He'd lost his mare, Abelia, within minutes of the Dumnonii ambush. Her scream joined that of the dying Betas. A failure Holmia Serlocius carried with him, if he could hardly call it his.
Commander Martius Petillius Jaumius had allowed the Ninth Legion to get well and truly stretched out in the Dumnonii's territory to make for a fine slaughter.
The Dumnonii took Commander Jaumius up on that that offer creeping from the brush with no more armour than blue tattooed flesh that blended into the trees and flashing iron axes that thunked through iron plates and flesh only to shift into shadow and then back again.
Before the battle, Holmia Serlocius, though the commander of the cavalry cohort seconded to the Ninth, was in no position to point out the truth of their situation.
He'd told Commander Jaumius, he had explained in exquisite detail, that they should not extend so far north of Hadrian's Wall without supply lines. He'd told him that they were pressing too far north, and in the heat of disagreement he forgot that he argued with not another Beta commander, but an Alpha of patrician birth, a Roman citizen, seeking to rise higher through command in the army. For as high as a Beta conscript might rise, an Alpha Roman was always the higher.
Serlocius had been forced to take a punishment not like a Beta, even had such been merited, but as an Omega whore might do and so thrust away Jaumius' shame at being so publicly corrected and made that shame Serlocius' to be so used.
The ache had only just healed, though the silenced anger remained, when the Dumnonii fell upon them. Serlocius' Betas were well trained and followed his commands, but these woods were not made for cavalry. There was hardly room to move amid the close trees. There was no tactical advantage to be gained from a horse's charge.
Some four hundred Betas fell back along the ridge line.
They fell back to the ground as they went, until it was only himself at a spot between the river and a wide rushing stream to narrow the approach of the enemy. His attention on each barbarian as they came. At first, he was silent. He paid attention to each one's weakness and cut them down. But he was tired of silence, of holding back words. He called out his deductions. He invited them to face him. Omegas and Alphas both.
For the peoples of Britannia, whichever tribe, did not treasure their Omegas, but allowed them to fight with the Alphas in battle. If allowed was the right word for it, watching them run forward naked and screaming battle cries with axes raised.
Even seeing as he did, as skilled as he was, his injuries forced him to tie himself to a tree to remain upright. There was no advantage to falling. The Omegas already walked the battlefield slitting the throats of the dying.
Exhausted, words tumbled out of his mouth. Deductions about the next barbarian that he faced. This Alpha had travelled far north. The Orkney Islands based on the style of the picked out pattern of an Eagle tattoo over her heart. She'd travelled as far as Gaul based on the style of her braids and shoes. She favoured her right shoulder due to an old injury. An argument with a Roman arrow. She preferred birds over any other animal given the predominance of them whirled across her skin. The eagle was her favourite. She was a warrior of some skill, for she was not using an axe, but a sword of Iberian iron.
She began laughing sometime during all of this. She'd stepped away and said in accented Latin, "Sarmatian or Scythian cavalry?" Pointing with her blade to the eagle upon his right arm that marked him as a Peregrini conscript.
He said, "Sarmatian by birth, but Roman in all else." He kept his blade high.
"Good," she inclined her head, "shall we keep fighting, or will you give up? You are losing much blood and I have some skill in medicine. I can help you."
Serlocius sighed and gave into the inevitable. He fell as soon as he was untied from the tree. She bound his wounds without a stitch on, driving off an Omega holding a sharp knife with her own sharp words. Her name was Jonnyfer.
She put her hand very carefully next to the wolf inked into the skin over his heart. He said, "It is the Roman Omega Wolf."
She spread her hand wide upon his chest and he shivered at the cold and the truth of his situation. "I know."
She tied him to her with the rope that he had used for the tree.
As the Dumnonii returned to their village through the woods, and as Serlocius followed her, he had much time to gaze upon Jaumius' head perched as it was upon a Dumnonii spear and asked him, conversationally, if he liked his strategy now.
He was skilled at reading the histories of others, but he was not sure what to make of his captivity. Jonnyfer took him to her home, a burrow of a place nestled next to others of its kind around a squat stone tower, or Broch as they called it. He knew then why the Dumnonii were called the diggers. Their homes were nothing like the laid out grid of a Roman town. It was a twisting warren of concentric circles of earthworks around the Broch.
Jonnyfer drove the stake he was tied to into the middle of the living area. She said, "Tell me about your childhood in Sarmatia."
