Ripples in Time part 15

For general disclaimers: see part 1.

Thank you, Cyndi, for betareading.

Ripples in Time - Part 15

By Lois Kay and Cbar

With an eerie feeling of being watched, Mor opened her eyes. Her blue eyes scanned the inside of the cave, but found nothing but darkness. Still her nape hairs stood on end. She had a very strong feeling that Isa and her were not alone.

Isa felt the muscles in Mor's body stiffen and a pair of green eyes sleepily blinked when looking up at the tall woman.

"What's wrong, honey?"

" I don't know," Mor truthfully answered. " I felt like.....I was being watched."

Unconsciously she tightened her grip on the slender body in her arms, which made Isa smile. She patted the cool skin on Mor's forearm and stifled a yawn.

" There's nobody here, warrior. Besides, maybe somebody peeked in to see if we were still asleep."

" Maybe," Mor answered, not sounding convinced yet and her eyes traveled to the barrel of resin that was stacked away in the corner. She didn't want to worry her lover, but she was certain her sharp ears had picked up a sound coming from that corner. It had been like a whisper, rippling the silent, cool air of the cave. It had brought goose bumps to Mor's skin and even though she had not felt threatened, she had not liked it.

Isa's smaller body suddenly wrapped itself around her much taller frame and with a smile Mor looked down into a pair of twinkling eyes.

" I am cold," Isa explained. " And since you always feel like a campfire on a crisp winter evening, I.."

" I get the idea," Mor chuckled, wrapping her arms tightly around her lover and pulling her impossibly close.

" Do you like this?" she asked, in a muffled voice.

" As long as I can breath," Isa answered with a laugh.

They layed like that for a while. Not speaking, just enjoying each other's nearness and warmth. Until suddenly Isa pulled back a little and looked up at the relaxed features of her tall lover.

" Mor, I was thinking., when we chase away the Romans from this area, that will be a great victory, wouldn't it?"

" Mmmm," Mor answered, nuzzling the soft skin of Isa's neck.

" I would like to record that. Write it down, so years from now people will read our history and everybody will know what a great General you were."

Mor lifted her head and looked at Isa in surprise.

" What?"  Isa asked. " You didn't think I could write?"

" No," Mor hastily explained. " Nothing you do surprises me, my love. It's just's a great idea! Because knowing the Romans, they will probably give a totally different explanation of their defeat. I will get you the material you need."

Mor tried to get up, but was pulled back by her blonde lover.

" Not so fast, warrior," she smiled. " I am glad you like the idea, but....what about my morning kiss?"

Mor smiled and let herself fall back on the blankets, covering Isa's body with her own.

" A kiss?" she echoed. " Well, it's hardly morning, but I think an idea that great, deserves a little kiss."

Isa's eyes smiled into Mor's and she tenderly tucked a loose strand of dark hair behind a shapely ear.

" You know, the first time we met, I would never have thought you would be able to tease anybody, Mor. You seemed so....serious and moody. But I am glad you can, tease that is, even though I am your victim most of the time."

" You saved my soul, Isa," Mor whispered. " I was lost, until you came. I love you."

Mor brought her head closer to Isa's and kissed a pair of soft, moist lips. There was no hunger or passion this time, just a mutual sharing of love, warmth and tenderness, that filled the most hidden parts of Mor's soul and illuminated her with a glow, that made her blue eyes shine with a light that had never been there before.

The cave was buzzing with activity. Mor had not exaggerated when she had told Jaali the soldiers of her army would be starting to pour in at the end of the day.

Little groups of men had started to arrive at the cave halfway through the day and just before sundown there were already hundreds of them. Each of them seemed to know his or her task and Isa watched in fascination as the cave was swiftly turned into an army camp.

At the very back of the great hall and in the surrounding alcoves and hallways, bedrolls were neatly spread out, efficiently using all the space there was to make sure everybody had a place to sleep.

Mor had set up a small, highly efficient hospital, just off one of the small pipelines that seperated the halls.  Pallets were raised above the ground to prevent the cold creeping up and were covered with fur and blankets.

