slept, then returned to the fire. A huge figure stirred by the far wall, then rose and sat opposite the warrior.
'To lie is a kindness sometimes,' said the big man softly, firelight reflecting in his twin-forked red beard, his green eyes shining like cold jewels. 'I think the thrust must have burst his spleen. The wound stinks.'
Tarantio nodded, then added the last of the fuel to the fire as the other man chuckled. 'Thought we were finished back there - until you attacked them. I have to be honest, Tarantio, I had heard of your skills but never believed the stories. Shem's tits, but I do now! Never seen the like. I'm just glad I was close enough to make the break with you. You think any of the others survived?'
Tarantio considered the question. 'Maybe one or two.
Like us. But it is unlikely. That was a killing party; they weren't seeking prisoners.'
'You think they're still following us?'
Tarantio shrugged. 'They are or they aren't. We'll know tomorrow.'
'Which way should we head?'
'Any way you choose, Forin. But we'll not be travelling together. I'm heading over the mountains. Alone.'
'Something about my company you don't like?' asked the big man, anger flaring.
Tarantio looked up into the man's glittering eyes. Forin was a killer - a man on the edge. During the summer he had killed two mercenaries with his bare hands after a fight over an unpaid wager. To anger him would not be wise. Tarantio was seeking some conciliatory comment when he felt Dace flare up inside him. Normally he would have fought back, held the demon in check by force of will.
But he was bone-weary, and Dace flashed through his defences. Dace grinned at Forin. 'What is there to like? You're a brute. You have no conscience. You'd cut your mother's throat for a silver penny.'
Forin tensed, his hand closing around his sword-hilt. Dace laughed at him. 'But bear in mind, you ugly son of a bitch, that I could cut you in half without breaking sweat. I could swallow you whole if someone buttered your head and pinned your ears back.'
For a heartbeat the giant sat stock-still, then his laughter boomed out. 'By Heaven, you think a lot of yourself, little man! I think I would prove a mouthful even for the legendary Tarantio. However, such talk is foolishness. We are being hunted and it makes no sense to fight amongst ourselves. Now tell me why we should not move on together.'
Within the halls of his own subconscious, Tarantio felt
Dace's disappointment. In that moment Tarantio surged back into control; he blinked, and took a deep breath. 'They will have seen our tracks,' he told Forin, 'and know that one of us is wounded. They are unlikely therefore to follow us in strength. I would think eight to ten men may be on our trail. When we part company, and they find the tracks, they will be forced to either split their numbers or choose just one of us to follow. Either way the odds will be better for all of us.'
'All of us? The boy will be dead by morning.'
'I meant both
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