Chapter 37: Devotion

CHapter 37

Systa rolled over slowly and leaned towards the fire to push a few of the unburnt logs into the red coals. The itchiness around her wound was almost unbearable and it was all she could do not to scratch at the bandages around it until her skin bled.

Startled by the sound of sparks from the fire, Ótama looked up and angrily barked at Systa to lie down.

“Are you stupid? Wait, don’t answer that, we both know the answer.”

Systa chuckled and then winced, unable to laugh without a sharp pain in her side. Ótama leaned over her and moved the blanket away to look at the bandages around her waist. She watched Ótama, a small tinge of guilt in her chest as she saw how exhausted she looked. Her face was thinner than usual and her hair was as knotted as a bird’s nest.

“Well, you didn’t open the wound again, thank Un, and no thanks to you.”

Systa just smiled and closed her eyes while Ótama pulled the blankets back over her.

“Just so you know, once you’re better I’m going to beat the living shit out of you,” Ótama warned her and roughly tucked the blankets under her so that Systa was wrapped by them like a cocoon.

Systa wriggled her hand out of the blanket and reached for her sister’s hand. The angry expression on Ótama’s face instantly softened.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Systa reassured her. This time she had a serious look on her face. “But I didn’t want Ulf’s plan to fail.”

“The dwarfs we sent would have been enough.”

“We don’t know that. The dwarfs could have recognised the signs before they entered the city, I didn’t want to risk that.”

“But you would risk your life?!” Ótama shouted angrily, her eyes already red as new tears welled up in them. “You’re all I have, Systa, did you ever think about that?”

“Of course I did,” Systa whispered sheepishly.

“And!?” Ótama bellowed.

“This was more important.”

Ótama started at her wide eyed and raised her hand as though she was about to slap her. Systa just stared back at her definatly. Finally, Ótama lowered her hand and burst into tears. Her face hidden in her hands. Slowly, one hand pressed over her side, Systa sat up and shuffled next to her so that she could wrap her arm around Ótama. Eventually Ótama gave in and hugged her back.

“I’m sorry.” Systa mumbled, her voice muffled by Ótama’s long black hair. “I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I needed Ulf’s plan to work.”

“Why! Why do you care so much!” Ótama exclaimed frustrated.

“You know why.”

Systa lay back down on her bed and, exhausted, Ótama lay down next to her and pulled the blankets over both of them. “You’re an idiot.”

“I know.” Systa smiled as Ótama leaned her head against the back of her shoulder.

“Don’t do that again,” Ótama begged. “I need you to promise me you’ll never do anything like that again. Promise me?”

Systa smiled and reached over her shoulder to pull Ótama’s hand around her.

“I promise.”

Systa sivered as Garðarr walked into the yurt and a cold burst of air followed him in. He smiled broadly as he saw her, relief all over his face.

“You’re still alive!”

Systa smiled and nodded. “Yes.”

“Good, good.”

Ótama eyed him warily. “Garðarr? Why aren’t you in the mountains?”

“I sent Kuzma to watch the mountain. So far nothing seems to have changed, but Ulf doesn’t think we’ll see anything for at least a few days.”

Systa nodded anxiously. “And Skógi? Has he been buried?”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

“A little north from here, towards lake Krewa, I thought he would have liked that.”

Systa nodded sadly. “He would.”

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