“By the goddess, you are in trouble now!”
Tall, handsome and broadly muscular, Kira scowled darkly at two soldiers standing in front of her tent.
One blonde was sporting a fresh cut which descended from her hairline and stopped just shy of her eyelid. She had sustained another gash on her cheek, as well as one on the side of her neck. None of the wounds were particularly deep, but they looked unpleasant.
The other, a smaller, darker woman with a very sheepish expression had injuries to her bare upper arm and shoulder. Several long cuts from a short blade had given her an impromptu ribbon effect.
“Perhaps I didn’t mention this before,” Kira said, her husky voice deep and hard as nails. “But we’re all on the same side.”
The soldiers said little, avoiding her gaze.
“This isn’t the first time you’ve fought,” she continued, gritting the words out between her teeth in a way that made her jaw very square. Her eyes were narrowed with a kind of predatory displeasure which was not lost on her soldiers. “Do either of you have an explanation?”
“We just don’t like each other,” the blonde said, her eye winking as a result of the discomfort of her injury. A slow trickle of tears coursed down her face for the same reason.
“Oh,” Kira said grimly. “Oh you don’t like each other? Well then I suppose you are allowed to tear one another limb from limb.”
“Aeron’s mean,” the smaller soldier said, glancing at Kira for one brief moment. “She’s a bully.”
“And Blaine’s unstable,” the blonde snapped back. “She’s a liability.”
“You’re both liabilities,” Kira replied. “Make no mistake about that.” She glared long and hard at the insubordinate little brats who had gone at one another with all the ferocity of pit dogs. “And you’re both going to be punished.”
There was little response from the soldiers. They had known punishment was in their future. It had not dulled their ferocity in the slightest. They had gone for one another in front of the entire camp, destroyed several weapons racks in their vigorous toussling which was only broken up after the direct intervention of no fewer than six of their comrades. Even now they were stiff, on the verge of violence.
Kira sighed inwardly. Individually they were both able soldiers. Aeron was brave and bold, athletic beyond compare. She could run an enemy scout down for hours without resting – and she had. Blaine was not so bold, but she had a penchant for hiding in the shadows and seeing without being seen. She could fight most fiercely if cornered, but it was not her usual wont – not unless Aeron was involved.
Tensions between the two had been running high for some weeks. There had been sniping, griping and even a few scuffles. Nothing so bad as this all out attack which saw them both drawing blood.
It could not be tolerated. It would not be tolerated.
“Aeron,” she snapped. “Report to the medical officer. Blaine, inside my tent. Now.”
Blaine shuffled toward the opening of the awning whilst Aeron spun on her heel and strode toward the medical tent. Her shoulders were thrown back, her head held high. Though she was wounded, she was not at all cowed. Kira watched her go, an expression of concern on her strong features. Aeron would not soon be convinced of the wrongness of her ways. Blaine might be easier to handle.
Kira followed the soldier into her tent. She discovered Blaine in the corner. She had put herself there, well aware of disciplinary protocol.
“Come here,” Kira said curtly.
Blaine turned and came out, her eyes somewhat glazed. Panic and fear still ran through her veins, Kira could sense it even at a distance.
“Sit down,” she said, pointing to a cushion. “Breathe.”
Blaine obeyed the order, her chin length hair falling into her eyes as she lowered her head. She was shut down, anticipating pain, not understanding.
“Relax,” Kira said, her tone softening a little. “I am not going to hurt you.”
Brown eyes looked up through dark strands of hair. “You’re not?”
“No.” Kira sat in the only chair in the tent. It was the second most comfortable place to sit other than the broad bed which was very comfortable, covered as it was in furs and pelts. “You shouldn’t fight with Aeron,” she said. “She naturally outranks you. And she’s a more capable fighter.”
“I almost had her eye out,” Blaine replied, attempting boldness. It did not suit her well. Her voice trembled almost as much as her hands.
“And she almost deprived you of your arm,” Kira replied.
“I don’t care.” Blaine set her round jaw almost as firmly as Kira had. “I won’t let her beat me. I’ll die before I lose.”
“Ordinarily I would applaud that attitude,” Kira said dryly. “But it’s misdirected in this case. You and Aeron are family. Sword sisters. You know what that means.”
“It means I’m surrounded by people with swords,” Blaine said, biting her lower lip.
She was so nervous, so perpetually afraid. Kira wished there were some way to instill bravery, some potion she could give, some spell a witch could say. But there was not. True courage, the kind Aeron had in spades, came from within. Blaine would likely never know what it was like to strike forth boldly without concern. She would always be wracked by worries.
“Come here,” Kira said, reaching for her salve. “Let me tend your wounds.”
Blaine edged forward and extended her arm, keeping her head low and her eyes averted. Even when treated with kindness, she could not release her fear. It was a pity, Kira thought to herself as she began to gently apply healing balm to the light wounds.