Pervikar Ch. 12byJohnEvans©
The war of words had been going on for over a week and it grated on Per's nerves. Cendri and Gedda's loathing for one another had degenerated from ignoring one another to one-upmanship to name-calling. When Octavia who was riding point looked back in disgust, Per decided to put an end to it.
"Camp!" he called out.
Pawl rode up and asked, "What's the matter, Per? It's only midday."
"Those two," said Per with a snarl and a jerk of his thumb towards Cendri and Gedda, who were staring daggers at each other. "I should have stopped this earlier. I am going to stop it now."
"Praise to the Gods!" sighed Pawl in mock humility, while meaning it at the same time.
Both Cendri and Gedda were still on their horses glaring at the other when Per walked between them. The girls shrieked in fright as he grabbed each one by the arm and pulled them out of their saddles. The horses whinnied and bolted off as Per dragged the two girls on the ground and over to a convenient boulder. Per sat down and threw both girls over his leg. He crossed his other leg over top of them to hold them in place as he quickly divested them of all weapons.
"I warned you what would happen if you caused me trouble," Per snarled to them.
"Let me up, you big oaf," said Gedda angrily.
"You two could be heard from a mile away," said Per, ignoring Gedda. "You've endangered us all."
Per grabbed the top of Cendri's pants and yanked downward hard. The pants resisted for a moment and then split down both sides to hang down like a flap, exposing Cendri's round ass. Both girls struggled to get free, but could not prevail against Per's strength and weight. Per was so angry he did not even pause to admire Cendri's pale ass sticking up in the air. Karlto and Pawl took one quick glance and then went over to help Octavia set up camp. The look on Per's face made them decide to put a little distance between them. Per raised his hard calloused hand and brought it down flat against Cendri's round cheeks.
Cendri screamed as Per's hand slapped hard against her ass. Tears sprang forth from her eyes as Per spanked her a second time. Gedda was literally clawing at the dirt as she attempted to get away. Per administered a full twenty spanks to Cendri's butt. By the time he was finished, her ass was bright red with handprints and Cendri was sobbing in pain.
Per grabbed Gedda's pants and ripped them off completely. Gedda tried to dig her fingernails into Per's thigh, but stopped when the first spank jarred her whole body. Gedda's ass was much slimmer than Cendri's, but it glowed just as red when Per finished spanking her. Both girls were crying as Per stood up and dumped them on the ground.
"Go! Get redressed and pitch your tents!" Per yelled at them.
The girls stood up, still crying in pain and went to set up their tents. Karlto, Pawl and Octavia all nodded their approval to Per before continuing on with their work. Per sat back down on the boulder to allow his anger to subside. It was a short while later before Cendri and Gedda approached him, moving stiffly and grimacing as they walked. They stood still, silently waiting in front of Per.
"What?" asked Per sullenly.
"We've come to apologize," stated Cendri.
"What is it with you two?" Per asked them. "Honestly?"
Cendri and Gedda looked at each other and then at Per ashamedly.
"Class differences?" suggested Gedda, telling Per that they really did not know.
Per stared at them. He felt it welling up inside of him and before he could stop it, it came out.
"Are you two crazy?" he laughed heartily. "That's it? You two really don't know?" and he broke down laughing as the two girls hung down their heads. "Alright, the rivalry stops now," said Per, once he stopped laughing. "It's dangerous to us all. Go help Octavia with supper. Hold on, Gedda. Wait a minute. Go on ahead, Cendri."
Gedda waited as Cendri limped off. She then turned back towards Per.
"You never said you would join us. Are you with us or just tagging along for the ride?" asked Per. "Gedda, remember I said you are free to come and go as you wish. It's the same for Cendri. Do you really hate her so much?"
"Strange question to ask about me joining you," grimaced Gedda as she gingerly placed her hands on her sore ass, "especially after you beat me." Gedda shook her head. "I'm sorry. No, I don't hate Cendri. It's just that superior attitude of hers. I grew up with no mother or father. I was raised on the streets by beggars, thieves and cutthroats. I can't read or write. Cendri was sent to school. Her father sent her away to be trained at a military academy. She has a look that makes me feel that I'm something that should have been set out with the garbage. Of course, her ego has taken several hits in the past week or so."
