Female mercenary leader, Mariqah, puts faith in an organisation of rebellious world changers in an alternate history where the British colonialism still exists. These world changers seek to abolish all form of imperialism. Mariqah is in tw minds however, as she has friends in both camps. Things go horribly wrong when she sets foot into Bengal which is torn by civil war - where there seems to be deceptive conflict between factions.


19. 15

Mariqah didn't want to hear it from Reynold. She had to leave and save the mercenaries from the gallows. But still Reynold spoke - yak, yak, yak, yak, yak, you're going to die, yak, yak, it's only three men, yak, yak, yak, yak, are you even listening to me?
 He was about to start a fresh new sentence, when Mariqah lost her temper, “Reynold, just shut the fuck up, will you?”
He stared at her, “This is madness,” he protested, holding his head, “You are in no mind, in no condition, and in a huge lack of resources!”
 “For the record,” Mariqah countered, searching the corpses of green-coated men lying in pools of gore for weapons and money, “My mind snapped a long time ago, I am in perfect condition, all things considered, and,” she found a dagger and strapped it on her forearm with a small belt she pilfered, “I make do with what I have.”
 “You have got to be absolutely insane.”
Mariqah sheathed two swords in the belt around her waist, “Figures.”
 “'In perfect condition, all things considered' - is not perfect condition!” Reynold snapped.
“I thought I told you to shut up,” Mariqah snapped, putting two pistols in her holsters.
“I know I've...” Reynold sighed, “I know I've disadvantaged you, alright? And I am sorry, but that doesn't mean I've stopped caring about your well-being-”
 “Oh, bollocks!” Mariqah snarled.
 Reynold grasped her shoulders, “I mean it,” he said, looking into her eyes.

 Mariqah paused, looking at him searchingly, “I haven't got time to... discuss this with you,” she said, “Maybe after I get back. Until then, I hate you,” she pushed him away and picked up a musket, weighing the weapon in her hands.
 “You want to get on my good side?” she said, putting down the musket, deciding it was too much bother, “Tie the live one to a chair in the study, take what we can use from these bodies and then bury them in the cemetery,” she turned to him, “And stop calling me that.”
Reynold stared at her.
“You get no say in what I do or where I go,” Mariqah said firmly, “Your opinion means nothing to me right now and for the foreseeable future. I am going to save those mercenaries, because unlike you - I actually value the life of every single man, woman and donkey that joins my army,” she turned away from him and took a few more daggers she found and strapped them to her boots.
“I just...” Reynold sighed, “If I can't stop you - and it seems I can't - will you at least let me help you?”
Mariqah stood up, silent for a moment, “If you want to help, give me your coat and your hat.”
 “I'll need to blend into a crowd. And if they smell the blood, they'll see a Redcoat - all is explained,” she turned to him, “That's all I'm going to allow you to do to help.”
 “But I can do more than that.”
 “You walked in here with the intention of killing me- Don't you dare deny it!” Mariqah snapped, “So I don't want more than your coat and your hat.”

Reynold gave Mariqah a dark look before unfastening his coat and stripping it off. She took it from him and then the hat and put them on, angling the tricorne on her head.
 Oh, she was definitely getting a hat after all of this, she decided.
“Thank you,” she said, re-adjusting her belts.
“You should take a bayonet,” Reynold murmured, “since we tend to carry those around. If... if you want to.”
Mariqah paused and then picked up a bayonet from the floor and wiped the bloody blade on a green coat. She slung it into a belt on her back, and then she began walking away.
“Life is easier with friends, Mariqah,” Reynold called after her.
 Mariqah paused, “Maybe in my former life,” she said, turning slightly towards him, “but I can't afford friends in this new one. Not when they attempt on my life. The only things I need are the clothes on my back, a sword in my hand and an army that with dive headlong into folly at my command. Because they trust me and I value them. No more than that.”
 “I am sorry. And I mean it.”
Mariqah smirked, “You've said those seven words too many times in my past for them to remain sincere,” she said, “But I don't doubt them. Just... just clean up this mess.”

* * * * *

Mariqah watched threads of sunlight creep into the dark sky to brighten the way for a new day.
 Dawn. Hanged at dawn. Hanged at dawn in the marketplace.
 She took a deep breath and broke into a run along the streets, desperate to reach the marketplace. The mass of people a hanging could gather was astonishing, so she had to push and shove past people as they shouted and barked their disapproval. Some way ahead, a fight had broken out between a group of Bengalis and Redcoats. Mariqah sighed and looked above to the buildings.
 To the sky, then.
 She ran up to a wall and scaled it as fast as she could, climbing up and sideways along fissures and cracks, window-sills and gutters, until she climbed on top of the roofs. The loose tiles came apart beneath her feet as she ran, hopping from on roof to the next. She paused on a flat roof and squatted to see the view below her. Great hordes of people, screaming and shouting their profanities at three men who stood on a newly-erected scaffold, hands shackled behind them, guards in red standing to their sides. A man from the crowd climbed up the steps and raised his hands. He wore red like the others, but his hat was of a different style and he wore a white powdered wig beneath it.
 Mariqah dropped down into an alleyway as Powdered Wig began speaking, grasping the walls to slow her descent, and landed in a crouch to absorb the impact of the fall.

 She paused a moment to catch her breath, but rose and ran towards the crowd, pushing and shoving her way through. People ahead started noticing the disruption, and made a rough path for her.
 Never hinder a Redcoat, they were told.
 As Mariqah got closer and closer to the scaffold, guards came up and raised their hands to stop her, to disallow her pursuit. She pushed the first one to the ground and pulled out a dagger and slashed the throat of the second, and stabbed a third man in his shoulder. The crowd opened up in front of her, and she walked into the centre of it. More guards advanced on the command of Powdered Wig. Mariqah pulled out her swords and twirled one in the air. Three guards stood back to load their muskets, two came forward. Mariqah stomped on the first one's foot, threw aside his weak blow and thrust an elbow into his throat. Then she sliced through the second man's knee and stabbed him through his eye.
“Take aim!”
Mariqah ran forward at the line of guns, as fast as she could, and just as-
She ducked and rolled to meet their legs, knocking them all over. She got up quickly, her swords flashing as the sun rose, the crowd gathering to watch her execute the three fallen guards.

