She thought of Canna and Saben, and felt a wash of anger erase the last nervousness. I'm going to kill you, she thought as her rank reached the pikes. She ducked under a pike to slash at the enemy. One in the second rank chopped at her; she dodged without thinking and darted between the front pikes while he was still off balance. Her sword almost took his head off. She felt without looking that her companions followed her example, felt the first quiver of yielding as the pikemen realized that these swordsmen were not held off by the bitter tips of their weapons... She fought on; it didn't matter, she was going to kill these scum until she died.And this, friends and readers, is why you do not treat your prisoners like shit and you fight fair. Because it might feel good to roll the other bad people over, but eventually you're gonna piss off a good person past what they can handle and when that happens, my dears, they will END you. And I'm now STRONGLY nostalgic for the Honor Harrington series because FUCK did you not piss off Honor. (She only got that pissed three times. Two times, she killed the sons of bitches responsible via legal combat, and they absolutely deserved it. The third time she had to be physically restrained because killing wasn't justified. Even though the sons-of-bitches abso-fucking-lutely deserved to be killed horribly and nobody would have minded seeing 'em die. If you want to live long in the Honorverse, don't hurt Honor's people. Just don't.) (Which is why I am WAITING for the next honor book. Somebody killed (GIGANTICALLY CENSORED TRAUMA INDUCING SPOILER) and if they do not get turned into VERY small pieces within very short order I will be VERY put out with the universe.) (Oh, and speaking of which, my dears, the first Honor Harrington book is free. You are welcome and I will be here when you need to cry.) (Which you will) (Frequently)
It turns out that the Halvarics and the duke's men held the fort--barely--so the Honeycat's people basically got jammed into a meatgrinder. The survivors are VERY happy to be liberated. Also: arming your trained captives when your enemies come to hurt you? REALLY good idea. No, seriously. It saved a lot of lives. Again: This is why you treat prisoners with dignity and respect.
There is still no sign of Sabin or Canna. I think from here on out it is assumed that they are dead.
They find the Duke's commanding captain dying of gangrene on a bed. They have a conversation where the captain apologizes profusely for losing and the Duke assures him that he did nothing wrong, and the Duke is very proud of him. The Captain asks what the losses will do to the Duke's company.
"Do?" The Duke stared at the wall a moment, then smiled at Ferrault. "Ferrault, when I'm done with him, neither Siniava nor his friends nor his followers will have a hut to live in or a stone to mark where they died. I'm going to destroy him, Ferrault, for what he did to you and the Company. We've already destroyed the army he brought north this year, and that's only the beginning."Paks, who has been walking around this entire time with a bone bruise and a cracked rib from the fight, is FINALLY made to go sit down and rest. When she wakes up, the Duke rounds up the survivors--it doesn't take long, though most of the command structure is dead--and gives 'em a speech that is basically what that says up there. He gets a bit more elaborate, though:
"Yes," he said firmly. "We can do that, and we will. You already know other companies are with us: the Clarts, the Halverics, Vladi's spears. More will join us. I pledge you, sword-brethren, that until this vengeance is complete, I will consider no other contract, and all I have will support this campaign." The Duke drew his sword and raised it in salute to the Company. "To their memory," he said. "To vengeance." And the Company growled in response : vengeance.
To recap: These morons have pissed a bunch of mercenaries off so hard that a mercenary company, which is essentially a corporation that thrives on paid murder, is going to go WITHOUT PAY until the Honeycat and his people are squished. And not just go without pay, but dedicate ALL of its reserve resources to the squishing.
They. Are So. Very. Dead.
Then the Duke hauls up individual soldiers--both genders representing--to distribute awards for valor. Eventually he hauls Paks up to the front.
"You have no captain to speak for you," he said. "Nor sergeants , nor corporals. Yet your deeds speak aloud without their aid. I cannot pick and choose among you; I will have made for each of you, from these spoils, a ring to commemorate your deeds. But those to whom you owe your lives, who brought me word of your peril: even among such honor, they deserve honor. Three started: Canna Arendts, Saben Kanasson, and Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter. "Here is a ring ," he said, "that I think best represents your deed. Three strands, for the three who started together, braided into one: the one who succeeded, the message, for returning to the place you began.
Paks reflects for a moment that this is NOT how she wanted to win glory--not over her friends' graves--and the Duke moves on. He tells them who they are to regroup under--their commander, and HIS commander, are both dead, and most of their cohort is too--and then dismisses them for the evening.
And then the Halvaric's commander shows up. The dude whose son the Honeycat shot out of the saddle for shits and giggles.
Again: THIS GUY IS SO VERY DEAD.
They sort out VERY quickly that nobody is ANYBODY'S captive and move on to the "let's go hunt down the shithead" arrangements. Also funeral arrangements, because a lot of their people are dead now.
And then we get a rather nice plot bomb during the actual funeral.
Then the Duke signalled his piper, and a tune Paks had never heard before seemed to drag all the sorrow and anger out of her heart with its own bitterness. It was the "Ar hi Tammarion," the lament written for the death of the Duke's lady by the half-elven harper at the Court of Tsaia , and not since then played openly. Paks did not know the history of the song, but felt its power, as the rough wind dried tears she had shed without knowing it.Tammarion, if you remember, is the woman mentioned during Paks' trial. She's also the woman that Paks has been compared to favorably on more than one occasion. INTERESTING.
They march back to Rotengre. The soldier who gave Paks a rough time on her return trip shows up and is VERY apologetic, and Paks is graceful about accepting his apology. Offers of ale are made, which Paks refuses. Then the Duke calls her up because he might have news about Sabin and Canna. And it probably isn't good.
The surgeon says Saben had taken a hard blow to the head, and probably never woke up. He died soon after they were found. Canna was not badly wounded in the fight, but when the brigands realized their hideout had been found, they tried to kill all their prisoners before they fled. Though she was still alive when the militia got in, she died several days later, here in camp. She knew you had made it, and that we'd defeated Siniava's army on the road and gone on north. The surgeon said she wanted you to have her medallion, and wanted you to know you did the right thing. She was glad you made it through; he said she died satisfied."
She gave Paks her Gird medallion, which is odd because usually those get sent back to the granges, the Girdish form of churches. The Duke also recovered the little horse she'd given Saben. He packs the rest of Sabin's things up to send to his family. He gives her a drink and sends her out of the tent to steady herself. She finds the other survivors of the cohort and collapses.
"We were so close," she whispered, as tears ran down her face. "Only a few more miles, and they—" She could not go on. Arñe got up and put an arm around her shoulders; they all sat together a long time in silence.
End of chapter.