Chapter 14: Yes

Karin groaned as she slid off the saddle of her horse. A sharp pain told her that her stitches had been ripped open. Hot blood dribbled down her thigh. She swayed for a moment, leaning against her mount, before she straightened.

“Are you sure about this?” Roal gasped as he leaned over the pommel of his horse. He was covered with blood and makeshift bandages created from Maldir’s sheets. The smell of smoke clung to his body as he panted. “We can make it to the next town, they have a healer.”

Karin looked toward the inn door. She didn’t know what was on the other side but she hoped Suras would forgive her for leaving. Slowly, she nodded her head. “Yes, I think this is right.”

“No more hunting?”

Karin winced as she held her hip. The cuts covering her body were impossible to distinguish from each other except for the one on her hip. It had chipped the bone and every step was agony. “I think… I want to be done, Roal.”

He smiled and reached down to press his hand against her cheek. “Good.”

Groaning, he sat up straighter. “Just in case, I’ll wait at the end of the fence. If you aren’t out in an hour, I’ll give you another before I head home.”

“Don’t you want to come in? They have more than one room.”

He looked at the lights in the window. It was probably a bell before dawn. “No, this is your peach.”

“She might not be after she sees what I did to her bottle.”

Roal chuckled and pulled his horse around. “Enjoy the greatest hunt of your life, Old Woman. I hope to never see you in the field again.”

Karin smiled as he rode away. She roped the reins of her horse to a hook and then limped to the door. At the entrance, she had to catch her breath. A thousand scenarios ran through her head, few of them were positive. Would Suras reject her? Tears? Slaps?

With a trembling hand, she opened it.

Suras sat at a table in the center of the room with an empty glass in front of her. She looked up with red rimmed eyes. Seeing Karin, she gasped and tears shimmered in her eyes.

Karin thought about everything she could say. “I… want…” No, that wasn’t it. She sniffed as she reached down for her bag. It was almost completely empty but there was a few things left. Her bandaged fingers struggled to grab the now empty bottle of whiskey. Shaking, she pulled it out. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Karin!” Suras knocked back the chair as she rushed around the table. She held out her arms and pulled Karin into a hug.

Despite the agony of a thousand cuts, Karin held her lover tightly. “I-I had to use your bottle to start a fire. I-It was the only way to burn out the nest.”

Suras’s shoulder shook and a sob rose up.

Karin blinked past the pain and her own tears. “I’m so sorry, I had too. I had too.” She let out a sob of her own. “I-I don’t want to this any more. I’m tired of swamps and sleeping outside. I don’t want to hurt anymore. I… I’m done hunting.”

Her lover pulled her head back, staring at Karin with tears streaming down her eyes. “Stay? Please stay. I’ll give you all my bottles, anything you—”

Karin silenced her with a bloody kiss.

When they broke, both of them sobbing with the effort, she managed to get one more word out. “Yes.”