An Evening's Divertissement
An Evening’s Divertissement
The wound was fatal. She knew that, had no question. She had dealt such wounds by the thousands. Her opponent had stabbed true, his blade finding his mark.
But he hadn't gotten to Alexi. Her beautiful, strong, and noble Alexi. He was safe. She went to one knee as her blood gushed from her body, dizzy with the sudden weakness. It put her closer to her enemy's body, his head half hewn from his body, his eyes glassy and open. Gasping in agony, she pulled the knife from her body and went to her other knee.
Swaying she spat on her opponent and was vaguely surprised to see it tinged pink. Da, it truly was a fatal wound. There was a roaring in her ears and she realized that her vision was tunneling.
Goodbye, my love, she thought. Live on, glorious one and shine upon all that meet you. I loved you.
She began to fall forward but was caught by strong arms. "Nyet!!" came Alexi's anguished cry. "Don't die, Svetlana! I love you!" He gathered her in his arms, cradling her tenderly, his jewel-like eyes intense on hers. She reached up, her bloody hands timidly touching the smooth perfection of his cheek, stroking the firm line of his jaw
"It's is too late, Angel moy. Poka, moya lubov." The darkness was coming. She could not see him clearly anymore, but could hear his sob.
"Svetlana! Stay with me!" And then his lips were on hers, warm and firm, the dazzling blue fire that was his magic running through her, healing her, energizing her. . .his love, bringing her back as his lips moved from tender to hungry, crushing her against his manly chest.
Billy stuck his head into the cabin. Svetlana was propped uncomfortably in an overstuffed, over fancy chair fitfully sleeping and quietly snoring. She was muttering something indecipherable Billy liked to think himself smarter than most, but Russian was still a mystery to him, even after the time in the Crimea.
“Will you listen to her, Pop?” he whispered as he moved silently over to the chair “It’s like she’s some sort of puppy wantin’ a rib bone.”
Pop snickered. “Rib bone weren’t what I was thinking she wanted.”
Billy leaned in close and whispered “Oy, Princess Svetty, Wakey Wakey, Night’s a-wastin’”
She continued to stir and murmur but otherwise didn’t react. Billy leaned back with a quizzical look on his tusks. Who’d have thought a bodyguard’d be such a heavy sleeper? This won’t do.
He switched to Colour Sergeant voice “OY!! On Your Feet Soldier!”
She was on her feet like a cat. Only a cat with glittering blue eyes and holding a deadly bit of razor sharp metal frozen just inches from his neck. Svetlana inhaled, her eyes narrowing as she returned sword and a knife that had materialized in her off hand back to their scabbards.
"Vat do you vant?" she said, her even voice betraying a bit of irritation.
Pop snickered softly. "’Bout lost yer head, Billie," he commented, his eyes shining with admiration.
Billy pulled his head back to stand little straighter (and get his neck a little further from the blade). That was a bit closer than I’d’ve liked.
He continued talking, now in a nonchalant fashion “Well, as it turns out Prince Eponymous and meself was thinking of heading to the local establishment for some suitable libations and perhaps some entertainment with the residents of this” He paused for a moment and pretended to look around with a dubious expression “Fair town and we thought you might accompany us. I’ve got a boxing match or two in mind and your presence would prove invaluable for what I ‘ave planned. Waddaya think?”
The Russian guard finally relaxed, raising a blond eyebrow before jerking her head at the door. "Lead on." She started forward and then frowned. "I am interested. How long were you there before I woke up?" she asked.
Billy grinned ruefully and looked back at Pop. “Long enough? eh, mate?” He turned back to Svetlana and extended a hand hauling her to her feet when she took it “Whatever you were dreamin’ ‘bout seems like you’re better off awake. Now, how about some watered drinks and fisticuffs?”
As she walked out of the cabin, Pop leaned elbowed Billy lightly. "What's a 'Polka Moya'? Some kinda dance?"
Billy spoke to his friend as quietly as possible as they threaded their way through the train,“ ‘Ell if I know Pop, Whadda I look like, some sort of bolshi dream translator? Anyway, I think she said ‘pooka’, not polka. Pooka’s somsorta goblin. All them Prettys is raised by goblins don’tchaknow.”
They stepped off of the train and into a foggy. cold night. A short distance away were the low stone buildings that constituted the town and the bar that served ‘those folk’ As they walked towards it Billy spoke up, “So, nothing too awful in that dream I hope? You were goin’ on a bit.”
