It was easy for Karak to say; he was on his third cup of the bitter, greenish drink that the Callanthe drank as a cocktail. Girey had swallowed one small glass by not breathing, but had declined a second, his tongue still burning from the first.
“No, I mean it.” Karak set his glass down, and shook his head warningly. “You’re not in battle anymore, soldier. Let it go.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Girey answered stiffly. Where had Rin and Noni gotten to? There had been a lot of laughing and whispering, and they’d headed upstairs, leaving him shackled to the chair with this one-legged veteran for company.
“You’re still on duty. Rin’s been hauling you across the country for how long, and you’ve still got your back stiff, you’re still acting like you’re on patrol. Relax. You’ve been mustered out.”
“I was captured,” he countered.
“And, not to be rude, but your country was defeated. You can’t lead a noble resistance from the back of your captor’s goat, and, besides, you’re not going to stab her in the back.”
“You seem awfully sure about that.” Never mind that Girey was pretty sure he was right.
“I’m pretty sure about people, that’s all. If she continues to treat you right, you’ll continue to be loyal to her.”
“That’s an exaggeration.” He was not “loyal” to the enemy!
“All right, all right. Another drink?”
“No.” Training kicked in, covering over his sullenness. “No, thank you. I’ve had enough.” And so had the other man, but that wasn’t his place to say.
“Hardly. I could build a table with you, you’re so stiff. So you’re not loyal to her, but you’re not going to stab her. You can’t really escape. So relax. It may not be the rest time you were hoping for, but it’s a rest. You don’t have anything you have to do here.”
He studied his empty glass thoughtfully. “So,” he said, carefully, in Callanthe, “you’re suggesting I look at being taken prisoner as… a furlough?”
The veteran laughed. “You were a commissioned officer, all right. Nobility? Enlisted men know to take every break you get. Never know when another one might come.”
“You might have a point.” Girey leaned back in his seat, pondering Karak’s words. If the soldier had noticed, Rin had; if she thought he was still preparing for battle, she’d never let down her guard around him. Maybe it was time to relax.
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