He said, "I have erased my memories of Samartia as one erases words from a wax tablet. Ah, but I forget, you do not read."
She laughed at this. "True. There's no need of it here. I remember all the words I need to."
He looked around the room with its stone crib and stone shelves pressed into the walls. He said, "You lived with your sister, an Omega, but she left some months ago with her child. You don't approve of her." He sniffed at a ring upon stone. "She drinks too much."
"Your battle truth is amazing," said Jonnyfer and left him there. He could go as far as her front slab as it faced the small open area in front of the Broch. That was almost all he saw of her for some days.
For such a small place, she successfully avoided him. He could not go far. For seven days of deadly boredom, she was out of his company.
She'd argued a time or two with the others over him, but she did little more than have him go in and out of her small burrow like home. He could have gone to the inner chamber where she slept, but he did not. He sat upon the stone slab and amused the children with slights of hand while he learned a few words and then more. His body healed, but he heard still Abelia's screams, which was odd. She was not his first horse to fall in battle.
On the eighth day, Jonnyfer sat down next to him. She held her left arm up to him and on the underside was an eagle merging with a wolf picked out in twisting blue lines. Somehow like the designs of her people and yet still the Roman Alpha eagle and the Roman Omega wolf. The flesh was still pink around the design. She said, "This is you. I wanted it to be done when we spoke again. Please, tell of Sarmatia. Tell me of your youth."
He could not quite decide how he felt about the ink on her skin. He was a captive now, which was different than being a Roman conscript serving his twenty-five years. There he might rise in rank.
The Roman wolf over his heart had been inked into his skin when he'd presented as a Beta. The ink mixed with the essence of an Omega. Rome was to be each soldier's Omega and she was what they were to die to protect. He had always hated to be told what to do. Yet the needle had pierced him just as deeply as the others.
Still, he was bored. He had nothing else to do. He gave into her request. He described what he remembered of the steppes of Sarmatia. It had been boring. Rolling grasslands for as far as the eye could see. Sometimes at night, the sky crackled with the roiling Mare roads of the gods and most days the winds blew and the long grass danced.
Jonnyfer wrinkled her nose. "I would love to see it. Tell me more."
He described the Romans who had come to select the conscripts. Betas every one of them. In the distance of memory, he deduced their life histories. Son of a vintner in Gaul with a dice habit and an affection for sugared dates. Son of a fish paste merchant in Iberia who carried loaded dice. Two Italians with citizenship, but not the funds to live on their own. Several others. At the time, he'd only ever seen the people of his own village and had not the knowledge to deduce any of that.
He told Jonnyfer about Rome. He told her about the Rome that he loved. She wrapped her blue swirled arms around her legs and listened to him. He had no fear in his heart. She was no Omega. She was no danger to the hold Rome had over him other than the rope presently staked to the ground and his healing injuries.
He told her that he'd known to be conscripted was to be made into a Beta to serve under the Alpha Eagle and protect the Omega Wolf.
His elder brother had gone when Serlocius was but a baby. Now Holmia Mycroftus lived soft in Rome in some minor position in government. They'd met when Serlocius had been taken to Rome after his presentation. He'd advised Serlocius to take advantage of this time of his youth and beauty when there was no shame in being taken as a lover. To embrace those who had power over him and so gain power from beneath.
He did not take this advice and for all his heart beat with every drop for Rome, he was not posted there. There was no need of cavalry on those streets.
As the cavalry rode from post to post, Mycroftus wrote Serlocius letters on thin boards saying he didn't have enough underwear, which was enclosed, and that he was surely not eating enough, and that Mycroftus was working to Serlocius' advancement, if Serlocius could but learn to hold his tongue. Boring advice.
Jonnyfer said, "You have not been eating. You need to eat." She pressed a small bag full of dried meat at him.
He said, "I'm not hungry." His belly made a noise that contradicted that statement.
She grinned at him and held out the bag of meat again. He sighed as he took a piece and chewed slowly. She said, "Tell me your battle truth. Erini over there, tell me about her."
He told her things about the people she knew infinitely better than he and she laughed.
Finally he could simply not take not knowing any longer. "Why have you kept me alive? I'm no Omega to be rutted with. Or are you one of the perverse. An Alpha who likes Betas." He tried to think of any other reason she could possibly want to keep him and came up wanting.