She smiled lightly. "No. It was a lovely dream," she admitted, showing a rare bit of softness. She tossed a wave of golden hair back and straightened her shoulders. "You, Pop, is it? And you Billy? You buy first round of drinks right? I am lady, you know."
Billy pulled himself up to his full height “Well then, I suppose as ‘Proper gentlmn’ we should pay for your first drink.” He turned and looked at his companions, “But, the important thing is that we all know what our parts are.”
He clapped himself on the chest with an audible thump, “My part’s buyin the first drinks and then’ sayin that we’s lookin for Ben Jones, a mate of ours from the Crimea. Pretty sure he ain’t in ‘round here so, then I start challengin’ folks to fights any and all that’ll come. Me being from London, and an orc, I suspect we’ll get nearly the entire bar on it.”
He pointed at Pop. “You’re bettin’ for me and handlin side bets. That’s where the real money is anyway.”
Then he pointed at Svetlana, “Your job’s to bet against me on every fight. Get mad that I win. Then when there’s no more comers, you challenge me to a fight. The crowd’ll love it and we’ll empty the place of coin.”
She nodded curtly as Pop's mouth slid into the feral grin that tended to destroy the adorableness of his furry face. He rubbed his hands together gleefully, his brown eyes narrowing. "Fair bit of jink we'll get wi' this, Billy," he almost purred. Then guiltily he looked at Svetlana. "We'll share, of course." He stood on his tiptoes and looked into the blonde's eyes. "You can do another expression other than that, right? I can't fair tell if you're mad, happy or wot. And I feel as if we're mates, ya know? So can ya play angry?"
Svetlana stopped mid-stride. "Da," she stated with a big grin and sent the weasel flying with a roundhouse kick. "Now I am pleased. Can you see the smile from the ground?"
Pop wheezed and got to his feet. "Yah. I'm a believer. Regular Shakespearean actor you is." He glanced at Billy rubbing his midsection. "Gaw, she got a mean leg."
A ruddy skinned, curly haired, very drunk dwarf grabbed Billy’s coat sleeve, “I’m Ben Jones.”
This was the fifth ‘Ben Jones’ he had encountered since entering the bar. But this one, thought Billy, was perfect. He turned on the dwarf with a menacing scowl “Do I look like some sorta magic beer fairy despensin’ me love to the masses?” He yanked his sleeve from the dwarf’s grasp. “Piss off.”
At that moment Billie noticed his speech had adopted a bit of welsh cadence. It seemed particularly suited to short tempers. He turned to the crowd in the bar and projected his voice so that he could be heard over the din. “I said, I’m lookin’ for a Welsh ratty name a Ben Jones.”
With that proclamation, the bar became menacingly silent.
The Dwarf grabbed Billy’s arm again. “Ye sed ye had beer for Ben Jones an I’m Ben Jones.”
“I said I was looking for a ratty. You a rat?” he audibly sniffed. “Yeh kind of smell like one.”
“I aren’t no Ratty,” the dwarf growled. “An’ what’re ye sum kinda midget ogre?”
Billy felt the blood throb in his temples and his vision sharpen at the insult. I was right. Perfect.
He slammed his mug onto the counter just hard enough to break off the handle, which he palmed. “I’m a Stone skinned son ‘o Grendel is what I am.”
He loudly cracked his knuckles. “Tell you what, son.” He turned to the publican and made a gesture that could be interpreted either as ordering two beers or as a grave insult, particularly in Wales. The bartender began drawing pints. “If you’re still standing when my mate finishes one pint, then you can have the other.”
“I ain’t yur son an I’ll have that beer.”
Smoothly, Svetlana began to sidle up to the larger betters as Pop nodded his head at them, smiling sweetly. "Surely, you can't believe that a miniature, soft, city-bred ogre is as wonderful as one of your own. I bet on the dwarf." She held up her mug. "You're soft. No son of Grendel!"
‘Ben Jones’ first punch went wild and Billy easily dodged allowing the dwarf to stumble past him. He scanned the room quickly. No one was looking likely to either break up the fight or gang up on him. All good so far. Betting underway.
Pop nodded to Billy as he finalized the late bets and closed the window.
On his second try Jones charged, head down not even trying to punch. This time Billy tripped him as he passed and punched him in the right kidney before he could get up. That’s gonna hurt come the ‘morrow.
Svetlana booed and Pop just laughed. Too busy counting out the money and marking bets, he had quickly amassed a pile of bits of grubby paper and a nubbin of charcoal to make marks as well as a nice pile of cash.
He bit one coin and then yelled, "Watch yer knees, boyo! Dwarves bite. You might get an infection!"
