As you allow your servant to help you out of the dress and slip into the warm water you realise you’ve been needing something like this all day. With a sigh of relief you settle back in the tub and find it surprisingly more comfortable than it looks. Before you can even consider washing the servant girl comes back with a bar of soap and a wad of material that looks a bit like a towel.
She goes to use the soap and start washing you, but you shake your head and take the bar from her.
“Thank you, but no. I can do this myself,” you say, doubting she’ll understand you but saying it anyway. With a nod she places the towel on a small table, within easy reaching distance and leaves the tent. She understood the sentiment even if she didn’t know the words.
Enjoying the pain relief and feel of the water washing the sweat off you take your time in cleaning yourself. The soap soon has you smelling of the same coconut and spice that the rest of the tribe often give off, but its significantly more pleasant than the odour of sweat so you don’t complain.
When every inch of you has been scrubbed you decide you’ve had enough. So much dirt came off you that you no longer wish to sit in the filthy water but dry and put on fresh clothes. With this thought in mind you stand to reach your towel. Once you have the slightly course material wrapped around you and covering you up you feel a little less exposed, but only slightly. You still don’t know when Temullgei will be back.
You have just begun drying your legs and stepped out onto the mat beside the tub when you hear the familiar swish of the tent material moving back and forth. Panicking you freeze to the spot, only covered by the towel.
Before you can think what to do Temullgei comes around the edge of the screen. His eyes rove from your head to your toes drinking in the sight, and then look around you, searchingly
“Where’s the girl?” he asks.
“Oh, I sent her away, I wanted to bathe by myself.”
He takes a few steps towards you while you stay on the mat dripping and not sure what to do about it.
“As an Angel and even as my Khaadel, you don’t have to do these things yourself,” he says coming closer again, but more slowly. “Here, let me.”
You suck in your breath and hold it as he moves so close he can wrap his arms around you. Gently, while keeping you covered by the towel, he rubs it over your skin to help dry the clinging moisture off. As his hands move closer to your groin you feel your muscles tensing, but he goes past and leaves that part of you.
“You don’t need to fear me, Angel. I keep saying this but you are slow to trust me.”
With that he walks back towards the entrance of the tent.
“Come out and eat when you’re ready.”
You exhale as you find yourself alone once more. Not wasting any time you pull on your clothes and allow your servant, who conveniently reappears when you need her, to tie your fresh dress in place.
It takes the next few minutes for your heart rate to return to normal but as soon as it has you exit the tent and look for Temullegi. You see him sitting with his dempair by a fire and he soon beckons you over to join them.
The meal is very similar to the night before, with one exception. This time Temullgei takes the food before you, confirming your suspicion that within their society your status has been lowered to beneath his.
When it grows late and you yawn with sleepiness. He helps you to your feet and escorts you back into the tent, without saying a word to anyone else. Within seconds your servant has scurried to appear at your side and arranges the bed for you, while you stand with your future husband and wait.
“Tomorrow I will present you to the Khaadain and marry you, so I think it is wise to leave you for tonight. I will let you rest, but I will keep one of my servants nearby in case you wish for me at any point.”
Without waiting for you to reply he places a quick kiss on your cheek and leaves again. Before your servant can encourage you into bed you follow and notice one of the creepier men from his dempair is now standing a few metres from your tent flap. Not wanting him to see you, you retreat back inside and get into bed. Even if you’d wanted to, you couldn’t run from the tribe and your future with them tonight, and the morning would bring your fate.
The following morning arrives to your attention with the shaking your servant gives you. Her eyes are full of concern and she places her fingers to her lips to encourage you to be silent.
With a quick nod you push back the covers and get out of bed. She helps you dress much faster than on the previous occasions and takes your hand in hers as soon as you’re decent. As she hurries towards the tent flap she gives you no choice to follow and your mind already races through the many possibilities and scenarios that might make her act like this.
The man from Temullgei’s dempair no longer stands outside your temporary home. Instead the tribe is rushing about in a frenzy of activity, despite the pre-dawn gloom that still hangs in the air. Still holding tightly to your hand the servant glances around and then rushes with you towards a group of horses tied to a nearby tree.
As you exit the tent you notice the smell of burning and more noises of screaming and frantic yelling meet your ears. It sounds like some battle is being waged all around you, but you cannot be sure of anything.
Your servant encourages you to get into the saddle of the nearest horse as soon as you reach them. She then fumbles with the knot holding the horse to the tree and undoes a second one while holding onto the reigns of yours.
Although it feels like minutes while you glance nervously around and listen for signs that danger is coming closer it’s only seconds before she’s on a horse beside you and leading you both off away from the loudest yells and shouts.
You huddle low in the saddle as your servant walks you both past tents and running tribe members and then deeper into the forest. When you are huddled in the gloom under the trees, she hands you back the reigns to your horse and puts her fingers to her lips to remind you to keep quiet. Whatever is happening she intends to keep you safely away from it.
For a few minutes you stay where you are listening as the sounds grow quieter and less chaotic around you. Once the noises can barely be heard the girl turns to look at you.
“En bay,” she says, motioning with her hands for you to stay back. You think she’s trying to tell you to wait there for her but you can’t be sure. After studying the forest towards the camp she urges her horse forward in a slow trot and leaves you behind. For now the early dawn will keep you hidden in shadow and keep you relatively safe from whatever is happening but it won’t be dark for long.
[powr-survey label=”AotS Part 9″]
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