They reached the center of the camp in time to see the last of the protectors fall. Lilavati pulled out an arrow and shot the first abomination she saw. Manas and his men, and many others who’d been defending the boundary, rushed forward and engaged the creatures before they could kill too many of those who were unable to defend themselves.
Lilavati tuned out her fear for Odilie and Magda. She simply focused on shooting. Her world narrowed to dodging attacks and killing those things that meant her and her loved ones harm.
It wasn’t until there were no more targets that she came out of her fog. As she caught her breath, a small human threw herself at her legs. “Ama’ana, you saved father. You saved us. You made the bad things die,” Magda said.
Lilavati stared down at her. She took several deep breaths and slung the bow over her shoulder. She knelt down and hugged Magda. “I said I would not let him die,” she said, kissing Magda’s forehead. “But why are you here and not with Odilie?”
Tears filled Magda’s eyes. “A woman killed her during the fight,” she said.
“What woman?” Lilavati asked sharply.
“Aunt Vera,” Magda whispered.
Lilavati stood. She took Magda’s hand. “Come, we must find your father,” she said.
Manas was getting his wounds tended by Ariane. “Katali, are you hurt?” he asked.
“I am uninjured as far as I know,” Lilavati said. “However, we need to deal with a traitor, and in my present mood I will do it myself.”
“Who?” Manas asked.
“Vera,” Lilavati said. “She killed Odilie in the chaos of the battle.”
“Are you sure?” Manas asked.
“I saw her do it,” Magda said. “She told me if I told you or ama’ana, she’d kill me too. But I had to tell you. I can’t let her kill anyone else.”
“How are you going to dispense justice, Great Lady?” Ariane asked.
Lilavati turned and faced the gathered servants and guards.She scanned the area. It took her a moment before she found Vera. The woman was standing off to the side. She smirked at Lilavati, fingering the bloody knife in her hand. She openly taunted Lilavati, as if telling her to prove the other woman’s crime. Lilavati pulled out an arrow and shot her. The missile flew true and pierced her heart. Vera fell without a sound.
Her death didn’t go unnoticed. Many of those around her turned towards Manas and Lilavati. “You’re going to have to explain her execution, katali,” Manas said.
“I am aware of this,” Lilavati said. I will do so now. I am leaving Magda with you and Ariane.”
“We’ll keep an eye on her,” Manas said.
Magda attached herself to her father’s leg as Lilavati walked back into the crowd. Lilavati knew she had to look a mess. She too was covered in blood. Several of the abominations were killed beside her and their blood and guts splattered against her. She slid gracefully past everyone until she was in the center of the milling crowd.
“Great Lady, why did you kill Vera?” someone shouted, her voice a little shrill.
“Vera was a traitor,” Lilavati said. “She made an attempt on my daughter’s life during the chaos. Odilie sacrificed her life to save Magda’s, and I will not allow such a murderess to live. I cannot permit her to remain and put the child’s life at risk.”
“How do you know what happened?” someone else asked.
“Magda told us what happened,” Lilavati said. “My beloved has also been informed many times that the woman sought a way to harm him in some vital way. The slaying of his daughter would indeed be the most damaging way possible, especially since I have chosen to recognize her as my own as well.”
“Great Lady, isn’t it up to the Great Lord to dispense justice?” the first woman asked.
“The Great Lady stands as equal to the Great Lord in most things,” Dieter said, coming forward. His face was twisted in sadness. “This is one of them. She has the right to choose the punishment for anyone who breaks the laws of the lord. Vera was a traitor. The Great Lady dealt with her in the appropriate manner.”
“Return to their tents to rest,” Lilavati said. “Those with strong stomachs, or an interest in the anatomy of these abominations, remain behind. We must clear the bodies before dark. We do not know what else will be drawn to them.”
The remaining soldiers began hauling bodies away. Several of the other servants, including the cook and his assistants, helped. Dieter came up to her. “Great Lady, Odilie was one of my closest friends,” he said. “She was also well loved by the rest of those in our set. Can I take her body? We’ll bury her ourselves. She wouldn’t want a huge fuss made.”
“Of course,” Lilavati said. “Do let us know when and where you plan on doing it. We will wish to send her soul into the peace of the Twelve as well, and Magda will want to say goodbye.”
Dieter managed a quiet smile. “Odilie loved children and was ecstatic when you chose her to take care of Magda,” he said.
“Who would you recommend we select to care for her now? We cannot do so,” Lilavati said. “She may stay with us during the day, for the most part. At night it is not a good idea.”
Dieter nodded. “Let me see if any of the women in my set are willing to take up that job,” he said. “I’ll be able to answer that question soon.”
“Thank you, Dieter,” Lilavati said. “Your service is indispensable to us.”
“As long as you remember your promise when we reach Phiri Hu, I’ll take that as a compliment, Great Lady,” Dieter said. He headed off.
Lilavati returned to where Manas and Magda were sitting. “It has been done,” she said. “I have allowed Dieter to claim Odilie’s body. He will make the arrangements for her burial, keeping it to their circle of friends and us. He is also making inquiries as to who would be willing to be Magda’s new caretaker.”
“You’re an amazing woman, katali,” Manas said.
“Ama’ana, you’re going to someplace called the Halls of the Damned, aren’t you?” Magda asked.
“I am,” Lilavati said. “Your father and I must pass through them in order to secure passage for all of us so we can get home.”
Magda looked at her solemnly. “You will meet someone there that will tell you many secrets that you didn’t know, and that will make you very sad.”
to be continued…