Having tended to Blaine’s wounds, Kira had to deal with the other, more difficult soldier. She found Aeron sitting in her tent, looking into the middle distance as if the blank walls contained some mystery unseeable to any other person.
Aeron did not look up, let alone get up. Any other soldier in the camp would have leaped to attention upon perceiving the great Kira in their presence, but Aeron was not so easily impressed.
Her wounds had been tended, a single stitch applied to her forehead somewhat marring the beauty of her otherwise pleasing features. She was a handsome young woman, bold and strong, the sort of soldier who made Kira’s blood rise in approval. She was also the single source of most of the trouble in the camp. Aeron did not care for the approval of her peers, nor did she fear the pain of reproach or the shame of chastisement. Once she had decided her course, she dedicated herself to it without regard for consequences. When she met the enemy, she acquitted herself with the bravery of an immortal. Unfortunately, she was equally dangerous in the bosom of her allies.
“Come with me.”
Aeron rose from the bed and followed obediently. Kira lead her to a part of the camp not often occupied by soldiers, a part where iron cages were had been constructed for the holding of prisoners. She held open the door to one such cage and pointed to the interior. “In.”
Aeron went in without so much as asking a question or lifting a brow. Kira felt a pang. If only the soldier could be convinced to behave such measures would not be required, but Aeron didn’t care about why she was being locked away, or how she might avoid it in the future. She went and sat on the simple bed which had been set up in the corner of the cell.
“Don’t you care that you are being locked away?”
“If you want to lock me away, then lock me away,” Aeron said, her liquid brown eyes holding nothing but simple obedience. “I am yours to command.”
“Except for when you turn on others.”
Aeron shrugged. “Blaine is a liability. She should leave.”
“Not so much a liability that she cannot defend herself. You weaken our position by fighting with your comrades.”
“She is not my comrade.”
“I am your commander, and I say she is.”
“You are my commander,” Aeron repeated. “But she is not my comrade.”
The stubborn little wretch was going to cause herself all manner of trouble, but what she did not yet realize was that she was not being caged as a punishment. She was being caged for her own safety, and for the safety of the others. The punishment was yet to come.
“You will not be assigned to any patrols for the next month,” Kira informed her.
Aeron’s eye’s widened and her jaw dropped. Her voice rose in a squeal of complaint. “But I have to ensure the perimeter is secure!”
“Others will do that.”
“Others!” Aeron’s eyes narrowed in plain disdain for her comrades. “Others are not me.”
“No,” Kira said simply. “They’re not.”
“I must go on patrol,” Aeron insisted. She was becoming quite agitated, her teeth flashing as her lips drew back.
“You must do nothing,” Kira said firmly. “Besides learn to exist with those who fight with you. There are enough enemies in the world. You do not need to turn your friends into foes as well.”
Aeron stood and stalked to the bars so she was all but nose to nose with Kira, or rather, nose to chin, for she was not as tall as the warrior. “You invite weakness into our camp,” she growled. “And you punish strength.”
“There are different kinds of strength in this world,” Kira replied, her dark eyes lidded as she looked down at the angry soldier. “You will have to learn that, or you will live your life in cages of one kind or another.”
“This cage will not hold me if I decide to escape it,” Aeron said, her arrogance boiling over into anger.
“This cage will hold you to the end of your days if you are not careful,” Kira replied, her voice cold and harsh. Though she had some tenderness in her heart for the rebellious soldier, she could not allow any of it to be seen. Aeron was testing her very last shred of patience.
“Yes,” Aeron said with a short, barking laugh. “This cage will hold me because you have to resort to iron. None can best me, not even the immortal Kira will cross me…”
Aeron had been about to say something else, but it did not emerge from her lips, for Kira had summarily yanked the cell door open and stepped into the little lion’s den.
“You want to prove yourself?” Kira cocked a brow. “Show me.”
Suddenly uncertain, Aeron took a step back. Her shoulders slumped and she held her head much lower than before, her eyes darting around for an exit that did not exist.
“These cage bars do not protect me from you,” Kira said, her voice soft but deadly serious. “They protect you from me.”