Due to time slippage, Holly had spent three years and five months in Kor’Thank’s body, while only months had passed back on Earth. For most of that time, she’d been at war. She barely remembered what life was like before she’d laid siege to Flaysac’s outposts.
Two months ago, she’d mounted a super-aggressive push, spearheading the assault with an elite cadre of her light-armored shock troops. Unfortunately, Flaysac had already reached out to his peers: a handful of free-thinking bandit-kings. They’d set aside their rivalries to secure the peaks, which were needed to maintain their freedom of movement, and consequently, their freedom of trade.
According to Holly’s advisors, Kor’Thank had left the bandits alone. Aside from the occasional rabble-rouser, the bandits were—by and large—a collection of well-intentioned merchants. Kor’Thank had actually admired them. Not openly, but through begrudging comments here and there.
Which was batshit fucking crazy, as far as Holly was concerned. Kor’Thank had allowed independent operators to set up shop in his back fucking yard. Unacceptable. You couldn’t trust people to police themselves. No—you had to make them fall in line. With force, if need be.
(And if she was being perfectly honest with herself, it was way more fun when you did it with force.)
Unfortunately, her brutish approach wasn’t working, which really, really pissed her off. It had worked in preschool, when she’d stolen toys and milk; it had worked in eighth grade, when she’d driven her enemies to alcohol and Ritalin (one of them had become pregnant at the tender age of twelve—a rousing success in her vengeance-twisted mind); it had worked on the cheer squad, when she’d finalized her place as Head Bitch In Charge by dropping Lizzy Prendergast on her stupid fucking head.
Being a horrible cunt had always, always worked.
Until now, that is.
Yinhalka rode up to Holly on her war-raptor, coated in fresh streaks of blood and mud. Three hours ago, a small force of Flaysac’s shock troops had snuck past the guards. Yinhalka had spotted them during their approach and made short work of them. Typically, she would have imprisoned or killed the complacent Indashi sentries, but the fighting was costly; they needed every arm that could swing a sword. As a substitute punishment, she’d sent them up to the front line.
“Yinhalka.” Holly turned to her general. “Any news?”
The excitement in her face was unmistakable. “We’ve taken twelve of their outposts. They’re no longer fighting as a unified force; they’re divided into scattered pockets.”
“What about reinforcements? Can they shore up their—”
Yinhalka shook her head. “We’ve established a perimeter of heavy blocking elements and loaded most of the terrain with skirmishers and cavalry. Our archers have the high ground; we’ll easily be able to pick off any raiders.”
“No reinforcements…which means we’ve cut off their logistics.”
“Correct.” Yinhalka grinned—the smile of a handyman who’d spent long hours on a stubborn project and was seeing the end come into sight. “Two of our battalions have just arrived. Once we deploy them—”
“Have you told them to—”
“They’re receiving orders as we speak. They’ll be joining the assault within the hour.”
Holly’s lower lip trembled. At last. At long last.
“Holly?” Yinhalka’s tone became tentative.
“Nothing, it’s just…” Holly’s voice cracked. When she regained her composure, she said, “It’s just been so long, and I’ve worked so hard to…never mind. Keep me posted.”
Yinhalka bowed her head.
“As you wish.”