“Those men that we killed.” Alexis shook her head and folded her hands as she walked. Saphira noted the stress and turned to walk backwards so she could address everyone.
“Those weren’t men. The last vestige of independent thought was long gone or else they would have turned around and fled the minute they saw they were way outgunned.” Boston and Lincoln both looked at her, Boston with eyebrows raised and Lincoln with eyebrows knitted. Both knew their bullets had taken down some of the attackers. “Tiamut can do that,” Saphira finished and saw both faces relax ever so slightly.
“You are a hard woman,” Alexis said and Saphira just gave her a sideways glance without denying it. “I get the impression you don’t like people very much.”
“It has been a hard life,” Saphira admitted and then she held her tongue for a second as they stepped out from the forest and on to the grasslands. “To be honest, my last two lives were male and three out of the last four. And Iris did not live very long so she hardly counts.”
Saphira frowned. “The truth is I don’t think I know how to be soft. The Baldies killed my family. I married, but they killed my husband, too. I have had to support myself and my children by selling my services.” She flashed a brief grin. “That’s not always so bad.”
“As a warrior? Huntress, I mean.”
“No. As a woman.”
Alexis looked up at her with an expression that clearly said “I don’t understand.” So Saphira stopped and turned to face everyone. Half were already listening in so she figured, what the heck. “I’m a hooker. I’m a whore. I make my living inviting men to spend the night. Okay?” She lowered her voice as she turned and started walking again. “It was either that or marry a Sodomite.”
“Sodomite?” Alexis asked. Saphira did not answer right away. She looked behind and saw that Boston and Katie Harper had moved up close while the men kept their distance and pretended they had not heard. She shook her head and then she spoke.
“Sure. With most of the men in the settlement killed off, Tiamut encouraged others to take advantage of that. There are Jokantites, Amelikites, Hamerites, but mostly Sodomites.”
“You live in Sodom?” Boston asked.
“Not this early,” Saphira answered. “But I have no doubt it will be called that one day.”
They walked in silence for another hour before Captain Decker reported smoke in the distance. By then the sun was starting to set and they thought to camp in the wilderness. Mingus and Roland picked out a spot behind a secluded hill and they set up their tents and invited Saphira to sleep with Katie and Boston.
“No need to cramp people,” Lincoln spoke up. “It is plenty warm out here. You can stay in the tent with Alexis and I’ll stay by the fire. I am not sure after last night I will get much sleep, anyway.” Saphira looked at Alexis who was looking at her, but neither spoke at that point. In the end, most of them slept out under the stars.
Alexis did not sleep well at first. Lincoln had turned his back on her and she could not get comfortable. She did not mind at all when Saphira spoke.
“Still thinking about those men?” Alexis shook her head. “Lincoln?” Saphira tried again and saw a few tears fall. “You know he loves you, right?”
“I’m not so sure anymore.”
“Please!” Saphira scoffed. “I like to think I know something about love, given my profession.” Saphira shifted to her stomach and propped up her head to face the woman. “No, actually it is probably because of the time I spent with Astarte.”
“The goddess?” Lieutenant Harper sat straight up. She was not asleep either. Saphira nodded and the Lieutenant had to ask, “What’s she like?”
“Oh, very good,” Saphira said. “As good as Tiamut isn’t.”
“Tiamut?” Boston opened her eyes as well. Saphira placed a hand over Boston’s mouth.
“Hush. It isn’t good to talk about them. You never know when they might be listening in.” But then Alexis started to cry and the women did their best to reassure her. Not much helped. Alexis wanted to cry and was not in the mood to be reassured just yet. Saphira really finished the conversation with, “Maybe all he needs is a little time. He is a good man. My husband was a good man and I lost him all too soon. You hang on to Lincoln. There aren’t many good men out there.”
With that, Lincoln rolled over to his back. Alexis took hold of him like a child might hold a teddy bear. She curled up and snuggled into his shoulder. Of course he began to snore, but that only made Alexis smile. She was soon asleep. Boston was already asleep and Katie was not far behind. Saphira sighed and wondered if she should count sheep.
In the small hours of the night, while Mingus was on guard at one end of the camp and Lockhart was at the other end, Saphira walked up to Lockhart and plopped down on the grass.
Saphira shook her head. “I need some hot sex to sleep well.”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“I wasn’t suggesting –“ Saphira looked up at Lockhart. “Not seriously anyway.”
“So what then?”
Saphira shrugged. “Alexis and Lincoln are having problems.”
“I just spent the last hour with Alexis. They love each other so much, but being young again is proving a hard adjustment.” Saphira stopped speaking and Lockhart simply nodded. They watched the stars for a while before Lockhart spoke again.
“So what do you think we will find tomorrow?”
Saphira shrugged. “Hopefully, people who have fixed their problem and left in the night. If not, maybe some stick people. I ran into them years earlier.” She shrugged again.
Saphira stood and shrugged a third time. “I better go before my suggestions become serious.” She walked back to the fire both aware and pleased that his eyes followed her the whole way. She had to lie down and stare into space to settle her thoughts. “Gods, I want to go there,” she said to herself before she closed her eyes. She was speaking of the stars.