The bath attendants moved around the prisoner, their cloths wiping off layers of dirt and blood. The woman stood in front of him, unmoving, her gaze locked on him.
It seemed to the bath attendants that the two of them stayed like that, in silence, for forever. By the slow removal of the filth from the prisoner’s skin, it was less than a quarter hour.
She spoke first. That was both meet and unsurprising. She spoke in her own language, too – also as was correct. The building they were in and everyone and everything in it, all of that belonged to her.
“I understand why my father failed.”
He said nothing, simply tilted his head to one side. She smiled in response, a humorless expression her attendants knew well.
“Strength. Your people value strength.” She held one hand above his bicep, and then pushed away in negation. “To look at you, to look at your family – my father assumed that you valued strength of body. I imagine you do. It is one road to true strength.”
The bath attendants did not pretend to understand, but they listened nonetheless. They were not forbidden to gossip, after all.
The prisoner smiled. At first, it was a small thing, but it grew into a grin. He made a noise, and all but the bravest attendant jumped back. He might be bound and collared, but they had seen what had happened to those who had bound him.
The noise turned into a chuckle. The bath attendants waited, cautiously, until their liege gestured them forward. Then, although they were all still frightened, they resumed their long job of cleaning the grime off the prisoner.
The prisoner’s laughter stopped. He spoke three words in his own tongue, and then, with a polite nod at the attendant in front of him, spoke again in their language. “Strength, indeed, Queen Quedra.”
She nodded her head, the closest to a bow a Queen should ever make. “So, there will now be peace between our nations, King Hadrio.”
The prisoner nodded. “It is all in your hands.”
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