On the shelves that lined one of the walls, neatly stacked jars, boxes and baskets could be found. Each of them filled with either herbal oil, dried herbs or fresh ones. Every now and then, one of the newly arrived soldiers added to the collection.

Barrels of water were lined up against the other wall and as soon as injured soldiers would be brought in, a few men would be assigned to make sure there was always a sufficient supply of fresh water available.

A fire place decorated a corner that was furthest away from the row of pallets. A sturdy framework of cast iron made sure that even the heaviest pot could be heated over the fire, without crashing down. The location of the fireplace was a clever one. There was a hole in the wall, high above the corner, so the smoke created by the fire, would be transported into another room and not bother the sick and injured in any way.

While Mor had made a lot of preparations herself, her army had been busy as well. They had spent their time collecting and drying herbs. Sorted out and processed by the healers, into powder, ointment and salves.

Pine trees had been tapped for resin that was stored in barrels and would be brought in on carts. It had been a tedious assignment. And it had taken a long time to collect the sticky sap of the pine trees, but the efforts had been worth it. Three cart loads of barrels would be brought in and most of the soldiers were dying to find out why their general had made that unusual request.

Mor had made sure that there was a burning torch every few paces, so the soldiers would not lose their way in the system of corridors. The more soldiers arrived, the more torches were lit and by the time it was evening, the cave was completely illuminated.

Isa had been quietly sitting in a corner, her eyes wide, watching the transformation of the quiet cave into an army camp. She stared at the little groups of soldiers who slowly started to fill the cave and smiled when she saw the tired faces light up every time they spotted their general. Isa realized that Mor was probably highly respected among her men.

Bending her head Isa continued to neatly print the letters and words that would tell their story to the generations to come. Their story was not finished yet, but Isa knew with certainty that the victory would be theirs.

" What are you doing, cutie?" a strange voice suddenly broke her concentration and with a start Isa looked up.

A young soldier was standing in front of her, his clothes and face dusty from his travels. He did not look much older than Isa herself and she tentatively smiled at him.

" What does it look like I am doing?" she answered, not liking the lustful look in his hazel eyes.

" Writing," the soldier chuckled. " That's not a woman's job. You should be cooking us dinner, or better..." he lowered his voice. " Warm my bedroll. I promise I will treat you kind and I don't even mind those bruises in your face. Where did you get them? Your former bedmate hit you? Were you that bad? I can teach you girl, how to please a man."

Before Isa could even answer, the soldier was lifted off his feet and she saw his eyes almost popping out of his head, when the collar of his tunic was tightened around his neck. There was no need for him to fear choking, because with almost inhuman strength he was lifted up and thrown against the nearest wall. With a heavy thud he landed on the cave floor. Gasping for air and shaking his head to get rid of the dizziness.

Before he could even move, Mor was towering over him. Grabbed his tunic and pulled the soldier to his feet. When he finally realized who had been effortlessly throwing him at least four paces through the cave, his face paled.

" G...general," he stammered.

" That's right," Mor growled. " What's your name, soldier?"

" M...Marius, General."

" Listen to me Marius and listen carefully, because I am only going to say this once. You hear me?"

Marius swallowed and nodded his short cropped blond head. He tried to avoid the icy blue stare, but Mor's strong hand forced his chin up and he had no other choice then to look at her.

" One. Women are no less than men. Especially not in my army. Two. Don't downgrade cooking. Have you any idea what it takes to feed an army? No? Well, until I say so, you are on cooking duty. And three," here Mor's voice lowered to a dangerous low pitch. " That woman you just have been insulting is my partner. Of course she can write, she is smarter than you and I combined! And if I ever, ever hear you talk to Isa like that again, or to any other woman for that matter, I will cut out your tongue and make you eat it. You got that?!"

Big drops of perspiration had formed on Marius' forehead and he had to clench his teeth to stop them from chattering. The cold stare in Morīs eyes told him she was serious. From the stories he had heard, he knew their General was a fair and fearless leader, but whoever managed to get onto her bad side, could be in  a lot of trouble.

