Rin had gone, over the week after they left Ossulund, from whistling to thoughtful, with glances at Girey he was pretty sure she didn’t think he noticed. That suited him; he had his own thoughts to ponder.
Sarella, the pretty little blonde who had more than a little cause to remember him fondly and fair reason to expect him to rescue her, had gotten him thinking. The thoughts weren’t the most comfortable, either, chafing like his shirt no longer did, now that Rin had dressed him up like a Callanthe noble.
“So what’s the difference?” he asked her back, in a sunny moment of quiet on the trail.
“The difference?” She hadn’t even jumped, but she did frown back at him.
“You said that your people don’t keep slaves.” He jangled his chains at her. “But you take captives.”
“A slave is a possession, yes?” she asked, her Bitrani, as always, careful and stilted. “But a captive has a chance of being anything.”
“But you’re not going to take your prisoners of war and put them to work running your towns, for instance. You have war-brides like Sarella – the girl in Ossulund? In Bitrani, we’d call her a slave. And you have captives like me.” And he wasn’t going to think about the possibility that his position might be the same as Sarella’s. “What about the rest of them?” What were they doing with his countrymen? “You told that farmer he’d go back to his family. Is that common practice?”
Now, she turned to regard him with a strange look, one he hadn’t seen on her face before. On a Bitrani officer, he’d think it was respect, but from her, he couldn’t be certain. “Enlisted men, yes,” she answered carefully. “Farmers, workers, Their families and villages need them.”
“Good.” He paused, thinking about that for a moment, before he added “Thank you.”
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