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The prequel to this flash fiction is here.    

Gerra’s withered frame was surprisingly quick and Yvin found himself half tangled in his travel cloak trying to keep up with the crone. When they reached the now full staging yard he skidded to a halt behind her.

He arrived just in time to see a contingent of Gerra’s warriors throw a young woman to the dirt, forming a ring around her. When Gerra stepped up they parted moving to a half moon guard. “Chesa.” Gerra’s voice purred and her wrinkled smile was wide.

The woman, Chesa, looked up and Yvin was surprised to see her return the smile with a grin. “Gerra, your hospitality, as always, astounds me.” She said. Chesa pushed herself up off her elbows and sat back against her heels, knees still on the ground. “Want to order your army away from my men? They aren’t going anywhere; you’ve got them rather trussed up.” Chesa flicked her eyes behind her. Yvin noticed them now, two men surrounded by warriors. Each was bound, arms behind their back with a heavy chain from their wrists to the manacles around their feet.

He looked back to Chesa. Her dark braids were mussed and she had a clotted cut over one of her pitch colored eyes, but aside from that she seemed unharmed.

“Just be thankful you’re not similarly outfitted. It entertains me to think you could cross my lands considering our history. You’re brave, but in your case it precludes idiocy.” Gerra looked down at the younger woman. Gerra’s eyes narrowed suddenly. “Where is the rest of your company?”

“Less bravery, less idiocy.” Chesa shrugged her shoulders. “They thought I’d get caught.”

Yvin found himself staring at the two women. Gerra looked downright pleased with her catch and Chesa, whoever she was, didn’t seem overly worried about her predicament.  “A wise Captain listens to her company.” Gerra raised her brows. “Keep them separate and for Gaivalia’s sake, strip them. I can spot the knife in the tall one’s boot from here.” The Holder glared at her soldier’s surrounding Chesa’s men and the yard erupted in motion, Gerra’s people hauling the prisoners up and past their leader.

Gerra left his side, walking quickly to lead the small procession. It was then he noticed Chesa gaze, even slung between two warriors and barely walking, the young woman smirked at the Holder’s back.

****

“You’ve met her before.” Yvin caught up with the Holder amidst the glares from her soldiers. Gerra’s reaction to the younger woman was strange. He guessed it was more than a matter of territorial Holder and a Captain getting too close. True to her orders they’d locked the captives in separate cells, Chesa apparently warranted a full trio of men watching her.

Gerra looked at him through narrowed eyes. “Yes. What’s it to you priest?”

“I’m curious. Who is she?” It wasn’t a lie. Even manacled to the side of the cage Chesa didn’t seem anything but mildly put out. If anything the men charged to her guard looked less pleased, especially when the clouds broke into a light drizzle. Both prisoners and jailer would be in for a wet night.

Once far away from the jailhouse and Chesa’s now muddy cell Gerra answered. “Chesa Mahal is a thief, a liar and a very good venture Captain. She was not merely wandering through my lands, something she knows I do not allow enemy Captains to do.” Gerra waved away her soldiers, leaving her and Yvin to talk in front of the main longhouse. “She is here to steal from me.”

Thievery was a weighty crime in the pockets of civilization. Taking food lost you an ear. Stealing a horse lost you everything attached to it.  Yvin had the sense to nod at the statement. “What will you do with her then?”

Gerra turned back, half up the steps to the longhouse where she would eat with her kin and oversee the running of her holding.  “Worried about her wellbeing priest? Gaivalia usually chooses those with a stronger stomach.”

Yvin wanted to ask what a crone hiding amidst her houses and armies would know of the nature goddess. Instead he held his tongue. He was also currently surrounded by her houses and armies.

“Apparently not.” Gerra smirked at him before entering the longhouse.  Yvin waited a moment longer in the rain before following.

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