Light My Fire

Page 136

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Annwyl's body was flung across the tent, and she hit the ground face-first.
And Brigida had to admit . . . she was disappointed.
True, Annwyl the Bloody had taken her beating like a champion, as Brigida's dear mum used to say. But it seemed as if the edge she'd once had might have been tamped down by that Dagmar Reinholdt and those royal Cadwaladrs-two words that never should have gone together-to the point where Annwyl was now nothing more than just a queen. A boring, old queen.
What could Brigida do with that?
The royal was picked up by the waist and lifted over Glebovicha Shestakova's head. Blood poured from Annwyl's nose, mouth, and eyes, and her face was swelling. And Brigida was sure she'd heard the distinctive crush of bone on more than one occasion when Glebovicha's giant, bearlike fists had collided with the queen's body.
Brigida sighed. It was too bad really. She'd had such hope for the human. But that had been her mistake really . . . trusting in a human. Even a female one.
Glebovicha Shestakova slammed the queen down onto the frozen earth beneath the tent, making sure her spine took the brunt of the unyielding Steppes lands.
Annwyl coughed up blood and groaned in abject misery.
"Glebovicha Shestakova," Magdalina Fyodorov called out in the language of the Steppes. "That is enough. Finish her and let's be done with this. Quickly."
Glebovicha nodded and walked over to one of her kinswomen, who tossed her a flint axe. A weapon that looked crudely made but also was powerful enough to quickly hack thick oxen bone into pieces.
Brigida let out another sigh, so very disappointed. But then she realized that the thought of oxen had made her a bit hungry. And she had seen some oxen on a nearby ridge. . . .
Slowly turning away, Annwyl already forgotten, Brigida heard Glebovicha say in the common tongue-so that Annwyl would be sure to understand it-"You, imperialist dog, think to tell me about being a mother when you brought demon spawn into this world? Well, now you can go to hell and meet your Abominations there when the world wipes those worthless cunt stains from existence. Yes? Then you will know what great sin you have committed."
It was true. It would have to be the Abominations Brigida worked with. Young they might be. But there was much potential there and one day they would be powerful enough to . . . to . . .
Pulling back the flap, Brigida stood in the tent opening, waiting to hear the last thud of that axe hitting flesh. But she heard nothing. She waited a few seconds longer. Still . . . nothing.
Swinging around, her hunger forgotten at the moment, she could see Glebovicha desperately trying to lower the axe. But she couldn't finish the swing-because Annwyl's hand now held the weapon as well.
Brigida pushed her way through the crush of lesser leaders whose tribes were too small to allow them to sit on the floor near the Anne Atli. When she reached the outer circle of seated women, Brigida planted her staff and leaned against it. Her leg throbbed horribly from the sudden move, but the blood in her veins sang with hope.
Annwyl, still bleeding profusely, was no longer weak and overwhelmed. No. She was just angry. Unbelievably, blindingly, kill-everyone-in-the-tent angry.
And she used that anger to keep hold of the axe that would have finished her off, and get to her big human feet.
Her body shook, but not from pain. Rage. Even with all that blood on her face, Brigida could see it easily in Annwyl's eyes. Hells, she could feel it. Annwyl's rage was a living thing.
No wonder the gods had noticed her. She must have attracted them all, human and dragon, from all the universes that surrounded this world.
Finally, after the two women stared at each other for what seemed an eternity, Annwyl opened her mouth.
Brigida would admit-she expected curses. Threats. A summation of what Annwyl planned to do to Glebovicha.
But, for once, Brigida was thinking too small. Because no words came out of Annwyl the Bloody's mouth. Nothing logical came from her at all.
Instead, the queen opened her mouth . . . and she screamed.
Gods. She screamed with such fury, with such rage, with such insanity that Brigida could see all the powerful Riders of the Steppes recoil in fear and disgust. Because, as Brigida's dear mum used to say, "No one wants to fight a crazy cunt, my love. Absolutely no one."
Even better, that scream seemed to go on for an eternity. This was no tactic. This was no planned assault. To be honest, the girl wasn't that smart.
Instead it was a simple reaction to someone threatening her children. Even now that the children were adults, she was still the mother no one wanted to challenge.
Still screaming, as if the action alone gave her strength and healed her wounds, Annwyl finally yanked that axe from Glebovicha's grasp. She slammed the handle against Glebovicha's face, stunning her, before sweeping her leg under Glebovicha, dropping the bigger woman to the ground like a tree stump.
Annwyl walked around until she stood by Glebovicha's head. Her screaming finally stopped, but rage still came off her in waves.
She planted one foot by the Rider's ear and the other on Glebovicha's chest, pinning her to the ground. It was a strange position for Annwyl to be in and Brigida frowned in confusion, wondering what the royal was up to.
"I have decided, Glebovicha Shestakova of the Black Bear Riders of the Midnight Mountains of Despair in the Far Reaches of the Steppes of the Outerplains," Annwyl panted out, ignoring the big hands that gripped her calf, trying to yank her off, "that you should not be a mother . . . ever again."

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