open.
"Hi!" It was Freta, Anna's helper. "Well, may I come in?"
"Oh, sure." Heather stepped aside.
"Anna sent this." Freta held out a bottle of greenish-blue lotion. "She said applying it to your sore spots a few times a day will help."
"Anna sent this?" Heather was incredulous that Anna, who had so eloquently laid out the case against them, was now solicitous.
"Sure, why not?" the young girl responded.
"Well, eh, you know," Heather stuttered, "what happened this morning?"
"Hey," Freta responded, "if a child does wrong, he gets a spanking. Then it's forgotten. You did wrong and got a real good spanking, and now it will be forgotten."
"Are you kidding? Those people, especially the women, they hate us! We can't ever go outside again."
"Oh, really," the sprightly teenager replied. "Well, you better go put that lotion on and get dressed. I think you're about to have company."
Suddenly they realized how silly they must look, standing stark naked in the middle of the room, carrying on conversation with a fully dressed and seemingly all-wise teener.
"Oh, yeah, thanks. Sit down and I'll, I mean we'll be right back." Heather took the lotion. She and Candy retreated to the bedroom with as much dignity as two sore and naked women could muster.
In the back room, they whimpered as they applied the lotion to themselves and to each other.
"Ooh, this does help," Candy moaned.
"Boy, does it ever! Wonder what it is?"
"Who cares? Just be glad we got it."
They speculated about who could be coming to visit, without optimism or enthusiasm.
"You know, just in case, we ought to brew some coffee," Heather suggested. Dressed in the softest clothing they could find, they returned to the front room.
"You are both so very pretty, I can see why Trebor picked you," Freta complimented them.
"Well, thank you, Freta, but to tell the truth, I don't feel very pretty right now," was Heather's honest response.
"Me neither," her sister-mate agreed.
"Trebor left a note that said he'd be gone for two or three days. Do you know where he is?" Candy asked.
"Sure. He and Eric and Rick and Roth went Vali."
"Yeah, that's a name they use for revenge. It's from the God Vali."
"Yeah, so what does Vali do?" asked Heather.
"They kill one of ours, we kill two of theirs. That's all they understand."
The casual manner in which this apparently innocent young girl spoke of killing astonished Candy and Heather. "Just like that, go kill someone?"
"War is war, with plunder and women to the winners and slavery or death to the losers," Freta responded, with what to the newcomers was frightening intensity.
The conversation was interrupted by the first in an afternoon-long procession of women offering to teach the girls sewing, gardening, leather crafts and all the skills of the community. They accompanied one pair of sister-mates to pay respects to George's mates. There they heard references to Asgard, Valhalla, Tyr, the Bifrost bridge and other terms that baffled them. The sister-mates called themselves Sifen and Skadi.
"Where do you get such strange names?" asked Candy.
"And why does everyone seem to use just one name?" chimed in Heather.
"They are mostly names of Gods and Goddesses of our folk, and we often take a new name in Kinsland."
"But no last name?"
"Well, kinda, I guess. You are Candy Treborsmate and she is Heather Treborsmate," Sifen replied.
"Can I - I mean, may I - ask you another question?" Heather was being super polite.
"Sure," Sifen agreed.
"Well, uh, first, uh, what's your husband - I mean, mate's name?"
"Our mate calls himself Baldy, partly out of respect to Balder and partly as a joke since he has lots of long beautiful hair."
"Balder is a God?"
"Yes, a God of summer and sunlight."
"So which of you was Baldy's first wife?" Heather asked.
"I was," Skadi offered.
"Weren't you jealous when he took another wife? Oops, I mean mate!"
"Jealous!?" Skadi laughed. "I picked Sifen and helped Baldy capture her."
"Why, don't you love Baldy?"
"I love that man more dearly than anything on Midgard, except maybe our children," Skadi replied.
"Me, too," Sifen echoed.
