Island of the Kahts 20
After discovering that Bart was still alive—more or less—Han ordered the soldiers now under his command, to bind mine and Wulv's wrists. He didn't say to tighten them like a constrictor snake, but his men seemed eager to go above and beyond. I was already losing feeling in my fingers by the time the knot was tied.
Six soldiers arranged themselves to carry their former captain. I didn't think it was a good idea to mention the stretcher I'd sent Craigin to make.
Han faced me and promptly slapped my face. “Where are you companions?”
“WELL,” I shouted at him. “They WERE here, but I'm SURE they're LONG GONE by NOW, because YOU are SO NOISY!”
He slapped me a second time. “Search this area!” he shouted at the soldiers.
I hoped Craigin could take a hint.
After searching for the rest of my crew in vain—apart from a collection of broken tree limbs gathered in a pile some distance away—Han and his men marched us back to the camp.
Wulv was in poor spirits, and mine were little better. Even if the others evaded Han for now, they were bound to do something honorable and heroic like rescuing me—and get themselves killed in the process—in the very near future.
Also, I doubted that the wounded captain would regain consciousness. If he did, there was a good chance Han planned on torturing and murdering him—why else haul the dying man all the way back to the orchard? Somehow I didn't think this was what Bart had in mind when he'd ordered Wulv to stab him—but I was still unclear on that part, so I could have been wrong.
By the time we arrived at the familiar hill, stepping out of the grove of fruit trees, all I knew was I would have welcomed a shin-kick from Savadra at that moment with gladness. And some of Gern's ribbing. And Fern's ill-mannered, rain-cloud personality. And Craigin's stuffy lectures on mountains. I hadn't felt this alone since the night I was almost eaten alive by eels while drowning. The girls had gotten me out of that one, as a clever brain and a club are rather useful for slipping out of chains and handing out complimentary eel-specialized concussions.
But the girls weren't with me this time.
A small number of the soldiers cast veiled looks of morose in our direction. I figured these were the few who might still be loyal to Bart. Wulv didn't lift his eyes from his feet.
They led us, after some debate, to the center of the clearing where the sparring matches were held. Where I'd thought Bart was going to murder me. Soldiers drove two stakes into the ground a good distance apart from each other. The stakes already had metal rings bolted into them, probably from some ship rigging, and they tied Wulv and I to these.
Han considered the limp form of his ex-commanding officer.
“You should let me help him.” I said.
He glared at me. “Why should I do anything of the sort?” He toed the captain with a smirk. “Old Remus is exactly where he should be.”
“But not where you want him.”
By now, even Wulv had lifted his despondent head out of curiosity.
Han laughed. “I'm intrigued. Go on. What do I want?”
I shrugged. “You want to torture and execute him, not let him slowly fade away from a little stab wound.” I licked my lips before I continued, aware of a lot of eyes on me. “He's a coward, a traitor, and you want to treat him as such. But you can't when he's like that. All you can do is bury him.”
Han looked as though he had forgotten the smile on his face. He was considering. “You're suggesting I let you do...what, exactly?”
“Let me take care of his wound. Make sure he lives long enough for you to get revenge on him.”
Wulv was staring at me wide-eyed. I only hoped he would keep his mouth shut.
“Unless,” I added. “One of your men is a doctor?”
Han glanced around at his men, who all looked at each other. “You want to kill him yourself.” Han said. “One last victory, that's what this is really about, isn't it?”
“No, actually. I'll content myself with watching you exact your revenge. 'Enemy of my enemy' and all that.”
At last, Han nodded. He had Bart laid close to me with a blanket rolled beneath his head and cut one of my hands loose. “If you think you have a chance of getting away, take another look around you.” he reminded before stalking off with a glance thrown over his shoulder.
I won't say the idea of hightailing it out of there was missing from my mindset—and I would have taken it into serious consideration had Han chosen to let both my hands free. Still, a brief examination of the soldiers milling about in all directions, all of them well armed, was not an encouraging sign.
I wasn't sure how much healing Han expected me to be able to do under these conditions, but the pallor of Bart's skin set my thoughts on the task.
Movement had caused the wound to bleed again, but when a soldier brought me their medical kit with fresh bandages, I was able to clean, stitch, and bind it up properly.
As I worked, I kept looking at Wulv with no small amount of wonder. By all appearances he had managed to stab his captain in just the place where it would do little real damage. I also treated a nasty lump on Bart's crown which had escape my notice before. Either he had taken a nasty fall when Wulv stabbed him, or else Wulv had knocked him out before doing so.
I did all I could for the captain, taking as much time as I dared, for fear that they would move him somewhere else. The soldiers seemed preoccupied however and left us alone.
The sun was not so merciful.
By midday, having had nothing to eat or drink for hours, I was baking under the heat. I worried about what the heat was doing to the captain, but his breathing sounded better, even if his color hadn't improved.
Volny stalked some yards away as the sun reached its zenith.
I cleared my throat. “I don't remember it being this hot in the camp before. Lovely island, full of surprises. Some better than others. Still, a little tent or palm branch wouldn't be lacking.”
Volny turned to stare at me. I smiled cheerily at him. “What are you griping about now?”
“Well, all I'm trying to get at is if Han wants his prisoners healthy for whatever unhealthiness he has in mind for them, he might want to give them a spot of shade.”
Curling his lip, Volny hesitated.
“Or you can let his chief captive die from sunstroke and explain it to him in your own time.”
Volny took one last look at the felled captain, spat into the grass, and stalked off. I relaxed a little then. A long time passed before anyone returned to see us—of course, any amount of time seems long when you're getting boiled. The soldiers set up a sort of tent around us—some canvas tied to the existing stakes plus two more. It wasn't much, but it was shade. Volny himself carried a canteen of water.
“Thanks.” I said.
“It's not for you.” He grinned. He held Bart's head up and trickled some of the water into the injured man's mouth. I'll admit I managed a smile when I saw his throat move to swallow the liquid.
“Looks like Remus won't drink the rest now.” Volny's eyes twitched between Wulv and I. “Want some?”
Wulv nodded. “Please.”
I agreed with him.
Volny stood between us and poured the water out on the ground. “Sorry. Maybe later.”
I decided I didn't like Volny very much at all.