Fiction~~Ice Wind's Bride~~Ch. 8


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Ice Wind's Bride
Chapter 8 - Unexpected Relations

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Eating slowly, Silva watched Bey’s veiled face from three tents away.  There were too many cookfires – the extras usually made bandits think twice about attacking such a ‘large’ number of men – but Silva was happy at the moment that the light was so bright. Even sitting on the far side of the tents, he had a clear view of Bey’s face.

Bey’s entire body vibrated as he concentrated on successfully placing food in his mouth underneath the veil. It had always looked rather effortless when Silva had seen brides at home attempt it. One languid hand would hold the veil out, just enough to slip a sliver of food underneath with long fingers. Attempting it with shackled hands must be much more challenging, as far as Silva could tell. Bey was making an utter mess of it, the food staining the veil, the shackles snagging the fabric, and Bey cursing loud enough that Silva could hear him over the crackle of the fire and the murmurs of the men near him.

It irked Silva to see him still trapped within the veil. The first day Bey had come out in public, he’d yanked it off and tossed it into a firepit. Silva had laughed out loud when he’d seen it. Vasha’s warning to Bey was all it took to make the man wear the veil ever since, however. It made Silva sick with frustration.

If Bey broke the rules, Vasha had chosen the most old fashioned way to deal with the situation. He would punish the responsible party: Silva. As Bey’s husband, he was in charge of punishing his bride’s behavior, and if he condoned it, he was punished instead.

Silva wished he could get close enough to tell Bey not to worry over it. He had no problem with Bey ripping the veil off every night, if he wished. Silva could easily survive a few beatings. He didn’t need Bey to go through this simply to protect him from a little pain.

Bey snarled as his shackle caught on the veil again and dragged it half down his nose. Alik must have said something because Bey aimed his next snarl at him. “Fuck off, asshole, I’m putting the piece of shit back on.” He slammed his hands against his face to yank it back up to some lopsided parody of its former self.

Silva couldn’t quite stop a smile, despite their circumstances. Bey’s temper frayed far too easily. Silva might not have been allowed near enough to speak to his husband in the entire week they’d been traveling, but every time he heard Bey’s voice snarling curses and threats, it buoyed his spirits.

Bey’s cursing lacked that concentrated fury that came from severe mistreatment; that had been Silva’s biggest worry. But Vasha seemed willing to give Bey a much longer leash than expected. Silva might pay the price for every fit of temper later, but at the moment, he didn’t care. As long as Bey was safe, Silva could concentrate on other more important things, like getting them both out of here. Bey’s fury would build up, explode in some spectacular manner like it always did, and between the two of them, they’d find a way to escape.

He shook his head. The week had played hell on his nerves. So sure that a docile Bey would fool Vasha’s men into lowering their guard, Silva had been horrified to hear how badly Bey had reacted when he woke up completely. Their advantage was completely gone. 

For some reason, the disappointment had passed practically the moment that damn veil had gone up in flames. It was so…Bey. Why had Silva even bothered to ask the man to control himself? He smiled to himself again as he took a bit of ale. Had to be habit. He’d been telling Bey to get control since they’d met, whether it was gambling, whoring, or brawling. The urge to do so didn’t seem affected by the arbitrary nature of Bey’s decision to actually listen to him. 

A change in circumstances never changed Bey. But somehow, the man always seemed to come up smelling like roses.

He frowned. If only Silva could use that luck and get Bey out of this situation as well. They were almost out of time. The nights were growing colder, the farther North they went. In another day or two, they would be up in the Northern Reaches and it would be suicidal to try and escape without enough supplies to survive the outside temperatures.

Not to mention that right now, they were close to Uncle Pyotr’s lands. Going through here was always a risk. Not a good place to travel without enough men to protect themselves from any ‘accidental’ raiding by Pyotr’s men, not since before Silva could walk, when his father and Uncle Pyotr were still on speaking terms.

Two men alone, without supplies, would be happily picked off, if not by Uncle Pyotr then by the bandits that lay in wait for easy prey.

They were safe, for now. Their current camp was a small clearing shadowed by some truly awe-inspiring pine giants, bordered by a riverlet on the East side. Silva knew Vasha had posted men on the outskirts of the trees, likely a few up in them, knowing how careful he was. Men patrolled the camp, working in irregular shifts as they prowled around and between the tents, and a few guarded the horses near the water. There were only thirty or so, at most, but it was enough to keep Silva and Bey trapped.

