Still on the road to Chancellor Virien’s land, High Priest S’Rak and Captain Jisten continue to cling to one another in the face of their suffering, but both begin to fight back, each in their own manner. The Gods are also stirring, taking an interest in the plight of the pair and doing what they can, subtly, to help. When Rak sees an opportunity for some payback, will he take it or will he wait for the situation to become more secure first?
Rak massaged Virien’s back without pause even as his hands went from aching to numb and back to aching. It was late morning, about an hour shy of noon, when he quietly said, “Master, I am hungry.”
“Wha—” Virien started as if he’d been half asleep, which might well have been the case.
“Your heir is hungry,” Jisten said helpfully.
“Then feed it,” snapped Virien over his shoulder.
“Right behind you? You’ll have crumbs and stains down your back. Perhaps he should come onto my horse,” Jisten suggested.
“I want a pickled cucumber,” Rak said, winking at Jisten. “And orange citrus.”
“In that case, we’ll be gone a while,” Jisten said, one corner of his mouth twitching suspiciously.
Virien muttered something about pregnant women. “Get the broodmare on your horse and feed it what we have. You don’t have permission to go haring off to soothe its cravings.”
Rak gratefully left off massaging Virien, wondering exactly when he’d become an it, but not caring to press the issue. He accepted Jisten’s hand and quickly transferred from one horse to the other. This time, he settled in place before Jisten and leaned back against his Valer.
“Wine, hardtack and jerky is all we have,” Jisten told Rak. “I’ll have mine without the hardtack or jerky.”
“Wine, jerky and hardtack is better than not eating.” Rak glanced at the head of the column. Spirit was slowing down, letting Virien get ahead of them. “I wish I was prone to morning sickness. I would love to vomit all over that man.”
Jisten chuckled and turned Spirit back along the column. At Hamib’s scowl, he said, “I’ve orders to feed him, just going to the supply wagon.”
The lieutenant motioned to Napiet and Issarn. “Stay with the slaves.”
“Yessir,” said Napiet. He and Issarn were already following them, of course.
When they reached the wagons, it was Issarn who climbed into the supply wagon and handed over the supplies. Rak helped by holding Issarn’s horse’s reins until the wiry guard had gathered everything they’d need.
Jisten poured Rak a cup of the wine and handed it to him along with a pair of the dun hockey pucks that passed for travel bread and several strips of dried, leathery venison. “There is more,” he promised.
Rak promptly dunked the first puck into the cup of wine and let it soak. Impulsively, he blessed it, and the other supplies, too. “Oops, now we shall have to finish everything, but especially the wine. We cannot let sacred, blessed wine go to waste.”
“No wine will be wasted,” Jisten promised.
Rak chewed on some jerky as he waited for the hardtack to soften enough to be edible. The bread was hard enough to pound tent stakes. When he finally ate the softened mass, he found it very flavorful because all he could taste was the wine.
Jisten drank wine, but he didn’t eat, and Rak was starting to worry about that. He opened his mouth to say something when an image interposed itself in his mind.
“Apple wine or you want an apple?” Jisten asked.
“I want an apple.” Rak smiled up at Jisten. “And Scorth has found a tree.”
“Where is it? Point the way. Issarn and Napiet will make sure that we don’t run off.”
“Scorth is bringing some.” Rak ate some more of the jerky. It was flavorful, if tough. But then, dried meat was always tough, so it wasn’t laughable like the hardtack.