There’s the high sign. Time to end this. Billy’s opponent continued to charge, now swearing in some strange combination of English and Welsh like an obscene Pentecostal . This time, Billy kicked the dwarf in the stomach viciously as he passed and then slammed his head into a chair when he failed to fall over. That should do it.
The room was silent for a moment as Jones briefly returned to his feet before collapsing on the floor.
Svetlana erupted in a flurry of Russian, angry and annoyed as she paid her money to the happy weasel. Stalking to the bar, she slammed down her drink and ordered another, muttering to herself. Pop played the generous master of the money, commiserating with the losers and celebrating with the winners as he worked the exchanges.
Billy walked backed to the bar and grabbed the other beer. “Anyone else? He announced taking a drink. “I’ll fight any and all.”
It wasn’t until the fourth challenger that someone finally insisted that Billy take off his coat. Prior to that none of the blows landed had even caused a bruise.
The second challenger had been a gnome and obvious mate of the dwarf, just as drunk and even less skilled. Billy had to avoid defeating him until bets had been taken.
The Third was a human boy out to impress a fawn furred barmaid. Taller and faster than the first two opponents he actually lasted longer. Billy waited until Pop gave him the high sign before felling the lad with a blow to the eye that would leave an impressive bruise but do no lasting damage. He was in a chair in the corner now, head cradled in the maid’s lap as she made much over the purpling bruise. Just a little match maker, I am.
The fourth would likely awaken tomorrow with his head pressed into a fresh dent in the bar’s foot rail, likely wondering how he got there. A goat beastman, he’d obviously been in a scrap or two, and the horns had been a bit of a challenge, but the minute he’d drawn a knife Billy put him down hard with a knee to the bollocks followed by a head slam into the bar rail that knocked the man unconscious.
The next fighter was a Bull headed beastman, nearly as large as an ogre, but smarter and faster. He’d loudly insisted that Billy take off his belt before starting and then attempted a kidney punch while the orc’s back was turned. He dodged, but got an elbow in the ribs for his trouble.
As he rolled away Billy quickly scanned the crowd and noticed two things. The first was Pop signing to end the fight as quickly as possible. The second was another dwarf who was in the process of quietly leaving the bar.
Had this been a fight at Ten Bells, it might well have been Billy sneaking out; prepping an ambush for the winning boxer.
Pop saw it too. He kept an eye peeled to see who else went for the door, and motioned for Svetlana to come closer. He mouthed the number that he had seen so far and the ice blue eyes narrowed as she nodded. She adjusted the knives in her boots and then smiled, patting her sword. Frowning a little, Pop blinked. It wouldn't be good for business to leave an alleyway of headless corpses. He'd seen the woman fight. Hell, he'd seen all her like fight. Short of hitting her with a cannon ball or dropping a ceiling of rocks on those women's heads, there was little that could stop them. T'was one of their more charming traits in his opinion.
Another punch, this one aimed at the face. Billy ducked, feinted a punch to the stomach while aiming knee to the groin. It missed but Billy kept moving getting momentarily past his opponent. Ending this fight quick might be easier said than done.
They exchanged several more rounds of blows. The bull was strong, but lacked finesse and he telegraphed his punches. Eventually, Billy grabbed a nearby chair and broke it across the head of the Beastman, who lowered his head and charged horns first. Billy dodged again and the Bull rammed into one of the roof supports, shaking the entire building. Before he could recover, Billy felled him an elbow strike to the base of the skull. Just like at the knackers.
Billy stood and slowly looked across the room. “Is there no one else to fight me?” He boomed.
Svetlana pushed herself off the bar, feigning drunkenness as she stumbled forward towards the orc. "None of you pathetic Englishers are good enough to beat him. I can." Wrapping her hand in her long hair, she twisted it back from her face and pushed a comb in it to hold it in place. Walking as much as stumbling, she made her way to the weasel's table and smiled. "I bet on myself," she told him and put down a gold coin.
Pop grinned and bit it, putting down with a laugh. "Git on with ya," he jeered. "That ol' thing over there will make quick work of your pretty pretty face." He nodded to Billy. 'Take this one on? The Russky thinks she can take you down."
Billy looked at his friend sheepishly, Billy stood grinning back ruefully. "I'll bet she does." And I bet she will. The only way I win this is by outlasting her 'til she runs outta magic. He patted his friend on the shoulder. “Just make sure I'm up and 'round before you walk outta here."
He slowly turned his head left and right, the vertebrae audibly cracking, then dropped to a fighting stance. "Alright. Let's go."