She smiled and said, "Tell me more." Curiosity was some form of reason he supposed. He told her more at no cost to himself or his loyalties.
That night, it was dark moonless clear. The villagers were deep in their cups. There were two Alphas in the Broch rutting with two Omegas in heat. One of the Omega was calling out words in a deep excited tone. Serlocius recognized the word knot.
The Alphas rutting with the Omegas were the third set the other Omegas had allowed into the tower. They let them in and drove them out as one might drive out dogs with long sticks.
There were Betas in the Dumnonii village. They raised their cups and drank to the loud cries from the Broch, cheering them on.
The Alphas in the camp were restless and rowdy with rut. They all wanted to rut, but the Omegas smiled coolly at them as they clustered around the Broch's single door and fingered sharp knives. If the Alphas wanted a chance at rutting, they would have to please the Omegas at the door.
All of it sounded unpleasant.
The scent of rutting was a pall in the air. The Alphas would be unable to concentrate on anything. It was one reason why the Romans preferred Beta soldiers. All it took to distract an Alpha was an Omega in heat.
Then there was the other reason they preferred Betas. The phrase the soldiers, be they cavalry or infantry, repeated every day. Their personal religion to be celebrated on the day of Remus, when they kissed the statue of the Roman Omega Wolf with her distended teats rubbed in Omega scent. "Rome is our Omega, and we live and die to provide for her."
Serlocius watched the Alphas in the camp preen in front of the Omegas. There was a fight that ended in two blows with the winner making much of her muscles in front of the laughing Omegas. She was the next to be allowed within. Another that ended with an Alpha unconscious in the dirt. He was dragged away.
Jonnyfer sat by the fire nursing a cup as if she were a Beta. When she went by him and with slurred words bade him withdraw into his pallet within the main chamber, he knew it was time to go.
When she was asleep, he untied himself and stifled his disdain at the knots. He slipped out of the camp and stole one of his captor's horses. It was smaller than he was used to, but it was better than nothing. He rode east rather than straight south.
He rode all night and into the grey morning that had the trees dripping with clouds that refused to become a true rain. The only sound being the stead clop of the horse's hooves and the dripping trees. Still it took him a disgustingly long time to recognize that Jonnyfer was following him.
She smiled at him from the ridge and hopped down onto the trail.
He said, "You will find me less easy to capture without the rest of your barbarian horde." This was hyperbolic of him, but he was feeling annoyed with himself. He should have noticed her far sooner.
"I'm not capturing you. I am going in the same direction as you." Her feet made a steady sound in the mud.
He stopped his horse and dismounted. It would be no advantage in a fight. "Why are you following me?" He needed to know.
She tilted her head. The blue pattern of two wheeling birds across her cheek picked up in the blue of her eyes. "Have you heard of Cu Chulainn?"
Since her barbarian stories were irrelevant, he had no shame in saying, "No, I have not."
She bobbed her head and unslung her pack from her shoulder and tied it to the saddle. She set off down the trail leading the mare. He walked next to her. It was the direction he was going after all. "Cu Chulainn was of Ulster. His Mother, a beautiful Omega, first went into heat with a powerful Alpha, a great chief, but then Lugh, the god of Light appeared and begged the Omegas for her favour. As he was a god, they granted this request and he whisked her to a magic land where they shared her heat for a thousand years, but for the rest of the world was only three days."
Serlocius stepped over a root knotting the soil. "Sounds unpleasant."
She shrugged. "When she came back, her child Cu Chulainn was born with thirteen eyes."
"Does this story have a point?" He glared at the side of her face, but her expression revealed nothing.
"You asked this question many times, and I am answering now that you are finally well enough to escape." The mare lipped at Jonnyfer's hair, which showed which side the mare was on. "Now while his Mother was happily bouncing on Lugh's massive Alpha cock," she shot an amused glance at his disgruntled expression, "an Omega came to the walls of Ulster. She was in heat. She begged to be let inside and to have her heat managed by the other Omegas in the Broch. But they did not let her inside. With no one to help her, Alphas rutted with her without regard."
"Why are you telling me this thoroughly unpleasant story?" It really was very unpleasant. Full of rutting Alphas, which was all he should expect of a barbarian Alpha covered in blue tattoos. The marks of which he hadn't been able to see since the battle, which was oddly vexing.