If Silva could get the keys and release his shackles, and if he could overpower his guards tonight, he’d still have to succeed in walking across the entire, illuminated run of the tents, as exposed as a nude woman in a church. And then free Bey, and then they could make their way back to Varlan, dodging thieves and relatives, both.

But better at night than during the day; at supper was the closest he came to Bey, one of the few times where he could pinpoint exactly where his husband was.

He and Bey were tied on their horses during the day on opposite ends of the caravan, with the leading reins attached to a horse one of his brother’s men rode. They weren’t allowed time alone to so much as urinate. Or to take care of other needs, even while in the tent.

Silva wondered if Bey cared, or if he touched himself and thought of Silva while his guards looked on.

Flushing, Silva turned his eyes away from Bey’s, out towards where he could hear the snuffle of the horses. Bey’s dark stare had to be the reason his mind was trapped in an erotic fantasy the last few days. Not that it took much; a few days of marriage, and sex had already begun preying on his mind at all hours.

Vasha grunted in disapproval next to him as though he’d heard Silva’s thoughts. Shivar chuckled on the other side and glanced over at Silva. “If you don’t stop staring at your bride, he might think you miss him. Once he knows that, it’s all over for you.”

Silva didn’t both to answer, turning his head the other direction. Vasha reached out to slap him in the back of the head without turning his attention from his own food. “Rudeness is for the strong. Grow your balls bigger before you try it, brother, or it’s nothing but juvenile posturing.”

Silva turned back to glare at Vasha calmly without speaking. He didn’t flinch when Vasha raised his hand again and repeated the abuse of his head, but he did spit on the ground near Vasha’s feet after his head stopped ringing.

Shivar snorted under his breath. “Well, that’s definitely growing a pair. Just don’t expect to keep ‘em, Silva, not when you’re taking on Vasha.”

Silva tried to ignore them and watched Bey, thinking. Anything he said would be taken the worst possible way, no matter what it was; Vasha always found a way to make him feel weak. His older brother was so much a legend in their family and beyond that it had been nearly impossible not to accept what he said as truth when Silva was young. He wouldn’t fall into that trap again.

Silva would find a way to get Bey away from here. If he weren’t so pig-headed and hidebound, Vasha might even thank Silva for getting rid of a problem. Becuase there was no doubt Bey was a problem. Whenever Fyodar was the one guarding Silva, he was happy to share what was going on in Bey’s tent. Bey was being restrained more than Silva. Fighting more than Silva. Cursing more than Silva.

As Silva understood it, everyone was wondering if some mistake had been made and Bey should have topped on their wedding night.

Silva scowled at the thought. The fact that his father still followed customs that defined a man’s role in his own bedroom frustrated Silva as much now as it had when he’d fled to Varlan. A couple’s sex life should have no bearing on how they lived their lives.

Silva’s eyes drifted over to Bey again. Bey’s coat fit tighter around the chest and waist than Silva’s did, flaring out over his hips to fall to his knees. Silva could see his over-tunic flaring out from underneath, reaching down to mid-calf.  The silver embroidery of Bey’s cuffs showed below. Silva knew Bey hated the cumbersome clothing, but it had become one of the few positive things since they’d been taken.

Silva wasn’t certain if Bey had ever encountered the intense cold that they would be seeing up north. At least in bride’s clothing, Bey might retain more of his own warmth,  and not just because his anger was keeping him at a dull simmer.

Bey looked up at that moment and saw Silva staring. They both paused in their eating; Bey nodded with a minute jerk of his head. Thank the moon, he wasn’t angry at Silva over the veil. Silva didn’t know if Bey had learned who’d put it on him, but at least he wasn't too angry to cooperate with Silva first. They could come to terms after they fled South. If they could get that far.

There had to be a way. Dungeons were escape-proof; an encampment shouldn’t be. Although an encampment that Vasha was in charge of…might be.  Silva picked up another sliver of salted meat – deer, he thought – and choked on it as a soft whistle was carried by one man to the next from the outer edges, warning them.

Someone, many someone’s from the sound of the whistle, had been spotted, and they weren’t from the camp. Vasha jumped to his feet, gesturing quickly, and followed the sound past the lighted tents and out into the dimness.

