RICK JOHNSON

TOKAIDO
2


by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
Tucson, Az.
85717
RikJohnson@juno.com

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I
STUPIDITY

Obviously we weren’t in Japan. Despite my original plans, which had gotten me diverted first to Chicago 1972 then to Turkey in the late 15th century and the desires of Diane and Fiona who were supposed to return to Chicago, we decided to remain in the Mid-East. Why I don’t remember, but we did and were back in Ma’an in Jordan in the late 15th century relaxing and trying to decide where to go next. Between the pay and bonus from our stint as a caravan guard, the pay for recovering Husamettin’s magick lamp and the loot we stole from those Bedouin raiders in Petra, we could afford to relax for some time and so had rented excellent rooms in a very good inn. That is we rented the best Ma’an could offer.

It was morning and Diane was nudging me awake. Even though I had a private room, it was connected to the girl’s so we could visit each other without unlocking the door to the hall. Although mainly for security to allow us to rush to the defense of each other, Tears took advantage of this for her nightly visits but never stayed the night. Most men would find that desirable, regular sex with an attractive woman who wanted no commitment, but I still missed the post-coital cuddling and falling asleep with my lover in my arms.

“Wake up, we’re burning daylight and I want to go shopping before it gets too hot.”

“Why not wake the others first,” I groaned. Tears had visited late after her party in the bar and so I hadn’t had as much sleep as I wanted. “Fiona takes so much time with her make-up I can get another hour’s sleep.” I tried to roll over but she pulled my covers off. Despite the proximity to the Arabian Desert, Jordan was hot in the day and cold at night and the sun hadn’t risen enough to burn off the night’s chill. “Come on, once they see you are awake, they’ll get up too. God Jason, do you always wear pajamas to bed? What do you do, put them on after Tears leaves?”

She dragged me to her room that she shared with Fiona and Tears, more for security than company, and began the process of awaking our companions. I took advantage of this to wash my face in their bowl and comb my hair when I head Fiona exclaim, “Damn! My period started again. Di, can you hand me…” I closed my eyes and plugged my ears because although we had no secrets from each other and had given up all pretense of privacy over the last couple months on the trail, there are some things a man simply refuses to know.

“You need to keep track better. Tears and I never get caught so why do you?”

“Maybe because mine are so mild. I don’t get all bitchy like Tears and don’t have your cramps. Damn, I wish there was a way to stop this, short of a hysterectomy.”

“There is,” I jumped in, not looking at her. We had seen each other pee in the desert, held each other’s hair out of the chamber pot when we drank too much and they’d seen me and Tears in bed often enough but I still wanted to pretend this wasn’t happening. I know it sounds sexist but it just isn’t natural for an animal to bleed for five days and not die.

“What do you mean?” she asked, genuinely interested. Normally Fiona tolerated me as little more than a useful pervert because she loved Diane who Adventured with me to forget her recent widowhood.

“It’s a potion you take. It prevents menstruation and pregnancy. It’s not too expensive and technically illegal but then, it’s better than abortion and so easy to find.”

“Why the hell didn’t you tell us this before?” she demanded, now somewhat upset.

“Because you didn’t ask?”

“Do we have to ask for everything?”

“How do I know what you guys want? There are female witches in your country who use menstrual blood as a sacrament!” This made them all ill at the thought but it’s their gender, not mine. Irish Witches are different from these newer American ones.

Diane then came to me and stroked my chin. “Like a baby! Come to think of it, I’ve never seen you shave either. Sit! It’s time we had some questions answered.” She dragged me to her bed and pushed me down then pulled a chair for herself. “You don’t shave and never grow a beard, why?”

“Because I have something that retards beard growth. It’s in my bag.”

“Then, will you please fetch your bag and get back here fast!”

I didn’t return as fast as they wanted. I did dress and brush my teeth first then I brought my kit and opened it for them, removing items as I explained. “You know about the immunization serum we use. This is a sponge and the grease (I opened a round metal case) that retards hair growth. Use it today and it removes all hair it touches and prevents growth for a week. Use it again tomorrow and it prevents growth for a month. Use it a third day and it prevents growth for a year or more. And use it for a week, and it prevents hair growth forever, probably. So I use this three days every few years because I hate straining my soup through a mustache. It was invented for surgeons to remove hair before surgery and to give the wound a chance to heal so you don’t rip hair off with the bandages.”

“Does it work on all hair?” Fiona asked, again interested.

“Of course!”

“So all these months I’ve been shaving my legs with a dagger and I could have used this? What else?” She took the box and began to work on her legs.

“This is a healing potion. It repairs damage. It’s very expensive and will save a life under the harshest conditions. We’ve never needed it because we only suffered minor scrapes and such. But if a healthy person takes it, it firms the body and repairs minor past injuries within reason. Like my whip scars on my back are too old to totally heal but it helped reduce them.”

“Does it firm up tits?” Fiona asked without looking up. She was interested in her legs and the potential for having them bare and without cuts was taking a lot of her attention.

“I don’t know? Feel free to try it.” I lay it before her. The woman was very well endowed. When dressed, she made me drool and walk into a wall but her size, gravity and two babies had done their damage. I still drooled but she no longer had the firmness of her youth. She looked at it, looked at me and swallowed the entire thing. “What? I’m a dancer and actress. I make a living off this body. It’ll be nice to not have to wear a double strength bra to an audition. What’s next?”

“This is a dental kit. Brush your teeth and rinse and gargle with it and it keeps your teeth clean, white and healthy. It even repairs damaged teeth but if you want missing ones replaced, you need to go to a healer who can stick buds in your gums to re-grow the missing ones.

“This is the medical kit. You know about the bandages that accelerate healing, the antibiotics that prevent infection and the rest. I wish I had this when I was in Vietnam and Africa.”

“You were in Vietnam too? But you’re Irish, not American!” Diane was getting excited and upset. Probably bad memories of her husband’s death in that war.

“You Americans are so arrogant. You think everything was your idea. Manned flight was invented by Americans when the truth is that it was a Pole who built and flew an airplane five years before the Wright Brothers. He flew his aircraft seven miles over a lake, got scared, turned around and flew back to shore to land safely. The Wright Brothers lifted off, flew a distance less than the wingspan of a modern aircraft then crashed as they landed. But they were Americans so they were put in the history books even though a half dozen others built and flew much better aircraft much earlier than they. D-Day during WW-II. You like to pretend that it was America who invaded France and won the war. But your General Eisenhower sent the Russians in first and when they were dead, he sent in the French and then the British. By the time you Yanks landed, the Germans had mostly run out of ammo. Yes, I was in Vietnam as were the French, British, Australians and a dozen other nations.”

“Ok, politics aside and we do get tired of your tirades, why don’t any of these marvels of medicine exist in my time?”

“Because of the ‘politics’ of the Church. Galileo and Copernicus are doing their math with Roman Numerals because the Church has outlawed the decimal system and the zero as being ‘Islamic’ when they are actually Hindu. Simple multiplication and division that you learned in third grade are University subjects here and only three universities in Europe are capable of teaching ‘ten divided by two equals five’ because they refuse to use the ordinal numbers. Da Vinci is in terror that he will be burned at the stake for studying human anatomy. Saint Patrick of Ireland ordered all myths legends and history of the Irish collected in one place then burned. He robbed Irish graves for gold to hire Saxon mercenaries to invade Ireland and burn Irish temples. And his belief was normal with a Christianity that burned everything that wasn’t biblical. When the Moslems reverted to their own ‘middle-ages’ they did the same for anything that wasn’t in the Koran. So knowledge was lost on a massive scale and barbers became surgeons. The red & white barber pole represents bloody bandages drying outside the barber shop after another failed surgery while the healers and midwives were burned as witches.

“Even in your time it is the same. When Dr Christian Bernard of South Africa performed the first successful heart transplant, it was the Christian churches who called him Satan incarnate. And in your own time of 1972, the official teaching of the Catholic Church is still a flat geocentric universe. It won’t be until 1982 when the Vatican finally admits that the Earth is round and revolves around the Sun. When that doctor developed a cure for AIDS in California in the 1970’s, it was your own American government that repressed the cure because they saw AIDS as a solution for the problem of homosexuality. And your Amish refuse to use anything that isn’t in the bible because god told them to. That’s life.

“There is a lot of good stuff here in this time and place. Medicines that will cure herpes and plague, surgeries that only now are your doctors re-discovering, all sorts of stuff that was simply repressed as heathen and pagan. The Healers Guilds and Magickal Lodges here and in Asia and Europe have made a lot of amazing discoveries. Some are stupid but many excellent. All you have to do is to decide what you want and find it. Medicine, health, technology, birth control and more.”

“Birth control? And a cure for Herpies? What about the other VD’s? Fiona had finished her legs, done her arms and arm-pits and her upper lip then handed the stuff to Diane who worked on her own body as Tears watched. Being a Russian Amazon, she saw nothing wrong with hairy legs and armpits and considered the attentions of her friends to be too effeminate or whorish.

“Birth control is common. I use it myself since they have male and female forms. Some VD cures are around but expensive because these diseases are considered to be scourges from God and so very illegal.”

Tears jumped in, “You use birth control?”

“Yes, what’s the matter?” I tried to reach for her but she slapped my hand away and ran from the room in anger.

“You are such an idiot at times,” Fiona said as she left the room to follow.

I looked at Diane who returned to her legs and asked her, “What is that all about?”

“Don’t you even talk to her? Or is your relationship based only on sex? She’s more than a blonde mattress with boobs. Tears is an Amazon, she sees men as little more than a sperm donor. She likes you and enjoys sex with men but she is here for one reason, to get pregnant! Amazons need men to make baby Amazons and Tears didn’t find a man she liked enough to father her baby in Russia so has been traveling to find someone she wanted to father her kids. She chose you because you are a good fighter and a good man. She liked that combination. Now that she knows you can’t do the deed, she feels betrayed and lied to.”

“So she crawled into my bed just to get pregnant?”

“Did you think it was your sexual magnetism? I told you to talk to her about this.”

“You told me to tell her I wasn’t in love with her. This is different.”

“Not to a woman it isn’t. God Jason, you’ve been married how many times and you still don’t understand us? Let Fi talk to her. But things have suddenly changed between you. Don’t expect her to visit you any more unless you become fertile and don’t be jealous when she sees other men.”