"Gedda, you didn't answer my first question," reminded Per. "No matter. I would guess that being sent away to a school might be as lonely as growing up on the street. Go help Octavia and send Cendri on over."
"Same pep talk?" asked Gedda.
"Nope and remember one thing, Gedda," Per paused until she looked at him inquiringly. "Cendri could have cut Bargan at any time with her sword, but she held back in fear of cutting you."
Gedda's eyes widened with the realization of the truth in Per's words. She quietly and reflectively went over towards the fire and sent Cendri over to Per. Cendri marched over to the boulder and stood at attention in front of him. Not a trace of pain showed on her face.
"Sir!" she barked as her heels clicked together.
Per picked up his shield and drew his sword. Standing at attention in front of her, Per raised Dorgeth in a salute and swung it down to his side. Cendri drew her own sword and followed suit. They both then crouched into an on guard position.
Per sparred with Cendri and, despite the painful spanking she had received, she was a superb swordswoman. Octavia was better, but only because she had more experience. Parry, thrust, slash, block and return – Cendri's moves were done with precision and timing. Per finally stepped back and saluted to end the bout.
Cendri returned the salute, but now her jaw was clenched in pain and sweat beaded up on her face. Per sheathed Dorgeth and sat back down on the boulder. He waved his fingers to indicate for Cendri to either sit or lay down. She sheathed her sword and went to parade rest.
"Cendri, relax," said Per.
"Sir!" she barked, maintaining her position.
"You've had excellent training. I could tell from our sparring," Per told her. "Did they drain all reason out of you? Was it so terribly lonely being sent away that you built this shell around yourself?"
Cendri eyes took on a scared, hunted look as if she felt that Per could see to the very core of her being. She heard the questions and saw the reflection of herself in them.
"Lay on the ground," said Per as he slid off the boulder to sit on the ground. "It probably hurts to sit and don't say ‘Yes, Sir!' okay?"
Cendri's face broke into a little smile as she gingerly laid down on her stomach. A sigh of relief escaped her lips as her sore muscles relaxed.
"Why do you hate Gedda?" asked Per.
"I don't hate her," admitted Cendri. "It's…It's that damned attitude of hers. She's so carefree and irresponsible. She doesn't care what she does as long as she has fun. I never saw my parents for months on end. It was drill, practice, drill and practice. I wanted to be the perfect soldier for my father."
"Funny," commented Per. "She is envious of your schooling because she can't read or write. You're envious of her freedom, even though she was raised not knowing a mother or father. As I said…funny. You both grew up unloved and you both want what you think the other has got. Do the two of you know anything at all about Octavia, Karlto or Pawl?"
"Per, can you excuse me?" asked Cendri, getting up slowly.
"Sure, I still have to set up my tent," he said.
Cendri walked over to Gedda and tapped her on the shoulder. The two of them then moved out of earshot from the rest of the group. They laid down on their stomachs, facing one another and began to talk. Karlto came over to help Per with his tent.
"I say, old chap, do you think they will get along?" asked Karlto as he drove a spike into the ground.
"Well, they aren't yelling anymore," stated Per. "I think those two have more in common than they know."
"Ah, Per…about Cific…" Karlto left the reference dangling.
"Yes?" asked Per, feigning innocence.
"Well, you know…about the…about the…You know what I mean!" stammered Karlto, trying to find the words.
"About what?" asked Per.
"Well, dash it! At least Pawl was willing to discuss it."
"If there is something troubling you about our stay in Cific, maybe you should talk it over with Octavia. I'm sure she can set you right," suggested Per.
Karlto looked over at Octavia and his face blanched.
"No, old boy, I think I'll just let the whole matter drop," he said.
"Wise decision," stated Per.
After dinner, Cendri and Gedda addressed the group.
"We just wanted to say how sorry we are for our behavior," said Cendri.
"Yes, it was inexcusable," added Gedda.
"No problem, ladies," said Karlto. "We've all made errors in judgment for time to time."
"Him, more than most," muttered Octavia loudly.
Karlto looked put out as everyone laughed at his expense. Per turned to Cendri and Gedda.
"There is one final punishment for you two," said Per. "One that will be more painful for the rest of us than you. Gedda, you need to read and write. Cendri, you are going to teach her."
"Me?" asked both girls in unison.