While Candy and Heather were being educated into the ways of Kinsland, some miles away, traveling almost due east, four Kinsman maneuvered their two sedans around ruts and potholes in trails and roads. There was little conversation, as each man's thoughts were on fallen comrades and revenge. What little talk there was involved strictly business.
In the lead car, Trebor said, "We've got to get our hands on some of those laser rifles. I hear they can bring down a chopper or low-flying plane."
"Oh, man, if every Kinsland community had one of those, we could make life easier," Eric enthused.
"Well, we're gonna try. That's what the bolt cutters are for." They figured the laser rifles were bolted into locking devices in police vehicles just as was done with shotguns.
Behind them in the second car, Roth, a large husky man in his mid-forties, was driving. To Rick, a slender blond at least twenty years younger, he speculated, "Laser rifles for local cops, that's new."
"Well, the police department is about all Skraelings except for a few White females I hear. Guess the System feels it's safe to let racial enemies of the folk have advanced weapons."
La Porte, once a small suburb of Fort Collins, now had a population of a hundred thousand spreading north and west. Its western border was within a few minutes' drive of the mountains and Kinsland territory. The population was ninety percent Mexican with an additional ten percent divided between several races, but the police department was at least ninety-nine percent Mexican.
"You think Bragi's gonna make it?" Rick asked.
"Questionable, but there's a chance. He was breathing well when we left."
"If he doesn't make it, I want to go Vali again next trip," Rick vowed.
Bragi was Rick's age and a close friend.
"Not wise to go Vali when a man is too emotional," Roth cautioned.
"I'll cool down first," the younger man promised.
By nightfall they were at the first cabin where George and Bragi had been found a day earlier. From a nearby promontory there was a view of the unending lights of the front range. From north of Fort Collins to south of Colorado Springs , the entire front range was one long city, a hundred miles in length and up to fifty miles in width in places. It resembled Mexico City in size and inhabitants.
From informants, the KD knew of a donut shop in western La Porte where the police often took coffee breaks. If the Gods were with them, some System Skraeling police would take their last coffee break tonight.
They left one car concealed at the cabin, then crept down the last ten miles to the edge of System territory in a sedan loaded to the gills with four men, rifles, back packs and -just in case - a bolt cutter. By nine o'clock they were innocently ensconced on a side street overlooking the parking lot of the franchise donut shop. It was over an hour before a police car showed up. A swarthy Mexican and a fat White woman got out, dressed in the garish uniforms designed by La Forte's Skraeling city council, and waddled into the shop.
"Okay, Rick, take a look."
Rick was the least menacing in appearance, and he was designated to stroll by the police vehicle and look to see if a laser gun was locked inside. Just as Rick opened his door, Trebor grabbed his arm.
"No, wait". A second police car entered the lot, and parked, and its Mexican cops went inside. "Okay, try again," Trebor advised.
A minute later, Rick returned. "The Norns are with us. There are some kinds of weapons I don't recognize locked to the dashboard, and the fat broad didn't even lock her door. If there's no alarm turned on, I can probably cut one of those weapons out of that car before they even come out."
â€śWell, if we're gonna take out all four of them, it can't be a quiet operation," Trebor said. "It's smash and grab and run. Rick, you and Eric amble up to the cars. See if you can get the first weapon out quietly. If an alarm goes off, Roth and I will take out the cops immediately. We'll have them in our sights through the window all the time. If you get the first weapon out quietly, signal us. We'll then take out the enemy. You then shoot out the windows on the other car if it's locked, cut the weapon loose and we're gone. Thirty seconds maximum. Everyone agree?" Heads nodded.
As luck would have it, there was an alarm on the first police vehicle, although not audible outside. Apparently an alarm went off in the cops hand-held radios, because just as Rick opened the car door all four cops looked up.
"Take 'em," Trebor muttered.