Silva got to his feet at the same time, stumbling over his chains. The two men who had followed him to supper latched onto Silva’s arms as he tried to head for Bey.

“Back to your tent, Silva,” Nikol said, voice as firm as his grip.

Another soft whistle floated in from the opposite end of camp and Bey’s guards urged him back to his tent, as well. Then another from the water near the horses. Silva listened in dread for anything further, and cursed as the last side of the camp whistled in. Surrounded.

And he wasn’t with Bey. Silva hissed, yanking at his arms. “I need to go my bride during an attack!”

“Not until your becoming,” one of the men snapped back. Silva slammed against him with his shoulder, knocking him sideways into another soldier scrambling past to support the men on the outskirts. It didn’t free him, though, just came close to dragging them both to the ground until Nikol pulled him upright.

“Don’t worry. We can handle this.” Nikol sounded like he meant it and Silva cursed his brother all over again. Vasha drilled his men until they were so confident of themselves it was maddening.

“There are people on all sides of us. Anyone with an ounce of sense would worry!”

“Silva, you know exactly how well we’ve trained for this. You act as though it’s your first raid.”

Silva struggled again and failed to free himself. Something wasn’t right. A raid was one thing – bandits were as common as roaches – but this felt different. The timing, the silence, the fact that no guard had spotted anyone until they were completely surrounded. It smelled rotten.

Just like Uncle Pyotr.

And he knew they were as aware of it as he was. “Bey’s tent is near the Northern border. It’s more vulnerable than mine. At least let me make sure he’s brought closer to the center.”

“Let Fyodar and Alik do their jobs and worry about yourself, instead.”

Silva cursed at them both as he was half-thrown into the tent. His two jailers for the night stood in the doorway, Nikol facing him, the other facing out, leaving the tent open to follow the movements of the men racing to protect the camp. Getting off his knees where he’d fallen, Silva watched with them.

It was an eerie night for an attack. The clouds were dark enough that shadow’s were black, even though the sun’s light hadn’t completely faded from the sky. The men were sprinting to where they could best be of use, soft boots silent on the flattened grass. And the rest of them waited.

Nikol glanced out for a brief moment. Holding his breath, Silva braced himself to get past and had to stop as the man drew his sword.

“I will cut you, Silva. You won’t be permanently harmed, but I have a duty and I won’t neglect it.” His eyes hinted at empathy. “Your bride will be protected.”

A horn sounded, mournful and low, and noise erupted on all sides: running, the thwup of bowstrings, and almost immediately, the hoarse screams of injured men. Silva twitched, his hand reaching for his side, wanting his old sword. It didn’t matter that he was being held captive, these were still his people being attacked. His own brother fighting in the darkness. And Silva was trapped in the damn tent where he could do nothing.

And so was Bey, closer to the fighting. Silva could hear the noise flowing down from the North, swelling, far louder than it should have been for a normal raid. “There’s too many of them.”

Nikol nodded at Silva’s murmur.

Silva persisted. Couldn’t they see? “Bey will be too close to the fighting. He has to be moved.”

“He will be, if it’s possible. Fyodar isn’t a novice. He’ll take care of things.” They all stopped speaking as a group of nearly 8 men crept out from between the tents, coming from the West, dressed nearly identical to Vasha’s soldiers.

The other guard flipped his fingers at Silva and Nikol and slipped silently out of the tent. Worries over Silva’s escape became irrelevant. The other man would have gone to warn those fighting on the East, before they were taken from the flank. Had these men slipped through the cracks, or were Vasha’s men so overwhelmed that part of their perimeter was already lost?

Silva didn’t make a sound, frozen as they both watched the men disappear past another tent. Nikol whispered against Silva’s ear. “If you’ll give me your word that you won’t try to escape, we can make certain your bride is safe.”

Silva nodded, relieved. “Unless you fall, and then I’ll do what I must.”

“Understood.”

They checked the area, trying to separate the sounds of battle and the stench of spilled bowels from the seeming emptiness in front of them. Had anyone stayed behind to keep watch? Silva couldn’t detect anything. Then an outcry from the direction the interlopers departed decided them both and they edged out of the tent. Silva’s hobbled legs held him back so much he wanted to rip them off.