Svetlana gave Billy a wolfish smile as she took off her sword and laid it on the weasel's table. Striding up to the orc, she raised her fists. "C'mon beauty. Let's see what England has to offer that is a man."
Billy hopped in place a couple of times to get the blood pumping and then quickly turned to Pop. “Hey Poppy,” he whispered. “’Ow long do I need this fight to last?”
Pop shrugged. "Long enough to make it good?" he hissed. "Ask her. If she's in the mood, she might let you hit her once or twice."
“I ain’t gonna ask and she ain’t gonna stop me,” Billy replied with slightly more confidence than he felt.
He sized up his opponent before engaging. They’d practiced with swords earlier, so he knew what to expect somewhat. He was slightly taller than the Russian, heavier and had a longer reach, but she was faster, much faster and unlike the bar patrons she preferred fighting dirty. The fact that her speed and strength came from magic might be useful if he could make fight last long enough, but he doubted a bunch of drunken coal miners would put up with that. Best to get in my licks while I can.
Svetlana lightly balanced on her toes, stepping around Billy as she sized him up. Then as she seemed to be on the edge of disinterest, she exploded with a roundhouse kick straight to his midsection. Springing out of it, she then drove into him with a series of punches. He could tell she wasn't holding back; those blue eyes had gone somewhere while she had pondered for a moment and where she was, she weren't happy.
Svetlana's kick was strong and unavoidable. Billy didn't even try to dodge. He took it so he could roll inside her guard to deliver a backwards head butt to her jaw and followed up with a finger strike to her hamstring. Either blow would have left a normal person crippled or unconscious.
She ain't playin', so neither am I.
The thigh strike landed, but he received an open palm strike to his ear that had him seeing stars. He pushed himself back, hard so that they both collided with one of the tables before she could react.
She grunted hard as they crashed into the tables; more agile on his feet than she had remembered, the orc had twisted to make certain that he used her as cushion as they landed. Laughing, Svetlana swore and used their closeness to elbow him in the nose and wrap strong legs around his ribs. Her lip was cut and her grin was red as she struggled to hold him tight for a few rabbit punches.
The head blows where bad enough, but the legs threatened to squeeze the wind out of him. Billy leapt back randomly using the Russian as a battering ram until she leapt off with a final kick that sent Billy staggering to into a mob of bar patrons.
His whiskers were twitching. Pop knew that his friend and the Russian would cheerfully beat one another senseless. But based on the number of henchmen that had gone outside to waylay them, he wanted at least on of the combatants fresh enough to fight off the would-be thieves. He whistled low and sharp to get Billy’s attention, hoping that Svetlana was smart enough to take the clue. They had put on a good show, but they still needed to get home with the jink and their lives.
Her eyes cut to Pop and she nodded as the weasel jerked his head at the door with the slightest of motions. Sighing, she straightened her jacket and reached out a hand to help the orc to his feet. She was enjoying this fight; she had needed this fight. It took her mind off him. The beautiful, the unobtainable, glorious man that was Alexi.
Billy caught the high sign, but he wasn't quite willing to give up the fight just yet and Svetlana had that crazed, blood smeared look on her face that was almost endearing. Her outstretched hand might be a feint but if it was he'd be at least close enough to get a good punch in. He reached up to grasp it at the wrist.
She couldn't understand at all what Alexi saw in the beast girl. Not that they were repulsive; Evie was mildly attractive as was the weaselman. Why didn't those two mate? Svetlana's eyes narrowed again as Billy took her wrist and she gave a helpful pull. She was strong, beautiful, well made. She was Eldren. What did Alexi not see worthy in her? She would be more than decorative on his arm. She, Svetlana, would also be his guard. She could care for him, love him, protect him. . .worship him! She was the one worthy of his attention, his soul, his love. Why?! She could be Alexi Kalishnakov's princess! Why didn't he love her?! Why?!
As he slowly rolled himself back to his feet, Billy got close enough to become slightly exhilarated by the smell her blood as well as his in his nostrils. Svetlana had this odd look on her face; more like a street corner preacher than a boxer. What’s up with that?
Eyes like jewels, skin like velvet, red hair like fire, Alexi was hers! She inhaled, her eyes alight, her nostrils flaring as the orc levered himself up. Looking into his face without seeing him, she growled abruptly, pulling him hard against her, slamming her forehead into his. "Why don't you love me?!" she bellowed, letting go of Billy as he was propelled violently from her and whipped towards Pop.
The weasel scrambled out of the way of the felled orc, scooping the big bowl of coin with under his jacket. "Bloody hell!" he muttered, dodging into the crowd for protection. It was time to go.