A stream of .308 slugs tore through the front window of the donut shop and entered the heads and bodies of the enemy, already tumbling and expanding. The exit holes were as big as a man's fist, and all four were dead when they hit the floor. The patrons and workers in the shop screamed and dropped to the floor, but Rick and Eric calmly went about their work. As Rick cut the weapon in the first car loose with bolt cutters, Eric pulled out his 9mm and cleaned out the rider's-side window of the other car with a fusillade of shots. He had the door open and waiting when Rick arrived with the cutters and a weapon in one hand. Another ten seconds and they sprinted for the car, two precious laser rifles in their possession.
There was no point in taking a circuitous route out of town. In minutes the major thoroughfares would be sealed in every direction. At the top speed possible without blatantly violating the limit, they headed due west, counting the minutes to the Kinsland borders. With two miles of good highway in front of them, then another two miles of unrepaired Kinsland roadway before entering heavy forest, Rick announced from the back seat, "Cars in chase, at least four, lights on. Might as well floor it now."
Trebor floored the gas pedal and the large engine in their carefully chosen sedan responded with a lunge. They traveled the last two miles of highway at over a hundred miles an hour with the chase car still at least a mile behind. At the end of the unkept road, Trebor had to slow to ten and fifteen miles per hour, picking his way through potholes as the headlights allowed, but he wasn't worried about chase cars. They would have the same problems.
"Choppers, guys, look for them." Windows down, the other three poked their heads out and surveyed above and behind.
Just a few hundred yards ahead, Trebor could see the first trees, which meant safety. Suddenly Rick shouted, "Chopper, right rear, maybe one mile!'
No chance to evade, thought Trebor. It will have missiles already honed in on us.
The trees were less than a hundred yards away.
"Backpacks, weapons, and the laser guns in hand," he yelled. "We're getting out!" He jammed on the brakes, and all four raiders piled out, sprinting for the trees as fast as their legs would carry them with all the gear they carried. Behind them the chopper's co-pilot pushed a button and a missile already honed in on the car's hot exhaust roared away at four hundred miles per hour.
Just as the raiders reached the tree line, there was a tremendous explosion as their vehicle was virtually vaporized by high explosive. The KD soldiers took a moment to catch their breath, then began to strap on their backpacks.
"Whew, that was close," Roth panted.
"Yeah, too damn close," Eric agreed.
"That damn chopper hasn't left yet," Rick observed.
"No, it hasn't, has it?" Trebor muttered, a thoughtful look in his eyes. "Let me see one of the laser rifles." Like all KD soldiers, Trebor had read every bit of literature that was printed or could be stolen about System weaponry. In a moment he had the rifle charged.
Using a tree limb for a rest, he centered the sights on a fuel tank of the chopper that hovered over the burning wreckage of their car. "Adios, I hope," he murmured and squeezed he trigger.
A pencil sized hole blasted through the helicopter's fuel tank. Metal turned red hot in a microsecond, igniting fumes within the tank. There was a flash from the explosion, then the only sounds were of rubble raining from the sky and approaching sirens.
"For Bragi," Trebor gloated.
The raiders began the ten mile uphill march to the cabin and the other car. Between the difficulty of the terrain and having to watch for System aircraft, it would take a long time, but no one minded.
Less than fifty miles west as the crow flies, in Mathewsville, Trebor's new mates had tried going to bed around ten o'clock, but despite Anna's medication they were still in considerable discomfort. Unable to sleep, they talked instead.
"I guess we're gonna have to get honest with ourselves," Heather began, thinking out loud. "Apparently nobody escapes from Kinsland, so we've got to make the best of it. In their eyes, we are liars, thieves, and druggies. If Trebor hadn't convinced them to give us a break because we are new, we might be dead."
Candy broke in, "Yeah, well, he's the one that kidnapped us."
"That's beside the point now. We have to play the cards we're dealt. Everyone here talks about fate, even at that funeral or whatever they call it."
A little earlier they had watched along with the community as far across the valley a fire sprang to life. A funeral pyre, Freta had told them. George on his way to Valhalla. He escaped the straw death. The straw death, they discovered, meant dying in bed instead of in battle.
