Chapter 2: Strangers
After a war-season, we look for friends in the faces of strangers, and for enemies in the faces of our friends.
Her companion was a bit of a grumbler.
Rin was not all that surprised. A career in the army and a lifetime of being royalty both tended to lead one to complain; the former out of a ritualized counter to obligation and responsibility, the second for much the same reason, at least in Callenia. A royal soldier, then, and a captive to boot, was probably entitled a bit of complaining. She couldn’t say she wouldn’t do the same, were the roles reversed.
Of course, if the roles were reserved, she might be facing far less kind treatment, something the damn morning, the difficulty of their mounts, and her companion’s near-incessant whining were bringing to the forefront of her mind. How would he like it, draped over the saddle instead of riding properly?
“Mount.” She snapped the word out in his own language before she could follow through with the thought. “Come on, the sun moves more quickly than you do.”
“And it set on the wrong side of you last night.” He smirked as he got onto the gelding, the smirk fading as the beast gave a settling buck that must have jarred him in all the wrong places.
“I’m not the only one.” She was still answering in Bitrani; it was a better language for being irritable in. And they had seen no-one on the road for the last few hours of the night before. It was not the wisest decision she had made.
“Over here!” The voice came through the bushes, a southern Callenian accent with the clipped syllables of an Army scout. “I heard some strays this way.”
“Behind me.” She pushed the goat behind her and stood as professionally as she could while still bootless and with her hair unbraided.
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