Jonnyfer held up an index finger. "She cursed Ulster. She cursed them that in their time of greatest need, they would all fall into heat. That the Omegas would lie on their backs and the Alphas would plough into them with no one to keep them safe from having their throats slit."
Serlocius smiled thinly. "The Romans neatly avoid that problem."
Jonnyfer waved a hand at him. "You are getting ahead of the story."
"Please, it is obvious where this is going. Cu Chulainn will not be affected by the curse and he will save everyone from his people's greatest danger." This really was a ridiculous story. Also, he could not determine if that shape on her calf was a heron or a crane.
She clucked her tongue. "When he was old enough, he heard about the curse. Cu Chulainn swore to his sister, Sadhbh, who was a wolf..."
"What that makes no sense! Why was his sister a wolf? Did his Mother couple with wolves as well as gods." Serlocius' hands found themselves in fists. He glared at Jonnyfer.
She grinned at him. "His Mother had been turned into a wolf and gave birth to pups. It was not important. He promised his sister…"
"The wolf," Serlocius could not help but add.
"Yes, the wolf, that he would keep her safe. He trained with an old wise Alpha of the Dumnonii. She taught him how to control his rage in battle for he had a fierce battle rage. This was his truth. She taught him how to become a Beta and a warrior both. She taught him to see everything with his thirteen eyes."
"That does not require… really… why thirteen eyes?" This story seemed to have no direction. It ambled much as they were ambling.
Jonnyfer's blue eyes crinkled at him. They were very blue like the colour of the sea in that one bay in Provence. Like the ink on her skin. "The time of Ulster's greatest danger came. Queen Medb of Connacht led an army into lands of the king of Ulster to steal their cattle, and as you said would happen, they fell into heat and could not fight. Cu Chulainn heard of it. He went to save his sister."
"The wolf." Really that was the most ridiculous point in the whole narrative.
"Yes, the wolf. Cu Chulainn fought them one by one at the ford without sleep for days. But he was only one Beta. He tied himself to a tree so he could remain upright." Serlocius could see where this was now going. "Cu Chulainn challenged the Alphas and the Omegas who had come to the lands of Ulster. He yelled out the secrets that he saw with his thirteen eyes and challenged them to face him at the ford."
"I do not have thirteen eyes. Based on the tired manner of your story, clearly after he saved the day he was celebrated and now you are plaguing me with his story." He crossed his arms against her.
She bumped her elbow against him and he reminded himself that she was an Alpha and no danger to him. "After a fashion. He took many injuries in his battles for all of his powers of sight. The last Alpha he faced, she was Queen Medb herself and had been in many battles. She quoted poetry as she fought, but she'd never heard a Beta put so many truths to rhyme."
"What? And… now you mention that he was doing all of his deduction in poetic meter. Really, you are abysmal at telling stories. However, in as much as I have heard stories before, I know what will occur. Clearly, she fell in love and spared him." He slapped the earth with his feet, getting mud on both their legs.
"She fell in love." Jonnyfer stopped in the path and looked up at him very seriously. The laughter had fallen off her face. "She fell in love the moment that her sword made its final cut and it was too late to pull back." She nodded her head and her short blond braids bounced. "I mean to be wiser than that." She resumed walking.
He sputtered, "But that's… that… that is not my area. I consider myself married to…" He'd been Rome's Beta for almost two decades. Rome was his Omega. Rome was far away. Serlocius' anger over Jaumius' actions went deeper than ink or even a phalluses thrust. For he was not the first Alpha to ride roughshod over a Beta conscript. Nor certainly the last. Serlocius could expect a bonus after his years of service, but not citizenship.
"Who do you consider yourself married to? I would like to know." She smiled brightly at him.
"I do not have thirteen eyes." This was admittedly not an excellent response. The answer was Rome was his Omega.
She brushed her little finger against his hand. "That is not a no. Tonight I will make camp, because you are tired and I will go to sleep because I am tired. If you are there when I wake, then I will follow where you are going. I would like to see great cities teaming with people and seas of grass waving with not a person in it. I would like to do this standing next to you. I would like to be your Alpha and for you to be my Beta."
She had a very appealing smile. The way the birds shifted and the lines around her eyes made a fan. But she was an Alpha and no Alpha could tempt a Beta from their Omega. Except, whispered some dull voice in his head that the Wolf had never done anything to prevent his disciplining for truth by the Eagle. He ached.
Rome was his Omega.
