Malice, my crossbow was stuffed in on top of my clothing, bolts of all types were packed away in the pockets of my pack. An Old Earth KA-Bar knife filled out the rest of my kit. I strapped it to my waist and looped a piece of 550-parachute cord through the sheath and around my quadriceps.
So far, I’d been able to engage my targets with Malice, but you never knew when the enemy might get close to you, and you would need a sharp piece of metal to cut your enemy’s heart out.
Hekla looked at the blade on my thigh. She was a warrior through and through. It didn’t matter that she carried a hammer bigger than she was, nor did it matter that she could one-shot almost any enemy we faced. I had a blade, and she wanted to look at it. She unsnapped the loop that held the blade in, and she pulled the knife free. Hekla ran a finger over the flat side of the knife and said, “Hmm, it’s primitive but sharp. I like it.”
When Hinkey had died, I found his blade and kept it, instead of turning it in with the rest of his gear. He didn’t need it anymore, and I didn’t need two knives. I took it out and looked at it. Hinkey had signed his name on the sheath in hot pink letters and had added glitter to it. The silliness of it made me chuckle. Hekla put my blade in my sheath and secured it. I handed her my friend’s blade, and said, “Here’s to new friends, Hekla. Hinkey would be pleased if you have it.”
“Yeah, friends. We’re going into the unknown, and you didn’t hesitate to join up with me. That makes us more than friends, it makes us family.”
Hekla swallowed hard and for a brief second, her eyes shimmered. Then, she gave me a hard look and said, “Someone has to keep you from killing yourself.” I slapped her on the back, and she tightened up. Her eyebrows furrowed, and I said, “That’s for almost breaking my back the other day. You remember, right? Out in the Bloodless Sands?”
Her frown disappeared, and she laughed. Hekla wagged a finger at me and retorted, “When you were daydreaming while I killed Calderon? You needed more than one crack to the head, Jayce.”
“You’re forgetting something, Hekla. You were a blue dwarf, a Smurf on Old Earth, from all the lighting pulsing through your body. My shot gave you an opening.”
“That’s true. We make a good team, Jayce.” Hekla grabbed my forearm and squeezed, and I returned the grasp. “Yeah, we do. I appreciate what you’ve done for me, my friend.” Hot tears filled my eyes, but I blinked them away. I had seen many people die during our short war, and the loss of Hinkey still weighed on my mind, but here in this new timeline, on this new planet, I had found a friend.
Ria came in, her pack slung over her shoulder, and she asked, “Are you both ready to get underway?”
“Yes,” Hekla responded. “We’re ready when you are, Ria.”
“Then, let us leave.”
Tom had drawn three mounts from the stables. Ria and Hekla mounted up with a flourish, and I waited until they were underway before I climbed up. The girl was no longer lying on the mixture of hay and manure.
My mouth tightened into a hard line, and I gave Tom a nod. He nodded back, a single tear ran down his cheek, and I rode away. Things were different here, but Death had the same sting here that it did back on Old Earth.
No amount of time could fill the void left by loss.