Mary hadn't arrived yet.
Khadir cursed his luck, as he watched from the bushes. Britney FeCamp was pacing about the Gateway site - the invisible door to the In-Betweener - only twenty to thirty armed men and the Lord of Brimone with her. He didn't want to be around Britney. The woman had always given him jitters - even before she had turned evil. And... and the temptation to kill her grew stronger with every passing moment. He stared at her and stared at her - watching her as a hungry wolf would an injured deer - taking in her every stride, her every gesture, her every facial expression; and picking out weaknesses in all three.
How Khadir longed to have that scrawny neck between his bare hands, as the face it possessed begged mercy.
He took a deep breath and turned away. This was not why he was here. He made his way stealthily back to the abandoned ranch-house where some of the mercenaries had taken shelter.
Most of them were back at the ports, keeping watch for Ethelbald's ships, awaiting Mary's arrival, or at least her appearance.
Where could she be? Khadir thought as he whistled a simple two-note call. The front door opened and a mercenary let him in.
“No luck, sir?” asked Matthew, offering Khadir a drink.
“No,” said Khadir, taking a swig of the bottle as Matthew sat down next to him, “There isn't a sign of Mary, and FeCamp seems unaware of our presence. But... if she does intend to overthrow Earth, she'll need a few more men. Maybe that's why she looks so disturbed.”
“Maybe... um...” Matthew hesitated, “Maybe we could... You know...”
“No,” said Khadir. He stood up and handed the bottle back to Matthew almost aggressively, “I am not, and I mean I am not, going to disobey my sister.”
“Look, mate,” said Matthew, “Stop bollocking about, a'right? Who are you kidding? Who are you trying to fool? You want that no-good, back-stabbing skank's head more than anyone! Why don't you just go over there and take it?”
“Oh, shut up, Khadir! You know why she said what she said. It don't make sense, what you're doing, you know that? You know you'll regret not silencing FeCamp!”
“It is not up for discussion, Mister O'Connor!” Khadir barked. Without listening to whatever taunt Matthew passed him, he turned and stomped his way to the room he'd assigned himself, fuming and red-faced.
Khadir's was a small room, with almost nothing within. It had the slight scent of damp about it, and the floral wallpaper was peeling off at the green-speckled corners. He sat against the wall and muttered curses on Britney and Matthew and Mary. Anything and everything around him he cursed. He tore the wallpaper and smeared the damp. He ripped open loose floorboards and splintered the wood bit by bit.
He hated this.
Khadir was not a man of many emotions.
Nor was he a man who professed any emotions that he did possess - not even his anger would show most of the time.
But his emotions had become less and less containable and controllable considering recent events.
Having grown up in the desert as a nomad, Khadir didn't have a tendency for making friends when he was young. His family of two parents, ten older brothers, a younger sister, one horse and about seventy sheep were all he had ever known. Mariqah had been the first “stranger” he had encountered - coming from the big, shiny city that he had always dreamed of going to.
Oh, how he'd envied and resented her.
Why would she have come to the desert when she could have everything in the city? Why would she warn him against the city? How could she, even? How dare she? How dare she step into his dream and denounce it?
Khadir looked at the bits of paper and specks of wood in his hands, and reminisced the feel of the dust of Mariqah's body.
They blurred for a moment - the items in his hands - his eyes becoming hot, before they became focused again and water dripped on his face.
How many times had Khadir seen the same woman so close to death? He hadn't cried on those occasions. Not once. There was feeling. There was sadness, remorse, anger even - but tears? Not once. Crying was just simply something Khadir didn't do.
But here he was - crying.
He brushed his hands off and wiped his face with them, and sighed.
What could he do? What could he do? What could he do?
Mariqah had said not to kill Britney FeCamp.
But she knew Khadir would want to do so. She also knew how Khadir would do so.
He was not leader, this man Khadir. He had a stable mind, an iron conviction - but he did not lead. He did not set examples. He taught well enough, but he became frustrated with such things easily.
Khadir understood Mariqah's request, because she knew him.
“If I was not ordered to stay my hand, Britney FeCamp - Abbess of Masyaf, Witch-Queen of Skye, slayer of my sister - I would not stop killing you,” he rasped to himself, “I would curse you, cut you a million times and form a million tiny little wounds. I would tear your organs out and feed them before you to the dogs of the wilderness. I would show you everything - each and every thing that you had, every thing that you lost and every thing that you did. I would raise Richard's corpse, and burn him in the flames of the Masyaf that you stole from my sister. But allow you to die? Why should you die, Britney?” Khadir's voice rose in volume, “After the things that you did to her, the pain that you inflicted on her and the death that you bestowed on her - WHY SHOULD YOU DIE? I would make it my mission to prevent it, for the longest period of time, so you might suffer for all your wretched crimes!”
Water continued to seep from Khadir's eyes, and he breathed heavily, “But my sister decided that you be spared from me. Even in your murder of her, she cut aside for you an ounce of mercy. And, now, every second in which you still exist: offends me. Every suggestion to slay you becomes more tempting than the last. Every moment wasted in watching you pace about in your schemings poisons a part of me. Britney FeCamp, I spare you now because of my sister, whom I served by, lived by and loved dearly. Should you survive this and should I hear of you again - I will not let you continue in your offence of me.”