I left to find Tears and apologize and saw the two in the dining room, mostly alone. I sat down and Tears slammed her flagon into my face, bloodying my nose. I started to yell but Fiona took me and said to Tears, “We have some shopping to do, we’ll be back later.” And dragged me from the room.

I pulled free and asked her to wait while I talked to the inn-keep. There was a date in a bowl so I told him, as I lifted it with my tanto and balanced the fruit on my edge, “Tears means very much to me. If she is harmed, I will kill, in a very nasty manner, the man who touches her. Also, “I snapped upward to cut the date in two then before it could fall, another cut sectioned it and I stabbed one small piece while still in the air. “I will probably burn this place to the ground with you and your family nailed to the tables.” I munched the date and finished, “You see, I am very protective about my friends.”

“That was going too far,” Fiona commented as she took my arm and we left the Inn with Diane who had the idea first.

“Perhaps, but she is in a vulnerable position now and he will make certain that no one takes advantage of her until she calms down.”

We walked for awhile then she said, “Shopping! I want that birth-control stuff that stops periods and some more healing potion. I can feel my breasts becoming tighter all the time. I wonder if it will regrow my tonsils? Why don’t more people uses that stuff if it’s around?”

“They cannot afford it. That potion you chugged cost a year’s pay for a normal laborer. If Tears hadn’t found that treasure in Petra, we’d not be able to afford more. The Guilds control the stuff to keep prices high. By the way, you should exercise those muscles around your chest to help them firm up.”

We looked around the city, peeked into a number of shops and found a lot of cheap copies of what we wanted, all of which we turned down. Diane and Tears looked at clothing, art and jewelry and mostly I felt like a pack animal used to carry their purchases. Finally we located a good herbalist who gave us what we wanted, though we were near broke when we left.

We had lunch on the city wall and looked at the sheep grazing outside when Fiona asked, “Jason, now that you are Tears are no longer an item, what now?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she’ll leave for Russia and if so, we should follow to ensure she arrives safely. She’s an incredible archer and horsewoman but she’s so tiny and blonde I’m afraid that someone will try to kidnap her. I won’t feel sorry for the men she kills but eventually she’ll run out of arrows or be too tired to lift a sword.”

“You are so stupid at times.” She said as she stood and left. Diane just sighed in disgust.

We caught her below doing chin-ups to help the potion firm her chest. “Once this stuff takes effect, I can increase the variety of my wardrobe,” she panted between pulls. Diane and I leaned against a wall and watched her, along with about a hundred other men who had stopped working. She wore men’s pants altered for her narrower waist and wider hips but her shirt was made for a woman and cut low enough to show that she was definitely that. Like Diane, Fiona liked men to know she was a woman but they also liked the comfort and freedom of pants and only wore dresses when on the town.

When she finished, she stretched a bit, tossing her ankle over a bar the height of her head and I heard one man comment to a friend, “I wish my wife could do that.” She then took hold of a pole, jumped up and wrapped her thighs around the pole about three feet up. Letting go, she leaned back in the air, supported only by her legs around that pole and did a number of sit-ups so I approached and insisted, “Are you TRYING to get gang-raped?” and she replied in all innocence, “What? I’m a dancer, I need to stay limber and in shape.”

“Why are you still single?” I asked as I led her back to the Inn and away from tempting the male population of the city. She blew her admirers a kiss as we left. I should have taken tips. Diane just laughed and commented, “I could have stolen every purse and wallet there and no one would have noticed or cared.” Diane was beautiful and built but not near Fiona’s beauty and when Fiona was dressed, Diane was invisible but somehow she was never jealous of the attention men paid to Fiona.

Tears had calmed down a bit by the time we returned but still wouldn’t speak to me. So as I sat there, watching her and the others, I remembered that we really never talked. I talked a lot with Diane and enjoyed our conversations a great deal. Fiona was useful and always gave good advice but Tears and I shared combat and sex and not much else. It wasn’t as if she hated men, she was totally heterosexual with no lesbian desires, she simply had little use for us and preferred the company of her own gender. The fact that I accepted her as an equal only made her tolerate my presence more than she would any other male.

I knew it wasn’t my fault. Any other women would be happy to find the guy taking responsibility for birth control but even I knew when to back down. So I sat, slid a package to her and lied through my teeth, “Tears, I’m sorry. I should have told you I was safe and couldn’t get you pregnant. Are we still friends?”

She opened the package and saw the silver bosses I had bought for her saddle and decided that I wasn’t as bad as she thought. She didn’t smile but accepted the peace offering and said, “You are now free to spread your seed, if you have any, to whomever you wish. Now I have to start all over and find a suitable father for my daughters. When this birth control potion of yours wears off, let me know.” And she returned to talking to Diane as if I didn’t exist.


II REVELATION?

I was looking over the horses, checking their shoes and coat when Diane came to me. She began to groom her horse and asked, “What do we do now?”

“I don’t know. Baghdad is east and Cairo west. This is a big world and there’s a lot to see.”

“Do you TAKE stupid pills!” She demanded and rubbed her horse with a vengeance.

“Why do you all keep saying that? You ask a question and when I answer, you get all angry with me. Am I supposed to force you back to Chicago or something?”

“Something! Yes, definitely something! Honestly Jason, Any other man would see in an instant but you, no, you are such an ass at times.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” I was behind her, towering over her by a good six or more inches but this woman sometimes scared me. Any smart Irishman was scared of women. It prevented a frying pan across the head when you were asleep.

She turned and hit me in the chest with her palms, pushing me back, “YOU! You are the problem! You save my life! You give me a new life and a chance to live. You give me respect as an equal that no one has EVER given me before. You treat me like a person and you get a hard-on every time you see me half-naked but you do NOTHING about it because you are with Tears and are so damn faithful. Well, mister-stupid-I-don’t-know-about-women! Tears and you are no longer an item! You are free and I am free and if you can’t see that, you need a guide dog!” Then she stood on her toes and kissed me hard. I collapsed in the hay from surprise so she leaned over me, no longer angry, “I don’t want marriage. I’m not ready for that. We live a dangerous life here and loosing another husband will kill me. I know you want me and maybe it’s time for me to try again so, Jason, this is just sex. Nothing more. I won’t be upset if you turn me down for Fiona. I won’t be upset if you bed some cute belly-dancer or bar-maid. I just need this and more than that, I need to be held again.”

It was hours later when I awoke, Diane laying in my arms, smiling. Even the horses had calmed down for unlike Tears, Diane was noisy. What now? She said it was just sex but so did Tears and she had ulterior motives. But it had been a very long time since I had actually slept with a woman and her warmth felt nice. So I stroked her hair as I held her and returned to sleep.

***

When we awoke, both Fiona and Tears were standing there, watching us. I pulled my clothes over me as Tears said, “So the dog awakes! It didn’t take him long to sniff another tail.” Then she turned and began to saddle her horse.

I got dressed myself, then had to undress and pull hay from my clothes as Diane pled, “Fi, don’t be angry. I needed this. I needed to be held. It was just sex and being held.”

Fiona broke and said, “Turn around sweetie, you have hay on your back. Next time, get on top and let him get straw up his ass.” She brushed her friend off, handed her the hair cream and said, “While you two were having fun, Tears and I were working. We have a job. Some rich dude wants us to escort his daughter to her fiancée in Damascus. He chose us because he feels that she’d be safer with women than men. Looking at this, I’m not so certain but he wants to deal with a guy so I guess you’ll have to do.”


III BUSINESS

We were looking at a ten day trip, maybe more with a young girl and her two slave girls. Although Fiona had made arraingements with Al-Fulani’s agent the night before, it wouldn’t be official until I, a man, agreed to take the job from Al-Fulani himself. All because Mohammad didn’t like his wife running her own business and treating him like the boy-toy he was.

I did insist that the girls be treated decently and so were allowed to be in his home, he and the girls drinking coffee and me tea for I hated the stuff, as the daughter knelt, veiled to the side, her slave-girls behind her.

“Ali bin Ahmed Al-Fulani, I understand that you are uncomfortable treating women as equals to men but these are Amazons and so among many nations, are feared for their prowess in battle. Doubtless, this is why you hired us for the advantage of proven fighters who can protect your beloved daughter and the advantage of her being surrounded by women. But,” and I leaned forward to emphasize the point, “If you wish these women to serve you and protect your daughter, you must treat them well.”

“Verily, I hear your words and the reputation of your companions is such that even I will do so, but I fear my own men have misgivings. Perhaps a demonstration?”

I looked to the girls who smiled and said, “Whomever you send against us. But, Ali Al-Fulani, be prepared to loose his service as he recovers.”

Ali Al-Fulani clapped and a very large man stepped forward. Gosh he was big. “Unarmed I assume?”

“Of course, Lord Obrien. I wish to see if they can defend my daughter under all conditions.”

Diane stood and said, “I’m in a good mood, I’ll take him.” But I touched her arm and whispered, “Be careful, we are being set-up. This guy is probably more than he looks.” She kissed me and said, “So am I,” and moved towards her much larger opponent.

The fight was nasty and Diane only won because she managed to feint him into punching so she could get in and pull him down. Even then she had to pull his arm from it’s socket with a nasty wrist-lock to stop him. The woman had a Black Belt in Akaido and a Brown in Judo and the last few months had been learning what Karate I could teach, none of which were known in this time and place.

Another came with a sword and Ali Al-Fulani said, “Your skills unarmed are justified, but can you use a sword?” He looked at Tears but Fiona stood, pulling her kilij as Ali Al-Fulani said, “to the first blood.” We would have lost face and maybe our lives if we showed too much concern but I glanced to Tears who had her bow ready. I smiled at her and touched my katana in conspiracy. Her opponent had the look of a killer and spun his scimitar like it was a feather.

Fiona didn’t waste time, she deflected, not blocked his first blow and slammed the back of her blade against his arm, cracking the bone and then she put all her force into an overhand blow that split his helmet and laid him out bleeding.

She sat, barely breathing because that 5’ 6” body held the muscles of a dancer. She was fast and nimble and far stronger than she looked. I turned to Al-Fulani and said, “How many more must we injure before you accept that I and the women who ride with me are capable of what you wish?”

