Over the next day, Heddwyn saw the girl often. More often than not, she was doing something. Usually, it was to make either the other woman’s with the younglings or the boy’s life easier, or to lessen their fears. She walked bravely through the camp, like she was used to Targoians surrounding her and in fact saw them every day. Even without knowing the language, she found ways of communicating to the other soldiers and some, though they found it amusing, did attempt communication back. Never had he seen a captive handle her captivity so casually.
He also listened though and what he heard surprised him even more. She could switch from Aldroian to Ketekey effortlessly, like one accustomed to changing languages, and in fact spoke both without a hint of an accent after the first day. Her observation skills amazed him, for she informed the other captive of things that he did not know how she knew and yet were all the same correct.
After the first day, he did not see her as often, mostly due to the fact that Commander Rousin arrived with nearly two hundred men. Unlike Heddwyn’s squad, where only two or three of them were generally injured in a raid, Commander Rousin brought with him nearly fifty, fresh from a skirmish and in varying stages of injury, for though many tried to copy Heddwyn’s technique, so far only the few who Heddwyn had personal taught succeeded. Even with their combined medical supplies, the soldiers struggled to be treated quickly enough.
In spite of the increase of camp size, he still he caught sight of her in the doorway of her tent while walking towards his tent with Commander Rousin. On a stool before her sat one of Commander Rousin’s lower ranking men. She, in turn, washed the man’s bloodied arm gently. She said nothing to him–how could she?–and yet the man seemed as relaxed as one could be when injured so. His face, though a mask to hide the pain, told that he rathered* to have this than to stand in line for the next several hours.
The girl just began to wrap the soldier’s arm when Heddwyn touched Commander Rousin’s shoulder.
Heddwyn motioned with his eyes towards her. “ONe of your men found how to avoid the lines.”
Rousin looked over and frowned. “He’s being treated by one of the Ketekeys?”
“She claims she is Aldroian and lived in Ketekey only as a bond servant.”
“You spoke to her?”
Heddwyn began walking again. “There are occasionally situations where it is better to talk to one’s captives.”
“I have seen her around the camp before, but I presumed she was another’s wife. As a slave, she is brave to be out so much. If I knew she was a slave, I would have made an offer for her.”
Heddwyn shook his head. “I cannot sell her in good conscious to be merely your mistress.”
“So you own her then?”
Heddwyn nodded as he pulled back the door to his tent and motioned Rousin inside.
The man entered and took a seat. “You own someone as beautiful as that and you have not made her your mistress?”
“I thought I have made it abundantly clear before that I do not wish for marriage. Or for children. Even mistresses occasionally have children.”
“YOu are going against complete tradition by saying as such. Sooner or later I imagine you will see you are wrong. You need children to carry on your legacy.”
“I need no such thing, nor desire it.”
Rousin smiled faintly. “YOu know what they say–”
Heddwyn raised his hand for silence, and almost surprisingly got it. Many of the officers who were also lords did not respect him enough to even offer him that much. “I care naught what others say, about how I betray Targo with my lack of children to I in truth have so many children already scattered around the country from various mothers to that it is because I am a blacksmith’s son that I refuse to marry. I ignored the rumors and you would do well to do likewise.”
Commander Rousin frowned slightly and shook his head. “You are hard only on yourself, commander.”
Heddwyn silently handed the man a drink of water, his eyes straying to the letter from Lord Conward. He knew he needed to answer it by tomorrow morning when the slaves left, but he did not still know how. In truth, the only way he could imagine himself avoiding Lord Conward’s disfavor was if Heddwyn had just married another.
“Shall we get down to business, Commander Borut?”
Heddwyn turned quickly and gave a sharp nod, settling himself on one of the cushions.