The sounds of men fighting, and dying, echoed around the encampment. Silver lit up around the tents as men used their Gifts on each other to deadly effect. Minutes later and there was almost no progress. Silva’s shackles made everything a nightmare crawl; it was too damn slow! Peering around another tent, he cursed under his breath at the scene in front of him. He’d taken far too long.

Vasha’s men had been pushed back to the inner tents. Unless Fyodar and Alik had passed Silva somehow, Bey was trapped back among Pyotr’s men.

Silva heard a series of shrill, unearthly screams from where the horses were picketed. Hasanid preserve them, had they lost that side as well?

“We have to get around,” he whispered. Nikol nodded, his eyes scanning the fighters from the shadows, blade already out. Silva was looking feverishly for one of his own, but while numerous men no longer needed their swords, their bodies weren’t near enough to retrieve. Nikol passed him his knife; Silva gripped it in both hands.

As they slunk around the edges of the fighting, Silva’s eyes tried to play tricks on him. Fire’s light and silver flashes gave everything a slowed, otherworldly look. A pair of shadows fighting one moment, blank darkness the next, and only one remaining shade the moment after that. Another man screamed, falling directly in front of them. Vasha darted by the next moment, snarling, whirling around him with sword and dagger.

The relief at seeing his brother still alive spread out from Silva’s belly and into his face just in time for Vasha to witness. His eyes caught Silva’s as he ripped open a man’s belly. He took another’s hand off at the wrist, ignored the screaming that followed, and sprinted into the shadows next to them.

Panting, he pulled a corded thong over his head and slapped it into Nikol’s hand. Nikol bowed his head just as Vasha grabbed Silva around the neck. He pulled Silva in and kissed him briefly on the forehead.

“Take your bride and get out,” Vasha said, voice rough, touching his cheek to Silva’s. “Head South. Pyotr will expect you to try for Father.” He left Silva standing there, stunned, and plunged back into the battle with a wild yell.

Silva swallowed once, speechless, and then snatched the key Nikol held out, still attached to the leather cord. Nikol covered them both, guarding as Silva undid his shackles, dumping them on the cold ground next to another body. Reaching down, Silva slid the sword from a still-warm grip.

He grabbed the key with his other hand and they both sprinted for Bey’s tent, trying to avoid confrontation with larger groups that would keep them stationary. And get them killed.

Turing a corner, Silva skidded across the ground as his feet hit a patch of slicked down grass that had been churned nearly to mud by men’s feet. He fell flat on his back, his hair splashing down in the muck, coated. Nikol crouched down to help him up. It put them both low to the ground, unseen as three more of Uncle’s soldiers ran for the front line. They looked right over them and he and Nikol held their breaths until they’d passed.

He needed to get to Bey – the man had to be there. He was tough, and Fyodar was smart. Alik was an unknown, but between the three of them, they had to be enough to stay safe. Safe until Silva could fetch Bey and they left. Another horse screamed its death agonies and a man seemed to scream in response, cursing unintelligibly only to suddenly cut off in a liquid gurgle. Silva gagged, struggling against the urge to go back and take on the men who were attacking in the dark like cowards.

Silva glanced back at where Vasha had run and grit his teeth before dashing over the dark ground to Bey’s tent. The thought of his brother’s body, left to rot on the ground without even the proper rites, his men littering the land around him…

Dammit, leaving was the only thing that he and Bey could do! This wasn’t his fight. Not anymore.

Nikol stopped him with a hard jerk on his arm. They’d reached the tent. It drooped sideways, partially collapsed. The opening was empty, dark inside, and Silva’s heart doubled its beat. Had someone already been there, gone after Bey?  Veiled, the man would make a tempting target. It had not been nearly long enough since raiding for brides was still permitted, as long as they didn’t have the full sword tattoo.

And sometimes even that was overlooked, if you had enough power.

Nikol had to hold him back from running inside, yanking his braid. “Fyodar, Alik, it’s Nikol,” he hissed quietly. Silva saw the glint of a sword being pulled back out of the entrance.

His own panic would have impaled himself.

Fyodar’s sword nicked out of the opening and beckoned him inside. Both the swords were up, pointed Silva’s direction, the moment he walked in.

“You shouldn’t be here, Silva.” Fyodar spoke like a disappointed father.