Ali Al-Fulani, our new employer, looked at his two men, both injured far too easily to his mind and then sighed, “You ride with amazing women. Were I not in fear of being gelded, I’d offer a fortune for one night with any of them. But we have business to complete. My daughter is betrothed to a man in Damascus but I am wealthy as is he so we fear bandits capturing my daughter, his bride, and holding her for ransom. I could send my own men to guard her but then I’d need to send a troop of ladies to care for such a delicate flower. And then I’d have to worry that my men would dally with her servants and not watch for danger.

“But you, Lord Obrien, seem to be involved with this Amazon and reject all advances by other women. So with you possessing such honor and your companions being both fighters and women, I can see that she will not only be safe from danger but I have no fears for her virtue. My agent has negotiated a price and I will pay half now while her groom pays the remainder upon delivery.”

I thought about this for a moment then smiled, “Ali Al-Fulani, It occurs to me that you wish maids and bodyguards in one person. Perhaps a little re-negotiation for bonus and expenses is in order?”

“He smiled back, “I was wondering if you would think that and am prepared to bargain. But, Lord Obrien, I am a merchant who didn’t become rich by giving away gold.”

“I understand and as I am a fighter with little understanding of the value of gold, I must turn any negotiations over to my personal banker.” I motioned to Fiona who laughed, kissed me on the cheek and whispered in English, “He’ll pay for that test.” I whispered back, “Just get adequate expenses to cover a rich spoiled kid.”

Fiona settled in to do just one of the many things she does well so I stood and looked around the room as Diane moved over to talk to the girl. Tears came to me and said in Russian, “He is selling his own daughter like she was a goat. I don’t like this at all.”

“That is their way. If you want to enlighten her as to the inner strength you possess and encourage her to find the same, please feel free to do so, but please wait until we are on the road and away from his archers.”

***

We remained in the house of our host that night and had our fill of lamb for rations on the road wouldn’t be as filling and discussed the road. Fortunately we were familiar with it having just come south and having removed or reduced two bandit bands, it should be fairly safe. We did have one incident when Tears was a popping dates into her mouth when an Arab came up behind her and placed his hand on her shoulder, leaned down to whisper in her ear (Tears was barely five feet tall by American standards) then jerked, sweated and backed away quickly as Tears cleaned the blood from her knife-tip that had found it’s way between the man’s legs. I suspect she wasn’t in a good mood right now so I avoided her myself other than to say, “Al-Fulani believes that we are a couple. Perhaps it would be best for him to continue thinking such until we are away from the city.”

Tears looked at her Kindjal, looked at me, stood on her toes, pulled me down to her and kissed me passionately then whispered, “You are still a dog,” then walked away swinging her hips. I remembered that in Russia, calling someone a dog (sobaka), was a major insult. She was trying to get me excited so she could reject me later. Even I knew that and I’d probably have to ask so she could have the fun of slapping me away.

I looked at three of the men who were nursing their injured companions, smiled and tapped my katana hilt which caused them to back further off. We had no other trouble that night.

As always we had adjoining rooms even there and I had retired early because being an early riser, I needed my sleep. I was awoken by a kiss and reached for her calling, “Tears, I’m glad you aren’t angry…” then stopped. “I’m not Tears.” A cold voice spoke in English.

“I can tell that now Fiona. What are you doing here?”

“Well, you can either stop playing with my breast so I can tell you or remove those stupid pajamas so I can climb on.”

I did and she did, me a bit fearful but mostly she held my hands to her breasts asking, “How do they feel? I haven’t been this firm since High School. Another couple days and I can toss my bra away. I love that potion of yours.” Then a minute later added, “Those are called kegels! I practice using ALL my muscles.” Well, she was very nice and did things neither Tears or Diane would dream of. And she wouldn’t let me fall asleep until she was satisfied, at which time, she lay there explaining, “Those Arabs look so hot, I got really excited but they are such assholes! So, I figured that since you and Tears aren’t an item, you’d be safe.”

“So I am just a toy to slake your lust?” I asked.

“Jason, I respect you more than you can imagine. You gave Diane her life back and treat us like people while remembering that we are women. But you are still a pig at times, I’m not certain that I like you even and if you ever hurt Diane, I’ll castrate you. But I needed tonight so shut up and let me relax or do me again.”

She left later, a long time later and as I was asleep, I never heard her leave.

***

I overslept and when I awoke, I barely had time to wash up and dress before Tears was inside, staring at me. “Last night you told me to pretend to still be together.”

“You know?”

“You are a dog, Jason. You’ve wanted her since before we met. You point to her down there whenever you see her. But telling me one thing and being with her is degrading to me.”

“I thought she was you. And tried to stop when I found out.”

“You thought she was me! And did you think I was now hiding melons in my shirt that you could so easily mistake us?”

“I’m not going to get into this right now. YOU are the one who only wanted a baby by me. YOU are the one who ignored me completely except when you wanted to get pregnant, or when we were in trouble. That makes me feel used by you. I may be a dog but you are a bitch!”

She hit me then with surprisingly strength for such a little girl. We fought, she bit and kicked and somehow we both ended up partially naked with me on top.

***

“Are you two done now?” I looked up and saw both Diane and Fiona watching, the former angry the latter amused. “Get off me you dog!” she yelled as she stopped holding me and pushed me off. We both got dressed and Diane went to Tears, “I would never if I thought you two had a chance.”

“We are over. That was nothing. Take the dog if he pleases you that I may find a real man!”

Fiona called to her, “From what I heard and saw, you thought he was a ‘real man’ the last half hour.” Then to me, “Don’t think she’ll come back to you, that was just anger sex to show you that Diane will never be as good in bed as she is.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about Diane you idiot. She cares for you and you for her. I know I am just someone to think about as you hide in the outhouse with your right hand in your lap, but you and Diane are a lot alike. Neither of you can have casual sex. You both have to care for the person you are with or you won’t do it. And even a blind man can see that you spend all your free time with her. That’s why I told you last night to never hurt her. Now finish dressing so we can meet the cargo.”

Cargo! That’s what they thought the girl was. But Tears was an Amazon and both Diane and Fiona had grown up amidst the Feminist Movement in America and so none liked the idea of a man selling his daughter for a few coins. Being a Noble, I was used to arrainged marriages. My grandparents had been introduced to each other the day before they married and both saw the marriage as the price they paid for wealth and power and position. All believed that Grandmother had been bought though she knew that she had bought Grandfather for the Obrien’s were far wealthier than the family she married into which is why I take her name and not my father’s. Both had reserved their love for their children and grandchildren and despite this, they always appeared to have a good marriage while my parents, who married for love, were soon divorced after producing a brood of children which they used as weapons in the break-up.

We were formally introduced to our charge, Nura bint Al-Fulani and her two maids and the eunich bodyguard and slave whose name we were never told. Nura was in a wagon with her maids, all veiled and covered and avoiding looking at the street which they had probably never seen. I walked over, checked the axels, rigging and fastenings then the horse, nodded to the girl and continued on to meet with her father.

“I see, Lord Obrien, that you looked first to the care of my wagon and horse before you looked upon my daughter. I approve of a man who thinks of security so easily. I am certain I made the right decision in hiring you.”

We talked for a moment then with our letters of introduction in hand, we rode north. For the first few leagues, we felt safe so gathered together to share what information we learned last night about the road between Ma’an and Amman for we had no experience with that section, being diverted from Amman to Jerusalem. Tears looked at the girl and asked casually, “I wonder if she is a virgin?”

“If she isn’t, they’ll kill a chicken to bloody the honeymoon sheets and quietly divorce after. So why are you asking?” I noticed that both Americans were shocked at the turn of the conversation. Neither saw a maidenhead as little more than an obstacle to be lost as soon as convenient so had no reference to a culture that killed brides who were not.

“That eunich. The Turks geld their harem slaves too but unlike cattle, horses and sheep, gelding a man removes neither desire nor ability, only the chance to father children. Some Amazons seek eunichs as lovers as they get unlimited sex without the normal male lack of stamina and they fear not pregnancy. And if gelded early, they wear dresses and are allowed to live among us.”

“That eunich is probably trained in the sword as well as am I. If she wishes to bed him, I suppose we must prevent that but I don’t think jokes at his expense are in good taste.”

“He is also a mute, they removed his tongue with his cherries so we may never know.”

“No tongue?” Fiona asked, “What a shame. With some men that is their only saving grace.”

I left them at that for I had no wish to listen to their jokes about men for soon enough they’d turn them to my direction and I had been called a dog too often for my taste. I slowed to the wagon, glanced inside then said to the eunich, “Do you know how to use that scimitar you wear?”

He nodded. “Good, if trouble arrives, we four will ride to meet it, you must remember that your task is to remain close to Nura bint Al-Fulani and make any who pass us pay.” He laughed, that strange laugh the tongueless make and I left to point, calling the girls, “One on right and left and behind, close to return but far enough out to see problems. We’ll change positions every four hours at break.”

By sunset, we made camp so close to Petra that I could see the Castle in the distance. “Girls, I’d like to be extra cautious with tonight’s watch if you please.”

Fiona looked with me and said, “Petra? Are you afraid that the dead will chase us this far?”

“I don’t like dead things. They have a habit of showing up at the most embarrassing times. And we robbed their graves.”

“We didn’t robe their graves, the Bedouins did that. All we did was to wake them up and, hopefully, put them back. But I’ll be careful.”

The eunich was laying out Nura’s tent and bedding and I checked to be certain that the draft horse was doing well and could be harnessed quickly. Ours were hobbled with that one in a make-shift paddock and were well fed and watered so I took the opportunity while dinner was cooking to do some scouting. Nothing. So I returned, had whatever was left and settled in for the night. Tears woke me and said, as I reached for her, “not that, dog, it’s your watch.”

“Tears,” I called out as she left and I dressed. “Why are you so upset. You told me yourself it was just sex. You know we cannot marry and the only reason you would keep me around would be to give the baby away if it was a boy. So why are you so angry about me and Diane and Fiona?”

She came to me, looked at Nura’s tent and said, “Couldn’t you at least be angry or upset and grieve for a day or so for my leaving before you acted?”

