A voice cleared just outside Emanuella’s curtains.
Fiorra glanced at Emanuella. She was asleep… the tea and her noon meal had put her to sleep.
Fiorra quietly slipped her tome of Properties of Eastern Mountain Plants and Herbs onto the bedside table and slipped between the curtains.
She wasn’t surprised to find Rick pacing about, looking nervous with his hands stuffed in his trouser pockets, his head down. But her puzzlement at why he was skulking about on the perimeter when he had full access inside changed quickly to bafflement at the condition of his face. He glanced up at her in the shadows and held up a placating hand before she could say a word.
“I know, I know.”
Fiorra realized her mouth had dropped open – she clicked it shut and with a hand, swiveled Rick’s head about on his neck, stifling her amazement.
“What did you do!” she hissed. Tugging at his tunic collar revealed more bruises; she shook her head in disbelief.
Rick grinned in a tired, ghastly representation of his usual humor. “Would you believe I walked into a door? No? A few doors? Stumbled down a flight of steps. There. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
Fiorra continued to glare at him, her hands on hips. Rick had the grace to look sheepish.
In her disgust, Fiorra realized his eyes were bloodshot – badly. Not just the blackened eye, the bruising. Odd – he didn’t smell of liquor or ale, nor act drunk or hungover.
Her eyes narrowed as she stumbled upon what she knew was the truth, or part of it. “You’ve not slept, have you? Don’t bother to deny it – I see the stubble on your face. You always shave when you wake, and you Weaponry boys are required to be clean shaven or you earn demerits, I know.”
Rick just looked at her.
“Can you – you know – help me out with this?” he begged.
Fiorra scoffed. “Not until you tell me what you did. What happened to you!”
Rick rolled his eyes, annoyed. “Fiorra, it’s – it’s not that – simple –”
They were interrupted by Emanuella’s weak voice calling. “Is that Rick I hear out there? Tell him to come in and stop whispering about in the corridor.”
Fiorra spared a withering glance for Rick. “Now look what you’ve done – you’ve woke her up,” she hissed.
“Stop squabbling and come in,” implored Emanuella.
Rick looked at Fiorra and raised an eyebrow in question. She shrugged.