"Anyway, Trebor is one of their heroes, and for all practical purposes he owns us, right?"
"Well then, we gotta do what women have always done, right?"
"I guess," Candy replied, still unsure where Heather was headed.
"What I mean is, if everyone loves Trebor and he can be convinced that he loves us, we end like at the top, right?"
"You mean like big fish in a small pond?"
"In the only pond," Heather responded.
Candy admitted she could see sense in the idea. "But," she reminded Heather, "at the moment we are lower than whale crap in Trebor's eyes."
"Maybe so, but tell me something - was there ever a man you met that you couldn't seduce if you wanted?"
"Well, not many, if any," Candy admitted, or bragged, depending on one's viewpoint.
"Me either, and against two of us he hasn't got a chance. You ever know a guy that didn't want two good looking women?"
"They mostly all do," Candy agreed, then asked, "So what's the plan?"
"What's most important to Trebor?"
"Um, I guess this community."
"Right. So beginning immediately, we convince him it's important to us. He has to fall for that."
"Uh-huh, so I agree. That makes sense, but what about sex? That's what really gets to men."
"We gotta find out what he likes and turn him on, that's all."
"Sounds easy, but I've got a feeling that Trebor's different than any men we've known before. He's got some kinda romantic streak or something."
"Maybe so," Heather agreed, "but remember, he decided to kidnap us while watching us perform at the Palace. All that romance and all good sense goes out the window when a man gets horny."
"Well, if he feels romantic about us, he's all screwed up. After all, he knows what we are."
"What do you mean, 'what we are'?" Heather challenged.
"We're a couple of druggie strippers, liars and thieves, and he knows it." Candy was in a fullblown period of painful self-examination.
"Speak for yourself," Heather said, flying into a huff. She squirmed about, trying to find a position that didn't hurt, and fell into resentful silence.
For at least a full hour there was complete silence in the pitch black darkness. Then Heather's voice broke the dark spell. "Candy? You awake?"
"I'm a druggie whore, a liar and a thief."
Candy pondered the admission for a minute. "Friends?"
"I don't think I'm gonna sleep tonight, how about you?"
"Nope, me neither," admitted Heather.
"Wanna get up and have some tea or something?"
"Might as well. Better just our butts hurt from sitting than our whole bodies." "Yeah, let's put on more of Anna's magic lotion, too," Candy suggested.
"Okay, I'll get the lantern and light it."
Shortly they sat in the kitchen sipping tea and being honest with themselves and each other for the first time ever. Actually, they discovered, it's difficult to put on a pretentious act when you're sitting around stark naked due to the fact that your body is covered with painful welts received for lying and stealing.
"You know, we're gonna be expected to have babies, don't you?" Heather asked.
"Well, I guess in the back of my mind I always expected to do that anyhow, didn't you?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I hear that all the women here breast feed for a couple of years. I'll have boobs as big as yours," Heather opined.
"Yours aren't too small. I always wished mine were your size."
"That's funny. I always wanted bigger ones like you," Heather chuckled at the irony.
"Well, I guess babies don't care so long as there is milk in them, huh?"
"Nope. Now the question is, what does Trebor like?" Heather regretted the words instantly. "I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to get any competition stirred up."
"That's okay," Candy asssured her. "We've got to get over any jealousy, although I still don't see how these women do it."
"I think they love each other," Heather mused. Then noticing Candy's questioning gaze, she hastened to add, "I don't mean that way, I mean like.. .like..." she searched for a word. "I don't know, they just do."
"I couldn't ever love you that way," Candy said.
"Nope, you're too damn pretty, too much competition."
Mollified, Heather answered, "You're a lot sexier than I am." These kinds of confessions of admiration women never make to each other except in sarcasm or jest, and now both were embarrassed.
"Good thing Trebor isn't here to hear two naked women telling each other how beautiful they are. He'd swear we are stone lezzies, huh?" Candy joked, breaking the tension of the moment.
