He watched her lead her black riding bird into one corner of the dimly lit castle hall, then pull out her curved sword again.
Harlock travelled the world for adventure and stumbled upon an abandoned castle at the same time as one of the beast species. She was of the feline-like species who were hostile to humans. She attacked him at once and he held her off until the snow and wind became too much to stay outside.
‘Let’s continue.’ she growled over the howling wind.
He looked outside through the narrow windows. ‘You sure about that?’
‘I’m not letting a little snow prevent me from taking down an enemy.’
‘I don’t think it’ll be just a little snow.’
‘You’re just trying to save your skin.’ she said crossing the stone slab floor and raising her sword.
‘Yes. And maybe yours as well.’
‘Hogwash!’ she said and swung her sword at him.
He deflected it with his short straight sword. ‘Have you looked outside!? It’s getting worse!’
‘I’ll deal with it after I kill you!’ she said attacking him again.
‘You’re not going to survive this either!’ he said dodging and trying to hit the sword out of her hand.
‘I mean it!’
He stumbled backward during one of her attacks and she was about to slash him when their birds screeched and hurried off down a corridor.
‘What?’ she asked as they heard cracking noises coming from the windows and doors.
The stone around the windows and the doors frosted over in front of their eyes.
‘Told you so.’ he said feeling the temerature drop. ‘Let’s get further inside.’
‘Maybe you’re right.’ she said and moved away from the outer wall which slowly started to get covered in ice.
He got up and followed the birds who went through the open doors and down a hallway. ‘This way!’
She followed him and they took their birds deeper into the castle after lighting up a couple of torches, down several stairwells, and into a library while closing any doors behind them.
‘I think we can stay here.’ he said looking around the musty place. ‘We should be far enough from the outside, and we can light up the fireplace.’
She helped him pile up old firewood and lit it. He checked all doors and found a small hallway leading to a kitchen.
‘There’s water,’ he said returning to the library and held up two dusty bottles and iron cups. ‘and this!’
‘You’re trying to get me drunk?’
He sat down on the tattered rug in front of the fireplace and removed the cork with his knife. ‘Would I get anything out of it?’
‘Then, no. If you get drunk it’s your own fault.’ he said pouring the cups. ‘Your choice.’
He drank half of his cup and sighed loudly. ‘Good wine.’
She took her cup, sniffed it and took a sip.
He looked around at the wooden shelves filled with diffferent sized books and wooden, iron and stone figurines of people and animals.
‘I wonder what happened for them to abandon this castle.’
‘Battle, famine?’ she said removing her leather armour and red tunic to dry them near the fire.
He could now see she had a black, grey, white striped pattern all over her firm body and not just her tail.
She glared at him. ‘What are you looking at?’
He snapped out of staring at her face and grey-blue eyes. ‘Ah, sorry, you look great.’
She opened her mouth for a moment, then closed it taking out another red tunic from the bags she had taken off of her bird. ‘Like your opinion matters.’ she said as she put on the tunic.
‘Yeah, I guess not.’ he said and poured himself more wine.
He shivered suddenly. ‘It’s getting colder.’ He stood up and opened the main doors to check outside only to find more ice building up down the hallways. ‘Oh hell!’ he said closing the doors quickly. ‘We’re going to freeze to death!’
‘What do you mean?’
He hurried to the fireplace and added more wood. ‘Ice is coming down the hallway. It must be crazy outside.’
His yellow-red bird screeched softly in the corner next to the fireplace where he had left her. The black bird answered and went to her, then they laid down close together.
‘I think they have the right idea.’ he said as he pulled out a dark grey blanket from his own bag. ‘Do you have a blanket or something?’
He pulled up another rug in front of the birds. ‘We’d better crawl together to keep warm.’
‘I’m not going close to you!’
‘I know you hate me but if you want to survive we’ll have to set our pride aside for now. Unless you want me to find our dead bodies together after this is over.’ he said and pointed at the doors.
Ice crawled through the cracks.
‘Damn!’ she said, took her blanket and sat down next to him against the birds pulling their blankets around themselves. ‘Try anything and you’re dead.’
‘I’m too cold to try anything that would get me kicked away from your warmth.’ he said grinning.
They watched the ice grow a little more around the doors but the heat from the fireplace kept it from getting further inside.
‘Harlock.’ he said.
‘My name. I’m Harlock.’
She kept silent.
She kept silent.
‘So, either your name can’t be spoken by humans, or you want me to make one up for you.’
She still stayed silent.
‘So, what do you think about the name..’
He smiled. ‘Nice.’
‘Stop trying to be friendly.’
‘Why? Might as well get along since there’s nothing else to do.’
‘You’re my enemy.’
‘I’d rather not be.’
‘We can’t live together in peace. We’re too diffferent.’
He thought about it for a while. ‘Just the way we look. And if all your females look as good as you I just know there will be plenty of males wanting to get along. Not to mention our women liking though guys.’
‘I’d like to think I appreciate beauty.’
‘How many of your women have you tricked with your snake tongue?’
‘Been travelling since I was young, never stayed somewhere long enough.’
‘And you never?’
‘I want to be with the right girl forever. But I know none who would join me in my travels.’ He sighed. ‘Guess I’ll grow old alone.’
He got out from under the blankets to put some logs on the fire.
‘Is there still something to drink?’ she asked.
He checked the bottles. ‘Empty. I’ll go look in the kitchen.’
‘But the ice?’