I took her hands, held on as she struggled and said, “I’m sorry I hurt you like that. I really do care for you and what happened was totally unexpected. You know that while we were together, I was faithful to you and I’m sorry I was so crass about you breaking our relationship off.”

She stopped struggling and said, “That’s all I wanted, to know that I meant something to you other than as a mattress.” She then stood up, kissed me on the cheek and said, “Now you may pursue Diane with my blessing.”

“Does everyone know but me?”

“Of course, Jason, you are such an idiot at times you cannot see the obvious.”


IIII TRAVEL

That morning I dressed and was saddling my horse when I saw Diane doing the same. Leading mine by it’s reins, I approached her and said, “Good morning.” Then I became all tongue-tied.

She didn’t look at me but responded in kind. So I started a number of conversations and never got past a couple words. Why was this so hard? We were the best of friends and suddenly I felt like a schoolboy again.

“Diane, I know I’m going to screw this up so please understand when I say the wrong thing…”

She turned, looked and said nothing. Waiting.

“I like you, a lot.” I knew it was stupid but better than ‘can I carry your schoolbooks?’

“That’s it?”

“Well, I want to say more but I don’t know what or how. I’m not really good at this romance thing.”

“If I didn’t know you so well, I’d be really angry right now. So what about Tears?”

“I think we’ve cleared things up.”

“And Fi?”

“I like Fiona and respect her a lot but, well, she’s not you.”

“Come with me,” then she lay her gear aside and walked to the stream that fed the pool by which we had camped. “Let me see your sword, please.”

I handed it over with a little fear for she was showing no emotions at all. Then she hit me in the stomach and pushed me into the pool yelling, “Now, dog, wash your former lovers from your body and clothes. You stink of sex with other women! When you are clean, we’ll talk!”

I sat there, soaked and listened to everyone laugh at me so removed my clothes and began to wash with the soap we had purchased in Amman.

Fiona walked over, stared and said, “You are so whipped!” Then she finished saddling her horse and called, “I’m looking around and will be back soon,” as she rode off.

When the wagon was hitched and all were ready, I approached Diane, still in wet clothes, and asked, “Well?”

“Well what?”

Drat! I sighed and handed her the flowers I had found by the pool. She took them without comment and didn’t look at them but said, “I’ll take point,” and mounted and rode off. But I did notice that she smelled the blooms as she did so.

Fiona rode up and asked, “Have you ever seduced a woman before?”

“Not that I can remember.”

“It shows. If Tears and I hadn’t been so desperate, you’d still be a virgin.” She rode off laughing as I called out, “I was married, remember?”

“Then she must have proposed to you,” this over her shoulder.

***

Diane ignored me at morning break so I came by and asked, “Can I do anything for you?”

“Nope, I’m fine.” Then she went back to talking to Tears.

Sunken in depression I turned away and heard her call, “You could try wineing and dining me sometime.”

I almost asked ‘where’ then noticed that she had the flowers I had given in her hair and so replied, “My I take you to dinner tonight?”

“I’ll have to see if I am free. Ask me again at lunch.”

I walked away noticing that Nura and her maids were watching the entire thing and giggling, doubtless at my expense. I imagine we were a sight for Arabs don’t pursue their women, their mother decides when a son should marry and arrainges for the women she likes to meet him and after that mother narrows it to three from whom the boy can choose. In Nura’s case, the idea that I was pursuing a woman who could treat me so was totally unknown.

Later, Diane moved closer and commented, “see them?”

“I do. I counted ten. Just pacing us and checking us out.”

“Fi saw another six on the other flank. Tears is checking point for ambush but I don’t see anyone following.”

“At least sixteen. Maybe more. I think that bottleneck up ahead is where they’ll hit us. The ground looks rough and will slow the wagon.”

“It’ll also slow them down too. We need to be settled when they jump us. At least we have the advantage as they are hoping to make us nervous by following us like that.” Then I handed her a paper folded into an origami Lover’s Knot and rode away. It wasn’t my best work but I had other things on my mind.


Sunlight rising over the mountains,
Reflected in your hair
Tresses flowing over shoulders
Like golden clouds across the heavens.

Tears returned to report, “The rocks are clear. We can hole up there and wait. If they attack, our bows on stable ground give us advantage. Of not, we can run them down in the dark.”

“Good. Tell the Arab-girls our plan so they won’t be scared… wait! Let them be scared, it’ll throw the raiders off a bit. You know the road, guide the wagon and set up. Take Diane with you while Fiona and I keep watch.”

I moved off then Diane rode up to me. “Hey, don’t get into trouble.” Then she leaned over, kissed me and rode off holding my note.

The bandits moved in before we reached the rocks and Fiona and I killed four with arrows before they broke. We had spent a lot of time practicing from a galloping horse and from a stand-still, it was easy. Twelve to go.

We made it to the rocks to find the others ready and Diane whooped as she sent another to his grave, then we waited with the survivors out of range. “Nine left!” Tears cried out, then, “You never wrote me poetry!”

“You never wanted to sleep over.”

“A likely excuse. She is good for you so take care of her.” Then they attacked again. “Stupid fools,” Tears called out. “You should have taken us in the open or had men waiting for us here!” Another died.

“Don’t give them ideas!” I yelled. By now there were only four left so Tears and Fiona mounted at a gallop and rode after them. “Watch for a trap!” I screamed.

Diane came over and grabbed me, kissed me passionately and pulled at my pants. “What, I want you and... Hurry! We don’t have time for foreplay.”

Later, “I loved your poem. You really never wrote for Tears or Fi?”

“I did not. I think you are special.”

She snuggled closer and then reached for her pants, “I’m glad. But sad for them. You may be an ass sometimes but you can be so romantic at times.”

“Are you done?” Tears was watching. “The girl is terrified at being ignored and thought your screams were of pain and we now have more horses and camels. Even some loot to enrich us.”

Diane smiled at her, “I knew we were all safe. No one in this country can ride and shoot like you. I’m surprised you left any for us.”

“Then, sister, you won’t mind if I take more share since you were too busy to assist?”

“Not at all, sister, I have what I wanted,” she offered, patting her belly.

“There is water on the other side, we can have lunch there.” So we took the wagon and while Diane cooked, singing, and Nura’s maids helped, the three of us readied and divided the loot. “This would be so much easier if they’d carry their lot with them when they raided.”

“Do you want them weighed down with gold as they attack us?”

“Yes! You’d almost think that they trust their fellow bandits back at the hideout.”

“Or maybe they are just totally incompetent. We took them out so easily.” We were all laughing at that.

Over lunch, Nura asked Diane, “I thought your man was with the other Amazon?”

I kissed Diane on the cheek from behind and handed her a drink and heard, “He was but now he’s with me. Don’t worry, you are safe with him.”

“I can see. May I read your poem? I wonder if my new husband will be as romantic.”

I went back to the camels and Tears commented, “Her future husband probably will love his horse more than she.”

“Calm down, I have an idea.” Then returning to the fire, “This is such a long and dull road, I propose that we entertain each other with tales from our homelands for we all come from different nations. And since I made the suggestion, I’ll go first. Fiona, will you please accompany me on your harp.”

Then as Fiona sought my rhythm then I followed hers, I started, “Let me speak of the tales of the Ireland of long ago, the tale of Maeb, the Queen of Connacht, Queen of my land before even my ancestor Brian Boru took the High Kingship for himself.” And for the next hour while we ate I told of her prowess on the field of battle, the wars she fought and won. I spoke of her lovers for no man could be king save through her. Throughout it all, Nura sat fascinated by the battles she had fought and embarrassed by the lovers she took and amazed that a woman could rule in her own right and shocked that a woman could bed whomever she wished or that man could be king only by marrying her.

When I was done, we cleaned up and left the rocks and Tears approached, “I like your idea. I’ll speak tonight.” And she kissed me on the cheek and rode on.

The rest of the day was happily dull, though we were slowed by our growing herd of horses and camels. Then at dinner, I served Diane as Fiona took her harp and accompanied Tears as she told the story of the Amazon nation. How they were Greeks and little more than harem slaves until the women banded together and killed their husbands in their sleep. Then fearing punishment, fled to an island where they lived for years until Jason sailed his ship, the Argo to them. The women offered marriage but he sailed on and so again fearing punishment, they sailed away to Turkey where they despaired of finding men to protect them and so became Amazons to protect themselves. She told how they sent an army to aid beseiged Troy in their battle against Agememnon and how they were happy until the Ottoman expanded and outnumbered, fled to Russia where they lived since, seeking men as fathers for their daughters but not as husbands or masters.

Again Nura was entranced for she didn’t believe that women could be such warriors, even with the evidence of her own eyes. Then, exhausted, we fell asleep with the watch set. I was almost asleep, Diane in my arms after .. well afterwards when she whispered, “Jason, remember how I said this was just sex and you could bed Fi and anyone you wished?”

“Mmmmmm.”

“Well, my love, I’ve changed my mind. Her maids are off-limits as are Tears and Fiona. Keep your hands to yourself, or to me. We, my love, are now an item.”

“Mmmmmm.” I fell asleep remembering her lips on mine.

The next morning we prepared for the day when Diane commented, “Do you remember what I said last night?”

“Which time?”

“The time after my screaming your name and before your snoring.”

“I don’t snore.”

“Yes you do love.”

I kissed her and replied, “I remember.”

“Good.” Then, “My dear, when Fi and I were in Martial Arts, the Sensi and other men hated us being there. So they worked extra hard to drive us away. Most of the women left for an easier class and probably learned nothing but Fi and I stayed and had to work twice as hard to be promoted half as often. We watched men we could defeat outrank us and when we complained, they told us that they went easy on us because we were girls. We said that we earned our Belt but I always wondered if they gave it to us to avoid a Discrimination suit. These months with you have made me a stronger more confident person and I now know we really did earn our Belts. And one day, I’ll go back to Chicago and pull their heads out of their own asses and shove them back in. Only now, I know that I can do that.”

What could I say, I just held her then said, “Since you are such a strong woman, you take point. But be careful!” She kissed me, mounted and rode off with us following.

Then I watched the eunich hitch the horse to their wagon and approached. He was never far from Nura for he was her slave and bodyguard so I called out, “Good Morning!”

