Dayd sat down next to her father and folded her feet underneath her. “Enough of this frightening tabre trouble,” she complained. “Cruce tell us about the frontier. What is it like? What are the people like? What are the savages like?”
She said the word “savages” with dramatic delight that jarred Cruce with her annoying innocence. “The people are good,” he said and then proceeded to describe the landscape. He spoke of the frontier with obvious affection and made a point of mentioning the bitter winter winds that he had suffered upon the prairie. Then he let himself speak of the savages. His family needed to understand the threat. If he could not speak to them about it, then how would he persuade the Adarium of what was necessary?
Cruce fingered the black cow horn dagger at his belt. During his last patrol before Poteny, he had slit a savage’s throat with it in a close hand-to-hand match. But he would spare his mother such details.
“We have to be on patrol in the winter,” he explained. “The savages leave their northern grounds and come to raid our settlements. They steal and they kill. They…mutilate their victims when they have the chance.”
Dayd gasped and covered her mouth, and Viv moaned with disapproval. Zehn watched his son closely, and kept his wine glass more often in his lap than at his lips. “Do you have large battles with them?” he asked.
Cruce shook his head. “No. Our militia patrols are only small groups, so we never go into their large camps. We mostly chase their raiding parties and fight with them whenever we can. But they’re hard to find. They look for small unprotected targets, attack, and then we track them and attack them. It went on like that all winter,” Cruce said and finally realized how tired he was. His family’s home felt abnormally quiet. His militia life had been so intense with high stress patrols punctuated by combat intermixed with breaks in Kahtep every two or three weeks. And life had only accelerated during the breaks. Kahtepian night life was positively wild. He and his comrades had drank and danced, and the sweet girls of Kahtep knew how to reward militiamen for defending their homes.
Cruce rubbed his eyes. “Mother, I’m hungry,” he said.
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