Chapter 7: An Unscheduled Side Trip

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Three in the afternoon is a drowsy time of day. The afternoon sun warms the air and makes sleep seem like a wonderful idea. And a nap in the afternoon can be one of the soundest sleeps you’ll ever have; you could sleep through anything on a lazy afternoon. Of course if you never got up for breakfast in the first place, that might be a little harder.

“Ailbhe, are you awake?”

The paladin groaned and rolled over to face the speaker. Behind her Iain grunted and pulled the covers over his head. “I am now,” she said, squinting in the dim light.

“You’ve got to help me, I can’t do this anymore. I just can’t deal with it.”

“Told you so,” she said, closing her eyes again. Macho Coffee might make one hyper as hell, but the crash afterwards was killer.

“No, don’t go back to sleep. You’re the only one that can help me.”

Beside her, Iain growled.

“Fine, just get out and let me get dressed,” she grumbled.

A few minutes later the paladin emerged in full armor, but fully awake she was not. “Now what exactly is going on?” she asked, stifling a yawn.

“I just can’t do it,” Ciardhe said. “I can’t be a good enough mother for-”

“Hellspawn. The thing is hellspawn.”

The healer nodded. “I didn’t believe you at first, but I’m starting to. She threw a twelve hour tantrum and I only just got her in bed. Please, Ailbhe, you’ve got to help.”

The paladin raised an eyebrow. “And what exactly is it that you expect me to do?”

“Make it go away,” she moaned. “I can’t take it anymore. She wanted macaroni and cheese, but she didn’t like what the cook made her. She wanted feather pillows, but swan feathers, not goose down. She’s a little terror. A demon child!”

“I told you that the first time I saw her,” she said. “What do you want me to do, purify her?”

“No! Just take her away somewhere,” she said.

Ailbhe gave the healer a look. “It’s not that simple. We can’t just drop her off on the side of the road; we’re responsible for it now. I don’t even know the thing’s name. Does it even have name for that matter? I’ve been calling it hellspawn this whole time.”

“She told me her name was Seasnan,” Ciardhe said. “Is there anything you can do? I’ll pay you.”

“With what money?” the paladin asked.

“Right. Uh, I can give you something so Iain will want you…” Ailbhe’s glare of death stopped her mid sentence. “Or may I could-”

“Shut up. Just shut up,” the paladin said, turning back toward the door.

“Are you going back to bed?” she asked.

“I’m going to get my sword,” Ailbhe said. “You’d better have a carriage waiting with hellspawn ready to go and suitably drugged before I come back out.” She went back into the room before the healer could reply.

Her sword was under the bed and she sat down on the edge to fasten her belt. As she finished, a hand clamped down on her wrist.

“Hey,” she said, smiling over at Ian, “I was hoping Ciardhe hadn’t woken you. I’m going out for a bit.”

The berserker barely had one eye open. “Going?”

“Yeah, but not for long,” she said and leaned over and kissed his forehead. “I’ll probably be back before you wake up again and Seamus is on the floor if you want to cuddle with someone.”

Iain looked at her, as if processing what she’d just said. After a moment he grunted and let go.

“See you in a bit,” she said and headed out the door.

Outside a carriage stood near the door. The horses stamped and snorted, shifting nervously in their traces as Ciardhe shoved her unconscious ward in the open door.

“Ready?” Ailbhe asked.

The healer nodded as she gave the bundled demon child another shove. “Yeah, just let me get in,” she said.

The wooden carriage frame creaked under the weight of Ailbhe’s armor as she climbed up to the driver’s perch. She snapped the reins and the horses lurched forward, happy to be moving.

They drove for several hours. The monotony of the road had a kind of lulling effect and eventually the over tired paladin nodded off.

The next thin she knew the carriage slowed with a jolt, but something around her waist kept her from pitching forward under the wheels. Ailbhe turned and saw Iain sitting close to her, one hand pulling back on the reins, the other wrapped around her.

“Iain?”

The berserker quirked a smile as he finally brought the team to a halt. “Yeah?” He let go of her.

“I thought you were still asleep,” she said.

“Can’t sleep without you there,” he said.

Ailbhe raised an eyebrow but didn’t call him on it.

“So where are we headed?” he asked.

The paladin looked around, frowning. “Away from here. There are robbers around and I wouldn’t want Seamus to..hey, where’s Seamus?”

“Back at the hotel. How do you know there are bandits?” he asked. “Sixth sense for danger? Precognition? Can you smell them?”

She gave him a look. “No, I can see where they’ve set up a trip wire across the path and there’s a torn bit of fabric in those bushes there.” She pointed. There was indeed a cloth scrap caught on some briars not too far away.

Iain frowned at it. “You’re right, we should get out of here.”

“Did you bring your spear?” she asked.

“Yeah, why?”

“Because now my sixth sense is telling me something. We’re about to be attacked.”

On cue horsemen burst from the bushes and surrounded the vehicle. Ailbhe drew her sword and lept at the closest one, knocking him off his horse. Swearing fiercely, Iain grabbed his spear. Someone screamed from inside the carriage. He swung down, but when he looked inside all he saw was hellspawn sitting on the seat and Ciardhe beside her. There was a dead man outside on the ground.

“You okay?” the ‘serk asked.

“Yes,” the demon child answered and grinned. There was blood on her teeth. He decided it was best not to ask and instead swung back up into the driver’s seat (after bashing someone’s skull in).

Ailbhe was fighting her way back, having already disarmed the trap. She motioned to Iain to make a run for it.

“Hiyah!”

As the carriage passed Ailbhe reached up and grabbed the arm the berserker stretched towards her. He pulled her up to the driver’s perch and the carriage thundered away, leaving a crew of very sore bandits behind.

“Damn it, Ailbhe, do you have to make everything so dramatic?” Iain demanded when they were out of danger.

The paladin grinned up at him from where she had her head in his lap. “It’s more fun this way.”

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