‘I’ll be quick. I’d like to have more wine myself.’ he said and opened the door to the small hallway. ‘Looks like the ice hasn’t reached here yet.’
He came back after a while carrying several dusty bottles. ‘I got everything I could find. This should keep us warm for a while.’ he said and put down the bottles next to her, closed the door and crawled back under the blankets.
She saw his white fingers. ‘Are you okay?’
He nodded and tried to get the cork out of the first bottle with trembling hands. ‘I’ll be fine.’
She felt his body shake against her. He managed to get the cork out and filled her cup. ‘Cheers.’
She drank some, then sighed and rubbed his hands between hers. He looked at her.
‘I don’t want it to be said I won our fight because you lost your fingers.’
‘Thanks.’ he said and she moved against him.
When he started to feel the warmth getting back into his fingers he clutched his fingers between hers. ‘You have really soft fur.’
She listened to the crackle of the fire, howling of the wind through the chimney and the breathing of the birds. She couldn’t help but feel comfortable in the warmth under the blankets with him depsite him being human.
‘I’m getting hungry.’ he said. ‘I’ve got dried meat if you want some.’
‘You’re willing to share your food with me?’
‘I can’t eat and not give you any. I’d be ashamed to be that rude.’
‘Leave it.’ she said and let go of his hands. ‘I’ll prepare the hares I caught this morning.’
He watched her clean four hares, then put them in the ashes of the fireplace to roast them.
‘Now we wait.’ she said as she crawled back next to him.
‘Looking forward to have some of your cooking.’
‘You should stop flirting with me.’ she said looking at the arched ceiling.
‘Sorry. I didn’t mean to flirt. I meant what I said.’
‘Yeah, you say that to anything female I’ll bet.’
He looked down and she felt guilty.
‘Sorry. I just don’t take compliments well.’
He smiled softly. ‘Then I’m the wrong company for you I guess.’
She sighed and took his hand. ‘Yeah, you are.’
They drank some more before she checked up on the hares.
‘Ready.’ she said and cut some pieces of the roast.
‘Good.’ he said while they were eating. ‘Unless it’s too much of a compliment.’
She grinned. ‘Shut up and eat.’
After their meal he stretched and yawned. ‘I’m going to sleep now if you don’t mind.’
‘You trust me not to kill you while you sleep?’
He nodded. ‘I trust you.’
‘You’re too naive.’
‘Probably. But I’ll regret that less than the other way around.’
‘Fine. I’ll get some sleep too. Then we can still keep warm together.’
When she woke up again she found him wrapped up in her arms. She looked at his goofy smile and stroked his black hair. He woke up for a moment, looked at her with his grey ayes, then crawled closer against her to continue his sleep.
‘Hey, what do you think you’re doing?
‘Warm and soft. Want to always sleep like this.’ he whispered.
‘Oh, you wish.’ she said and pushed him out from under the blankets.
He woke up at once and looked dazed around. ‘What happened?’
‘I knew you were a pervert.’
‘What? Why? What did I do?’
‘Taking advantage of me when I let my guard down to feel me up.’ she said pulling up the blanket to her chest.
‘Huh? I did? I’m sorry! I had no idea I did.’ he said and bowed on his knees.
She laughed and he looked up.
‘Just messing with you. Told you you’re too naive.’
‘Damned.’ he said sitting up. ‘Now who’s taking advantage of whom? And I trusted you.’
She grinned deviously and put her face up to his. ‘That will teach you to get close to an enemy.’
‘I get it, I get it.’
‘Anyway, looks like the cold storm has died down.’ she said and pointed at the main doors. ‘The ice is gone.’
They went to the doors and carefully opened them. There was still ice in the hallway but they noticed the temperature was less cold than before.
‘Let’s check outside.’ he said. ‘And see if there’s somewhere to find some relief.’
She agreed and they went back the way they came in, cracking open every ice covered door on the way. They were glad to find a latrine on the way.
‘You just want to smell my scent after I’m done, pervert.’
‘Just messing with you again.’ she said grinning. ‘Sometimes it’s just too easy.’
‘I hate you.’
‘Good.’ she said and went in.
When they reached the large hallway upstairs it looked like a part of an ice palace. The light reflected everywhere on the walls. floor and ceiling.
‘Pretty.’ she said.
They cut the ice from the doors and managed to open them with force. The light outside was bright and they had to shield their eyes for a while to get used to it.
‘Everything’s turned white.’ she said.
‘Yeah. Amazing.’ he said looking around the white garden.
The outer walls, the trees, the castle itself was white and the sky was a clear blue.
‘At least the sun is shining again.’ she said enjoying the warmth.
‘Whatever happened, looks like it has ended.’
‘Then we can continue what we were doing.’
‘Ah.’ he remembered. ‘I was hoping we could skip that.’
She pulled out her sword. ‘It was only a temporary truce.’
‘Yes, but weren’t we getting along? You must know I’m no threat to you.’
She held the tip of her sword under his chin. ‘Fight me.’
‘I will slice you if you don’t.’
‘I don’t want to fight you and accidentally hurt you!’
‘I care about you!’ he said and grabbed the tip of her sword in his hand.
She smiled. ‘Yeah, I noticed.’ she said and put her sword back, then turned to enter the castle again. ‘I guess you’re interesting enough to travel the world with.’
He stared after her. ‘Wait, you want to? You’re not messing with me again?’
She shrugged. ‘Who knows? You’ll just have to find out.’
He followed her. ‘I guess I got what I wished for.’