" So, what do you do now?" Mor growled.

" Reporting to…to the head cook, General."

" And right now?"

Mor had let go of Mariusī tunic and shoved him away from her, eyeing him with interest. Without thinking twice, the soldier walked up to where Isa was seated and bent down on one knee.

" I…I apologize, MīLady,"  Marius stammered. " Will you please forgive me?"

Isa cast a look at Mor and seeing the anger and distress in her loverīs eyes, made her aware of the fact that this situation was much more important than it might seem to her.

It had not been the first time Isa had to withstand the, sometimes, rude invitations of a man. It had happened to her before and even though she didnīt like it, she had learned to deal with it. But the cold anger in Morīs eyes made her realize this was an important issue. The majority of Morīs army were men and they were away from their families and sometimes their….lust, got in the way of their reason. Mor wanted to make sure that everyone understood who Isa was and what she meant to their General.

" I forgive you," Isa answered in a clear voice. " But I hope you remember that women are worth so much more than you give them credit for, Marius. By the Gods, your general is a woman!"

Marius blushed and he thought that dying wouldnīt be such a bad thing. Until he met the compassionate gaze in a pair of green eyes.

" Go to the head cook, Marius, to report for duty," Isa told him. " And thank the Gods that Mor spared your life. And Marius?  Next time try to think before you speak." 

Marius nodded and quickly got to his feet, very aware of the stares of all the soldiers that had been present in the cave. With his head bent he walked passed Mor, not daring to glance at his general. His priority was to find the head cook and report to duty.

Mor looked at Marius' back, until the soldier disappeared around the corner. With a sigh she turned back to Isa, who was looking at her with a gentle gaze. The silence in the cave and the many stares she could almost feel made her aware of the fact that she needed to make a stand. A clear one that would not leave anyone wondering.

Isa was a beautiful woman and Mor knew she wouldn't always be there to keep an eye on her lover. She didn't want to be overprotective, because she knew Isa could look after herself. But she did want to make clear to whom the young blonde belonged.

Without breaking their gaze, Mor slowly walked towards Isa and put both hands on her shoulders. With a quick wink she brought her face closer and tenderly kissed the smaller woman on her lips.

Isa seemed to understand the need for Mor's sudden demonstrative behavior and let her body melt against her tall lover's. Her arms slipped around Mor's neck and their kiss deepened, quickly becoming more passionate.

Mor felt herself tumble into a whirlpool of desire and love and it took all her willpower to slowly untangle herself from Isa's firm grip. When she finally did, her breathing had increased and her face was slightly flushed. She leaned her forehead against Isa's and gently smiled.

"Wow," she whispered. " Don't lose that thought!"

Isa's eyes twinkled.

" I won't," she promised, her index finger tracing Mor's upper lip. " Just make sure you share my bedroll tonight."

Mor audibly swallowed, much to Isa's amusement and slowly turned around, knowing she would be meeting a lot of curious stares.

She stretched out to her full length and raised a challenging eyebrow, while cool blue eyes swept the crowd of soldiers that was staring at her.

The cave was dead silent, like everybody present was holding his or her breath, to wait and see what their General's next move would be.

Just when Mor opened her mouth to bark a few commands, a clear voice from the back of the crowd suddenly shouted out: " Congratulations, General. I'm glad someone finally got you on your knees."

The result of these words were an outburst of laughing and in spite of the fact that she felt slightly embarrassed, Mor joined her soldiers in their merriment and accepted all the winks, nods and clasps on her shoulders with an uncharacteristic patience.

Isa just watched the display in front of her with an indulgent smile and her green eyes sparkled with love and pride when she saw her tall lover accept all the good wishes from her men and women. It was clear to her Mor's soldiers would go to hell and back for their General.

" All right, all right," Mor suddenly laughed, raising her hands in mock defeat. " Thank you all, I appreciate it, but please, let's get back to work, we have a camp to get ready."