Conversation grew desultory as bone-tired weariness descended on both girls. There was a sudden interruption, another knock on the front door.
"Criminy, it's two o'clock in the morning!" Candy exclaimed.
Heather padded to the door and called out, "Who's there?"
"Wolf," a muffled voice answered. "I saw your light and thought you would like to hear about the Vali."
"Wolf? Wolf?" Heather asked. "Who is Wolf?" "I think he's the one-legged guy who works the communications shack on night shift."
"Oh yes, I remember. Just a minute," she called through the door. Both girls scurried to don terrycloth robes. Heather opened the door.
"I picked up news on a System station out of Fort Collins," Wolf said, making no effort to enter.
"Oh well, come in." Heather stepped aside.
"That wouldn't be proper at this hour of night with Trebor gone," Wolf averred. "All I had to tell you was that apparently the men are safe and the raid was a success."
"Thank you, Wolf. We appreciate the update."
"You're welcome. Good night," Wolf hobbled away on his crutches.
"That was sweet of him," Candy remarked.
"Yeah, part of being Trebormates, I guess."
"Have you thought about what happens to us if Trebor gets killed on one of his raids?" Heather asked.
"Don't want to think about it. Let's go to bed."
In the bedroom, Heather surprised Candy by saying, "Let's sleep in Trebor's bed til he gets home?"
"Just because, I dunno, just because it's his, I guess."
"Kinda like getting used to the idea?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
They once again anointed themselves and each other with lotion and slipped naked between the sheets.
"I'll bet if Trebor knew we were in his bed, both of us, like this, he wouldn't be so eager to play war," Candy ventured.
"I hope not, but I suspect he's one of those duty-to-the-bitter-end type of guys."
"You're probably right. Let's get some z's." This time, despite the tender skin, they went immediately to sleep.
Meanwhile, all through the hours of darkness the four KD soldiers slogged their way through inky blackness and occasional heavy underbrush, ever upward and westward. Finally at daybreak they called a halt.
"The surveillance satellites will be tuned into this area. Let's rest until the afternoon cloud cover rolls in," Trebor advised.
From their canteens and emergency rations, they made a meal and thankfully sprawled out on beds of pine needles, carefully hidden beneath dense evergreens. In moments all but the alternating sentry were asleep - the dreamless sleep of men who were exhausted after a job well done.
Some hours later they resumed the trek, surprisingly refreshed and eager to get home where they could regale the community with tales of their exploits. If their car hadn't been destroyed, they would have been home no later than early afternoon, or perhaps late afternoon depending on cloud cover.
Back in Mathewsville, Wolf had told everyone as much as he knew about the raid, but of course all knew that the System radio was often pure lies and propaganda. So by mid-afternoon many folk, especially close friends and relatives of the raiders were sneaking anxious glances into the valley below for signs of a vehicle.
Candy and Heather found that they were no different. Now that they had accepted that their fates were intertwined with Trebor's, future plans relied on his safe return.
Sifen had invited them to help her and a few others to weed and water in the community garden, and she noted their glances down the driveway.
"Best to get used to it. They either return or they don't," she counseled.
"I guess it's always like this, huh?" Heather asked.
"I'd say most of the women here spend from a few days to a few weeks every year wondering if their man will return."
"God, how can you live like that?" Candy asked.
"I guess if there's no other way to stop the Muspellheimer murder of our race, then we have no choice," Sifen answered.
"No wonder you love your men like you do. Each day may be the last," was Heather's observation.
"That's part of it," Sifen agreed, "but there's more. Our men are real men, brave enough to put their lives on the line time after time after time, as long as they live. There is nothing like being loved by a real man."
Comparisons of Trebor's lean hard body and Sid Cohen's disgusting image flashed into both girls' minds. Heather thought of his kiss, lips gently brushing hers, while Candy remembered a single finger tracing a line across her bare calf. They looked at each other.
"We're hooked, aren't we?" Heather asked.
