Chapter 2 - Bimbo Wipe-Out Part 1
|As Draca left the iron-studded wooden
gate of her squat, fortified tower, her unspeaking but faithful servants, Orca and Wyrd,
handed her the leather water-bottle and ration-sack. Sturdy, dwarfish, in tartan tunics,
the twin sisters gestured their blessings on the one who had saved their lives from the
Tong war-babes. Under mops of coarse black hair their piggy eyes were moist with tears;
muscular bare arms quivered, gesticulating hurriedly as Draca waved them goodbye. They
shuffled back into the tower, hastening to the parapet to watch the hit-girl paddle her
leather-skin coracle across the foaming brown river to the further bank. She moved swiftly
and silently into the birch-wood and their long vigil began.
The lithe redhead loped through the woods, swift as a deer on the hills she had come to know so well, heading for an important source of information. The crumpled and grubby scrap of paper left in the hollow rowan stump she used as a posting-place had said tersely: Lalage is poison. You are the antidote. Eliminate. No need for a signature. There was only one Lalage, a sly, manipulative blonde bimbo who traded on her dumb looks and behaviour to front a shrewd mind and a malicious spirit. She was the ace spy among the tribes; what Lalage did not know was not knowledge. Whether among bearskin furs, making love to her victims, or in drinking-parties or just in seemingly mindless girlie talk, she wheedled out what should not have been spoken. There were plenty who would pay to rub her out: the writing on the note belonged to one of them, Princess Lakshmi, leader of the Kalazai, an Indian war-tribe whose army had been betrayed by the blonde to the Rastas. The slaughter of that ambush had been terrible. News of it swiftly reached Draca in her stronghold, of how the dozen coffee-skinned lovelies with cascading black hair to their hips had been caught in a mountain pass, of how the Rastas had rained spears down on them, piercing bare brown boobs and bellies till all were finished and stripped of their ivory silk loincloths. Lissome brown beauties had screamed in despair to see their friends cut down by the shower of steel, to see spear-heads pierce girlish little tits, puncture deep black nipples, tear into defenceless midriffs, through navels dusky with seductive loveliness. Writhing in the grass, clawing at spear-shafts and choking out their death-cries, the Kalazai bitches had squirmed in defeat. Long brown legs kicked as blood dribbled from gasping lips, backs arched in agony as steel tore into guts so soft and tender and naked. Draca had thought at the time that it smelled strongly of Lalage and she was right. Now Lakshmi would be paying very handsomely for the blondes head on a plate. But where exactly in this wide, wild, wooded world was little miss L? At times like this, when the need for success, and swift success at that, was imperative, Draca used her own information sources, a network of loners and survivors like herself: stray hunters, nomadic mercenaries, traveling pedlars of weapons and armour, last survivors of slaughtered tribes who eked out an existence on the edges of danger.
Deeper and deeper she penetrated into the silver birches, denser and denser grew the tangling undergowth of briers and brambles, darker and darker grew the short winter day. Here, hidden in a clump of alder and gean trees, was an ancient burial mound of the Picts. A passage had been hollowed out that led between root-clotted dank brown earth directly into the granite-lined burial chamber. Even Draca, who was fearless and known to the inhabitant of this sinister lair, shivered in the damp darkness of the tunnel, feeling the brush of pallid tendrils of the mounds root-system against her bare arms. Dim light emanated from the grey-stone chamber of ancient death. Her green eyes blinked to accustom themselves to the yellow candle flames that burned steadily in the still air. A small brazier filled with glowing charcoal warmed the chamber, smokeless and intense in its power.
Welcome, Draca. A moment, if you will; the situation is, I may say without hyperbole, critical.
A tall, heavily-built man stood in a chalked pentacle in the center of the burial vault. A silvered beard and a black skull cap, a long robe of midnight blue, a much carved staff and a leather-bound book. Shamelessly theatrical, thought Draca with a grin of affection, taking in the shelves of calfskin-bound books, the stuffed crocodile hanging from the roof, the bench of glass vessels filled with lurid substances.
He removed a pair of horn-rimmed pince-nez and rubbed his eyes wearily with a melodramatic sigh.
Hail, great magus, smiled Draca, kissing him gently on his bearded cheek.
Welcome as ever, my dear, and do not blame your unexpected but as ever delightful intrusion for the collapse of this particularly difficult charm.
At the moment I just want your own charm, sweetie. Intelligent conversation is at a premium in this neck of the woods.
As I, too, had noticed. Not, that is, that many venture into a Pictish barrow for scholarly converse these days .what?
Got it in one, Decimus. I have an ulterior motive, Im sorry to say.
Never excuse, my dear. Anything which brings such a fresh and youthful beauty into my middle-aged existence is entirely welcome. Even the erudition in these volumes can pall after a month or ten of solitary study. Let me put by this latest sad attempt to win the affection of the White Witch ..
Decimus, you just dont give up, do you?
A born romantic, my dear, I just cant help it.
Well, if you can help me ?
Oh, I most sincerely hope so, young lady. A glass of what might just pass for vintage port if you used your imagination sufficiently strongly?
Yes, please and dont be so irritatingly donnish. I need to know about Lalage.
The name, if memory serves, of one of the loves of the Roman poet Horace if, that is, they were other than figments of his fancy
The phase was irritatingly donnish, yes?
Yes; force of habit, Im afraid. You mean the Baleful Bimbo, of course.
Of course, where is she? And can I have your recipe for this elderberry wine? The best Ive tasted.
You flatter me. My informants tell me that the young person in question has had a bad accident.
More. Now, Decimus .dont turn coy on me.
To cut to the chase .she is about an hours journey from here, in the hands of two bounty hunters called Ulfa and Katya, a pair of renegade Cave-girls. You will find them stopped for the night by the Falls of Cruachan. I would suggest that you wait until dawn before you take any action. You know better than I that they have a reputation for being as welcoming as cornered rats.
Tu parles, Charles.
Should you wish to take advantage of a night under my roof
Thanks, Decimus and I mean it, cos youre the only man I know who wouldnt take advantage of me in the night, thanks to being a nice guy and hopelessly besotted with your occult lady. Ill move like night through the night and drop in on them, literally, in the breaking of the day. Now, thanks for the sticky drink, the useful information and the cultivated chat. Can I get you anything from Lakshmibai when she pays up?
If she has a foolproof method of winning the affection of a Lapland witch .
Unlikely, old friend, but Ill do my best.
Farewell, then, my dear .and do, please, be careful.
Oh, come on, honey, you know how cautious I am when I deal with bounty hunters!
And the tall redhead turned to be swallowed up in the
forest of the night.