" How are things coming along, Jaali?" Mor asked, a little later.

Her dark friend was standing outside watching the small groups of soldiers climb up the hill and seek entrance to the cave. Some of them cast him curious looks, but a lot of them recognized him from his visit to their camp and friendly clasped his arm while passing him. He had been accepted as one of them. Of course the fact that Sigrun had made sure to tell the story about how Jaali had rescued Mor had already made the dark man a hero. He accepted it with quiet dignity and an occasional twinkle in his eyes.

" There are many men and women already here, Mor," Jaali told her. " They climb this hill like goats. That will be an advantage in this area."

" They are trained that way," Mor explained, her eyes following the slender figures of two young men, rapidly climbing the steepest part of the hill. "Here are Baldric and Arvid."

Jaali's dark eyebrows rose and his eyes went comically round.

" Leaving their posts?" he wondered. " You think something must have happened?"

Mor clapped her friend on his muscular back and smiled.

" I think they must have run into Erhard, or one of his brothers. They were the last ones to leave."

Jaali cast his friend a sideways look and frowned, which Mor noticed from the corner of her eye. She saw the confusion on the dark man's face and tried not to smirk.

" Then everyone will be here?" he slowly asked.

"  Mmm," was Mor's only response, her eyes still fixed on the rapidly approaching scout and courier.

" But...."

Mor felt a strong hand on her arm and when she finally turned to face her friend, she could see the concern in Jaali's liquid brown eyes.

" As soon as Erhard arrives, I know a third of the army is here," she told him with a sparkle in her eyes. "Another third will be in the caves north of the Roman camp and another third will be south of it. We are east."

Realization dawned and slowly a huge grin appeared on Jaali's face, mirrored on his friend's.

" Sauda! You monkey!" Jaali laughed. " I was almost getting a little worried. You are as devious as a scavenger on the plains of my homeland!"

" You can relax, Jaali," Mor answered him. " This battle is well planned and victory will be ours! You can count on that!"

She playfully swatted the tall man in his stomach and quickly walked towards the track where her ears had picked up the distinctive sound of hoof beats. A few seconds later four horses appeared and with a jubilant shout Erhard jumped off his horse and enveloped Mor in a bear hug.

" General, it's good to see you," he laughed, lifting her off the ground and twirling her around.

" Put me down, you idiot," Mor laughed, happy to see her second in command and good friends again after many moons.

" Yes, G'nral," Erhard answered, obediently putting Mor back on her feet. His hands were resting on her shoulders and he looked at her carefully, a small smile tugging on the corner of his mouth.

" How are, my friend?" he asked with a lot of warmth in his voice.

" I am fine," Mor answered. " How are Sigrun and the children?"

" They send you their love. And they hope to see you again real soon."

" They will," Mor promised with a smile. " After we defeat the Romans, we will send for them."

Erhard's blue eyes narrowed and he slightly cocked his head when he stared at the woman in front of him. He was quiet for a little while and seemed deep in thought.

" You are really convinced, aren't you?" there was no doubt in his voice, just a hint of awe.

" I am," Mor answered. " Do you doubt me, Erhard?"

Mor's eyes had taken on a coldness Erhard was not used to and her face was set in a grim mask.

" I don't doubt you, Mor. I admire you," Erhard explained. " I have faith in you, my friend. If anyone can defeat those Roman bastards, it will be you."

" Us," Mor corrected him with a soft voice. " We will defeat them. For once and for all."

The rest of Mor's day was spent talking with Erhard and Jaali. Their heads were bowed over maps and they quietly talked for a very long time. Going over every detail of the upcoming battle. Mor had thought everything through, but still she wanted to hear her friend's opinion, not because she was insecure, but to make sure every little detail would be taken care of.

Jaali, who had known Mor for a long time and was partly responsible for creating the fierce warrior she had become, was astounded by her insight, strategy and creativity. His respect for his friend deepened and he knew now why all those men and women, rebels in the eyes of the Romans, would follow their leader any time, any place. She had a brilliant mind and listening to that soft, but strong voice, that calmly explained what was going to happen, instilled a trust and faith in him, that he had never felt before, prior to a battle.

