It had been three days since the caravan departed south from Mistrand, and House Dæreabi. Three days south into the plains of Gathod where one of the many Easterling armies had made camp. Inaris surveyed the sea of men and horses and dirty red tents, and the haze from fires that hung in the air to mar the endless blue sky with a look of contempt.
“You do not like it?” asked the sorcerer that rode beside her, his dark brown eyes regarding her with amusement. It had been his idea to not let her ride with the others in the wagons, but on a horse. She wore no bonds, nor had she been searched. He was baiting her. He wanted her to run.
Turning her nose up with an air of indifference at the scene, the girl’s piercing blue eyes betrayed the anger she kept quietly to herself. “I do not see why I should.”
“Do you miss it? The Blue Door and your Mistress?”
“What do you care?” she asked bitingly.
Eglathor gave a cold laugh, turning his head to motion further south as he led the small train of wagons into the heart of the camp. “Your father and his riders are positioned ten miles to the south. Would you like to see him?”
“That depends,” Inaris responded, taking the chance as he looked away to study the tattoo of The Eye that enveloped his forearm.
“If he is alive and well, or not….”
Eglathor looked to her, a venomous smile twisting the man’s mouth. “What an ungrateful daughter.”
Frowning, she began to ask what he meant by that, when the sorcerer motioned for a halt, stopping the line before a great white tent trimmed in blue that stood out like a beacon in the dark sea. Heavily guarded, two lines of women and men of various ages and races turned their heads to look at the new arrivals. A servant, his head wrapped and face concealed by a panel of yellow cloth, came forward to take their reigns, and Eglathor dismounted as others clad in various forms of murky orange or blue robes and scale armor emerged from the tent.
“We were wondering when you would arrive,” called one of them, extending a hand to Eglathor. “This is the last of them?”
Eglathor greeted several of the men before looking back to the wagons where several dozen unfortunate souls were unloaded by guards. “It is. But now that they are here I must go.”
The first man’s gaze drifted to Inaris, and she felt her insides crawl. “So soon? It is our loss… and this one?”
Eglathor smirked wickedly as he followed the man’s look and caught her eye. “A special case. She may be useful.”
Inaris was glad that she still sat in her saddle. She did not want to give them the satisfaction of seeing her tremble.
“How is it I get the feeling she will be more trouble than she is worth?” asked the man, turning his gaze back to inspect the others that were led to kneel along with the former group.
“She won’t be,” Eglathor responded as he walked away. Rounding Inaris’ horse, he gave her a dangerous look and offered her his hand which she accepted as she stepped off of her saddle.
“You are not to be staying?”
“Do not look so eager to see me go,” he said with a lifeless chuckle, reading the look she gave him. “But I will be taking this with me…” Pulling up the length of her skirt, his hand slipped up her thigh and nimbly removed the dirk she had strapped to her leg days earlier. “You are a clever girl. See that it does not get you killed before I can give it back.”
Understanding the threat in his tone, Inaris drew away, realizing her fists were clenched, and turned to join the others before the guard approaching her could bark an order for her to move.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“A whole tin of it?”
Jade smirked and tossed her feathery bangs out of her eyes. “Yes, a whole tin. That will give me enough to put two coats on the door.”
The vendor chuckled, shaking his head as he hefted a crate onto the counter. “Whatever yeh say, Missus Harlowe. Though, I aint never seen a farm house with a blue door.”
“Oh, no! No, Avery, it’s for my old cottage. Thought it would add a little charm.”
“Eh? Ah! Bema, thought I’d have to worry about m’ wife seein’ it and wantin’ to paint ours yellow. You know she loves yellow? Thinks it’s a cheerful –”
Jade smiled pleasantly, nodding as the man prattled happily on about the ungodly amount of yellow that filled his house. Turning to lean out of the way of a man hefting a fat stack of hide down the walk, Jade suddenly frowned, looking past the thick mid-day crowd milling up and down the north entrance to the Scholar’s Stair. Across the way, past a parade of bonnets and beards she saw the back of a man’s head. He was not a tall man, but his hair, pulled back into a immaculate tail was black as night. The odds of someone else having hair like that….
Turn around. Turn around.
Jade blinked, looking back to Avery and his tins of paint. “Hmm?”
“Sumthin’ catch yer eye?”
Jade looked back, searching for a frantic moment before catching sight of the man across the way. He turned… and a huff of relief escaped her before she could stop herself. It was the butcher’s oldest boy.
“I thought I’d recognized someone, but I must have been seeing things.”
Avery chuckled. “Bree’s a small place. Bet yeh know just about half of everyone by now, least by face. But here. I got several different tins you can look through.”
Jade chuckled along with him, and shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I think I will pass up the blue paint. Perhaps… hmm, perhaps you have a shade or two in red?”