At the stake

“So what’s your plan now, Medavo,” the shivering woman asked the man staked next to her in the bonefield.

The tall, muscular man she addressed simply grunted at her, his attention focused almost entirely on loosening the constricting bands of hemp rope that bound him to the splintered wooden spar. His loose cotton clothing gave him sparse protection from the night-fallen chill. The black leather eye patch that covered his left eye prevented him from seeing his female companion.

The last of the trio, a ferret-faced man with long stringy hair, whimpered. Mangy dogs, their eyes full of hunger, snarled and snapped at the blubbering man’s feet. He gathered himself enough to yell at the dogs, “Go away! Get away from me! Please, please.”

“Grieg, leave off! They’ll ignore you no matter how much bellowing you do. They’re feral dogs,” the woman snapped at him. More calmly, she asked again, “Medavo, you have a plan, right?”

The half-blind man grunted again. His wrists, bound together behind him, flexed and twisted, loosening the ropes. He whistled, sharply, causing the questing dogs to quiet and slink away to lurk behind the huge bleached bones of massive, unknown animals.

“Leave me be, Maeve,” he told the woman. “Shut up, Grieg. You haven’t been bitten, yet. The mutts will come back, eventually, and they won’t be stopped by any commands of mine.”

The woman giggled, the sound disturbing in the macabre landscape the trio found themselves in. “Fine, I’ll leave you alone, but the sooner you flex your iron-stranded muscles, the better. I’m growing bored.”

Medavo flexed again. His thin-lipped mouth twisted in concentration. The other two watched, as always, in awe, as the man’s muscles hardened and grew. The ropes binding him to his post stretched taut and then, with a creaking objection, snapped loose.

The massive man’s landing caused thunder to roll across the boneyard, rattling bones and causing the lurking feral dogs to whimper and squeal in fright. Medavo rubbed his wrists, easing the pain of his captivity, and stalked to a pile of bleached debris. He selected a jagged piece of leg bone. Quickly, he stepped to Maeve’s side and with a flick of his aching wrist, the woman was free.

While Maeve slowed her fall, Medavo sauntered to Grieg’s side. He slipped a second piece of rough-edged bone into the smaller man’s hands while he freed the bindings.

Grieg slid down the splintered log, landing heavily beside Medavo, who whispered, “Prepare, boy.” The men slipped their weapons into handy hiding spots within their clothing. They moved to flank Maeve.

The woman straightened her stained, once-snowy shirt and said, “So, who do you two think set us up? My money’s on the storekeep where we fenced the goods.”

Her shirt bloomed in a pair of crimson blossoms as Medavo leaned in to reply, “My money’s on you, love.”

The men stalked from the bonefield, leaving their traitorous companion to the feral dogs who rushed in at the smell of fresh blood.

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