It was definitely daylight outside. Morning, most likely. The cracks under the tent burned his eyes whenever he glanced in their direction. It was shocking just how quickly someone became used to darkness in even only a few days. He’d gladly risk the pain of being reintroduced to the sun in order to be rid of this. The whole situation was horrible. He finally was allowed to lay down on the ground, hands and legs tied to the pole with enough slack to let him do more than sit straight all the time. Dark blue eyes closed again, good temple resting against cool dirt. When nightfall came, maybe he should shift so his bruised cheek was against the dirt. The cold would probably do it some good…
All thoughts of minor self-care flew out his mind as the flap was pulled back and a shaft of light blinded him. That low female voice floated over to the man as he lay there, blinking the pain away. “Gotcha somethin’ special-like. For yer cheek. That sodder shouldn’ta done that, an’ we’re real sorry ‘bout it. Sit up.”
Eyes finally readjusted to the dark and then opened. He peered at her warily. She stood there, dirty and smelling like the leather armor she wore. Her face soon wore a grim and lopsided smile.
“Yeah, yeah, you don’t trust meh. Ya prob’ly shouldn’. This’s fer real, though. Git up.”
His shoulders squared. He didn’t really have a choice, did he? His elbow shoved his torso up, balance taking over and eventually righting him. He looked more closely at her. She carried something. What was it? A…pouch? Skin? Before he could get a closer look at the item in her hands, she moved behind him. Suddenly one of his hands was free. Gut reaction took over and he immediately pulled it to the other, rubbing where the rope had irritated his wrist.
She finally moved back around, holding out the item. It was a skin of liquid. What was it? He pulled the cork out and sniffed it. Then immediately regretted it. His face twisted and through sheer force of will, he didn’t cough. It smelled like bad wine.
“S’not real good, but it ain’t spoiled ‘er nothin’. Figgered ya could use somethin’ t’ help with th’ pain.”
It was bad wine. Ugh. At least it would probably help with the pain. More importantly, it was liquid. He took a steeling breath inward and then downed the whole thing in three very long, revolting draughts. This was the cheapest, most disgusting wine he had ever drunk in his entire life: shallow in flavor, almost sour…and absolutely heavenly as it burned down his throat. They gave him enough water to keep him healthy, but barely. This was the first time he was able to taste anything in days, and even if it was horrifying, he was glad of it. He leaned back against the pole – it was really more of a log, now that he thought about it – with a deep sigh.
She held her hand out for the skin and he leaned to let her take it. Back to business as usual, no doubt. He held his hand out for her to tie it again. A nod and just that began to happen. Then she started to talk to him. Casually. That was unexpected; he should be cautious.
“I gotta ask, d’ya got any idear how that redhaired b- girlfriend’a yers got ‘erself in that much’a debt?”
He stayed still and silent. No answer from him.
A scoff and sigh echoed around the tent. His hand was retied and she stood up before trotting around to face him. “Di’nt ev’n tell ya? Bah, whaddya ‘spect. Not ev’ry day a girl falls int’ ten gold worth’a owin’ people, though.”
That news was, unfortunately, too much of a surprise for him to hide his reaction. He gaped at her. Only ten gold? Ceswyn made him promise not to help over ten gold? A shake of his head cleared the expression. He hoped that the momentary lapse in control would be misinterpreted.
She paused and gave him a curious look. “D’ya love ‘er?”
He may have not gotten around that much, so to speak, but even he knew that was something he would never tell them. Anything at all was leverage. She tried to surprise him by dropping what she thought was an outrageous “fact” and then asked him a personal question. He wasn’t that malnourished or that stupid. He gave her a suspicious look, eyes narrowing and chin raising.
He was rewarded with another savage grin – but only one side of her mouth had tipped up. That, as he had begun to recognize, was her being pleased or amused. She nodded respectfully to him. “Git some sleep, yer cheek there don’t look no good.” Another flash of searing light made him curl up as she walked out, panel flapping behind her.
Sadly, she was right. He should sleep, regardless of the time of day. There was mending and thinking to be done. The wine, horribly low quality or not, began to take effect shortly. He was never a heavy drinker anyway, and even then only the quality vintages. Sleepy lids drooped over deep blue eyes and he shifted to lie on the ground again.
…Only ten gold? They were going to have a long talk when – not if, when – they were together again. A tiny, illogical part of his mind nagged at him. He had to admit it to someone, something. He sighed and quietly croaked to himself, “Of course I do.” The silly and pointless statement said, his mind allowed dreams to take him.