blacked out for only a second, but he remained still, flat on his stomach,
arms stretched forward, one hand holding his assault rifle. He deliberately
kept his eyes closed to a bare slit.
waited while the woman circled him tentatively, checking for signs of life,
he would guess. First, she toed him on the side to see if he would move,
which he didn't. Then the nutcase pinched his buttock...as if that would
cause him to move. He barely felt a thing.
only got a brief glimpse of her before being struck, but, man, she was some
kind of wild thing. She would scare the bejesus out of someone in the dark,
for sure. Plus, she reeked to high heaven.
could easily jump her now, but decided to wait and see what she was up to.
More important, who she was, out here in the middle of Arab nowhere.
Two to Cat One. Contact? Contact? Cat Two to Cat One." Cage kept saying
into Ian's earphone.
hostile territory, real names were not used over radio lines which could be
intercepted. Since this was Operation Rodent, each member of Ian's squad
had named themselves Cat One, Cat Two and so on. The upper chain of command
had names of well-known cats, such as Garfield and Sylvester. It was a joke
among the teams that none of the flag ranks would take the name Puss, as in
Puss in Boots.
the woman moved to his legs, he whispered into his throat mike, without
moving his lips. "Cat One here. Do you read? I'm okay."
"Roger. I'm watchin' your six. Need help?"
yet. Woman here. Watch for others. Alert team."
you say something?" the woman shrieked, coming back to his head area.
a soft groaning noise to cover up. Then went back to silence.
hell, I best hurry afore he wakens," the woman said in an odd accent.
decided to play possum for a while to see what was up.
is your cave, honey...
started to drag the man farther into the cave by his outstretched arms. He
was still face-down.
Lips!" she swore under her breath. "He must weigh as much as a war horse.
Must be I am weakened by my escape... and lack of
food." In the end, it took her a considerable time to pull and shove his
large body, huffing and puffing the whole while.
villain appeared to be as tall as the men in her family, from his helmeted
head to his booted feet. Lean, but well-muscled. Instead of Arab garb, an
odd fabric covered his wide shoulders, narrow waist and long legs. It was a
mixture of browns, green, and blacks...a combination that would blend well
in a wooded area. His hands were covered with fingerless gloves. In one of
those hands had been a strange, molded object made of iron, or some similar
product; it had been slipped from his fingers when she'd started tugging.
Was it a club?
should just kill him, one part of her said.
Yeech! the other part countered.
would be done in self defense...of a sort, her hardened side argued.
Hmpfh! Killing is killing.
Mayhap I will kill him later.
later is good.
had no idea why she hesitated. She had killed in the past. She was not
proud of the fact, but it had become a reality of her life after being left
alone to safeguard Norstead. Fighting men needed a leader, and she'd been
forced to take on that role. But usually it had been done to save her life
or that of one of her hird of soldiers. And if she ever faced
Steirolf again, she would surely find a way to send him to the cold halls of
Nifhelm. She sighed with resignation. She needed to know more about this
man before dispatching him to the afterworld.
one of Fakhir's men, come to take her back for punishment? That would
merit death. Or some other man with ill intent? That, too, would
a fool I am! I should have killed him outright. But she could not
bring herself to do so until she discerned his intent. It was a weakness of
hers, she supposed. Her father and brothers would not have hesitated.
should turn him over and see if he has any hidden weapons. Nay, I must
needs restrain him first lest he awaken. With quick efficiency, she
removed his large cloth pouch with shoulder straps off the man's back. Then
she tore two long strips from the hem of her robe, thus leaving it only
mid-calf. Wrenching the man's arms behind his back, she bound his wrists
tightly. She did the same for his ankles. After that, she went outside the
cave to survey the area for any of his comrades that might be lurking
about. There were none. She swept the ground with a leafy branch to hide
any foot prints.
she came back inside, she saw that he still lay face-down in the same spot.
She rolled him over with a bare foot.
she screamed. It was a monster she had captured. Not only was his face
black with only his eyelids and lips showing up white, but there was an
appendage coming out of his ear and around his face to rest in front of his
mouth, like a grasshopper. A man-beast, that is what he must be. A troll.
