Light My Fire

Page 75

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"Honor? I thought you were smart. Smart enough to know the truth of that stupid, ridiculous que-"
"Well, well," a voice boomed from behind them, and both sisters turned to face their cousin and Glebovicha's favorite, Ivanova. Even with twenty-five children of her own, Glebovicha had rudely chosen outside her direct line for her next in command. "Look who has returned, the mighty and brave Elina Shestakova."
Elina glanced back at Celyn, but, thankfully, they spoke in their own language. He was oblivious to just how much she was mocked by her own.
"Ivanova Shestakova. I see that death has found you well," Elina greeted her cousin. The "unfortunately" in that statement was implied and completely understood by Ivanova.
The much larger woman grinned down at Elina. Ivanova was one of the best warriors among them. Tall, powerfully built, and brilliant with sword and bow, she had her pick of husbands and had already borne eighteen strong children to the twelve husbands she had. And not yet two hundred passing summers.
In other words, she was everything that Elina was not and would never be. Because they all knew that Ivanova would have returned from the Southlands with the Dragon Queen's head dragging behind her horse or died in the attempt.
Ivanova brazenly walked around Elina's horse.
"I see no dragon's head," she announced to all those standing by their huts listening. "No offering to the great Glebovicha as you promised."
"She promised nothing," Kachka snarled. She'd never been afraid of their cousin, and she was always the one who defended Elina, something that Ivanova and Glebovicha had never forgiven her for. "She was forced into this ridiculous quest."
Before a fight could escalate between the two, Elina said, "I need to speak with Glebovicha, Ivanova."
"What for? You come with no dragon's head. Just this"-she gestured at Celyn-"male," Ivanova finished with a sneer. "Our great Glebovicha may consider him for a husband, cousin, with such a pretty face and all, but he will not buy you pity from anyone here. Not after such a great failure."
"Can I see Glebovicha or not?"
"You want to see her, cousin?"
"Quiet, Kachka." Ivanova waved at Glebovicha's hut. "Go to her, Elina Shestakova. I'm sure she'll be more than happy to see you."
Elina looked back at Celyn. "Wait here," she told him. "Back soon."
He nodded and gave her a small smile.
She forced herself to return that smile, then pushed past her cousin and walked to Glebovicha's tent.
Celyn had no idea what was going on. When Elina had begun to argue with her sister, it hadn't bothered him at all. Sisters fight. Gods knew, his own sisters could clear a path through an ancient forest with their brutal fights-throwing each other headfirst into thousand-year-old trees had the wonderful ability to knock down hundreds of them.
But then that other woman had come over, and by the gods, had she been huge. Not like Annwyl or even Izzy-two women who, for humans, were quite large. Tall, big-shouldered, and unafraid to fight to the death. But they were almost petite compared to the female who'd lumbered over to Elina and her sister. Tall, wide, and built for the kill, this woman had brought instant panic to Celyn's system.
And even though he hadn't understood a word being said, Celyn had always understood body language. His parents had taught him about that. His mother had taught Celyn what to look for during battle and his father had taught him what to look for during negotiations. Either way, based solely on her body language, Celyn was quite sure both his parents would have stomped on the human until she was nothing but a sticky red-and-white paste.
Even worse, though, was seeing the resignation in Elina's eyes when she'd looked at him before heading into that tent. That look had devastated him.
But he'd felt a tiny bit of relief when her sister had followed. Before she had, she, too, had looked at Celyn, her gaze moving from his head to his feet and back up again. At first, he'd thought he was being sized up, as he had been by every female in this damn camp, but-after a quick glance-she'd focused on him and lifted her chin a bit. It was slight, and he could have easily construed it for a "Later I will fuck you like you've never been fucked before," but something told him that was not even close to what she was telling him. And she was telling him something.
With a gentle brush against his back, Celyn sent off the horse that Elina had been riding. Not surprisingly, his horse happily followed after his friend.
Even if Celyn never saw either horse again, he wanted to ensure they were both safe no matter what he had to do in the next few minutes.
And based on the expressions of both Elina and her sister, Celyn would have to do something very bad.
Elina stood near the exit of Glebovicha's hut as the great warrior looked up from her meal, the juice from the roasted lamb on her mouth and hands, pieces of the meat clutched in her fingers. Glebovicha's first and second husbands sat on either side of her, the others probably out tending the horses or helping to train the young ones in battle.
As always, Glebovicha glared at Elina with that particular look of overwhelming disappointment before putting another piece of meat in her mouth.
While chewing, she demanded, "Where is my dragon head, Elina Shestakova?"
As always, Elina didn't bother to attempt to find ways to lessen the impact of what she had to tell the tribal leader. "I failed in my task."

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