The moon had already climbed high in the sky. The guards who were keeping an eye on the surrounding forest were moving in the shadows, very much awake. The rest of the army seemed to be asleep.

Mor, Erhard and Jaali had finally finished their meeting and content with all the things they had discussed Mor quickly wrote two little notes and sent two young couriers on their way to deliver them to the leaders of the other two camps. Mor knew Erhards brothers were eagerly awaiting her last instructions, ready to go into battle and decimate the Roman army. But Mor knew perfect timing would be crucial to their victory and she had urged Brandur and Reinar to be ready, but wait until she would give them a signal. Mor wanted to surprise the Romans and confuse them. Her plan was all worked out and Jaali and Erhard had been enthusiastic. The next day would be spent preparing and then.....Mor shivered with anticipation. Soon she would lead her army against the hated enemy and she was convinced they would be able to defeat them and send them back to Rome, like whipped dogs, with their tails between their legs. Stripped of their dignity and pride. Full of shame and a clear message for their Emperor Trajan: to stay out of the Mose Valley and leave the Ambiorix' descendants be.

Mor yawned as she navigated through the cave, sidestepping some slumbering forms spread out across the  floor.

Her eyes were fixed on the alcove in the corner, where she knew her lover would be. Probably fast asleep on their bedrolls.

Even though she had been extremely busy that day, Mor had kept an eye on Isa and was pleased to see that the young woman had been busy writing in her scrolls all day.

Now and then their eyes had met and at those moments time seemed to stand still and the activity inside the cave had faded out of view. Over the distance their eyes had locked and stayed that way for a long time, at least, that's what it felt like to Mor. Even with leagues between them, Mor knew she could drown in her lover's eyes. Easily. And willingly.

Mor smiled when she stepped inside their private little corner and her smile widened when she noticed Isa, curled up on the bedroll. The quill was balancing between her fingers and the scroll had rolled off the furs and was laying on the floor.

Mor knelt beside her lover and carefully took the quill out of her hand, putting it away with the scroll and the jar of ink. For a moment she was tempted to have a quick look at what her lover had written down already, but Mor decided against it. It was up to Isa to decide if there was anything in there she wanted to share with her.

Mor slid behind Isa and wrapped her arm around a slim waist. Isa immediately snuggled closer and Mor could feel the sigh of contentment when their bodies touched.

" Love you," Isa mumbled, uncoordinatedly patting the hand that was resting on her stomach.

Mor enjoyed the warm feeling that flowed through her body and pulled Isa even closer. She closed her eyes and savored the moment.

" I love you too," she finally whispered, kissing the top of a blond head. " I think I always have."

In spite of the cool air inside of the cave, Sam could feel the water run down her back and when she rubbed her forehead she could feel the perspiration.

Jody had slipped her arm around Sam's waist and had rested her head against a broad shoulder. They were standing quietly. They had not talked yet, nor moved. Sam seemed to be rooted in place, trying to wrap her mind around the things she just had seen. And failing desperately.

" Did...I feel like I am dreaming, Jody," she whispered. " I can't believe I saw.....that. What the hell was it anyway?"

" I am not sure, honey," Jody softly answered, giving Sam's waist a gentle squeeze. " But I feel like I have seen them before. I certainly did see the blonde one and I think the one with the one I saw on the horse. It's the same eyes I saw at the museum, reflected in the glass It's a bit scary, huh?"

" A bit?" Sam shivered. " I think it's...."

Sam stopped and bit her bottom lip, trying to decided what exactly she was feeling. From Jody's first ‘vision' she had been supportive of her partner, knowing she would never just make up a story like that. Even when Jody had told her about the tall figure on the black horse, she had taken it seriously, full well knowing that if Jody said she saw it, she most likely did. But now they had both seen the same....what was it? A vision? An appearance? It had been the strangest sensation to suddenly see the shapes of two women wrapped in each other's arms. Fast asleep. Until the dark one had opened her eyes and Sam's heart had stopped for a second.

