Feel the Burn Page 117

Gaius finally found the strength to laugh. “You are really loving that name.”

“I am.”

“It fits her,” said another voice.

Gaius looked up, rearing back a bit. “You.” He watched the soldier for hire he’d met on the road a few days ago walk around him.

“Me.”

“You sent me to gold mines,” Kachka said.

“I did.”

“Why?”

“Just being helpful.”

“Who are you?” Gaius asked.

“Just call me Eir. Oh! I have something for you.” She removed a sword from the scabbards strapped to her back and handed it him.

It was a gladius. Rather plain. But a very sweet gesture.

“Thank you, but you don’t—”

“Please. Take it. Make good use of it.” She walked over to Kachka, held out her hand. “Give me the eyes.”

Kachka stared at the soldier, eyes narrowing. “No.”

“It’s all right, Kachka,” Gaius told her.

“How can it be all right?”

He gave a small smile, now fully understanding who this friendly neighborhood soldier-for-hire truly was. “It just is. Trust me.”

“All this trouble . . .” She pulled the leather bag from her boot and handed it over to the woman.

“Thank you,” she said. “And good luck to you both.”

She walked off and they watched her until Gaius asked Kachka, “How did you get down here so fast?”

Frowning, she shrugged. “I have no idea.” Kachka studied the ground at her feet. “And this,” she said, gesturing with her hands, “was hot and covered in flame.”

“Right. To melt the gold.”

“But now it is cool. And eyes are gone with brown woman.”

“Yes.”

“Because she is a god, is she not?” Kachka finally asked.

“Yes. I believe she is.”

“She looks like Izzy and Talaith. Are they gods too?”

“No.”

“But she was?”

“Yes.”

“I think you are right. There is something about her . . . But why did she give you sword?”

“Because I gave her one when I thought she was a poor soldier for hire.”

“You made an offering to a god and she gave you a plain boring sword you could get at any blacksmith?”

Gaius opened his claw and studied the sword. “Apparently.”

“That is disappointing.”

“It is.” Gaius got to his back claws, stretched his sore neck again. “We should get back to Brannie and Aidan.”

“Doubt they need us but . . . sure.” She gestured to Gaius. “Did you know you were covered in pieces of gold?”

“Oh.” He glanced at the gold that had hardened on his scales. “Go over there,” he told her, gesturing to a large crucible about fifty feet away.

Kachka did and Gaius dropped to all fours, covered himself in flames, and did a good dog-shake to get all the gold off.

Once done, he lowered himself to the ground. “Get on.”

“You will let me ride your back like horse?”

“No. I am not a horse. I am a dragon and king. So shut up and get on my back.”

And using his hair to climb onto him, Kachka teased, “And such a moody king.”

The battle was still raging in the cavern when Kachka returned with a now-human Gaius, plus Marina and Zoya.

“There,” Kachka told Gaius. “Many of your kind to kill with your new gods-given sword.”

He lifted the blade, studied it. “Yeah. I guess.”

“Maybe it is magickal sword,” Marina suggested. “One with great power.”

Gaius slashed the blade through the air a few times before shaking his head and admitting, “It’s not a magickal sword.”

“No,” Kachka and her comrades agreed.

Brannie slammed a dragon down on the ground and rammed her sword into his neck. Once he stopped moving, she stood, searching for another victim. But she saw Gaius and Kachka first.

“You made it!” she said.

Gaius nodded at two dragons. “See those two over there?”

Brannie nodded. “Aye.”

“They’re my cousins and loyal to Vateria. Kill them both.”

“Okay,” Brannie said, rather happily.

“She likes her job,” Marina noted.

Gaius agreed. “She really does.”

The suns were high in the sky by the time they made it out of the mountain on the Southland side. Gaius expected a great battle to still be raging. Instead, he found a massacre.

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