Updated: May 24
When she woke, she was wedged between what, based on the smell, could’ve only been Brummer and Flegel’s backs. Cocooned in blankets, she was dressed in dry clothes.
Her hands had been tucked under her armpits and her feet wrapped loosely together and elevated slightly on top of something. She couldn’t see as a blanket had been partially laid over her eyes.
Nevan’s voice came to her muffled.
Her mouth felt stuffed with wool. “Yes.”
“How do you feel?”
She took a moment to consider this question. “Alive.”
“Good, keep still.”
Somehow he managed to move one of the horses without jarring her too much. Then he tucked the blanket away from her face. The light was diffuse and gray as it had been when she last remembered it, though without the fog. Soft as it was, she blinked against it. He loosened the blankets.
“I’m going to help you sit up, not too much. And you’d better do as I say.”
He put an arm under her shoulders and tilted her up slightly. Her entire body groaned.
“Sip this.” He held a wooden bowl to her lips and a honey-sweet slightly warm tea touched her tongue, seeping slowly from her mouth through her aching body. She took another sip and another. He pulled the bowl away. “That’s enough for the moment.” He eased her back down. If he’d had eyes, they would’ve been fixed on her face. “I never should’ve let you do that, it was madness.”
Her fingers squirmed experimentally against her skin. Her toes curled and she winced. Her feet were bandaged and stung in a cacophony of discordant pains. But she was alive.
“I lost my dagger,” she said. “And the axe.”
“Blast the weapons,” he said. “Have you lost all sense?”
“What happened? Did you hear?”
He frowned and turned his face away. “Madness.”
“How long has it been?”
He bowed his head and said with obvious reluctance, “Not long. A day.”
“And the town? What happened to the outpost?”
He helped her up again and silenced her with sipping. When he laid her back down again, she was feeling more alert than before and anxious to be free of her blankets, though Flegel’s rhythmic breathing against her side beckoned her to sleep more.
“You have heard,” she said.
“A squadron came along the road, a few hours ago.”
She scowled and then remembered he couldn’t see it.
“Did they catch them?”
“Most of them fled on foot, north, straight into the hands of Tireachan’s men.” He got up and hunched over the fire. He poured more liquid into the bowl and set it aside to cool.
“Evidently, the Ulic believe we now have a demon in our service.” He snorted and returned to her. “A faceless ghast who appeared out of the mist, sunk their ships, and then disappeared. At least, that’s what some of them said.”
Sitting up on her side, she sipped again, slowly.
“Their leader said that it was a man, in a mask with a great axe. Of course, the people in Oirsand had already heard of the Mhasc Caoin. The squadron will move on to Gorrgrey, where I’m sure they’ll know who to credit . . .”
She tensed, nearly gagging on the liquid. She squeezed it down her throat painfully.
He eased the bowl away from her.
Beneath the blankets, her hand ran over her chest. The wrap was gone.
His weathered, scarred face was pensive. The stubble on his jaw silvery in the half-light.
She cleared her throat and asked softly, “Will you tell?”
Nevan’s brow puckered. “Tell what?”
A new chill stole over her. “Who I am?”
He sniffed and grunted. “A great warrior’s actions speak for themselves,” he replied as imperious as her lord father. “That is all anyone need know about who you are.”