He smiled back and waved so I went to him and asked, “I can’t just keep calling you ‘hey you’. It’s not polite. So, what is your name so we can show you the respect you deserve.”

He looked and couldn’t speak, so I knelt and wrote my name in Arabic ÇæÈÑíä ÌÇÓóä as best I could in the dirt then handed him the stick. The problems here are that my name isn’t Gaelic but Greek and has no real Irish translation or spelling and I wasn’t all that fluent with Arabic anyway which doesn’t have the right sounds. Unfortunately, he was illiterate and I couldn’t speak to Nura directly for that would be impolite. So I called for help, “Fiona, can you ask Nura something for me please?”

She arrived and I said to her, “It’s impolite to keep referring to this gentleman as we do and he can’t tell us his name so could you please ask Nura bint Al-Fulani what his name is?”

She did so and Nura replied to her, “He is a slave and so is beneath owning a name. Why do you care?”

“Because he is still a person and all people, man and woman, slave, free and noble deserve respect.”

The idea was unknown to her so I turned to him, “Ok, let’s try it this way, we’ll call out names and when we find yours, you let us know and that’s how we’ll address you.” He glanced at his mistress then smiled so she couldn’t see and so we began another game to while away the hours. We had no system and any of us would approach and say, ‘are you Ahmed? Or Bulut? Or…’ eventually running out of the names we knew and so would toss in “Is your name Phil? Or Tasmania?’ After awhile he joined in, pretending to think then he’d laugh and shake his head no, and we’d continue.

Finally after a couple days of this, I tired and called out, “We can’t keep calling you ‘hey you’ and we won’t call you ‘slave’ so if we cannot find your name, then please choose one that we can use.”

He thought a moment then drew a star in the dirt. “Yildiz?” He nodded and smiled and clapped. “Ok people, may I introduce to you the gentleman, Yildiz!”

Nura whispered to Diane who translated because Nura wouldn’t speak directly to a man any more than she’d show me her face or body. “She wants to know why you, a Prince of your country, shows such a lowly slave any courtesy.” She was laughing at this. Americans are so democratic that what I did from understanding, they did as a normal matter.

“Please tell the Lady Nura bint Al-Fulani that yes, I am a Noble of Ireland, descended from Brian Boru and Queen Maeve themselves. But we Irish remember one thing that you Arabs forget. That we hold our position only through the grace of the people we rule. And if we are a harsh master, they will either leave us to the mercy of the bandits or they will tie rocks to our feet and toss us into a bog. Thus we rule through the love of our subjects, not their fear.”

“She doesn’t understand and says that god made them slaves and god will keep them slaves.”

“Which is why we are here. Because her father knows that god will not protect her from the bandits who will use and abuse her but we, infidels that we are, will.” I walked away at that, Tears laughing because like the Americans, she had a firm conviction that she was better than most men and expected them to treat her as an equal. The bodies we left behind proved the truth of her beliefs.

Each lunch and every night we took turns telling tales of famous women who shook the world. And all through it the eunich glared but Nura sat entranced. He loved our treating him as a real person but hated our undermining Nura’s submissive position. We, however, didn’t care and did as we wished.


V ATTACK

That night I was checking our map which wasn’t very good for like the Christians of this time, Arabs made terrible cartographers. It wouldn’t be until the very late 20th century when photos would be taken by air and satellite that decent maps would be made so we did the best we could. “We should reach Amman sometime tomorrow afternoon. We’ll rest a day or so, sell most of the extra horses and camels and gather supplies for the desert trek.”

I was on watch and Tears came by and sat with me. “I couldn’t sleep. This place feels bad.”

“I know what you mean, I feel it too. We should sleep lightly with drawn bows.”

“Agreed.” Then, “You and Diane are shocking Nura. Fiona and I were quiet but Diane wants the world to hear her pleasures. Or maybe you are simply more attentive to her than to us?”

“My dear, to you I was just something to do at night to get pregnant. I wonder if you really enjoyed what we did. Fiona was just desperate, though more skilled than any woman I ever knew. But Diane and I were friends long before we became lovers. That makes a difference for love makes the sex better.”

“Or you just imagine it is better. You stare at Fiona’s chest even now, huge as it is but do her melons make her a better lover than my apples? Love is strange. Most of my nation marry women to help with the child rearing though we prefer the attentions of a man. We reserve love for our sisters so I don’t know if I could love you as I do them. But, Jason, I do respect you which is a rare thing for an Amazon to say to a man.”

“My dear, you being here has turned the burden of teaching those two into a pleasure. I cared for you and it did hurt me to know that I was just a sperm donor. When you return home I’ll miss you. Will you marry a woman back there?”

“Probably as it is hard to raise a daughter alone. But it won’t be like you being with Diane, it’ll be more like Diane and Fiona, friends and sisters but not lovers. Like most Amazons, I enjoy a good hard man.” She stood and said, “But I wouldn’t want to marry one. Good Night.”

I walked around thinking too much of my life. Diane made me happy. I liked Tears and respected them all. Fiona was incredible in bed, physically. She had no inhibitions and really enjoyed what we did and made me feel special. But with Diane, there was that emotional thing that made the sex somehow better. It was like when I was married to Kore. She wasn’t nearly as beautiful as any of these three but when I looked at her and our children, she was to most wonderful person in the world and it killed me when she died.

I picked some flowers and wove them into a garland as I patrolled then placed them on her saddle to be found in the morning. We four literally had no secrets from each other for being forced into close proximity on the trail meant that we bathed and peed and slept in sight of each other. When Tears had sought my bed, she didn’t care that Diane and Fiona were right there watching and listening. We had held each other’s hair as we puked into the chamber-pot, and slathered each other’s ass when we had the runs from the food. So me with Diane wasn’t as private, though I was glad our first time was when we were alone. But Nura was a virgin and I was probably the first man she had seen naked. Yes, I caught her peeking when I bathed though my body is that of a martial artist, not a weight-lifter so my belly, though hard and almost flat, wasn’t the washboard abs that many women loved. And I lacked the exaggerated pecs and shoulders of other men who spent as much time in the gym as I did in the dojo though I was much stronger than they. Maybe I’d better hold off until we were alone to avoid shocking the poor girl. Amman was only a few hours away and we could get a private room there.

I woke up Fiona and crawled into my blanket with Diane who snuggled to me. I loved that feeling of a woman in my arms and determined to sleep but my hand wandered and .. well things happened to delay sleep again.

***

“Shh, wake up and arm,” It was Fiona and Diane was waking up too. I reached for my bow and katana waiting for the report. “Wolves I think. I saw a shape and they smelled like my old dog when they were upwind.”

We moved to the wagon, under which Nura and her maids slept and made certain that Yildiz was awake. Then we waited in the darkness. The moon was overhead, not full but bright enough to see and I refused a fire or torch for that would destroy our night-vision.

From a side one came at us and received four arrows. It went down then got up again and charged as three more arrows struck it. I dropped my bow and drew, charged and cut, slicing it near in two. Then as it struggled to rise, I removed it’s head which finally killed it.

Waiting, then another attack from the other side. Nura was screaming as arrow after arrow hit the beast, knocking it over then it’d get up and charge again. I was over the wagon and running when Tears, too close, sent an arrow into it’s eye. It screamed and turned giving me the chance to remove it’s head too. Then I returned to the wagon.

“They don’t seem to be bothered by arrows. You three slow it and I’ll cut. Are there any drugs here that’d make a wolf act like this?” I called.

“Hash wouldn’t, that’s more to mellow out. PCP doesn’t exist here. Who knows what they’ve been eating.” Fiona did know her drugs. “I hear more out there. There! And There! At least two, maybe three more.” Tears sent another arrow into the darkness and a wolf screamed then nothing. She had been born to the bow and horse so wouldn’t have released unless she had a clear target which she had hit.

“It should have attacked. Where are they?” She cried. Then she walked into the darkness, bow ready. A Sarmation bow built after the Mongol pattern, even lightened for a woman, was better than anything made in this part of the world and her heavy arrows would knock a man off his feet at close range.

A moment later she returned, holding her bow in one hand, arrow still nocked, but her other held an arrow. “I shot that wolf in the eye. My arrow penetrated it’s brain and got stuck in the bone of the spine before you cut the head off. Look!”

She held the arrow by it’s shaft, her hand near the head and hanging from the arrow, the feathers stopping it from completely passing through was a human head. “This is my arrow, see the fletching!”

“Werewolves,” I sighed. “Ok, two awake, two napping. No one leaves the wagon. They may have left or they may be waiting for another chance.”

“So we wait until the morning?” Diane asked.

“True werewolves can shape-shift anytime of the day or night. They just prefer the night.”

I settled down to nap and heard, “That man could sleep through World War III. Goddess! Walking dead, werewolves, what next? Vampires or trolls?”

There was no further action that night and as soon as it was light enough to see, we packed and headed for Amman, reaching it by lunch.

I sought the local Watch as the girls found us a decent Inn and Fiona sold our herd. “Werewolves attacked us last night. We killed two,” I was explaining to the captain.

“I know,” he replied. “We have heard this before though you are the only ones to have killed any. Verily, praise to Allah, you are blessed by the Prophet himself to be so strong.”

“I must take my charge to Dimashq, do you think I will meet any problems up north?”

“All will be revealed as Allah wishes.” I hated this religious resignation these people had.

“Ok, let me ask this another way, have you any reports of any dangers on the road to Dimashq?”

***

“I hope you had better luck than did I,” I snapped. “The Watch knew about the werewolves but did nothing and warned no one. I think they were afraid to chase them and afraid to admit that they were afraid so they tossed everything into the lap of god.”

Fiona was happy despite this. “I made decent money from the camels and horses. The fools thought that because I was a woman I could be swindled like that used car dealer in Chicago. I screwed him over just like here. All I had to do was smile, show some boob and they paid what I asked. Men are so shallow, I wonder how you run the world. So with this as profit and our stay here as expenses, we are doing very well.”

Diane added, “I also rented a wing here. A room for you and I next to Fiona and Tears which is next to Nura with Yildiz next to hers.”

“Good, a few days rest and bathing and good food them we move on. Can we buy new arrows and list them under expenses?”

“Of course, my dear.” Fiona answered. “I made certain that anything we used and spent would be covered. Also we get a bonus every time we have to fight to protect Nura.”