" She has my eyes," Sam thought. " Or maybe I have hers."

With clarity Sam realized she was not scared. She had been thrown off guard and was truly amazed, but she was also intrigued and curious. Who were those women and what did they want of them?

" It's not scary," Sam finally answered Jody, turning around so she could face her lover. " Were you scared?"

Jody looked up at her tall partner and slowly shook her head.

" No, I wasn't. I have found these visions fascinating from the beginning. And right now I am just so glad that we saw this one together. But I can't help thinking they want something from us, Sam. I don't know, I can't explain it, but it's...a feeling. Somehow I think we were meant to visit this place and I am sure that sweet little old lady in that shop knows more about it. What do you think?"

" I think I want to step outside and sit in the sun for a little while, if that is okay with you. I am getting cold."

" Sure, honey, let's go."

Jody switched on the flashlight and provided the much needed light towards the cave entrance. Even though it was a short walk, it would still be possible to get lost. They were only about fifteen meters inside the cave, but it was pitch dark.

Outside the pair sat down on the nearest available rock that was showered with sunlight and Sam let out a happy breath. She was rubbing the chilled skin of her arms, trying to encourage her body to swiftly warm up.

Jody rummaged through the backpack Sam had been carrying and pulled out two bottles of sports drink. She handed one to Sam, before uncapping her own and taking a healthy swallow.

" Always makes me thirsty, ghost hunting," she joked, peeking up at Sam to see the expected smile appear on her face. " So, what do you think we should do next, honey?"

Sam emptied half the bottle before slowly screwing the lid back on and turning to face her lover. A pair of pensive, clear blue eyes stared into an equally pensive pair of green ones and for a long time they just sat like that. Looking at each other. Taking comfort from each others' presence and basking in the warmth of the abundantly shining sun.

" Maybe we should go back to that you had," Sam started. " Write them all down. The times, places, what you saw. Maybe we will be able to find a pattern or something. Maybe it will give us a clue about what to do next."

" Sounds like a plan," Jody answered. " And maybe we can go over to that little antique shop again and talk to that lady. She seemed to know more about the whole thing. Well, YOU can talk to her. I still haven't mastered the Dutch language," she finished with a chuckle.

" That is only because you are not practicing enough, sweetheart," Sam teased, enjoying the light bantering after the strange experience inside the cave.

" I just can't seem to wrap my tongue around it, you know."

Jody took another sip from her drink and was surprised not to hear Sam object to her statement.When she cast a look aside, she noticed the twinkle in Sam's eyes and when she opened her mouth to ask her lover what had been so funny, she suddenly realized.

With a groan she buried her face against Sam's chest and she could feel her lover chuckle. Sam's arm snaked around her body and pulled her closer. A pair of soft lips lovingly kissed her cheek and a low, purring voice sounded close to her ear.

" I am so glad there ARE things you can wrap your tongue around, honey," Sam laughed. " Forget about the Dutch language for a while. You just helped me to set my priorities straight."

To her chagrin Isa noticed she woke up alone, the next morning. She had turned around onto her other side and her sleep dozed mind had expected to find her lover there, but the place was empty. And cold. Mumbling something about life not being fair, she rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and yawned.

The downside of living in a cave was that it was hard to determine which part of the day it was.

" A window would be nice," Isa muttered to herself. " I would love to see the sun come up. And it would be better if some tall, dark and presently absent woman would be able to join me for that."

" Join you for what?" a low voice suddenly sounded close to her ear and with a yelp Isa almost jumped.

Mor laughed when she let her tall body fall next to Isa and leaned in to steal a quick kiss. Isa smiled at her lover. The cranky way she woke up already forgotten.

" I thought we had decided you can do better than that," she deadpanned.

" Yes, we did," Mor purred, wrapping her arm around Isa and practically pulling her into her lap. She tenderly brushed away the tousled blond hair from Isa's face and slowly and deliberately kissed her lover on the lips.

