“So, did you spot anything out of the ordinary?”
“Your eyes will boil in a pit of my raging spittle.”
“I suppose that’s a no. How did you pass the time?”
“I dreamed of bathing in your bloody guts, beneath a dripping, scarlet moon.”
“Lovely. What do you have planned for today?”
The Baron sighed. In the last three years he’d spent a great deal of time with Eve, and aside from the very occasional, cryptic bit of gibberish that made not a bit of sense, all he’d ever received from her was a string of horrifying death threats. Even though she’d been a third his size, the comments had chilled him when she was a child; now, after so many hours with the stoic woman at his side, The Baron took them as mere pleasantries. She would never act on anything she said.
So long as you keep her on her leash, old boy, he reminded himself, as he had almost every day since Eve’s conception. Muck that up and you’re done for.
The Baron walked back into his kitchen, Eve keeping pace behind him. He knew she was checking the cabin’s angles, scanning for signs of intrusion that he would almost certainly miss. She said nothing, however, and he took that as a good sign. Eve had saved his life a dozen times with her keen eyes and preternatural senses, though it always came at the cost of someone else’s existence. The girl loved to spill blood, that much was for certain.
Seating himself in a beaten chair covered in rough quilts, The Baron waved for Eve to have a seat. She remained steadfastly on her feet. The Baron tugged on the strings binding a part of his soul to her central nervous system; she quickly sat. Her glower reminded him of the thin ice he perpetually skated while in her presence.
“My god, it’s colder here now than it was before. I swear I feel a breeze.” The Baron tightened the blankets around his waist. “Winter’s coming. You must get a fierce chill, sleeping in the trees.”
“I will pierce your thighs with icicles and ram great heaps of snow down your fat throat.”
“Charming. Seriously, did you get any sleep last night?” The Baron eyed the faint outline of dark bags above her cheeks. “You look tired.”
“I will ravish your face with - “
The Baron tugged again, and his tiny doppelganger inside Eve tweaked her heart. She shut up and shook her head.
“Tisk. You’re allowed to sleep occasionally, you know.” The Baron wrapped a blanket around himself, shivering despite his cloak. “I know you can go a lot longer than the average human, being half Non, but even we can’t remain on our feet forever. It’s not healthy. I need you healthy to keep us safe out here.”
Eve said nothing in reply. Her eyes slid away from his face, fixating on something behind The Baron in the cabin. He knew the gesture as subtle rebellion, something he’d faced daily since Eve’s birth, and it irritated him.
“We don’t have to be like this, you know.” The Baron coughed. “If you cooperated, we… we could almost be friends. We’ve certainly spent enough time together to qualify for friendship.”
But The Baron knew that was a lie. He knew that Eve would never consider him anything less than loathsome. He’d used her since day one, since before day one, preventing her from forming any normal relationships with the rest of the world. It was The Baron’s own tweaking that had turned her into a supernatural monstrosity, one meant to lead her people as an example of sheer military might. In that, at least, she had succeeded.
I should have given her a personality, though, he thought as he looked at her, lingering on the silver-grey of her long braid. I should have let her be a little girl. I should have… I don’t know, maybe I should have treated her as a person, not a weapon. Then she could have been a leader, not just a general. Then, maybe, she wouldn’t have…
The Baron glanced down at his gloved hands. They weren’t the same ones he’d worn on the day he’d finally opened the door, but they looked so similar that he couldn’t help but imagine blood on them. Dragomir’s blood. He thought of the tied parcel in his bedroom, waiting to be delivered.
… hells. I’ve made so many mistakes. The Baron stared at his lap, tucking his hands beneath his blanket. You would think, with a thousand years of planning, that I might know what the hell I was doing. Instead I’m in the middle of a forest, wishing I could find a way to apologize to a girl who will never accept anything I have to say unless it’s in the form of an order.
“May blood spill like a waterfall between your shoulder blades,” Eve commented, face as cruelly neutral as ever.
The Baron shook his head, deciding for forego a proper segue from thought to speech. It’s not like Eve would call him on it anyway. “I should at least apologize for the way you talk. My god, if I’d been forced to travel with only you for company - “
The remainder of The Baron’s witty retort never made it out of his mouth. A pair of massive, hairy, clawed arms wrapped around his chair, grappling him hard into the wood. He huffed, the breath squeezed out of his lungs as an arm pinned his gut, and pain flooded into his joints as something pulled the entire chair off of the ground and hoisted it into the air.
“Apologize to her later,” a husky, refined voice hissed into The Baron’s ear, the tone so sharply familiar that the old man gasped. “I think we deserve some sympathy first.”