Serlocius was still in camp the next morning when Jonnyfer woke, but only because she was a very light sleeper and subject to bad dreams. She woke very early in the morning and pretended still to sleep for a time. She was very bad at pretending and he told her so.
They walked in mostly silence. It was very easy silence.
They stopped at mid-day, because Jonnyfer did not have years of discipline. She insisted they eat. He took the opportunity to examine the tattoos on her calves.
She caught him looking and in a quick move unpinned the broach at her shoulder and removed her tunic and short trousers folding them to rest upon a stone. She said, "Look closer. I would very much like it if you looked closer." She looked at him utterly fearless. Beneath that, that small tension in her shoulder where the arrow had pierced her told another story.
Serlocius should not. He was a Roman Cavalry officer, a commander of some four hundred and eighty Betas upon horse. Those Betas were no more. He could still hear Abelia screaming as she fell under him and he was nearly pinned with her weight.
He examined Jonnyfer's tattoos. They twisted around her torso and legs. There were dozens of them. She stood very still and only shivered a little when he touched the northern eagle spread across her shoulder blades.
The scent of an Alpha, the skin of an Alpha had nothing for him. He was a Beta. Her scent was spicy and a little wild. It made him think of the wind as it had raced across the steppes. He'd loved that wind when he was little. He'd thought it was an invisible horse, because he'd been an idiot in those days. He breathed in deeply at her neck, where the scent of her was the strongest.
She breathed in at the same time and leaned back against him.
He jerked away from her and fussed with the horse. She put her clothes back on and they continued.
That night over the camp fire, he ignored her. She was an Alpha and he was a Beta. She was a Barbarian. He was Peregrini, not a Barbarian. His people lived under the sway of the Alpha Eagle and Omega Wolf.
She said, "I made up the part about the wolf. In the story. Cu Chulainn didn't have a sister."
"Why?" He glared at her and she laughed.
"Because the look on your face when I said that Cu Chulainn had thirteen eyes made me want to see it again." She wrapped her arms around her legs and the firelight cast red and yellow lights on her face inside the small shelter they'd made of tree branches. Outside, the forest dripped. It always dripped. She whispered, why was she whispering, "Have you heard the tale of Finn MacCool and his Beta?"
"Based on previous experience, you are about to say this Beta was transformed into a wolf," he wrapped his own arms around his legs and then realizing, shifted to sit straight up again.
"Hmm… no, a deer." She winked at him and he sighed.
"Fine tell me this story." There was nothing else to do. None of the tasks that had defined his life were relevant. He listened to her and interrupted her. It was a ridiculous story.
She was still telling it as they laid down to sleep. Close to each other because the shelter was small. If as she slept, he moved closer and she sighed at his touch and seemed to ease at a Beta's scent, it was purely to improve their speed of walking.
The next day was the same. He told her of the lands around Rome. Of Provence. Of Iberia. Of the places he'd been and the things he'd seen.
They passed by small villages. She would shout out words and traded for the food they could not catch on the trail, but she did not betray him to them.
Over the light of their campfire, she told him Cu Chulainn had not had thirteen eyes. She told him that he'd been famed for his beauty and fierceness in battle. She told him a ridiculous story by firelight. He did not stop her from laying her head upon his shoulder. It was cold. It only made sense to sit close.
They reached the coast and walked along what in no way could be called a road. He told her about the Roman roads and their aqueducts and how Rome was built on a swamp that Roman cleverness drained away. He ached with his love for a place he had not seen in long years.
She said quite simply. "It is good to love like that. I've done so once before. It is what brought me to learn Latin. It is good to know that my heart was but an ember in me waiting for tinder."
He had nothing to say to that, so he said nothing.
She walked easily next to him. When they were silent, it was an easy silence and when they talked, speech was easy.
At night, she demonstrated that she knew an infinite number of stories about heroes who were Betas or loved Betas. He said, "You are clearly making these up."
"No." She used two sticks to move a log on the fire to better catch the heat with the others. "I am transforming them to my purpose. Just as Fionna MacCooill, who was an Alpha, changed her clothing into that of an infant's to trick the giantess Oona into letting her suckle at her breasts." She licked her lips in a meaningful way and waggled her brows.
"That is ridiculous." Because all of her stories were ridiculous. Still there was little else to occupy his mind on the journey. Her stories were full of flaws, which he pointed out to her in detail.