She had heard of such in the sagas spun by the skalds of old, but never
believed in them. Till now.
over, she touched a fingertip to his cheek and saw that some of the black
came off. Ahhh. Face paint, like the Scottish warriors wear when going
into battle. So, this must be a soldier of some sort. A troll-soldier.
then, his eyes shot wide open, which made his appearance even more bizarre,
the white of his eyes surrounded by all that black. Immediately, he tried
to lurch upward but realized that he was restrained hand and foot.
jumped backwards, just in case.
himself fall back to the ground and looked up at her. He seemed just as
surprised and repulsed at her appearance as she was at his. "Jesus, who are
you?" he asked.
English. The troll-man spoke the Saxon English. Just my luck to be
saddled not only with a troll, but a bloody Saxon as well. "Nay, I am
not Jesus," she replied. The man's head wound must have rendered him
"I...am...not...Jesus," she said, very slowly, so he could comprehend her
hell! I know you're not Jesus. Who are you?"
she said, before she could hold her tongue. 'Twas not wise to give the
enemy too much information.
he repeated, mishearing her. His eyes went wide with wonder.
that is who I am. Yasmine." What a dolt!
Narrowing his eyes, he reverted to the Arabic tongue and asked, "Are you
already said I was," she snapped back, also in Arabic. A double dolt,
that is what I have here.
speak Arabic." The troll-man smiled then, which made him look almost
appealing, and at the same time ridiculous in that black face with white
eyes and teeth. "Sonofabitch! Talk about wandering in a field of shit and
landing in a gold mine," he muttered to himself, or was he speaking into
perhaps not that appealing. "What is your name?" she inquired
in English, a language which came easier to her tongue than the Arabic,
since it was more like her own Norse.
hesitated, then disclosed. "Ian MacLean."
Scotsman! I should have known," she said, throwing her hands up with
wrong with a Scotsman?" he asked, working himself into a sitting position,
then wiggling his arse back so his head rested against the cave wall, his
long legs outstretched.
Sneaky thieves, that's what they are. Always stealing cattle and such. And
they eat that horrible haggis."
shook his head as if he couldn't believe what she was saying. Betimes she
had that effect on men. "Are you the one who knocked me out?"
Questions, questions, questions! Does everything have to have an
explanation? She shrugged. "Every soldier knows to take the
offensive. Attack before being attacked."
soldier?" he scoffed.
"Betimes." I should have knocked him harder. She could tell that
her answer surprised him.
makes you think I would have attacked you?"
that is a silly question. "You were carrying a club."
pointed to the iron object.
a weapon, for chrissake. An assault rifle, to be precise."
hadn't a clue what he just said.
go," he demanded.
Does this man truly not understand that I am the one in charge here?
"Are you demented? Nay, I will not release you. In fact, I am thinking
about killing you."
arched his eyebrows. "What's stopping you?"
do I know? "That is not for you to know."
seemed to accept her answer...for now.
man is extremely calm, considering his position. "Are you not fearful
pondered her question a moment. "I'm not afraid to die...
but I don't want to."
logical answer, she decided.
English sounds...odd," he remarked.
your English sounds odd."
that we have established that we're both odd, what is that ungodly stink in
here?" He sniffed several times, then looked pointedly at her.
face heated with embarrassment. "Well, you would smell, too, if you had not
bathed in more than a sennight, especially in this heat," she said
indignantly. In truth, her underarm scent was enough to turn her own
sennight? What's a sennight?"
didn't you just say a week?"
Were you sent by Fakhir?"
frowned with confusion and repeated back to her, "Was I sent to fuck her?"
Then, "Fuck who?"
you vulgar beast! I said Fakhir, not...that other word."
Madrene felt an odd flutter in her stomach, not unlike butterfly wings. She
supposed it must be hunger pangs.
then, she could swear she heard talking coming from his ear/mouth appendage
accompanied by a sort of buzzing noise. Rather like a bee buzz, she
decided. He really was not human then. "Are you a bug?" she blurted out.
The buzzing, as well as the talking, stopped.
I'm a SEAL."
is ridiculous." I better watch him closely. My blow to his head must
have turned him barmy.
more ridiculous than asking me if I'm a bug."
Should I just humor the man? "Where is your glacier? Did it melt in
this excessive heat? Ha, ha, ha."
not a bug. I am a SEAL," he said, not at all amused by her little jest.
have had enough of this nonsense. The lackwit is trying to make me out the
lackwit when it is clear that he fits that description better than I.
