The centauress’s words hit Jack hard. His brow furrowed, remembering the girl’s last action. “You’re saying she hurt herself in order to make that barrier to protect me?”
Simkit’s answer confirmed his suspicion. “Meadhbh is my junior under the same teacher, and she is a superior student, but she is still immature as a flux artist. To project such power at a distance took the very limit of her strength.”
But she softened her tone as his scowl deepened. “Her action bore good fruit for herself, Guardsman. In the end, through saving your life she saved her own. Do not be distressed.”
She turned back toward Koursh. “Lady Tatoan exhausted herself as well. She must also rest before more travel.”
“And what if our friends return?” Rogan growled. “Althem is also close to exhaustion, and you can’t be in much better shape. Jack and I are out of ammunition. How about your people, Captain?”
“We are well-stocked on ammo, My Lord, but my soldiers are not your match as flux artists. They can only use such ethen as they are carrying. As you say, without Meadhbh, we’ve only Simkit for flux support… and My Lady Fionna, of course.”
The woman wore a wry smile as she nodded. “Aye, excuse me for bein’ a light-weight and all. Granduncle, we packed spare loads for ye. Imperial Navy seventy two bore, is it?”
Rogan raised an eyebrow and nodded. “It is, aye. That helps.”
She turned to Jack. “Might I see yer weapons, Guardsman?”
He hesitated, then shrugged. Without ammo, they were just dead weight anyhow. He handed over his Beretta first, holding his backup as she pulled the automatic’s clip and inspected it with clear expertise.
After a moment, he looked at Rogan. “Is that the same as Parabellum?”
“Aye. That’s the name it goes by in Parha. Identical specifications. Our weapon makers copied the Browning handgun, so its caliber took that name in Parha.”
Fionna nodded, sliding the clip back in and handing the weapon back to him. “Mine takes the same round, Guardsman. I’ll gi ye spares for it.”
She accepted his revolver and looked it over. “This beastie here, tho…”
With a shake of her head after pulling an empty casing out of the drum and grinning at it, she put the weapon back together and handed it back to Jack. “Ye might find it in Parha, but we would never bring it here. Never seen such a wide barrel in a hand gun before, myself. Looks close to fifty bore. Only big game rounds come that large in our world.”
The older mercenary named Koursh had continued stewing while Fionna spoke. He pushed the conversation back to the previous topic. “Even with flux-enhanced bullets, staying here is no good. Rest will not help Meadhbh if we’re all killed in a night attack.”
“Captain,” Simkit stated. “I will not permit her to be moved any further. That is final. My Lord, will you please hear me?”
She had turned her words to Rogan mid-statement, seeking backup. Koursh was the ‘captain’, and Rogan was the ‘lord’. And Rogan did not bridle at the term when Simkit used it, for some reason. Jack wondered what authority she carried. She’d only been introduced as a ‘retainer’, whatever that meant, but she was standing up to both of them.
Rogan knelt down next to the girl in question, and held his spread-fingered hand close to her. After several long seconds, he sighed.
“We’ll have to concede, Captain. Althem agrees with her. If we were to go any further now, we’d be killing the lass. Simkit, can you see our friends out there?”
She answered, “The war beast surveillance continues, although they’ve pulled back. The squad we fought has withdrawn.”
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