I apologize for the infrequent posts, especially at such a point in a story like this.  Believe me, things are happening- both with me and the story.  

Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 39

The horse dashed off into the thicket of dead trees, dancing and hopping between the fallen underbrush. Mandabus snapped the ends of the detached strap from the animal’s reins, pulling the long cord taut. He nudged at Kiaren against a tree, causing her to collapse under her own weight. Her shaky breaths brought throbbing pain to her side with each inhale.

The leather strap yanked against her midsection as Mandabus wrapped it around the other side of the tree. “I am unable to tie a proper knot, but you should know to stay put, and I correct?”

“Where are we?” Kiaren wheezed, attempting to her breath.

“Does it matter?” Mandabus shrugged. “You’re in no shape to go find help anywhere. You’re injured, I can smell it on you. Your breath.”

Kiaren spat a spray of pale crimson liquid across the ground before wiping the corner of her mouth on her shoulder. “You’re sick.”

“That’s not very lady-like, now is it?”

“Of all things, you’re scrutinizing my upbringing?” Kiaren growled.

Mandabus paced slowly, his boots sticking in the damp soil. “Being on the front has left you very high strung, milady.”

“Those are words unfit for a monster like you.”

Mandabus stopped in his tracks and turned to Kiaren, crouching down before her. Her nostrils flared as she took in the lingering odor of death permeating the dingy armor plates. He continued to look into her eyes, jumping around his person before trailing to the ground between them.

Mandabus relaxed, sitting upon the ground to pull the sheathed sword off his back, placing it upon his lap. “Is there no other way to see us, concealed by veils of armor, wielding weapons? Monsters?”

Kiaren glanced at the edge of the sword that protruded slightly from the beaten up leather sheath as the armored man teased its grip. “You believe after all you’ve done, you can still consider yourself human?” She mumbled, avoiding looking up to him.

Mandabus slammed the sword securely back into the sheath with a dull thump. “Since putting on this suit of armor, I have forgotten the feeling of warmth, or cold, being tired, hungry, thirsty. Even before I was maimed by your mage. The only thing I found I could truly feel was the impact of my sword upon its target. The cracking of your brother’s neck. The feeling of crushing something between my fingers.” He said, smothering bits of hardened dirt between the fingertips of the gauntlet.

“You sicken me.” Kiaren replied, turning her head to the side. The cold wind rolled through the thicket of bare trees and dry underbrush, chafing her face.

Mandabus stood back up, scanning the surroundings. The bleak surroundings were silent save for the singing of the wind, calling out in imperfect stanzas.

“If you don’t tire, then why have you decided to stop here?” Kiaren asked, sitting up gingerly to avoid the strap digging into her chest.

“Shh-.” Mandabus hushed her. “I sense that there are others not far from here.”

Kiaren focused on the silence surrounding them before the crunch of Mandabus’s boots interrupted the stillness. “Your people or mine?” She asked.

“Who knows?” Mandabus said cryptically, placing the sheath’s strap back over his helmet and shoulder. “Can I really call them my people at this point?”

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