Though unconscious on the floor, a small part of Billy's mind was trying to translate what Svetlana had said. It was certain that whatever she’d said must have been in Russian and he was just mishearing. "Why don't you love me?" It couldn't be. It didn’t make sense.
That small portion of his mind was still working though its limited knowledge of Russian and French when the half a mug of Stout was thrown into his face.
Billy sat up and shook his head spraying dots of stale dark beer and orc blood around the room. His mouth tasted like sweat and blood and his head felt like a horse had kicked him.
He glanced around the room. Pop was gone as were most of the patrons, but Svetlana was there to help him up. He looked at her quizzically as he began levering himself to his feet. "Ow long was I out?"
She gave a slight, dismissive shrug. "Just a moment," she stated, her face an expressionless mask. Around them, the remaining patrons were going back to their drinks and she jerked her head at the door. "The veasel has gone. Time for us to go, sleeping beauty." She held out an arm for him to lean on.
Billy reached for the outstretched hand hoping it wasn’t a repeat of her previous ploy. “Gimme a minute and we should ‘ead ‘ome.” As he got fully to his feet the room began spinning and fell against the Russian. He shook his head for a moment. “That was some whack you gave me. Are you ok, givin’ me a hand ‘til the room decides to stop gyratin’??”
"Not at all." She got under his shoulder, gathering his weight without a grunt. "Valk slowly to the door." Svetlana gave an inner sigh, hoping that she understood what the weasel had indicated. Hopefully, he'd be there. Either that, or she and the orc were hardly done fighting for the evening. There had been three surly opponents that she had either seen leave to waylay them or the weasel had indicated had gone. And Billy didn't seem in any shape to handle much more than walking. "C'mon malchick, before they decide that they have been set up," she breathed in his ear, moving him slowly.
“They ‘ave been set up,” Billy whispered through swollen lips. “We’ve been too’s my guess..” He lifted his weight off her slightly and then slumped back. “Let’s just keep walking like this.” He carefully opened the pub door. “But if there’s a fight, just let me go. I’ll take care of meself.”
The chilly fog wasn’t the only thing to greet them outside. In it counted five thugs, two short, dwarfish sized and three more normal ones. I’d be insulted if I weren’t so beat up.
“Ye’ll jus’ be handin’ o’er tha coin if ye ken was guid fer ye” said one of the dwarfish sized figures. Sounded more Scottish than Welshy.
Svetlana just laughed, her eyes bright. "Please go before you die," she stated gently.
The Scotsdwarf and his companions cocked their pistols. “I don’ think so lass. No one's gonna miss a few English townies that were silly enough to go drinkin in Wales.”
Deeper in the fog Billy saw a movement that put a smile on his face that cracked the recently formed scabs around his mouth. Right on Time. Just gotta play my part.
Billy pulled himself up off of his companion for a moment and tried to look simultaneously scary and pathetic. “You know Svetty, it's times like this that you need a fresh weapon to take care of problems.”
“Wha, you an’ yuir bird?” The dwarf said incredulously. “Give us the money or we’ll hole you.”
Billy smiled his most blood curdling smile. “No, give us your money and you can walk away.”
"Oy, let's just take 'em. They're dinna gonna put up much of a fight. Lookit them."
In the dark, Pop's whiskers twitched as he snuck up on the brigades. Dirty thieves! he thought. Can't trust 'em.
His round, brown eyes narrowing, he smiled tightly, putting a pistol at the base of the necks of two of the dwarves, cocking the guns with loud clicks followed by two muffled booms as he pulled the triggers. Spinning, he put the guns on the remaining group. "Git on before you die," he announced calmly, his face spattered with blood. He licked it casually with a feral smile and then fired again, dropping a third man with cold precision.
He nodded to the street and stated flatly, “Oops,sorry. Got a little excited.” His whiskers twitched as he continued. “I’d go if I were you two.” The two remaining men didn’t argue and Pop grinned as they ran off. “We’d better be going too,” he commented, pocketing the pistols. “My lovelies aren’t quiet when they speak.”
"Poppy, son you’re gettin soft,” Billy chuffed as he wandered over to one of the bodies. “Well, let's see what they had on 'em."
“Is that vise?” Svetlana asked. “Rat is right. Guns are noisy. Ve should go before authorities come.”
Pop frowned at her and then shrugged. “She oughta go, Billy. We did promise her no international like incident. Ain’t like she needs us to guard her.” He was well into looking through a dwarf’s pocket, appraising each item before disappearing them into his own pockets.