“Can I stab it?” Bix asked, breaking the silence that had fallen over them. The half-Alohym hissed at Bix, her jaw widening to reveal mandibles. Bix reached out and rapped her across the forehead with her metal knuckles. The woman recoiled from the blow, her hands coming to her head to grab at the impact. “No. Bad freak of nature. You hiss at me again, and I will stab you. Actually, I might stab you anyway.”
“Don’t,” the woman growled. “Please.”
That last word froze Haradeth’s hand as he reached for his blade. There were many things he could imagine an Alohym saying. Please was not on that list. “Bix, wait.”
Bix glared at him. “Try that again, godling.”
Haradeth swallowed. “Bix, I’d appreciate it if you would wait till we understood more.”
“Better. We are kind of on a tight timeframe though.” Bix’s head swiveled until it was facing backwards.
“What are you?” The half-Alohym woman asked.
“I could ask you the same thing,” Haradeth said, offering her a hand.
Synit stared at it suspiciously. “My name’s Synit. I’m an early attempt to merge human and Alohym. A failed experiment.” After a moment’s pause longer, she took Haradeth’s hand and let her take him out of the cauldron. “I…was supposed to help Armin and the others. But the battle turned against them so far, but the time I could move, it was over.”
Haradeth didn’t have trouble believing that, seeing how stiffly she moved. It looked like she could barely do more than shuffle. “What were you supposed to do?” Haradeth asked.
“I’m a natural lumcaster. Same as all…well, same as my sire. Rephylon. I came here to try to tap into Light. I hoped it would…” she shook her head.
“It seems trusting.” Bix said, crouching on the cauldron. “I don’t like it. Things that trust too much usually want too much trust.”
“I heard you call him a godling,” Synit said. “I know of the Little Gods. The Alohym want you all dead almost as badly as they wanted to wipe out the dragons.” Her mandible clicked together. “Anything that the Alohym hate that much is an ally of mine.”
“Even disease?” Bix asked. “The Alohym hate diseases. Think it’s messy. Is disease your ally, plague-bringer?”
Synit looked at Bix, then back at Haradeth, then back to Bix. “Obviously I meant any-”
“Bah. Wasting too much time. Haradeth, I’m going to stab her.” Knives appeared in her hands.
Synit nearly fell over from the surprise, and she groaned in pain when Haradeth caught her. “Bix, please, you’re scaring her. She can barely walk!”
“Yes, I know.” Bix sighed and stalked away. “She’s useless. You should let me stab her. Since you won’t, hurry it up. We have a serious problem coming soon.”
“She…she’s insane,” Synit said as Haradeth helped her to her feet.
“You’re not wrong,” Haradeth said, keeping his voice low. “She’s also been very helpful. Light and Shadow, I’ll take a dozen psychopaths like her if it means we get to defeat those monsters.”
“Agreed,” Synit said. Her sight was a contrast to Bix’s metallic gargle – when Synit sighed, it sounded like slabs of meat slapping together. He was glad she wasn’t in contact with him anymore. He didn’t think he could suppress the shudder any more than he had. “She’s not incorrect, however. I was…less than useless in the last fight. I’ll just be a liability.
Haradeth grimaced. “Then climb back in that cauldron and wait until the fight is over.” Synit gave him a shocked look, and Haradeth shrugged. “I don’t have time right now to learn if you’re right or wrong. If you can fight, fight. If you need to hide, do so and we’ll keep you safe.” He fought an urge to roll his eyes. It was as bad as dealing with Tythel all over again. Synit was a half-breed obsessed with vengeance against the Alohym who would whine her way through anything she could. At least Tythel is competent in a fight.
Synit stood there, perfectly still. Haradeth got the impression he might have offended her. He really wanted to care, but he couldn’t. “You work with Armin? I heard you talking when you arrived.”
“He tolerates your attitude?”
“I’ve never given him a choice.” Haradeth shrugged. “Look, Synit, I-”
“Have to justify things. Yes. I understand. You are…very human, little godling.”
Haradeth bristled at the insult. “Look here you-”
“Light and Shadow, will you two kill each other already!” Bix shouted. Both of them turned to face her. “Flath, meat is so stupid. Look. You. Synit. You are half Alohym so Haradeth finds you offensive because you’re a perversion of life he finds so precious. Haradeth. The first human who wasn’t in the service of the Alohym she met was Armin, who – if half of what you told me about him was true – was all ‘oh no you poor thing, let me hug you lots and make you feel better moo moo moo.’”
Haradeth stared at her as Synit spoke. “Moo moo moo?”
“That’s the sound humans make when they’re trying to be affectionate.” Bix said.
“I think you’re thinking of cows,” Haradeth said.
“No, cows go Mwraaww. I’ve heard them. Moo is a human word.” Bix shook herself. “Haradeth. Do you think bug girl hates the Alohym?”
Haradeth nodded curtly.
“Synit, do you think leafy-green hates the Alohym?”
Synit considered for a second then nodded.
“Great. So, we’re united in hatred. Story for the flathing ages. Now shut up because something nasty is coming up this tunnel and I’m gonna stab it until it stops amusing me.”
Synit’s antenna twitched. “I can hear them. A couple dozen Alohym soldiers.”
“Flath. Bix, we’re outmatched here.” Haradeth said. “We should try to-”
“No, Haradeth. You two are outmatched here. A couple dozen Alohym soldiers are a warmup for me. Climb into the cauldron if you’re not going to let me stab Lady Alohym over there.” Her tail lashed the air like a cat waiting to pounce.
“Bix-” Haradeth started to say.
“Nope!” Bix said.
At that moment the first of the Alohym soldiers rounded the corner, an unlight arcblade held in his outstretched hand. He shouted and charged Bix.
Haradeth could barely see her arms move. He just got a vague sense of movement from them.
It was, he imagined, what the mouse saw right as the viper strikes.
The soldier fell at Bix’s feet. His torso landed first, divested of its previous attachments. It was followed by his collapsing legs and then by his right arm. His left hit the ground in three sperate chunks. His head sailed over Bix to land behind her, clattering against a pile of gold coins. Bix shivered. “Now. Let’s get stabby.”
Not waiting for Haradeth to speak, she dashed at the speed of a diving falcon for the next soldier to round the corner.