He woke some mornings with their bodies quite tangled up. But it did not matter.
She was an Alpha. She was nothing to the pull of an Omega for a Beta. She was nothing to Rome. He told himself this as he kissed a laughing lie of a story off her lips by firelight. The sensation was nothing like kissing a statue.
It was not that Betas could not couple, and often did together in the Roman camps. But it was a hurried thing between tasks and the one on the bottom must be of lower rank or else that Beta be shamed. Serlocius had been taken several times during his training or a time or two by an officer of higher rank who found him pleasing, but he'd never sought it out.
As he'd risen in rank, he had not done the same to those who were beneath him. It was not his way.
Jonnyfer did not seem to care if she was on the bottom or if she was on the top. She ran her hands up and down his chest, and yet there was nothing she could be but an Alpha. She kissed the wolf on his chest. She wound her arms around him and he may have kissed the tattoo of the eagle-wolf upon her arm. He did kiss it. There was no may about it.
He slid his fingers into where her sopionis was and felt the hairs shift and cling to his fingers.
He had very long fingers. She gasped and flailed about in her pack, pulling out a small jar. He sighed wearily, suddenly disappointed. It was sure to be something to make her sopionis emerge and then she would thrust into him from on top in the usual way. They were still far north of the wall and there was much she could do to betray him. It would be best if he allowed it.
She removed the stopper of wood and reached inside. The scent was that of bear fat with not trace of Omega in it. He would have known. She slid her hand around his phallus and her hand was firm and slick. She renewed what had wilted by his sudden thoughts. She bracketed him on both sides with her knees so he had no choice but to crouch between her legs or move away. She stroked him as he stroked inside her with his fingers.
He watched her face shift in the firelight as he teased at thousands of gripping hairs. They stiffened as she stiffened. As her back arched and the birds over her breasts moved in the firelight with her movement. The movement of her hand increased and he knelt his face into her neck and simply breathed as she took him apart.
No, that was not true.
She had been transforming him every day. This was simply the moment, as he came upon her belly with his phallus in her sure hand, that he observed it. He'd have been disgusted with himself had he not felt so good.
Which was why it was all the more unsettling when he began quite suddenly to weep, harsh ugly gasps as he struggled for air. "I want to return to Rome, but," he rubbed wet eyes against her as she held him, "in the same breathe I do not."
She moved so her forehead rested against his. "What do you want? Tell me, so I can want it also."
He struggled for words. "I want to see the wide grass again that stretches on forever. I want to see it one more time as I am now with these eyes that have seen so much else. I want to see Rome again and know if she is for me, or if I am nothing to her. I will know. I can see so much, I will know."
"Then," said Jonnyfer, moving her leg over his, "that is what we will do."
He pressed his face against hers. "I cannot go back. I would be deserter."
"Oh, love, are you so well known then? Is your face on every coin?" Her kisses were light like warm rain. "It's as simple as going."
So it proved.
They traded the horse for a place upon a fishing boat. They crossed through Gaul and skirting south of the great mountains, they crossed the Italies and the sound of the words was an ache on his ear.
They went to Rome and no one knew them. Jonnyfer made more stir than he did with the designs on her skin. One skill they traded was hers with a needle and ink. Another was his eyes to see the truth of things. It felt good to speak and be heard. To know Jonnyfer was there with her sword to back him up. It felt strange to walk the streets.
They went ever East. Finding small work where they could, for in the Empire, it took coin to travel.
Eventually, they found themselves on the grassy plains of Sarmatia.
He did not know where his village was. It did not matter. He heard again the words of his childhood and something in him eased. They purchased the far ranging horses of his people and an ache within him let go, an empty space filled as they galloped towards an endless sky.
One morning, he said, "There is a design I would like you to place here." He put his hand upon his arm, in the same position where the eagle wolf rested upon her arm. He showed her the image from their saddlebags. It was common enough in Sarmatia. When she had pricked the design of the running horse, even with the skin pink and in some pain, he said, "This is you."
She smiled then and carefully examined her own work. She said, "Where to now?"
He turned his face to the wind as it blew from the west across the steppe. The wind that reminded him on of Jonnyfer's scent. He pointed in the wind's direction. "Let us go that way." Which was how eventually, they stood in her village, years away travelled, and curled together under the earth for a rest. Just a rest. There was still much to see and do.
They saw and did.