“Vasha gave him the keys,” Nikol murmured. “We’re needed elsewhere now.” The swords were withdrawn.

Fyodar accepted it as easily as he seemed to accept everything else. “He’s letting them leave, then?” Nikol nodded. Fyodar smiled briefly at Silva. “So be it. Take care, Silva. You, too, little flower.” Bey growled in response as Fyodar saluted with his sword and disappeared into the darkness. Alik paused, frowning with a glare at Bey before he cursed and followed.

“Be safe, Silva,” Nikol said.

“Be safe,” Silva repeated, returning the man’s brief salute before Nikol, too, ran back out the tent opening.

Bey blinked, watching Silva start on his shackles with a disbelieving snort, glancing back and forth between the tent door and Silva. “You all right?”

“Of course.”  He finished Bey’s ankles and stood up to unlock the cuffs around his writsts.

“So, what, we can go now?”

“Yes.” Silva couldn’t say anything else. Bey was his priority; this wasn’t Bey’s fight. Once they got out of here….

“Are you kidding me? That’s all it took to get us free; a fight?” The second his arms were free he ripped off the veil and tossed it to the ground. “God I hate that thing.”

Silva looked around the tent for another weapon. Bey grabbed him by the shoulders first. “Bey?”

“No bullshitting me now, you really okay, princess?” he asked, his voice gruff as he examined the slime coating Silva’s face and hair. “You look like you mated with a pig in his slough.”

“I’m fine. Slipped in the muck. We need to be gone from here while we can.”

“Yeah.” Bey stared another second and then yanked him close, kissing Silva hard, a quick slash of his tongue and lips before he let him go. His face was smeared with the same mud as Silva’s. “For luck.”

Silva nodded and they both peered through the door. The sounds of the fight were loud – something crackled with fire, more than their cookfires could produce. A horse was screaming incessantly now, and men yelled and screamed as the sickening, thick sound of metal tearing through flesh echoed closer to the tent.

“Which way?” Bey asked quietly.

“They’ve broken through the line here; Vasha’s fighting them just South of us, with no battling to the West at all.”

Bey nodded. They stood, staring as the sounds ebbed and flowed with the wind that carried them. “You’re brother’s an ass, you know that?”

Silva nodded, looking out toward the sound. They needed to go. Head West and then South, away from the encampment.

Bey sighed, putting his hand on Silva’s shoulder until Silva had to look down at him. “A real asshole,” he repeated.

“Yes. He’s always been…brutal.”

Bey grunted, then sighed. “And he’s your brother. So…we go South into the camp, then?” He grinned as Silva could only blink at him. “Hey, he’s an asshole I got dibs on. Can’t let some other bastard take him down first, can I?”

Silva gripped his sword tighter, something mending inside that he’d thought already broken. His voice barely worked. “Yes…that would be a shame to miss.”

They both started out of the tent, keeping out of the firelight, moving quickly, an even pace. Bey cursed quietly as his clothing caught on the thistles that hadn’t been flattened by their presence yet. “First thing I’m gonna do to your brother is make him wear this damn dress crap. If it weren’t so damned cold, I’d take it off.”

Silva leaned down to take another sword from underneath a still figure in their path. He tossed it to Bey just as a small group came out from the shadows a few feet ahead and stopped at the sight of them. Silva thought he recognized one of his uncle’s sons, Matvey. When the man smiled, he knew he had. The light flickering across the familiar face made demonic streaks of light and shadow across his eyes.

“Silva. We heard you were being brought back.” Matvey smiled and the others spread out around him. His voice was eager. “Father wanted to make sure you were properly welcomed.” He smirked, free hand edging toward his crotch.

“Oh, you did not just make a pass at my husband in the middle of battle. That’s fucking tacky, bastard.”

All eyes went to Bey as he grinned maniacally and readied his blade.  Silva’s cousin spit on the ground, turning back to Silva. “So you really did wed a Southerner. No wonder your tribe is falling apart.”

Bey charged before the man finished speaking, yelling as he went. Silva scrambled behind, barely catching a slice that would have landed against Bey’s unprotected back as he fought with Matvey.

Bey was grinning, swinging with a wildness that always seemed out of control but never quite left an opening. “Falling apart? More like kicking your pathetic ass!”