“Don't move!” ordered Powdered Wig.
 Mariqah turned to look at him, her swords held down, droplets of blood dripping off of them. He held a mercenary's head - John Barrett, Mariqah realised - back in the crook of his elbow, pressing a gun to the man's temple.
 Mariqah sheathed her swords.
“Who are you?” asked Powdered Wig.
 Mariqah paused, panting through her nose, “Let them go, and you'll walk away from this alive.”
Powdered Wig laughed, “You'll just kill me after I free them.”
 “You kill my man, and you will know Death in a way no man has known him before,” she stared up at him.
“The... Mercenary,” he whispered, backing up, looking behind him to see if reinforcements were coming, “Stay away!”
Mariqah shifted her attention to Barrett, paused a moment before she gave him a pronounced nod of her head.

 Barrett bit down into Powdered Wig's arm and the man screamed. Mariqah whipped out a pistol and put a bullet between the man's eyes. He fell away from Barrett, who looked down on the man's bloody face. Mariqah holstered the weapon, and climbed up the steps. She took out her dagger and freed her men. She took out her swords and handed one to two of them and gave the musket to Barrett. She took the aesthetic sword sheathed in Powdered Wig's belt and raised it high.
“Today I reclaim what is mine,” she said, “and this will not be the end! If your people stand in my way, I will kill them. When you hear my name, say nothing, turn back into your homes and you will be safe. But speak of me, betray me or harm my people - and I will come for you and I will kill you! The queen and your British king do not want what's best for you: you have no reasons to serve them. But you do have every reason to fear me.”
Mariqah turned to her men, “Are any of you injured?”
 “Cuts and bruises, madam,” said Barrett, “nothing we can't ignore.”
She nodded and led them through the crowd. Redcoat reinforcements were coming, but from the rear. It would take them a while as they had to push passed people, whereas the crowd parted for the mercenaries like the Red Sea for Moses.

 They made their way to the church after doubling-back a few times to make sure no-one was coming after them.
“You should all make your way to the study, door to the left,” Mariqah said, holding a door open for them, “John...” she said grasping his arm.
“Madam?” he replied.
“Your leg.”
He looked down at his blood-soaked trousers, knowing that an old wound had reopened from the exertion.
“Cuts and bruises,” he said simply.
“It needs to get looked at.”
 “Ah, don't you start motherin' me, madam.”
Mariqah gazed at him for a while, and then said, “Just get to the study and find a seat.”
He nodded and went in. Mariqah sighed, observed the outside world for a moment, before she closed the doors and tied them shut. She took off Reynold's coat and folded it across her forearm and took off the hat.
 Reynold came out of the study in a hurried manner and said, “You're alive!”
Mariqah rolled her eyes and walked passed him, “Stuff it, Evans,” she gave back his articles of clothing and went into the study.
 The two mercenaries were resting against a wall, the green-coat was tied to a chair still unconscious and Barrett was seated on the desk.
“Did you keep any of the clothes?” she asked Reynold.
“Some,” he replied, “Why?”
 “There's a wound that needs dressing. Get me a cotton tunic, if there are any.”
He nodded and left.
 Mariqah walked up to Barrett and knelt down, “Now, let's see that leg,” she unbound the rope at the bottom of his trousers. It was said that hanging a man loosens his bowels, and so the legs of his trousers were tied firmly to stop his waste from escaping. She raised the fabric and saw a deep gash weeping gore through uncoordinated stitches.
“What did they do to you?” Mariqah murmured.
“After you escaped,” Barrett explained, “they... questioned some of us.”
Mariqah closed her eyes and shook her head, biting down on her lip. What could she say? What was there to say?
“I led you all into a death-trap,” she whispered.
“You were hoodwinked. We understand. I understand.”

Reynold entered the room, “I boiled some water for you,” he said.
“Thank you,” Mariqah said, taking the bowl of water and a white tunic from him.
 She tore off the sleeves and dipped one of them into the water. Then she wrung it out and slowly cleaned Barrett's wound.
“Reynold, a favour?” she said.
 “Take our sleeping guest to the storage unit,” she said and looked to the other two mercenaries, “Would you two be kind enough to help the old man out?”
They nodded wearily, and all three of them carried the green-coat out of the study.
 Barrett leaned back and hissed through his teeth as Mariqah cleaned the gash.
“John...” she said, dreading the answer, “Do you know how many are dead?”
He looked at her, “Madam...”
 “How many?”
 “Well, I don't know exactly, but...” Barrett hesitated, “about two-hundred.”
 “Two-!” Mariqah caught herself and stood up, wandering away with her hands on her head, “Two-hundred of ours, of mine - dead?” her face crumpled and tears leaked from her eyes.
 Barrett said nothing. He looked away, trying to find something else to focus on.
 Mariqah took a deep breath, wiped her face and sat back down, and used the dry sleeve to wrap up Barrett's leg. She tied a secure knot and sat back.
 Barrett leaned forward on his elbows, “What now?”
 “Do you know where they held you?” Mariqah asked.
 Barrett shook his head, “I was blindfolded all the way to the marketplace.”
 “Now...” Mariqah said, referring to his question, “Now I'm going to kill those bastards in their mansions. Four-hundred of them for every one of ours, if I can manage it. But first, first, I think it's time to wake our guest.”

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