“I knew there was a reason I kept you around.” I laughed. The woman was the most incredible person I had ever met. She had an IQ of 112 which I suspect had been measured low. A Black and Brown Belt in Aikido and Judo, Olympic quality archer and fencer, expert award winning horsewoman, singer, dancer, musician and owning a body that made men walk into walls as she passed. I didn’t think that there was anything that she couldn’t do well.

She approached, leaned over to show a view, kissed me on the forehead and replied, “It’s why we keep you around that is the important question.”

“Because batteries haven’t been invented yet,” Diane suggested. I didn’t tell her that Baghdad had invented the battery two thousand years before it was ‘re-invented’ in her time.


VI
BUSINESS

Over dinner in the common room, for they’d not allow the girls in the men’s room nor me in the woman’s room, we were approached by someone who took pains to conceal his identity. After the usual greetings we allowed him to sit and were forced to endure that endless small-talk that Arabs love. So I left that to the girls for they were much better than I at social matters. It always disturbed the men for this was the Ottoman Empire and women had lost their rights a thousand years ago with the rising of Mohammad. But even these men didn’t know how to treat an unveiled woman wearing a sword and pants and chose discretion over possible suicide.

Finally, more to end the female small-talk than anything else he offered, “Lord, my master has heard of your victory over the werewolves, Allah be Praised, and upon asking around, learned of your similar victories over at least three bandit hoards and so your fame,” he added quickly when he saw their looks, “and that of your companions who are remarkable women has spread far and wide. My master wishes to speak to you of a matter which this lowly person may not reveal and offers you this token of the regard in which he holds you.” The man slid a purse over and when I looked within and saw the gold, I handed it to Fiona who counted it under the table and reported in Russian, “Enough to pay for a week at the best this place has to offer.”

“And what,” I asked our visitor, “Does your master expect in return for this gift?”

“Nothing but a few moments of your time. If you choose to ignore his requests after meeting, then the gift is yours. If you choose to not meet with my master, I am instructed to return to him his offering.”

I discussed this with the girls in Russian, “He wants to talk to us very badly to pay this much for an interview. Opinions?”

“He glanced at the cargo and ignored her but didn’t avoid her so I don’t think this is a ruse to separate us. Still, it is a lot of money so what’s the harm of listening?”

“Please tell your master that we shall accept his kind gift and meet with him this evening, we four plus our charge for it wouldn’t be proper to leave her alone when we are tasked with her protection.” And after getting directions, the man left and Diane whistled, “That is one rich man if I understand the directions. Why us?”

“Obviously something dangerous and so dangerous that no local is willing to take the risk. Still, he’s paying for us to listen and not work so we’ll get a free meal out of it.”

Like all meals at that part of the world, it was an eternity of sitting around as people talked about everything but the matters at hand. But finally our hosts, who wished to remain nameless though it appeared that half the wealthy of Amman were there, clapped their hands and everyone vanished but a few slaves who continued to serve us.

“Lord, Ladies, we have heard of your prowess in battle, how as you journyed south, you defeated two separate bands of raiders, how you defeated the hoard of the undead in Petra and how you slaughtered half the werewolves that have been plaguing us and we are quite impressed.”

“The man has his facts a bit off,” Diane whispered in my ear.

“The werewolves that attacked you and which you killed are but a part of a larger pack that plagues our land. They eat our sheep and horses, kill our sons and ravish our daughters. All attempts to destroy them have failed and good men who carry with them the protections of the Koran, blessed be the book of god, fail to return until brave soldiers cower in fear.

“You four are the only ones who have succeeded in defeating these monsters and we would hire you to rid us of this curse.” He clapped and a slave brought a wooden box which was placed before me. I opened it and the thing was filled with enough jewelry and gold and silver to choke a camel. “Plus, my Lord and ladies, we offer this,” and he handed me a stack of papers.

It took me a few minutes to read the things for I am not as literate in Arabic as I should be but finally, “These are unlimited credit in a dozen local stores in Amman and Damascus. These guys are really desperate. And that kind of desperation means that the job is really dangerous.”

The girls discussed this among themselves in English this time as I replied, “I am honoured that you feel so highly of us that you are willing to pay so much for our services, but, as you can see, we are currently engaged in transporting our charge here to her future husband in Damashq and so are engaged for at least two weeks or more.”

“Jason,” Fiona jumped in, “Don’t be hasty. We’re here for a couple days so ask for a couple days to think it over. If they can guarantee the safety of Nura while we hunt, then maybe this will be worth it.”

“High pay always means high risks and these guys won’t tell us the whole truth. It’s like when I was in Kosovo. I was sent to clean out a small band of thieves but the Prince insisted on sending a catholic priest along. That small band of crooks turned out to be a large nest of vampires and I lost half my men before we cleaned them out.”

“So we spend the next couple days bribing information out of the locals. We have an advantage here in that the men speak freely in front of their women slaves thinking that they are below notice so we, women, can learn more than they’ll tell.”

I thought about this then, “Gentlemen, as I said we are otherwise engaged but will consider your offer IF, you guarantee the safety of our charge while we are away and if you guarantee her safe delivery to her fiancée in Damashq if we fail. In the meantime, we will accept this,” I removed a set of nice earrings which I gave to Diane, a couple simple bracelets for Fiona and Tears and a handful of silver coins, “As a token of your good will while we consider your proposal. Will you please have all the known information passed to us that we be better prepared for the fight if we so decide to take your contract?”

They didn’t like the loss of some of their pay but understood that I took only enough to pay expenses, actually bribery for information, when I could have taken far more and accepted so as Tears and Fiona excused themselves with half the silver, I and Diane listened to them tell us everything that they knew.

That night when we were alone, we discussed what we had learned. Diane and I from our potential employers and Tears and Fiona from the slaves, servants and women who had overheard the men talking.

“What we know for fact is that arrows hurt them but decapitation kills them. Plus there were at least four but are now at least two of them, perhaps more.”

“There are almost no attacks in the city, most of them are east or southeast.”

“They have been happening for maybe five years with increasing frequency.”

“I hear that there is a ruined fortress in that direction, people say it’s cursed. I’d think a fortress inhabited by werewolves is cursed too. That’s probably the best place to look.”

“Anyone hear anything about silver being dangerous to them? No? pity. I’d feel much safer putting a couple silver-tipped arrows into them from a distance.”

“I was thinking about that,” Fiona piped in. “You know how the best psychics and magickians work naked with almost no jewelry. We always joked that a witch who wears too much jewelry and elaborate robes suffers from feelings of inadequacy. And we know that clothing and jewelry blocks energy. Well, all the real myths agree that any monster can be killed by decapitation, burning and silver in a vital area. So maybe the silver, being a conductor, shorts out the psi-field of the monster? Since we aren’t paying expenses, I’d feel more comfortable with a few silver arrowheads in my quiver.”

Tears offered her opinion, “I’ve found that any man or animal can be killed by decapitation, burning and an arrow in a vital area, be it bronze, silver or steel so why should that matter?”

“Because werewolves are magickal creatures and follow the Laws of Energy. Ghosts aren’t material so a sword is useless but salt and Holy Water and sulfur destroy them as easily as solving the problem that ties them to the earth. If they are material, then any arrow will kill them but if magickal, then we need silver.”

“Tears,” I asked. “Do you have any objections to carrying silver arrows?”

“So long as I don’t have to pay for them, I’ll carry them. But silver is too soft and won’t penetrate armor so if we come across a bandit wearing even boiled leather or mail, I want some steel arrowheads ready.”

“Agreed. Now for the girl.”

“Not a problem, she has a brother in town so we leave them to visit while we remove the furry problems.”

“You make it sound so easy.” I commented.

Diane came over and leaning, suggested, “Because, my love, we are the best. Tears is a better horsewoman and archer than anyone in this country. Fi and I are excellent horsewomen and good archers and you are the best swordsman in a thousand miles. Worst case, we outrun them on horseback. Best case, we shoot them from a distance from horseback.”

“But, my love,” I insisted. “Both man and horse run at 25 mph but a horse can keep that speed for less than a half kilometer. Wolves can reach 35 mph.”

“But wolves, my love, tire easily and give up after only a dozen or so feet. That’s why they eat the old and sick, they can’t out run a healthy animal over a long stretch and need to be at top speed before their prey even starts to run.”

“Still, I want a back-up plan in case we loose a horse or these don’t give up.” I’d dealt with werewolves before. “Ok, werewolves are generally solitary since each of them considers itself an alpha-wolf. When they pack, they end up killing each other eventually. They also like their meat flushed with adrenaline so they terrify their prey before they kill and eat it. Also werewolves enjoy raping their prey before they kill it. In half-form, they are slow but smart and strong. In full-wolf form they are fast but savage and lack human cunning. Normally they are as vulnerable to damage as any other animal so these are special somehow. Let’s not underestimate them.”

“So how do they become werewolves?” Tears asked. “In Russia they are cursed people.”

“Mostly by magick spell. But,” I thought about this, “regardless of curse or spell, they are still magickal and a good exorcism should break the spell or weaken them. Let’s look up the local Sufi’s and get something that will help.”

“Fi and I will make some Holy Water too,” then looking at my expression, “Dear, we were Witches before you found us. We may not be as good at magick as the Sufi but that’s only because we lost a lot of knowledge during the Burning Times and you never tire of telling us how lazy modern Pagans are. Still, I believe we can handle something as simple as blessing salt-water. Hell, we did that every Full Moon in Chicago.”

I did have my doubts but they were adamant. Personally, I’d rather sit on a beach or sail over walking into a den of werewolves or vampires or zombies.

We dropped Nura at her brother’s and told her she could have a couple days visit time before we took to the road again and she was happy at that. A pampered daughter of a wealthy merchant, she hated sleeping under a wagon or in a tent and a read bed with a hot bath and real food was to her, not to be missed. Then we contacted our new employers and informed them that we’d take the job but wanted a number of silver arrows and a silver plated boar-lance for each of us. Once these were ready, we rode to the east seeking this ruined fortress where we suspected the werewolves lived.


VII
LAIR

Travel on the road was dull and lonely so we either talked all the time or not at all. This time Fiona and Diane wished to talk so Fiona asked Tears, “Tears, your ancestors were Greek so why don’t you have a Greek name and why do you speak Russian?”

