The ideals of Tarsan superiority afford little mercy to those who lived on the lands they conquered. Their languages, ways of life, and even their skin was first presented as trophies, then as examples, and then dismissed as savage.
— Paramol da Jast, The Colonizer's Blade
It was a small village only two days from their destination. Linsan stretched while walking around the back end of the Glasscoaster where Miska was finishing up inspecting for more damage.
The blonde crawled out from underneath the boiler. “Everything is holding well. I think I've replaced the entire thing by now.”
Linsan gestured to an engraved plaque near the back. “Not this. This looks original.”
Miska swung her arm away as the heat gathered around her. Linsan snatched her hand back before Miska punched the plate, denting it with a burst of light and flame. With her fingers, she dug into the plate and then tore it off.
The smoldering metal landed on the ground, hissing.
Miska spat on it. “Better?”
“Good thing that wasn't attached into the boiler, otherwise you'd be leaking water all over.” Linsan kept her voice steady, as if she was being sarcastic.
With a start, Miska looked down at the opening but there wasn't any water coming out of the holes. She let out a sigh. “Don't scare me like that!”
With a grin, Linsan said, “Sorry, couldn't resist.”
Miska draped her arm over Linsan's shoulder and guided her toward one of the few buildings in the center of the village. It was the mayor's house and doubled as the general store. The sign next to it said “Welcome to Two Pines! Population 18.”
“Are you okay with this, Lin?”
“Your arm around me?” Linsan leaned against her. “No, I don't mind at all.”
“I meant what is going on between me and Princess. I feel like I stole her.” Miska sighed.
Linsan shrugged. “Are you taking care of her?”
“Yes and I intend to keep doing that.”
“Is she happy?”
“I mean, she sounds happy when I'm—”
“'I know what a woman being pleasured sounds like.'” Linsan smirked at Miska's previous line. “No, what I meant was, I think she is happy with you. I… I want to be her friend, but I'm not the lover she needs.”
Linsan shrugged. “Maybe? I mean, it felt good but I don't think we really ‘loved’ each other but I could be wrong. We were intimate but I saw how she looks at you over breakfast.”
“You mean when she offered me her drink?”
“Well, she's never done that for me.” Linsan chuckled. “Let Brook be Brook. If you two are in love, or lust, or just want to have fun, then it won't bother me. I want both of you to be happy and my friends.”
Miska kissed Linsan's ear. “Thank you, gifil.”
As they approached, three men about Linsan's age looked up from a small table. They held cards in their hands and had mugs of drink near them.
Linsan glanced at them before starting up the two stairs leading to the front door.
One frowned and a prickle of concern rippled along Linsan's skin.
“Hey! She can't come in.”
Linsan glanced through the window to see Brook had a large pile of supplies on the counter as an old man tallied up her purchase. Then she looked at the speaker. “Why can't I?”
“Not you. Her.” He pointed at Miska.
Linsan stepped up. “Why not?”
“We don't serve dirt here.”
Linsan started forward, but Miska held her back.
“Don't,” she whispered. “Just… let's go and wait for Brook at the car.”
“Why?” Linsan asked, fighting the growing rage.
“Because this never works out for us.” Miska's eyes were hard and angry but her voice was steady.
The door creaked open and Brook stuck her head out. “Do you two want… what's wrong?”
Linsan gestured to the guys. “They won't let Miska in.”
With a confused look, Brook looked at Miska and then to them. “Why?”
The speaker stood up followed by his friends. “You two are friends with dirt? She smells like shit. Why debase yourself by standing next to her? You best get rid of that beast before she cuts your throat and robs you.”
Linsan wished she had her violin. She saw Brook's hand tightened on the door.
Brook's lips tightened. Then she pulled her head back to talk to the old man. “You have a problem with my friend buying something?”
The shopkeeper leaned out a window to look at them and pulled back. “She can stay outside,” he said with a grunt.
Brook's teeth ground together. In an instant, she plastered a smile that Linsan could tell was fake. Opening the door sharply, she strode out the store and down the stairs.
“Oi! What about your stuff!?”
Brook waved dismissively as she headed straight for the Glasscoaster. “Didn't pay for it, haven't taken it.”
Miska and Linsan hurried after her.
The door slammed open and the old man stormed out. “You better pay for it, Miss!”
“Don't owe you anything, old man!”
The three young man came down the stairs, their faces twisted in rage. One in the back snapped his fingers and flames covered his hand. A knife appeared in someone's hand.
Linsan tensed. There were four of them and she didn't have her violin. She imagined how long it would take to get to the buggy to defend herself.
“I'll call the sheriff!” yelled the man.
Brook spun on her heels. “You do that!” she screamed. “And I will call my daddy and his lawyers. Let's see how that turns out!”
It was a lie, but the fury and anger was palatable. If Linsan didn't know better, Brook sounded exactly like the spoiled princess from their youth.
The man with a knife hesitated.
“When we're done, then he will buy out whatever loan you have on this shitty village and make sure you know exactly what happens when you mess with his baby!”
All four of them stepped back.
“Drown me,” whispered Miska.
Brook's face darkened. “Now, I can't stand the smell of this crappy place anymore. So I'm going to get in my buggy and I'm getting out of here. You keep your shit and leave us alone!”
They managed to hurry to the buggy and get inside. A moment later, Brook was accelerating out of the village.
Linsan sat uncomfortably as the pressure ground her into the seat.
Brook let out a sniff and tears sparkled on her cheeks. “I shouldn't have lied about my daddy.”
Miska reached around the seat to hug her from behind. “Thank you,” she whispered.