" Is this better?" she finally asked.

" Much," Isa sighed, snuggling closer. "I woke up to find you gone and I didn't like it."

" But I had a good reason," Mor explained.

Isa peeked up into a pair of loving blue eyes and felt the fluttering in her stomach. A small hand caressed Mor's cheek and the tall woman closed her eyes and leaned into the touch.

" What?"

" Mmm?" Mor asked, enjoying the feel of Isa's touch on her face.

" What was the reason?"

" Oh, that," Mor answered, opening her eyes and grinning wide. " Well, how about freshly baked bread, hot, sweet tea, honestly stolen Roman cheese with thyme and....honey-nut pastries?"

Isa's eyes had grown wide and she could feel the start of the familiar rumble her stomach.

" Honey-nut pastries?" she whispered.

Mor nodded and pressed her index finger against her lips.

" Sssh, it's a secret. Erhard brought them. He said he only had one for me, but when I went through his saddlebags I found lots more. I am sure Sigrun wanted him to share."

" You went through his saddlebags? Mor!" Isa chuckled.

Mor's blue eyes radiated innocence and she feigned a hurt look when she glanced at the woman in her arms.

" Hey! I am the General. I can do things like that," she objected and Isa could see the twinkle in her eyes.

" I'd better keep you then," Isa smiled, leaning forward to kiss the tall woman again. " But I would have anyway."

" I love you too," Mor smiled, kissing the tip of Isa's nose. " Well, better get up, my love. Before Erhard notices."

Isa jumped to her feet and raked her fingers through her hair in order to look a little more presentable. She stretched her muscles and yawned again, not fully awake yet. That always took her some time. Somehow Isa was not a morning person.

Suddenly she stood still, tilted her head and carefully sniffed. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the fragrance that was filling her nose.

" Mmm....what is that smell, Mor? It smells nice, like pine forests."

" It's resin," Mor explained, wrapping her arm around Isa's shoulders and pulling her with her. " It's harvested from pine trees. Right now a few men are warming it up in big pots to make it soft again."

Isa looked up at her tall lover and wrinkled her nose. Her green eyes looked puzzled.

" Why?"

" Because we will need it tomorrow," Mor answered, knowing that Isa would probably be appalled when she would find out the real reason behind it. " When it's soft, bales of hay will be drenched in it, so they are coated."

" Why?" Isa asked again, aware of the sudden tension in the tall body next to hers. She swallowed hard and nervously moistened dry lips.

" Resin burns well. We will use the hay balls against the Romans. Shoot them down the hill and set them on fire. The flames will turn the resin to liquid again and it will burn everything it comes into contact with. It's very sticky, hard to wipe off."

" we going to use them...on the Romans?" Isa asked, trying not to sound upset.

Mor suddenly stood still and put her hands on Isa's shoulders, turning the smaller woman towards her.

" I am sorry, Isa," she said, her voice hoarse with emotion. " But there will be a big battle and I will do anything to make our army the victorious one. I know it will be ugly. There will be a lot of...hurt people, dead people. On both sides. But I will do anything I can to make sure our losses will be as small as they can be. My men have families as well. And I am responsible for all of them."

Isa's face was pale, but when she looked up at Mor she nodded in understanding. Even though Mor could clearly see the pain in those deep green eyes.

" Isa, listen. I..., Mor hesitated. " I know we talked about this before, but..."

" No, " Isa interrupted her. " Where you go, I go. It's as simple as that, Mor. I will be at your side."

After those words Mor pulled Isa into a quick hug and the blond woman could hear the warrior let out a soft sigh of relief.

Silently they continued their way towards the cooking area, Isa's hunger already forgotten. It had suddenly dawned on her: tomorrow there would be a war. There would be hurt and death and suffering. And she and Mor would be fighting side by side. Tomorrow would change their lives forever.

Please, Gods, keep us safe. Please Tyr, let us win this battle and please Freya, protect our hearts.

Continued in part 16

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