"You buzz like a bee. You have a bug-like appendage sticking out of your
ear. You're ugly as a...bug."
you for real?"
You think you are dreaming me? Methinks you might be an idiot."
"There's only one idiot here, and it's not me." He exhaled with a whoosh
like men are wont to do when women have outwitted them. "Have you ever
heard the proverb, 'Silence is golden'?"
you saying I talk too much?"
walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it must be a duck."
that another proverb? If so, it is lackwitted."
provers, and that's a very good proverb. By the way, how long have you been
living in this cozy cave?"
this morn," she answered.
see anyone else here?"
bared his teeth at her sarcasm. "Does anyone else know about this cave?"
are you here?"
running away." Now, why did I tell him that? Why am I telling him
bloody Arab who calls himself my master." My tongue must have a mind of
"Really? That's interesting. So, you're not with him by choice?"
course not. Do I look like a harem houri?"
like any whore, I've ever seen." He gave her a sweeping head to toe
scrutiny, and it was not complimentary. Her grimy feet and exposed calves
got special attention.
not appreciate your insult." She put a hand to her head and figured her
hair must look like a haystack.
"Calling me a whore."
I'm not the one who mentioned a whore first."
tilted her head before understanding came to her. "You halfbrain! I said
houri, not whore."
grinned then. "Someone tried to make you into a harem girl?"
oaf! Apparently he'd known what a houri was all along.
Nine men tried these past three years. None succeeded. I have developed a
knack for making a sultan's manpart wilt. So, best you not try any of that
bedplay with me." If I had a needle and thread, I would sew my mouth
shut. Be quiet, Madrene. He is quite possibly an enemy. Stop giving him
went slack with astonishment. "This is the most incredible conversation
I've ever had with a woman. Let me get this straight. You escaped from
some Arab sultan, and--"
last one was a sheikh." It was a flaw in her personality that she always
needed to correct mistakes.
escaped from an Arab sheikh, in fact nine different Arab sheikhs--"
were sultans, two were caliphs."
"Interrupting is one of my talents, or so the men in my family always
could swear she heard laughter coming from his appendage.
exhaled with exasperation, just like her father used to do when she nagged
him endlessly. "You escaped from nine different Arabs who tried to make you
their harem girl, and you were passed from one to the other because you can
make their cocks wilt."
"Precisely." She smiled at him before she caught herself and frowned some
did you get to be with the first...sultan?"
that is a long and painful story."
glanced at his bound legs. "It doesn't appear as if I'm going anywhere
"I am a
noble woman in my own country."
Why he was surprised she could not say. Surely she did not resemble Arab
women, not with her light hair and fair skin. Mayhap they had darkened
during her sojourn in this land.
do you come from?"
again, she cautioned herself not to disclose too much information. She
thought a moment and said, "The Rus lands."
Russian?" Shock showed on his face and he muttered something about the
Pent-dragon going to be interested in that information.
thing stood out to Madrene in his mutterings. The word dragon. Yea,
he must indeed be a troll who lived in the land of dragons.
then, there appeared to be a lot of chatter coming from his appendage.
the volume on my headset," he ordered her.
Who are you to give me orders?"
headset. Turn it down, dammit."
you want me to turn down the set of your head? Does it hurt?"
the frickin' volume, here, near my ear." He jerked his head, indicating the
part of the appendage that came out of his ear.
closer, she decided it might not be a part of his body, but a part of that
thing in his ear. But she was taking no chances. "Nay. It might bite me."
you? I have landed in a looney bin. No, bite me!" he said with chagrin.
If his hands were free, he would probably be tearing at his hair as her
father had been wont to do on occasion when exasperated with her. She
guessed she knew what his expression meant. 'Twas like Askil the Angry used
to say "Eat my nose!" when he was especially angry.
me? Is that another of your ridiculous sayings?" She raised her chin
haughtily and said something she never in her old life would have dared say,
"Nay, I will not bite you. Bite me!" She felt herself blush like a
brown eyes--and, yes, she could see in the dim light from the cave's opening
that they were brown as clover honey--almost bulged with astonishment. She
was astonished herself and wished she could take the words back, especially
since she belatedly suspected a different meaning to those words. But she
was ne'er one to back down once she'd taken a stand.
are priceless, sweetheart," he said and began to laugh...
and laugh...and laugh.
I will kill you after all," she said.
brute continued to laugh.