Griever tore into the salted meat he had been given, ignoring his curiosities about the woman who sat across from him. A fire separated the two of them, cooking some oddity called pea soup. For some reason, however, Kate had known he was hungry and given him what she called ‘emergency food.’ It was probably her inhuman hearing, Griever guessed. He didn’t care at this point, though. He was too hungry to.
‘I knew this would happen,’ Bash said as Griever finished the meat and tried his best to be patient as Kate cooked the soup. ‘Though it’s not surprising with how much magic you’ve used.’
‘What do you mean?’ Griever asked the Gear. Though he had been welcomed into Kate’s campsite – a meager clearing well away from the main road – and even helped prepare it, he did not want to risk her finding out how much knowledge he lacked. And Bash tended to make him sound stupid.
‘You are stupid, compared to me,’ the Gear said victoriously. Griever growled at him, forcing him to continue. ‘But what I was talking about is part of how the Gear works. In order for you to use my power, you have to give me an energy source to assist my own.’
‘So, you use my energy with your own to heal me and that makes me hungry?’
‘Well, that sounds dull, but yes.’
‘Not that I don’t mind healing fast,’ Griever thought with annoyance, ‘but that seems like a flaw for someone in battle.’
Bash sighed. ‘It’s your fault for being hungry in the first place. If you had eaten, I would have been just fine healing you without pulling too much of your own energy.’
Griever turned his attention to Kate. Her massive bow, which had been her Gear transformed, was now the pot that held the stew. He had initially wondered how she managed to detach it, but then saw that a small chain connected her ankle to the pot. It was something Griever would have to remember. Other than that, it had been how he had thought it would be. She had removed her hood, revealing her auburn hair and the mask was left with her cloak against a nearby tree. Then she had went about making camp, forcing him to help as well, despite his hunger. The only reason he had, of course, being the salted meat he was still savoring in his gut.
“Mind telling me why you have two Gear?” Kate asked as she stirred the soup. Her voice was all professional now. “Or is the other a fake one that you made to fool people?”
Griever held up his sword arm, looking at the two metal bands that enclosed his forearm. Bash fit perfectly over the upper portion, whereas Jaden was hanging loosely near his wrist. “I pulled the other off a man who tried to kill me. This Gear is Jadencaer, Lord of Air. I can’t use him, though.”
Kate seemed to be talking to her own Gear in the moment she took before replying. “I see. So we have three and they have five.”
Kate shook her head. “Why do you call yourself Griever? A memento from the old man?”
He nodded. It wasn’t really a lie. “I needed a new name before becoming a mercenary. Why are you wanted?”
“Saw the poster?” Kate asked, nodding when she tasted the soup. Griever’s stomach almost leapt with joy at that, too. “I stole a lord away from his lady and he called me a witch. Nothing serious.”
Griever took the bowl that was handed to him, though he still watched her every move. “That many zeroes usually mean you killed someone important and the name ‘Bloody Kate’ isn’t exactly one given to an adulteress.”
He got a glare for that one. “I was messing with you,” she said, blowing on her own soup. “I’m no common whore.”
“So a high-class whore then?” Kate shot daggers at him.
‘Why are you antagonizing her?’ Bash asked, probably trying to distract Griever from doing so. “As if I didn’t already know.’
‘Yeah,’ Griever told the Gear. ‘A little payback.’
“The only holes I deal with are the ones I put in people,” Kate shot back at him, fingering her quiver. “I suppose I could show you if you wanted me to. Just so you don’t get the wrong idea.” Another not-so-idle threat. Women seemed to be the most dangerous when their reputation was on the line.
“I give,” Griever said, putting up his hand and sipping on his soup. To his surprise, it tasted good; VERY good, in fact. He couldn’t exactly explain it, but it was almost as if someone had given a castle head chef a box of peas and told him to make dinner. “This is good.”
Kate nodded. “Thank you. I learned to make it from a good friend of my grandmothers named Kiera.” She took a sip of hers as well, but not too much. The soup was still hot and she wouldn’t be able to see Griever if she tilted the bowl too much. Smart woman.
“I didn’t know grandmother Jem had a friend named Kiera,” Griever said.
‘You’re delaying the real topic, you know. Ask her about Droil or the Gears, bonded. I want to know her connection.’ Bash seemed impatient, which was odd given his usual self.
‘If we rush things, it’ll make her think we don’t care for her,’ Griever explained, remembering his days dealing with clients as a mercenary. ‘You start out with small talk, then edge into the real discussion.’ He looked at Kate, who was watching him, and smiled slightly on the inside. ‘Plus, I’m curious about things, too.’
“Not our grandmother, but my grandmother on my mother’s side,” Kate explained. “I was named after her. It was my grandfather, Corwin, who gave my dad the idea.” She shook her head. “I still don’t know why I’m even talking about this stuff to you. Just because you are my cousin doesn’t make you close!”
Griever growled. So much for peaceful small talk. Kate was getting defensive. “I just want to kill Droil and get my revenge. As much as I appreciate the help, that’s my goal and I plan to head to LightHaven’s capitol as soon as the sun rises tomorrow.”
Kate sighed. “Look, you need to calm down and think this through more.”
“What’s there to think through!?” Greiver snapped at the woman, unable to help himself. “He betrayed me and my captain, making me lose everyone I fought beside! I’ll kill him like the pig he is!”
“Then think this through,” Kate shot back, just as aggressive. “He has five Gears and their Bonded ready to fight to the death for him! I’m aiming for him too!”
Griever was only slightly taken back. For some reason, he had expected something like this. Ever since Gallag, probably a supporter of Droil, had attacked him, Griever had feared it. And Kate being after Droil as well was another of the bizarre coincidences that were appearing left and right. “What did he do to you?” Griever asked without thinking, ignoring the Gear threat entirely.
Kate seemed to slump down a little. “He killed my father…,” she said softly, oddly bringing pity forth from Griever, “and then took my mother.” Fury seemed to bubble up in her frame, lighting her tearless eyes like the fire between them. “He plans to hang her in front of me.”