"There is a wealth of information out there in the form of books, parchments and scrolls, not to mention that most of it is valuable given the rarity of books. Pawl will immediately go to any books or scrolls we find. It helps him in his magical research. By the way, Gedda, do not touch any of his books without his permission. They could be dangerous to you."
"Books? Dangerous?" scoffed Gedda.
"It depends on whether you want to be turned into a frog or just burned to a crisp," replied Pawl with a no-nonsense look.
"I won't touch your books," said Gedda. "Just because we're in the same company."
"I think that's an admission that you've just joined us," said Per.
"Sounded like one to me," added Octavia.
Gedda grimaced at her slip and then shrugged her shoulders in acquiescence.
"What do I get out of teaching her?" asked Cendri. "You know all books are dangerous once you learn to read, not just the magical ones."
"Patience and, hopefully, a better understanding of people," said Per. "You are right about the danger of reading, but without it, no one can reach their full potential."
"Will you tell me about yourself?" asked Cendri, sitting down.
"Only if you two will tell me about yourselves," said Per.
Per told the tale of how his mother, Karina, was kidnapped by goblins and saved by Gar, an ogre. He related how Gar taught Karina to speak ogre and that they became lovers. Per told how Gar knew that he could not keep Karina with him and how he took her to Tenan, a ranger by profession, who then set up the pregnant Karina on a farm bought from gems left for her by Gar. Per related his adventures at Dosser under the influence of Baron Cedric and how Cedric was exiled by the Overlord. Per went on to tell how Queen Shara, the Overlord's wife and Cedric's aunt, had put a price on Per's head for interfering with her plans.
"Basically, I went adventuring to get away from the assassins," concluded Per. "My mother married Tenan, who became the new Baron of Dosser. I met these wonderful people roaming about, who decided to latch on to me."
"…and roaming around with him, we've all come to understand the old curse," stated Pawl. "May you live in interesting times."
"It's been interesting alright," agreed Octavia. She turned to the two women. "Yourselves?"
"Not much to tell about my life," said Cendri. "I was the last of six daughters. My father was a general and wanted a son. I pleaded with him to send me to military school. I guess it was to gain his attention. My other sisters all became ladies. My father did send me and it was six years before I saw my parents again. My father came by to see how I was doing and talked to the headmaster about my studies. Just before I graduated, he was killed in some far-off battle. I came home to have my mother inform me that she hated the military, hated the weapons, hated the smelly armor, and hated my father for what he had transformed me into. She then told me that I was going to become a lady and that she had arranged the perfect marriage for me. It was to take place in a month." Cendri took in a deep breath. "Well, I sort of went nuts. I was tired of being manipulated and I told her so. She informed me that when I came back to my senses that I would be welcomed back into her house. I guess I'm trying to find the real me."
"My story is not much more exciting," said Gedda as everyone turned to look at her. "Never knew my mother or father. I was raised by a burglar, who needed me to slip in between the bars on windows and ransack houses for him. He was caught by the sheriff's men outside one house I had just broken into. They dragged him off to die in prison after they searched the house for me. I crept into the nursery and into one of the empty beds. I guess they were looking for someone older because they mistook me for one of the owner's children. A cutthroat took over the burglar's residence and used me on a couple of his jobs to get inside and open doors for him. I was then passed from one person to the next depending on who needed my skills at the time. I'd have gotten Cendri's purse, too, if some woman had not bumped me into Cendri at the time."
"Maybe it was Aphrodite, my girl," said Karlto. "You were right outside her temple and maybe she did it so you would have to join us."
"Sorry," said Gedda flatly, "I don't believe any deity would be that interested in me."
"You never can tell," said Per. "I think we need to get some rest. Cendri, I want you to spar with Karlto tomorrow. Your training was very good, but your style is rigid and repetitious. That leaves you vulnerable to other styles of fighting. We have about two to three weeks until we reach the gorge."
It was a week later when they rode into a small village. Gedda was learning her letters as Cendri received a good lesson on patience. At times, Cendri could not understand why Gedda did not comprehend what was blindingly obvious to her. She found out that saying, "Because it is," did not work with Gedda who wanted to know exactly what something meant or did. Some of the starchiness went out of Cendri as she also learned that the why is as important as the how.
