“What did he say?” I asked Jake.
“That he was going to go check on Kayo,” Jake answered, then flipped off a quick sign to Arr.
After the incident on Ukhta I asked Arr and Jake what they used for sign language in the tree that day. I can read Mercenary signing. I have been around them enough over the years that it has become a necessity - kind of a self-defense mechanism. Any woman with sense will learn so you can read what they are talking about to each other when you’re in negotiation with them or even just to know what they think of you when you walk in a bar alone. It gives you a feel for the temperature of the room and whether it would be safer just to turn around and walk out.
But, Jake and Arr didn’t sign pure merc. Come to find out, Arr’s people augment their language with gestures and Jake has picked up quite a few of them. They are sprinkled in his merc signing and Arr’s henu signing is sprinkled with merc signs. I have dubbed the new signing Mercnu. They offered to teach me.
“So that sign with the cross right fist is Kayo?” I asked. In merc it would have been spelled out.
“Yep,” Jake said. “When Arr first came aboard he wanted to know how Kayo got his name, so I showed him some fights where the match ended in a KO, hence the fist swipe. Got to admit, it is faster than spelling it out and Kayo has already learned it is his sign.” Jake sounded proud of the delinquent dar-dolf for picking it up so quickly.
Dar-dolfs are really smart animals it’s just that Kayo is so young. He is kind of a dufus most of the time. However, he really came through for us in the end on Ukhta. We owed him one.
Suddenly a satyr sprinted out of the woods at the edge of the meadow with Kayo hot on its trail. The satyr was having no trouble staying far enough in front of the dar-dolf to be safe and still tease by playing on his pipes. Arr was close behind Kayo in his attempt to catch the mythical being. It was quite a scene - the satyr gamboling like the half goat that he resembled – leaping and skipping. Kayo was like a fighter jacked on full speed. His was in a headlong charge with power behind it. He was quick, but moved more like a bear. Not near as elegant as the satyr when he ran. And then, there was Arr. He ran like a cheetah. You felt that if you could see his skin you would be able to see every muscle contract and elongate. He had no trouble keeping up with the two he was pursuing. In fact, he could have easily overtaken them, but that would have ended the fun game of chase. They all were laughing. I could even see delight on the dar-dolf’s face.
“Kids,” Jakes said, but it was in a loving way. He has really grown fond of his new partner. I haven’t seen him smile this much in years.
When I first met Jake he was an angry young man. His father had just been killed and he was adrift in the universe. His only tether was Tim and that was tenuous. Tim and Jake’s father, Taylor, were friends. Tim had a hand in training Jake and when his father passed he helped keep Jake on track, but Jake was a handful. For a while, he was in self destruct mode. It was all Tim could do to keep him safe. It was during that time when I met him.
Even though his mother was out of the picture practically since his birth, Taylor did a good job of raising Jake with manners and taught him how to treat women with respect and gentleness. It was ingrained. He had a quick wit and a sarcastic tongue. He would have been an excellent catch for any women willing to put up with his line of work. I would have taken him on then, but he was broken. He didn’t want anyone close enough to see his pain. If he only knew, the pain was there for all to see.
Over the years he kept working with Tim and his other mercenary friends. When he picked up Kayo he started to take gigs on his own with just the dar-dolf as back up. Tim worried about him until Kayo proved himself once by saving Jake’s hide.
The satyr fainted back and disappeared into the forest. Kayo and Arr circled around back toward us on the blanket.
Kayo sped ahead and bowled Jake over. They wrestled as I pushed at them to keep them from scattering our food all over the meadow. When Arr came up, he joined in and it looked like a passel of puppies. It was good to see Jake so happy. He deserved it after all this time.