Aurie is welcomed into her new friend’s home and learns a little more about her family. That will be reversed in the next installment when Aurelia invites Colour to get to know her better.
Where in the hell did Filk go? He was told to come to his aunt’s place and it just isn’t that far. I’ll look into that.
Increasingly confused and about to cry, Colour had them dismount and take their horses to a small paddock just to their left. Watered, foddered, and brushed, she watched the young general put her fairly empty saddlebags over her left shoulder before taking her nextgen battlerifle in her right.
“We found a ton of these things,” Hartmann said, seeing her look at the rifle, “in warehouses just after the Breakup. Enough for our first four legions. Once Alex Hood and her forces around Fort Benning were beaten, my aunt commissioned the manufacture of enough for fifteen legions.”
“Fifteen…!” Colour gasped, taking the single, creaky step onto her old wooden porch.
“We’re ten on paper but have never mobilized more than eight at once, those two cases being the Old Eagle campaign – what you would have called Washington – and the St. Louis campaign.”
“I… we’ve heard about St. Louis,” she opened her front door. Unlocked, Aurelia noted. “You said you helped plan it?”
“Yep. I’m the only demi who can sometimes get precog flashes.” She noted her friend mouth the word. “Sorry. Precognition. Every now and then God lets me see one of our possible futures. In that case, I saw the Empress’ targeting was slightly off. My targeting assured maximum casualties. Too bright!”
Aurelia covered her eyes and took a step back onto the porch. Colour immediately switched the overhead light off.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized. “I know you said your eyes are sensitive. Give me just a minute…”
Knowing her own home as well as she knew how to get there, Aurelia watched her friend navigate around a coffee table to an oil lamp on an end table next to a small couch.
“I’m lighting a match!” she called. Aurelia forced her dilated eyes to something a little more human. The match flared and she lit the lamp, turning it down once it was ignited.
“Thank you, Colour,” Aurelia said. She hefted her things. “Where should I put all this?”
“As you’re my guest, you get the bed,” she replied. “I’ll be fine out here.”
“How big’s your bed? I’ve slept with an army, after all!” she laughed, moving toward the door to the right of the tiny kitchen. “Oh. Twin-sized. I like you, Friend, just not that much.”
“That’s fine!” Colour laughed right back. “I will get you fresh sheets and a blanket before we retire, though. The least I can do.”
Hartmann went on into the bedroom. Another oil lamp was on a nightstand next to an electric reading lamp by the bed. Do they have power generation problems? I’d ask but would sound like a spy. Her bags on the floor and rifle leaning in the corner, she returned to the main room. Colour had turned on a small light over the stove and was rummaging in a pantry to the left of it.
“I’ve got some rations with me…” Aurelia began, only to have the older woman spin about and slap her hands onto the countertop.
“You are a guest in my house!” she nearly shouted, “and I shall treat you like one!”
Aurelia gave a short bow, as she would to one of the Crown Princes or Princesses. Of course, she doesn’t know that protocol. I want to offer to help but think that would make her angrier.
“I’ll sit on the couch, then,” she said, but paused. “Er, I’m not the cleanest right now. And smell like a horse.”
“If your eyes are that good, Aurelia, then I bet your nose is, too,” Colour smiled while putting some water into a small pot and setting a skillet next to it on the stove. “While I do have an old truck out back that starts about one time in four, all my trips are on horseback. Everything here smells like a horse.”
While Colour puttered in the kitchen, Aurelia looked about. Opposite the couch was a stone fireplace. Mostly cleaned out now, given the late spring temperatures, but obviously well used. There were several pictures on the mantel. She stood. Since I was invited in, this is not prying.
A picture from about ten years ago of Colour with a man a little older than her and one a little younger. Her brothers. The younger is the father of Filk. The next was similar but perhaps five years earlier. The three children were in the same place but an older couple stood behind them.
“Your mom,” she spoke up, “aged well for three kids. My aunt looks thirty-five after seven and all her years in battle.”
“Yeah,” Colour agreed, straining some noodles before adding butter and some salt to them. Four eggs were frying in the skillet. “She had some medical problems before the end; maybe from working in hospitals most of her life before the Breakup?”
She split the noodles onto two plates and then slid two lightly fried eggs on top.
“Once trade stopped and the medicines weren’t just expired but gone,” she continued, adding a fork to each plate and coming out of the kitchen to set them on the coffee table, “is when she threw herself into herbal and other remedies. All of us kids worked to find roots and herbs and bring them home to process them. Heck, about a third of my folk’s house in North Berwick was her storage and production as an apothecary. Something to drink? I’ve a little wine…?”
“Water is fine, thank you,” Aurelia replied, coming back to the couch. “While we can tolerate it on special occasions there is not a demi-human alive who likes alcohol.”
“Why is that?” Colour asked, sitting down with two earthenware cups of water.
“The lines in our heads,” the demi said, waving vaguely at herself. “They let us think so much faster than your kind and allow us to see into the Void. Alcohol messes that up. Sorry; it is hard to describe a feeling a human cannot know!”
“Oh,” was all the human could manage, confused. She picked up her fork, looked at her new friend, and set it right back down.
“Almighty God,” Aurelia said with her palms up. “Thank you for this meal before me and my new friend next to me. May they both always be there.”