She laughed, “Because I live in Russia. Jason is Irish as were your grandparents so why do you not speak Irish as does he? And did your children carry Irish names? Does he? Jason is a Greek name though Obrien is Irish. Honestly, though we left Greece more than a thousand years ago, they still speak Greek in the Temples to Aphrodite and Athena and I think one of the tribes still speaks Greek and carry Greek names.”

“Tribes? How many are there?” Diane queried.

“Twelve that I know of. Maybe less, maybe more. We all live between Aktau and the Volga on the Caspian Sea under one Queen and most of us speak Russian though I hear a couple tribes still speak Turkish and one Greek. Some tribes bear Greek names, some Turkish and some Russian. It’s just that my tribe carries names like mine. Some of us are lovers-of-women but most are like me and prefer men. All are trained as warriors like me but few remain in that profession for we also have hunters, fishers, farmers, herders and merchants.” She laughed again, “Amazons are like any other people, only we prefer to live our lives without men stinking up our homes like dogs.”

“So when you need baby amazons, you leave for foreign lands?” Diane again.

“Of course not! We are surrounded by Rus and Turk and are on the Silk Road so we never lack for men seeking pleasure without responsibility. I just couldn’t find anyone I cared to father my daughters back home.

“So, you get pregnant and ride to Russia suffering morning sickness for all the months on the road? Doesn’t seem too smart to me.” Fiona laughed at the thought of a nine month pregnant woman fighting from horseback.

“I admit that I have traveled farther than I expected. I should have remained closer to Russia but Jason went south so I followed. I’ll have to consider this.”

“At least you don’t remove your left breast to draw the bow like the Classic Stories say.”

“My breast are like apples and don’t get in the way. I’m surprised that your melons aren’t torn off by the bowstring sometimes.”

“Maybe if I shoved them between string and bow they would be. But the string rests above my breast, not around it. I suffer more when the string slaps my vambrace. But Jason has been listening and all this talk about breasts is getting him excited.”

“Jason is always excited. Sometimes I wonder that he doesn’t pee on his chin, he points up so often,” Tears laughed, so I left them and rode ahead seeking tracks. Wolves would be territorial and so wouldn’t roam further then they could run in half a day. They range from 3 by 3 miles to as much as 30 by 30 miles, depending on the food sources. The more food they can hunt, the smaller their range. Here in the desert and mountains, guess high-mid-range or maybe 10-15 miles radius around their home. Thus if we assume the road to be at the edge of their territory, and if we assume that they live permanently in one place, then we could easily reach their lair before dark. If we could find it. Maybe we’d get lucky and stumble into it around the bend.

Some distance up I stopped and dismounted. “Look! Tracks. Definitely wolf tracks.”

“How can you tell the difference between these and dogs?”

“It’s difficult at times. But generally wolves travel in a straight line with the pack following in it’s tracks to hide their numbers. Dogs wander all over the place. Wolves have narrow chests so their tracks are closer together and often overlap and you almost never find wolves near a town or dogs far from a town. So you add up all the traits and basically guess.

“Also,” I continued, “look at the size of these prints. They are too large. Iranian Wolves are smaller than American or European and weigh in around 50-70 pounds and eat only small animals and young sheep wheras European wolves range 100 to 130 pounds. Whatever made these was man-sized.”

Diane commented, “Conservation of Mass. When a 180 pound man turns into a wolf, it still weighs 180 pounds. Any idea of how many?”

Tears looked around a bit then added, “No. But the horses aren’t afraid so they didn’t mark their territory which is strange.”

Fiona looked around then said, “I hope these are werewolves. According to Farley Mowat, there has never been a documented Wolf attack on a person. I like to think that by killing the werewolves, we are helping the local wolf population.”

“American wolves are nicer than European. We spent centuries killing their prey and forcing them to hunt livestock, then when we protected the sheep and cattle, we forced them to hunt human.” I mused. “Werewolves are hunters but lack the fear of man that wolves possess. In human form they are intelligent, in wolf form they are cruel. Be careful and allow them to be overconfident and make mistakes.”

Al-Muwaqqar fortress soon stood before us, still glorious in it’s ruination. It had been built to impress the desert tribes with the power of Damascus but like all castles, once the land was pacified, fell to disuse and ruin. It was built on a rise and overlooked the road and desert though the well that supported it must have dried up long ago. Unless it was repaired and dug deeper. “We shouldn’t separate or go alone now. I suggest we circle the place and see what we can see, then decide on our next move.”

We did so but the closer we got, the more nervous our horses became, absolutely shying at some bushes. I handed my reins to Diane and dismounted to examine the bush with drawn katana. The bush wasn’t large enough to hide much but why take chances. I glanced back and saw all had bows at the ready so I poked with steel but found, “Nothing.”

Fiona approached and sniffed, “Stinks like my dog when he had an accident.”

“So they did mark their territory!” I resheathed and undid my pants.

“Here? Is that all you think about? It’s too hot and Diane would kill us.”

“Not that,” then I urinated all over the bush.

“That’s disgusting. Are you going to shit when you find their crap too?”

“Wolves mark their territory. Alpha wolves mark over the rest. I’m showing them that I am the alpha here.”

“Sounds good until they decide to piss all over our corpses.”

But the horses did settle down almost immediately as my scent covered that of the werewolves. “Now what?” Diane asked.

“Let’s find some shade and plan. All the tracks we saw, human and wolf seem to center here. There’s farmland to the west and that means sheep to eat. A road south and west for people and supplies. A fortress to hide in and the terror of the locals to keep soldiers away. I’m certain that they are hiding here. All we have to do is to figure out how to get in and kill them.”

Diane kissed me and commented, “Jason my love, you think too much and worry more. I vote for a frontal attack.”

“And if we are ambushed?”

“We do what you trained us to do, kill them!” And she rode to the fortress of Al-Muwaqqar with Fiona and Tears in tow. I hate walking into a trap unless I can set it off safely. But trying to tell these three women anything was impossible. They were more stubborn than me and their continued success in our profession had convinced them that they were immortal.

The closer we got, the more nervous the horses became forcing us to tie them to a tree in an outbuilding. Diane and Fiona sniffed around and we all lay urine wherever they smelled dog and that calmed the horses to an extent but not fully. I had seen them all pee before but here, watching them to actually try to hit a target, made me laugh. “Laugh all you want you bastard but don’t come sniffing around my bed tonight!”

There was only one way in that we could see but any intelligent architect hides a couple escape holes here and there, one even that only he knows. So we entered with drawn bows and came face to face with a woman, mostly naked. I don’t know who was more shocked, her or me, but instead of screaming and covering herself, she ran to us, threw herself to my feet and begged me to save her. “Lord, bandits inhabit this place. Bandits and ghosts. Please, take me to freedom and safety immediately before they awaken.”

“Déjà vu,” Fiona said. “Does this remind you of Petra?”

“Yes it does. Ok, Jason, what now?”

“One of you stay here to watch the girl and guard the door. The rest of us will go hunting. Girl! How many are there and where do we find the bandits?”

“Lord, I fear you will be overwhelmed by numbers. They are but four to your one and terrible to behold in their bright armor. But if you go that way, mayhaps you can catch them in their sleep and kill them before they awake. I fear to go for they have sore abused me and defiled my virginal body to the point where my father will no longer see me as his own daughter. Please, master, let us be away and I shall serve you as your slave forever.”

“Tears, please watch the girl here while Diane, Fiona and I look around.”

The girl threw herself to my feet again begging me to take her away but I disengaged her arms and told her, “Remain here with Tears. If any come, our horses are around the side. But we must seek these out so remain here.”

She begged and cried but remained cowering by the door as we searched. Fiona mentioned as we cleared one room, “She seems a bit well-fed for a ‘sorely abused virgin’.”

“I was thinking the same thing myself. You should go back and warn Tears.”

“Tears isn’t stupid. She was looking at the girl like she was a trollup. This place smells like a wet dog which is strange as it probably hasn’t rained here in centuries.”

It was the third room we met the first man. He was wearing pants and a wolf-skin vest as if he were a shepherd but his eyes were red in the gloom. “Enter, noble warrior and bring your wives with you. But stay, I see they carry your extra weapons. Do you fear to loose the ones you carry that you need slaves to hand you replacements?”

“Jason, this guy stinks like rotting meat.” Diane offered in English.

“Infidels!” the man cried then charged only to be struck by two arrows from the women behind me, women he had discounted because of their gender. He fell, then before we could approach, rolled over, pulled the arrows from his chest with a scream of agony then began to rise and change, hair sprouting and merging with his vest. Before he could finish, I removed his head then Tears ran by screaming, “They’re all over!”

We joined and entered a room where we could defend the single door and waited as the snarling outside grew louder. “Well, silver hurts them but doesn’t kill. So much for bows,” Fiona commented as she slid hers into her belt case and readied her spear. We had them made in two sections that screwed together so they could be carried hung from our back. Sword, bow, quiver and spear was a lot of gear but we weren’t going to loose any of it. Tears and I stood aside the door with drawn swords as Diane and Fiona stationed themselves before the entrance with spears at ready.

“What happened?” I asked.

“The drab kept trying to follow you but I wouldn’t let her. Then she howled and began to change. I shot her but all it did was hurt then a half dozen others came at me from outside and so I ran. So now we’re trapped.”

“Not my fault this time, Diane wanted to charge in.”

“Bitch at me later, love but now here they come!”

The door was too narrow for more than one to enter which was why we chose that room and the first to enter was skewered on the spears. Fiona yelled, “Got it!” and Diane pulled her’s free and went back on guard as I lopped the head. As the body fell, another took it’s place to be stuck by Diane as Fiona pulled her spear free and both Tears and I killed it. By the third dead, they backed off, growling but afraid to enter.

“Damn! They’re smarter than we thought.” Tears swore. “And you wonder why we use ‘dog’ as an insult.”

I switched to English knowing that our form wouldn’t evolve for a couple more centuries and so would be unintelligible to the beasts. “They can wait us out or starve us out. Tears, what about the horses?”

“They seem to be ok. The dogs may want them for themselves. I count six through the door, at least one that bitch-whore who as sniffing your crotch.”