Cendri and Gedda also learned another painful lesson. The one that showed how good Per, Octavia and Karlto were. They were both routinely bashed out of their saddles by Octavia, thumped by Karlto and beaten into the ground by Per. Even Pawl got into the lesson, when Gedda angrily challenged him fro smiling at her when she was face down in the dirt. Pawl disappeared before her eyes and, while invisible, tied a rope around her legs and yanked her feet out from underneath her yet again. Cendri broke out laughing at Gedda's predicament and suddenly was frozen in place. Pawl released Cendri from the spell after a minute or two. The both learned and became better.
The village was a small hamlet with clean streets and well-tended houses. It was quaint, but Per saw that the people were watching them with suspicion. A couple of the townspeople watched them from behind closed windows as the group rode up the street. Gedda whispered that she saw the curtains move. No one smiled or greeted them all the way up to the inn.
"I say, unfriendly place," muttered Karlto to Per as they dismounted.
"I agree, but I'm tired of sleeping outdoors," replied Per. "It's only for one night."
They went into the inn and met the innkeeper. He greeted them in a neutral tone and squared the group away with rooms for them and stalls in the stable for their mounts. Per and his friends gathered in the taproom to eat supper.
"I wonder why everyone here is so unfriendly," mused Cendri. "Even my classmates had these people beat in personality and my school was very strict."
"Hmm, not unfriendly, I think, just cautious," observed Per. "They're not really hostile."
"Some deep dark secret they don't want us to find out about?" guessed Gedda.
"Well, Per, should we dig it out?" asked Pawl.
"I don't think so," said Per. "Octavia?"
"No, if, and I do mean if, it is a secret that has affected the entire town then it is usually based around someone that everyone here knows," said Octavia as she took a sip of her wine. "That type of information is almost impossible for outsiders, like us, to track down and find. I think we will also have enough trouble when we get to the castle on the crag."
"You're probably right," Pawl said to her. "Well, I'm for bed and an early start. This isn't someplace I want to spend a lot of time in."
The rest of the group agreed and early the next morning they left town. Per, just to be on the safe side, changed directions from east to north as soon as they were out of sight of the town. They rode all day northward until dusk. Karlto, who was riding point, suddenly reined in and called a halt. Per and Octavia rode up to him to see what was the matter.
"I say, can either of you two make out what that is?" asked Karlto pointing off in the distance.
"I don't know," said Per. "It looks like a building in a grove of trees."
"I think you're right, Per," agreed Octavia.
They rode slowly towards the building in the growing gloom. It was an old manor house with an air of abandonment about it. The bushes and trees were overgrown and the lawn was unkempt and uncut. Birds had taken up residence in the eaves. A couple of smaller buildings were now visible in the rear.
Per was staring at the windows when he was startled by something cold and wet hitting his cheek. He turned and looked up to see a snowflake falling down towards the ground. It was followed by another and before he knew it, more snow began to fall and the wind started to pick up. The clouds above were dark and ominous.
"Any shelter in a storm?" asked Octavia.
"Let's check around back for the stable," advised Per. "It should be standing if it is in the same condition as the house. We'll check out the house after we've taken care of the horses."
They found the stables and led the horses inside as the wind started to whip up the snow. Everyone headed towards the house and got inside just as the snowfall changed to a blizzard. The back door was unlocked and they entered into the kitchen.
"Fire?" asked Pawl, pointing to the large fireplace in the kitchen.
"Yes, just make sure the chimney is not blocked," said Per. "Gedda, stay here and help Pawl. The rest of us will check out the house. Cendri, go with Karlto. Octavia, you are with me."
The rest of the house was empty. The dusty furniture and dirty windows showed that no one had lived in the house for about a year. Per was surprised to see personal items, like jewelry and clothing still in the house. It was like the people had walked out the front door with only the clothes on their back and did not return.
Per, Octavia, Karlto and Cendri met back at the kitchen. They could hear the wind whipping up to a frenzy outside, but Pawl had a fire started in the kitchen and it was warming up nicely. Per checked the wood box and found it almost full.
"Whose turn is it to cook?" he asked.
"Yours and you know it," replied Octavia.
Per sighed and asked, "What do we have?"
"There's wine in the cellar," suggested Karlto.
"Really? Get a couple of bottles. Since I think we are going to be here awhile until the storm blows over, we might as well make ourselves at home. Gedda, will you with Karlto?"