The Savior – Snippet 22

“Haven’t you done enough to the boy, Edgar?” Mahaut said gently. “You’ve shown him his mistake.”

“I don’t think it’s quite enough. And I think Father would agree.”

“He wouldn’t.”

“What the cold hell do you know about it!” Edgar screamed at the top of his lungs. “Who are you to have an opinion on my father? He would not want that…thing inside his granddaughter, that I can promise you.”

“Maybe not, Edgar, but Benjamin wouldn’t want you to permanently hurt the boy. I’m sure of that,” Mahaut said.

She tried to shuffle forward without Edgar noticing, but her feet made a noise against the stone floor and Edgar shouted, “Stay where you are, woman!”

“All right.”

“What do you think you’re going to do with that arrow, anyway?” he said. “Toss it at me like a spear?”

Mahaut looked down. She was still clutching the black-fletched arrow. “No, I was practicing with it when Loreilei came to get me.”

Frel groaned and tried to sit up. The effort was too much. His arms shook, came out from under him, and he collapsed.

“Please Edgar. Let him go,” Mahaut said. “You’ve taught him his lesson.”

Edgar shook his head. “He’ll come back. His kind always do. Look at you, for example.”

“As I remember, you came after me,” Mahaut said quietly.

“You didn’t mind. You loved it.”

“I didn’t know any better. And I was seventeen. I’d just discovered sex. It wasn’t you in particular, Edgar.”

“He needs to be dealt with,” Edgar said. “My contribution to the Family.”

“Not this way.”

Edgar spun, pointed the gun at Mahaut.

“Shut up!” he said. Mahaut gasped, took a step back. “Just shut up.” He turned back around to Frel, steadied his aim.

“No!” Loreilei shouted. Whatever fear had been holding her in place melted and she rushed forward. Edgar backed away from her, but she wasn’t going for him or the gun. She placed herself between Edgar and Frel. “No, uncle,” she said.

Brave, thought Mahaut. And foolish.

“You were a slave once, weren’t you?” Edgar said. “Weren’t you, niece?”

Loreilei slowly nodded.

“It seems the filth did not quite wear off of you. You are still a slut, I fear.”

“You will not shoot him.”

Edgar lowered the gun. He took a step toward Loreilei. “Of course not,” he said. As he did so, he turned the pistol around in his hand, now gripping the top of the barrel.

Mahaut shouted a warning, but it was too late.

With a vicious snarl, Edgar swung the pistol butt at Loreilei’s head. The crack of the wood handle against skin and bone was audible. Loreilei dropped like a rock through water and hit the stone floor. Her head was spurting blood from a gash from her temple to her ear. She did not move.

“Stupid little slave whore,” Edgar muttered.

Mahaut was wearing a simple tunic belted over women’s leggings. She transferred the black-fletched arrow to her left hand, and her right hand went to the back of her belt.

Edgar lined up on Frel.

Mahaut’s hand emerged from behind her back with a throwing knife. She turned the action of drawing the knife into an overhand cast, as hard as any she’d ever made. The knife flew across the five paces separating her from Edgar. It sunk into his left shoulder, the wounded shoulder. His arm jerked at the pain.

The pistol fired.

For a moment, Mahaut feared she’d been too late. But there was a puff of rock beside the altar, beside Frel, where the minié ball struck the pyramid altar.

Then, in the same eyeblink, there was the sickening sound of a ricochet.

Loreilei cried out. She clutched her side. Blood began to pour from a wound that could be nothing else but the bullet Edgar had fired.

It was a terrible wound.

Loreilei is not going to get up from that one.

“What did I do?” he said, looking down at the girl. It wasn’t said with pity, Mahaut knew. It was anger that the unjust world treated Edgar Jacobson so shabbily.

Edgar dropped the pistol. With a yell of defiance, he took the knife in his arm by the hilt and pulled it free with his left hand. “I’ll kill you for this, Mahaut!” he said. “This time, I’ll kill you.”

He spun around, Mahaut’s knife in his hand and raised to strike.

With a quick, sharp, and strong shove, Mahaut sunk the black-fletched arrow into Edgar’s chest. It scraped against a breastbone but found a way through, between. She pushed harder. She pushed until the arrowhead tore through Edgar’s shirt in the back and emerged on his other side.

“You bitch,” Edgar gasped.

“Husband,” said Mahaut. “You never said a truer word.”

Mahaut backed away, and Edgar stumbled backward, clutching the arrow shaft. He struggled feebly, and Mahaut realized he was trying to pull it out.

Good luck with that, she thought. The black-fetched arrows were made with a curving barbed arrowhead to make such an attempt futile.

The Scouts called them mankillers for a reason.

After a moment he either gave up the struggle or lost strength. He stumbled toward her. She took a step back.

And Edgar Jacobson toppled over and fell face-first at Mahaut’s feet. This drove the arrow the rest of the way through until the better part of the shaft was sticking out his back.

Edgar’s leg spasmed once. Twice. And then he ceased to move at all.

“No, no!” It was Frel. He’d pulled up his pants and found the strength to crawl over to Loreilei and examine her. “No, no, no.” He took her limp form into his arms, cradled her.

Mahaut stepped over Edgar’s body and came to kneel beside the two lovers.

“She can’t be, she can’t be gone,” moaned Frel. “It’s not fair. She was rescued. She was saved. Nothing bad should ever happen to her again. Nothing, nothing, nothing.”

He truly does love her.

Mahaut did not reply. She let Frel hold Loreilei for a moment, rocking her, stroking her hair. Loreilei’s head lolled to the side.

Mahaut touched the boy’s shoulder. “You have to let her go now, Frel,” she said.

Slowly, Frel lowered Loreilei’s body to the floor. Mahaut looked down at the wound that had killed her. On her right side was a hole oozing blood.

When the shot woman’s head touched the stone floor, Loreilei gasped suddenly. Her eyes sprung open, then rolled up in her and head and closed again.

“Blood and Bones!” Mahaut leaned over, felt Loreilei’s neck for a pulse.

There. Faint, but there.

“She’s alive, Frel,” Mahaut said. Another gasping breath from Loreilei.

The girl was a fighter.

Her niece tried to speak, but only a bloody bubble emerged from her lips. Mahaut leaned over and brought her lips to Loreilei’s. She pinched her niece’s nose closed, then blew air into the mouth. Down to the lungs.

Loreilei’s chest rose. Then, with a primal heaving sound, Loreilei threw up. The bile ran onto the floor, mingling with her blood. But after that, the girl breathed more easily.

“You stay with her,” she said to Frel. “I’ll go and get help. Can you do that?”

Frel nodded.

“Good.” Mahaut rose. The hem of her tunic and the knees of her leggings were now soaked with Loreilei’s blood. And that of her husband. She turned and stepped over Edgar’s prone body.

Then she spun back around. The arrow, point first, was still sticking up from Edgar’s back.

No need to let that go to waste. I might need it again soon.

Mahaut reached down. She got a good grip on the shaft. With a yank, she pulled it the rest of the way through.

Then, putting the arrow, slick with blood, into the quiver that hung at her side, Mahaut went to find enough servants to transport her niece to Mahaut’s own quarters.

She did not send for a doctor. Instead, she settled down in a chair beside the bed. She had a cot brought in to sleep on.

It would start all over again. The picking through the wound for ball shrapnel, the boiled bandages. The long wait to see if any of it had worked.

She was nursing Loreilei when Edgar was buried in the Family yard on a small rise outside of Bruneberg. No one insisted she go. No one came to get her. She might have made the effort, despite it all, but Loreilei needed her. The living needed her.

Mahaut didn’t make it to Edgar Jacobson’s funeral.