“I prefer my women to be less hairy and with duller teeth.”

“Oh oh! Trouble! Men with bows! DUCK!” This from Fiona who hit the floor as three arrows slammed into the wall behind her.

Both girls moved aside the door and Tears said, “Mine!” as she pulled her own bow and readied an arrow with a crescent head. “Rope cutters! Should take a spine apart as easily.” She peaked and pulled back as another wolf entered to be cut in twain at the spine. The fore part snapped a moment then died and Tears pushed her bow to a draw, moved, released and returned to cover within a couple seconds, not even seeming to aim. “Five down!” she cried as she readied another arrow.

“How can you be certain?”

“Because, sister, I never miss! Especially at this range.”

“One to the right moving to shoot!” I mentioned as Fiona jabbed past the doorway.

“Mine,” Diane said and pulled her own bow and readied the arrow that Tears tossed to her. Another wolf snapped in and lost it’s nose before it pulled back. Then both Tears and Diane released. I saw Diane’s arrow sever the bow then bury itself into the man’s chest. “Damn! Still alive but hurt.” She swore.

“Mine lost his string and head!” Tears shouted. “His bow broke as the string cut at full draw so one archer left.”

“Tears, that bow is more dangerous than the man behind it. One of us needs to take it out.” I suggested to her.

“Done and done!” she pulled another crescent arrow. “My last one. Give me a good target.”

“That rag over there!” I called. Use it as a distraction.”

Fiona pulled it to her with her spear then waved it before the door. It took an arrow almost instantly then both Tears and Diane moved into view and released. I heard a scream then tears dropped her bow, pulled her shashqua and went on ready, “He’s alive but no longer a man.”

“He’s also blind from mine in the eye,” Diane laughed. “I count four left.”

“Then my loves, it is time to go one the attack.” And I stood in the door and stepped through.

The first that attacked was cut in two, the second impailed on a spear but fought free before we could finish and the rest then ran off.

“Three known, maybe more. Let’s go hunting. We stay together in case we are flanked.” And with tears and I on the outside with Diane and Fiona carrying light boar-spears between, we moved through the fortress.

“Somehow this is harder in the movies,” Fiona commented.

“Don’t get overconfident. That’s how we got into this mess. Alone or as a pair, they’ll drag us down.” I demanded.

We searched, spears at the ready at every room and killed three more, all as they attacked, were impailed on the spears and held at a distance until we could remove their heads. Then the last backed away and changed into the first girl, “Please sir, don’t kill me! I beg of you, use me as you wish but let me live and I’ll make you so very happy, I’ll do anything you want me to, any way you want me to.” Then, “I beg of you, my family is dead and I have no one to protect me for these monsters. They used me horribly and …” she started to cry until Diane said, “Screw this,” and pinned her to the floor as Tears removed her head. “I never did like that bitch!” she said as she pulled her spear free.

Then to me, “You weren’t thinking over her offer were you?”

I sighed, “Not at all love, I just have a problem with killing unarmed women.”

“Then, my love, it is a good thing we are here to save your sorry ass.” She stood on toes to look at me. “She’d change and rip your throat out the first time you were unarmed and off guard. Women can be real bitchy at times.”

I glanced at the girl, her blood pooling around her nakedness then turned away, “Lets finish searching in case there are more. Then we burn the bodies in salt.” I didn’t say anything else the entire search mainly because the girl had gotten to me. No, I wasn’t thinking of her offer for I was happy with Diane and believed in fidelity, but knowing that she was alone and helpless.. ok, she was a werewolf and wasn’t helpless at all. Finally, Tears pulled me aside, “She wasn’t the innocent victim you think! She was bait! She gave that helpless act to put men off their guard then the others ripped him to shreds. It was an act! She tired it with you earlier and when it didn’t work on you, she tried it with me then snarled and tried to eat me. Get over it.”

“I know that. I just don’t feel it!”

Diane came to me and said, “Honey, when you and Tears were together, remember how loving she was when she wanted something from you?”

“Hey!” Tears demanded.

“Then when she had her period or discovered she wasn’t getting what she wanted, how bitchy she got? Think of that only more so with the werewolf.” She kissed me hard and said, “Damn! You are such a fool at times. How did you ever survive puberty?”

“I didn’t. I got beat up by the other boys until I ran away to Africa to hunt for King Solomon’s mines.”

“So that was the beginning of your avoiding a problem. No wonder you never talk things through with me.”

It took hours to search the entire fortress but found nothing else save some bones and a lot of loot. “These guys may be in it for the cannibalism but they don’t seem to have turned down any of the wealth.” So we dragged the dead werewolves outside and downwind, covered the bodies with salt and anything we could find that would burn and sent them off with whatever exorcisms we could remember. While they were burning, we sprinkled holy water throughout the fortress and settled in the cleanest rooms there as we counted and divided the treasure we found.

Tears laughed at this, “Somehow, we make more money killing monsters than we do killing and protecting people. Soon, I’ll be the wealthiest Amazon in Russia.”


VIII
REST

Most of the gear we found we buried in one of the rooms, taking only the gold and silver and anything that looked magickal and useful and wouldn’t hold us down. Some of the spell-crafts we burned with the bodies like an ointment that we believed was the basis for their transformation and a lot of the drugs. The latter brought complaints from both Diane and Fiona as I burned the Hashish for both had grown up experimenting with drugs in Chicago and resented loosing such a stash though I hated all drugs save wine.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that Moslems claim that they don’t drink. Yet, we’ve never had any trouble finding wine or beer here. Why is that?” Fiona asked, taking a drink of a bottle we found.

I laughed and reached for the bottle. “Mormons claim they don’t drink or smoke but look at who visits the stores and what they buy across the street from the temples in Salt Lake City. Catholics claim they never cheat but look at who their kids don’t resemble. Japanese claim that they don’t eat meat yet beef is high priced and bought often. People never let religion get between them and their habits. Even vegetarians swallow I hear.” This last brought some groans from the two Americans.

“And you, Jason,” Diane asked settling into the crook of my arm, “What do you do that you aren’t supposed to?”

“I, my dear, try very hard to never make a promise I cannot keep and try very hard to be loyal to my friends and family.”

“You are avoiding the question. Even now you stare at Fi. Do you want her?”

“Irrelevant my love for I am with you.”

“Again, you are avoiding the question.”

“That is as close to an answer that you will get. But so long as we are together, she is off-limits. But, my love, I am still a man and reserve the right to look so long as I keep my hands to myself.”

“Thank you for that and I’ll take that as a promise. But I’m drunk. Both on wine and power for we did today something that no one else could do. We single handedly destroyed a lair of a dozen werewolves that terrified the local cities, police and armies so I’ll say this once and never again. Fi enjoyed your time together and although she doesn’t like sex as often as I do, sometimes she gets the itch and I’d rather it be with you than some flea-bitten camel herder who has who-knows-what disease. Just don’t do it too often or leave me for her.”

“What?” I asked but she was snoring by now.

Tears took another drink, her capacity for alcohol was amazing and asked, “What about me? Don’t I get any?”

Then Fiona leaned over, unbuttoned a couple buttons to reveal her cleavage and asked, “Well, now you have permission, want to?”

I could feel myself turning red and stammered, “She’ll kill me. You she loves but she’ll kill me. Fiona, I find you the most incredible woman ever, sexy, brilliant and unbelievable in bed but… Diane was drunk and didn’t know what she was saying.”

Both laughed and Fiona laughed the most, “I was only joking you idiot. If I want you, I’ll take you in a bed, not a dirty room that was used for who knows what by the werewolves.”

I’m glad it was dark for I was relieved. The truth is that I did want Fiona, not as a lover but as a bed-mate and adventuring comrade. So I took another drink and with Diane’s head in my lap, fell asleep leaning against the wall with sword nearby.

Somehow we made it through the night without injury or attack. We either killed or drove away all the werewolves so the fortress was now safe, though far more run down this morning that it was the night before. So we packed our gear and loot, buried the rest intending to use it as a cache in need and returned to Amman to report and collect our pay. Then we checked on our charge, told her we’d leave in the morning and headed for a hot bath.

At first the merchants didn’t want to pay us. They insisted that without proof they couldn’t be certain that we had succeeded… that is until Tears shot one of her silver arrows threw a pomegranate that Diane tossed out a window and I sliced another one into eight pieces, with my eyes closed. Then I said, “Did you not trust our honesty and skill, you’d not have hired us. You see that our skill is as you believed, now I suggest that you believe the same of our honesty.”

They paid.

I do admit that for the first couple days I watched the road behind waiting for ambush but I guess we scared the merchants enough and we had no untoward incident. So for the next week we traveled to Damascus, telling our stories, singing songs and never mentioning what Diane had said at Al-Muwaqqar. A few days on the road I was bathing with the girls when Nura’s maids approached, bowing low and asking, “Lord, we have heard of your victory over the werewolves and other bandits and .. .well, if you need your back washed, please call us,” they giggled.

I was about to tell them ‘no thank you, I’m fine’ when Diane came from the water, still naked, and yelled at them, “You ahhlass koos, gahba, ahbe! Khanzeera al matina! Get out and stay away from my husband or I’ll cut your tits off and feed them to the wolves!” They ran screaming.

When she returned, I asked, “What was that about?”

“You are such an idiot! Stay away from them. Now kiss me my love.”

Nura’s maids hid whenever Diane appeared but there were no further incidents so we arrived in Damascus, turned her over to her fiancée who paid us his share of the fee plus our combat bonus for defeating the raiders and werewolves (he wasn’t fool enough to dispute our words) and then spent the next week in the best that Damascus had to offer.

“So, what now?” Fiona asked.

I was afraid to answer for the last time a woman asked me that question, I got hit and raped and frankly, like any smart Irishman, I was terrified of Diane. I was bigger than she but that wouldn’t stop a cast-iron skillet when I was asleep as my father learned one night. So I looked at Diane who laughed, “My love, you are so whipped. If you weren’t so brave and good in the filed, I might loose my respect for you. Where do we go next?”

I thought a moment then suggested, “Next week, Baghdad? Tonight, bed!” And kissed my ‘wife’s’ willing lips.

END



To contact me or to request topics to be covered, send to RikJohnson@juno.com
by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
Tucson, Az.
85717


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