Spoils of War III: On the Road

First: Spoils of War I: Surrender
Previous: Spoils of War II: Shelter

Their bed that night was not the most restful, but the horses made the cave plenty warm and exhaustion made the ground soft enough with the addition of stacked bedrolls.  She slept close to her prisoner, not because she was particularly fond of him, but because she would wake if he started to leave. And he was warm, too, the way men seemed to be.

She woke before he did and made a sort of porridge from the rest of the food in the saddlebags.  While the mush was cooking over the fire, her prisoner woke and sat up, groaning.

“You cheat,” he complained.

“What were you going to do if I didn’t order you to sleep?  Aside from sleep badly, I mean.”

“Well, I might have -” he trailed off, grumbling.  “Doesn’t do me any good to run away, I guess. Not now.”

“And not with your leg barely healed and one eye still leaking blood.”  She passed him half the porridge and a spoon. “We’re going to need to find a better hide-out.”

“One with less bumpy beds,” he added dryly.  “I can ride today.”

“Good.  So can I.”  She looked him up and down.  “What do you want me to fix this morning?”

“The eye.  Can’t shoot with one eye.”

“All right.”  She finished her porridge and settled into the most comfortable position she could.  From there, she did a complex diagnostic Working on his eye, and then the very tricky business of putting everything back the way it should go.

It was tedious work, and by the time she was done, her shoulders and legs were cramping and the horses were shifting restlessly.  “I need… I need ten minutes to get stretched out. Get the horses ready to go and pack up anything you can. We’ll hit the road as soon as I can feel my toes and fingers properly.”

“Ma’am, yes, ma’am.”  He did as she was ordered and, although she wasn’t paying full attention, she noticed that he did everything very thoroughly, as if he were loading his own horses’ packs and saddling them, rather than as if he was following an order.  He even took the time to check all four hooves on both horses and detangle their manes.

“I’m ready when you are.”  She had stretched out her shoulders and her legs, her fingers and her toes, and done a little maintenance healing on herself.

“They’re ready.  I’m ready when you tell me to be ready.  Slave, remember?”

“How could I forget?”  She took the two sets of reins from him and led horses and prisoner out of the cave, pausing three times to taste the air and sense for other beings’ presences.  

The coast was clear.  They both swung up onto their new mounts’ backs.

“Away is our first goal; a shelter and food are our second goals.  Not being caught is primary.”

“Agreed.”  He looked a little surprised with himself and corrected to “Uh. You’re the boss.”

“I am.  This way, then.”

“This way leads to a better road more quickly.”  He gestured at a right angle to “away.” Then he frowned.  “What, you said not being caught was primary. That means a smoother road is beneficial.”

“I didn’t complain,” she pointed out.  “Your way it was.”

After all, if he led her into a trap, he was just as screwed as she was.

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