Silva’s cousin lost ground. He barely looked over when the man Silva fought made a fatal mistake and took Silva’s blade along his thigh. Silva stepped away as the man collapsed and he stepped towards the other soldier with Matvey. He paused as Matvey shifted, backing away. There was a sudden telltale focus to his cousin’s eyes, glinting blankly from the fire.

“Bey, duck!”

Bey didn’t even question, hitting the ground just as Silva’s cousin swept out with both his sword and his hands. Pale silver spread out from his palms like glass shards, shimmering over the air. Everything they touched exploded with a small, disintegrated puff.

“No!” Silva rolled to his feet, desperately tried to bring his own Gift to bear, but nothing happened. Until his becoming, it wouldn’t come more than half the times he called it. Matvey grinned and sliced down at Bey, still on the ground in front of him. Silva swung his blade to block it, protecting Bey’s head, and he and his cousin strained against each other.

Intent on damaging Bey, the other soldier slipped in and swung down. Bey rolled quickly, towards the bastard rather than away, and stabbed up through his thigh and into the meat of his body. Screaming, the soldier fell, tearing the blade out through his groin, splattering Bey as the wound splurted out his life’s blood.

Matvey gave one hard shove and Silva’s blade skewed to the side. His cousin held out his hands immediately, pointed at Bey. “You want your bride to live, hit the ground, Silva, hands on the back of your head.”

“You’ll kill us both. No deal.” His uncle’s family had no honor. If he and Bey were going to die, they’d do it fighting.

“Yeah, fuck you.” Bey knelt on the ground, watching the man’s hands. Silva could see his mind churning, searching for a way out.

Then another dozen of his uncle’s men came out of the darkness. Bey cursed, spewing words Silva was too furious to even say.

Matvey lowered his hands, smiling coldly. “You’re not to be killed, Silva. I can promise you that, at least for a while. Uncle wants you. I told you he heard you were being brought back. He has something special planned for you and your bride, and your brother if we can take him alive.” He sneered. “Although he didn’t know your bride was a southerner.”

“Uncle can rot,” Silva said. His cousin’s eyes shifted to the right and Silva turned as he heard the telltale rustle of grass at his side. He wasn’t fast enough; something hit his head so hard he saw stars, dropping his sword. An arm wrapped around his throat, yanking him back, followed by a blade against his jugular.

The shattering pain in his skull made his eyes blur. Bey’s bellowing voice caught at his ear; he tried to struggle. He couldn’t let them hurt Bey….

Fighting to keep his feet and not slice his own neck, Silva watched as the other men threw themselves at Bey. The man went down hard. “Fucking shit!”

Bey cursed as they wrestled him to the ground, one of the men getting stabbed in the arm before they disarmed him. Barely aware, Silva shook himself as his arms were secured behind his back along with Bey’s. He had to stay aware. Focus.

They were shoved away from the sounds of fighting. Bey bumped into Silva’s side on the next push from behind. “You okay?” he whispered.

When he tried to open his mouth, Silva could only moan in response. His cousin gave him a shove that knocked him to his knees. He fell on his face when his balance wasn’t good enough to hold himself without his arms.

There was a scuffle, Bey cursing and kicking out at Matvey. Picked up by his arms, Silva couldn't turn to make sure Bey wasn’t getting himself killed.

“Bey, stop. Please…” He nearly fell again as Bey and he were pushed on. Bey’s eyes glared at every man surrounding them, which grew in number as they passed one tent after another. If this many men were here, and the fighting was elsewhere, just how big a force had Uncle sent after them? And why so many?

Bey tried to keep Silva up when he stumbled again, cussing out anyone who shoved them too hard, murmuring words to Silva that he couldn’t quite make out over the faint roaring in his head. It wasn’t until they faced even more men, with spare horses, that Silva realized they truly weren’t going to be killed. Rough hands forced Bey and Silva to mount up, tying them to the saddle the same way Vasha’s men always had, only tighter. Silva didn’t think he’d be able to feel his hands for too long. The leads were tied to Matvey’s and another guard’s horses, and they headed away from the battle, North then East, towards Pyotr’s lands.

They really were going to be taken to his Uncle. Silva swayed, his eyes seeing double, and prayed he could find a way to get them both killed before then if they couldn’t get away.

It would be better then whatever Pyotr had planned.

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