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Blood & Earth

The pirate continued, "If no use to my lusts, yet might she gain us costly gifts."
"So:" I hated this guttural throat-clearing language, not least due to the need to
make each statement a declamation. "Might not I also gain you gifts?"
"Know this: The true man rejoices not in wealth alone, but in deeds of boldness—
the quelling of adverse life and the desolation of lands. Yet give up the dirt female—this
woman of Earth—and your death shall be speedy. Thus say I, Bahkælt."
How wonderful. But I signaled agreement, remembering not to nod—for such meant
negation here—but rotating my head as though relieving a stiff neck.
"Thus I bring her."
I stepped to the cockpit where Vera Dardani lay prone and stiff with fear—
shanghaied by me, and now facing capture by these savages. Reaching down for her, I
continued the bend into a dive to the deck.
The archer's bolt skimmed my bare back as I snarled at the little witch who'd put
me in this position.
"Now will you give me that pistol?"
She made no response, and I snatched the automatic from her flaccid hand.
Wriggling under the deck, I laid my right eye against a sliver of light between shrunken
planks of the aft starboard side. The pirate chief was starting to edge along the
outrigger's rear boom, and no doubt the crossbowman was climbing to a vantage where
he could shoot at my lower frame. No time to think of that.
I brought the muzzle up to the crack, resting the barrel against my temple and
trying to aim by kinetic sense. The discharge half -deafened me as the bullet plowed the
crack wider. Muzzle blast blinded my right eye, and the left snapped shut in
excruciating sympathy.
Chapter 2 — Welcome Aboard
Curled into fetal position under the deck, I tried to convince my good eye to open,
but the right was closed so tightly the left refused to obey. And now the girl began to
"Are you hit?" I shouted.
The screaming continued.
Prying open my left eye, I managed to make out through tears that no blood
spurted, although a bolt stuck deep in the boar ds near her hip.
"Shut up! You're not hit!"
She screeched on.
I raised my head and blearily made out the bowman on top of the pirate deckhouse.
His bolt clipped the top of the combing at the right place to take out my teeth, had they