He awoke from his dream with a jolt. He was in a new tent? Eyes slowly cracked open, a wince accompanying them. The cut on his temple was still fresh, and hurt when he opened his eyes. The smell of incredibly boring mash finally made its way to his nostrils. Dinnertime? Already? Did he really sleep the entire afternoon away after that brutish man slugged him? Where did they take him, now? The air smelled…rotten. Ugh, the food was not even remotely appetizing, but at least it was nourishing. He could hear his stomach calling for it…so could his food purveyor. A feminine yet deep and unamused chuckle drifted across the cool air.
“Eat up.” She placed it on the floor next to him and untied his hands. He could eat with his hands, which was a great relief, but he knew he couldn’t do anything else with it. She made it abundantly clear last time that she was not above stabbing him and then tending to his wounds if he tried to get around her. He was no hero, so he wasn’t going to call her bluff on it. Rolling his shoulders and stretching his neck, he sighed. Nothing to be done for it, he just had to eat and then get tied back up.
Her deep voice cut through the air again, sharp and displeased this time. He froze mid-reach for the food and finally turned his squinting gaze up to her. She walked over, peering only inches from his face. “Did he do this?” She unkindly poked the growing bruise. He winced and nodded. “Sodding fucker… Applewood’s boys can’t do nothin’ right. I’ll have him run out for this. Told him no harming the merch.” She finally, mercifully, got out of his face so he could continue eating.
She was gone, the food was in his stomach, and his arms were again tightly bound to his sides. This was not at all pleasant, but at least it seemed like the guy who smacked him around earlier was getting in trouble. Small victories…take them when you can. Perhaps they’d even let him have some more water as an apology. Heh, not likely; but it was nice to dream. He twisted his head and leaned his right cheek against the wood behind him. He could practically feel the nasty hit on the left side of his face growing. It and the back of his head were intermittent in their throbbing. To say he had a headache would be a massive understatement.
He took this time to think. Again. That’s all he had to do. He even ran through old Sindarin conjugation tables at one point; anything to keep his sanity in check. The one thing he didn’t want to think about was her. That he couldn’t handle. Not knowing if she was all right, not being able to tell her it wasn’t her fault, not being able to say… argh! This is why he shouldn’t think of her. It hurt too much. His head hung with a sigh. The constant back and forth of pain between back of head and cheek eventually serenaded him to sleep.