This probably won’t come as a big shock to you fine people but it turns out that you don’t sleep very well staked to the ground like a dog surrounded by murderous torture cannibals. Honestly I think I slept maybe twenty minutes last night. Between that and my balance still being thrown off by Martialla busting something inside my ear I could barely get in the saddle when they packed up camp and dragged me to my feet. I’ve fallen off a horse a time or two, and believe it or not there’s definitely an art to doing it – well not “safely” but less dangerously. The key is to protect your head and your wrists. Our dumb bodies have the instinct to throw out our hands to try and break our fall – which is bad. What you want to do is bend through the body and bring your arms across your chest – keep your head tucked in and your chin down. Try to roll so the impact skews throughout as much of your body as possible. It’s counter intuitive but you want as much of yourself to make impact with the ground as possible (except your head). Think about it like this, would you rather be stabbed with a spear or poked with a metal rod? And what’s the difference? The area of impact.
I’m not great at falling off a horse but I’m good enough to make due. I mean normally I’m such an accomplished rider that it doesn’t come up. Although here’s a fun fact, expert riders actually tend to fall more often than those at an intermediate skill level because we’re going faster and pulling fancier moves. The point is this, because I was exhausted and my equilibrium was messed up I fell more today than I have in my entire life up until this point. The first couple of times I managed to do it “right” and “just” get the wind knocked out of me to go along with some bumps and bruises. But my luck didn’t hold out – eventually I landed badly on my shoulder and I heard a noise. It wasn’t like a crack or a snap, the kind of sound you might expect from a shoulder being obliterated, it was more like the sound of a wet piece of cloth being ripped. The pain was so intense that for a few seconds I was doing that weird there were you’re kind of hiccupping but really you’re hyperventilating.
I grabbed my shoulder helplessly writhing on the ground “Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me, oh Gods it hurts!!!”
Martialla rode over by me looking exasperated “Get up Ela, no one is buying this act.”
All I could do was moan and grind my face into the dirt to hide my tears. Martialla dismounted (awkwardly I might add, she can’t ride for shit) with a curse and stalked over to drive her heel into my shoulder causing me to scream in anguish. My eyes were clenched shut put I could hear Kartak admonishing her.
“Stop that, she’s injured!”
Martialla gave me a kick/nudge and then took her foot off, I rolled away gasping.
“She’s faking it.”
“She looks pretty hurt to me.”
I could hear the frustration in Martialla’s voice “This is what she does! I told you this, I told you exactly how she was going to play this. Don’t buy into it! This is how she gets to people and twists everything around. She’s slowing us down and the longer we’re out here the more chance she has to get someone on her side. She plays on people’s sympathy.”
“No one here is going to have any sympathy for her.”
“Don’t say that! That’s what everyone thinks and then the next thing they know they’re bleeding from a knife-wound in the ribs they never saw coming and she’s walking away to the next sucker. You know what she is! Don’t let her get in your head. I’ve seen it a hundred times. People that know she’s a liar, that know they need to watch out for her still get taken in by her bullshit. I don’t see how you of all people can fall of this tried routine. She killed your entire tribe, everyone you knew!”
“People keep saying that but she didn’t actually kill anyone herself. All she did was convince other people that . . .”
“That’s what she does! She manipulates people into doing things for her! That doesn’t make your people any less dead does it? You sound like one of those idiots who says things like ‘well the snake didn’t really kill him it was the poison’, this is how she does it!”
“Snakes have venom not poison.”
“Are you even fucking listening to me?! I know this woman, I’m the only person in the world who knows her! I know what she’s done. Don’t let her turn your own men against you.”
“My men . . .”
“Fuck your men! You don’t know what’s in their heads. And even if you did what about all these other guys? You don’t know them, you don’t know what they’re capable of. YOU, didn’t I hear you say that you knew her when she was at the Juost compound?”
I heard a new voice, one that was clearly unhappy to be the center of attention “I just, I mean, I was saying . . . . we only talked a couple times is all, it wasn’t . . .”
“And how do you feel right now seeing her down here rolling around? I can see it in your eyes! You feel sorry for her! It’s already starting to work! A couple more days and she’ll wink and smile at this dummy and shaker her little ass at him and he’ll be setting her free in the middle of the night! You people cannot possible be this stupid! I told you, I told you all that . . .”
“Enough woman! I won’t be lectured by you! The Baron said that she wasn’t to be harmed.”
“I’m telling you, she’s fine!”
Martialla grabbed my arm to drag me up and the pain was so penetrating that I blacked out instantly. When I woke up it was near sundown and I was resting on a makeshift cot/hammock/thing at the side of the camp underneath the shade of a tree. Doesn’t look like we travel much more than a mile from where my final fall took place. One of the Baron’s men brought me a plate of some kind of chicken and vegetable pie and a jug of whiskey and helped me eat and drink my fill since my arm was screwed up. I saw Martialla sitting across the way in a camp chair staring daggers at me. Once I was done and the soldier was gathering up the dishes (such as they were) she stomped over to us.
He looked confused “But I have everything.”
I was slightly amused “You think I’m going to kill you with a fork Martialla?”
She pointed a finger at me that was brimming with the beginnings of a magical ball of acid “You don’t speak. And YOU, humanitarian, I said search her so search her!”
His face was a warring admixture of defiance and offense and fear and subservience. He looked her in the eye for a moment and then looked away, putting down the plate and the jug and the fork and then mumbling an apology before running his hands over my shoulders and ribs.
“There. Are you satisfied now. Ma’am?”
Martialla looked like her head was on the verge of exploding “Are you fucking kidding me with that?” She pointed “Get under those skirts! You think she’s going to hide something by stuffing it into the side of her shirt? I saw her stab an old woman to death with a piece of broken crockery. Do you want that to be you boy?!”
“I can’t . . . . I . . . . you . . . . it’s . . . .”
She shook her head with a sigh “Get the fuck out of here.” She yelled after him as he scurried off. “I hope she kills you first!” She turned back to me with a humorless laugh/bark “You are a piece of work you know that. I knew you were good, but I didn’t think they would make it this easy for you. You know what that moron Kartak wanted to do? He wanted to stop at an inn in Strandpoint and find you a bed! And let me guess, that’s where your whore friend Adelis went right? She and all your little whore friends have been there laying the groundwork for you right? It almost worked Ela, it almost worked. But you are not going to escape. No matter how much these morons unwittingly help you I will not allow you to escape.” She held up a hand, snapping with magical fire “If it looks like you’re going to get away I’m going to burn you Ela. I’m going to burn you alive. I don’t care what the Baron wants, he’ll get over it, but you will not get away Ela. You can’t.”
“So are we talking again now? Because I tell you Martialla, I had the weirdest dream last night.”
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company