"I'm afraid so," Candy admitted.
Hours dragged by and afternoon turned into evening which became night, and still no sign of the KD soldiers. Finally the girls, tired after only a few hours of sleep the previous night, gave up and decided to go to bed.
Once again they medicated with Anna's lotion and slipped naked between the sheets.
"There's no one else here that I'd want for a mate like Trebor. How about you?" Candy asked.
"Nope. No one else compares. It's scary, what's gonna happen if he's dead?"
"Don't say that. We just decided to love him," Candy mumbled. Then, deciding love was inappropriate, she amended, "I mean, you know, be real mates."
"Maybe that's what love is?" Heather whispered. "Who knows? It would be nice to be treated like these guys do for their women. Even when they're pregnant with big bellies, you can tell their men love them."
"I'll bet that's why the women aren't jealous of each other. It's because the men never leave their mates for a new one."
"Now that makes sense," Candy asserted, then after a moment's reflection added, "except when they're killed."
On that somber note they fell into silence and then sleep.
At four in the morning, Trebor and his companions arrived back in Mathewsville. As tired as he'd ever been, Trebor decided to skip a bath until he saw the pair sleeping in his bed. By the light of a flickering kerosene lamp, he could see the sheets were nearly kicked off their nude bodies and angry welts decorated their skin.
There was a chill in the cabin, so he pulled the sheets back over them and added a quilt.. Then he returned to the kitchen, started a fire in the stove and set a bucket of water on top. Maybe a warm bath would be just as refreshing as sleep, he rationalized. Soon he was soaking away the dirt and sweat of a forced march while sipping a cup of mead.
The girls had received a painful punishment, he reflected. He hoped they had learned their lesson. A repeat performance could well cost them their lives. The community had harsh rules, but survival demanded ruthless enforcement of certain laws and codes of honor.
He also had to admit to himself that there was more to his reflections than some altruistic determination to pass on both their genes and his own. They're getting under my skin, he thought, despite their shady past, and there's no fool like an old fool. I must remember that they lie, they steal, and they are drug-abusers.
Nevertheless, before extinguishing the lantern and climbing into one of the girls' beds, he stole a long look at their faces, so peaceful in repose. Five minutes later he was dead to the world.
Heather awoke at sunrise, needing to make a spider run due to the tea imbibed in the middle of the night. "Ouch," she murmured, as movement still caused a little pain. Then as full consciousness returned, she noted the quilt. Had Candy gotten up in the middle of the night and covered them? She glanced at the blonde still asleep beside her, recalled a hug of the previous night and was surprised to feel no guilt or embarrassment. Maybe friendship with a sister-mate is possible, she thought.
She slid out from under the warm quilt and slipped her feet into slippers before venturing across the cold wood floor. Only as she was donning her terrycloth robe did she finally see Trebor in the next bed. She stood beside his bed for a long moment gazing at his light brown hair and chiseled Nordic profile. You coulda done a lot worse, girl, she told herself as she tip-toed silently out of the room to make the spider run.
Later, as she set about to build a fire in the kitchen stove, she realized there was still heat in the embers. He hasn't been home more than a couple of hours, she correctly surmised. After setting a tea kettle of water on the stove to heat, she returned silently to the bedroom.
Carefully she nudged Candy awake. When the blonde's eyes opened, the first thing she saw was Heather's face, inches away, with one finger over her lips, indicating "be quiet". Heather pointed to the sleeping Trebor. Candy nodded her understanding and slid quietly out of bed.
Heather noted for the umpteenth time the blonde's classic figure, which transcended even the welts still visible on her skin. Must not be jealous, she reminded herself. The experiences of the last three days flew by in her mind's eye. How was it possible that she and Candy could have changed so much in such a short time?
As she eyed the slumbering Trebor once more, she began to wonder what the near future would bring for him, and for his young comrade, Eric...
Copyright 1985 and Into Eternity . All rights reserved David Lane / Pyramid Prophecy