Rough Chivalry

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Chapter 7

They went below, and he heard them wailing like lost souls, and wondered what in the Five Hells was happening. He dragged the rest of his gear on board, then stumped down to the cabin, where he found the two girls clinging to each other and sobbing.

"Are we under way?" Darah looked up at him with the saddest eyes he'd ever seen.

"No," he said, "we'll have to stay here for two weeks, I reckon. They'll be searching for us already, likely enough, and they might know it was me before the day is out. They'll beat every hunter in Swartmutha looking for whoever knows about the hideaway, and when they don't find me they'll suspect me. They know I have Krasten's...that is my father's boat again, so they'll expect me to hug the shore to the North and work east towards Ascalon. Nobody knows I have this ship."

"Two weeks?"

"They'll beat back at once, when they don't find us," said Tewer, "and there will be patrols nearby for days. Then they'll figure I stole a larger boat and headed out to sea. Once they're all well away, we'll sail south for several days, and then turn back northeast towards Ascalon."

"How long before we reach Ascalon?"

"Maybe a month," said Tewer, "but it's the best way. They will have stopped beating the bushes in two weeks, and all the ships will be far away, so we should be able to slip through. We'll have to sail hundreds of miles instead of just ninety to the nearest port in Ascalon, but I would prefer to be alive, and no doubt you won't wish to be caught again. They won't try for a ransom a second time, if they get you. You'll start out at the best brothel, the Steamroom, and then when you can't get high prices anymore it'll be the Lickspittle, and when you're old the Bloodstain. Or if not in Swartmutha, then somewhere else, but it'll be the same story."

They looked at him in horror.

"How can you mention such places?" Nimianne seemed to think he had done something terrible.

"I'm just trying to warn you that we need to work together and you really need to do as I say," he said, "and I should tell you that I've never talked to any woman at all that wasn't a whore, not even my mother. I've seen a few girls before, but only at a distance. Hunters are the lowest rank on Whaelhreow, but I'm a slayer now too, so I'm of middle rank."

"You never spoke to your mother?"

"I have no memory of her," said Tewer simply, "and no doubt she was a whore."

"Please don't use that odious word. Can you not say harlot, or trull or something not so revolting."

"Never heard of those words," said Tewer, "but I'll say trull if you like."

"Thank you," said Nimianne, "please be patient with us. We are not used to the hard parts of life. My father is Sarke of Archegor, and I have always been sheltered, and so has my lady-in-waiting Darah."

"What's a zahr-kay?" Tewer shrugged.

"It means city-king," said Nimianne, "and Archegor is home to a hundred thousand people."

"So many!" Tewer felt impressed though Rudigar had already mentioned the huge cities. Swartmutha had no more than a hundred inhabitants. "Excuse me for probably saying something you'll hate, but what do they do with all the shit?"

He blinked in surprise as they first looked shocked, then began to laugh.

"It goes into tunnels under the city," said Darah, shaking with laughter, "and then into a big room where it is burned up with magic deep underground."

"Have you never been away from Whaelhreow?" For the first time Nimianne sounded genuinely curious, her disdain forgotten.

"Why would I come back if once I left?" Tewer shook his head. "When my father died they took everything—his weapons, almost all of my clothes, our house, and I had nothing but a few sacks, a hunting shack and a knife. It's taken me two years to get his weapons back, and enough money for some clothes and blankets. And then within a few days of killing four murder worms and two thieves I became owner of a ship. My life has changed very suddenly."

"I wondered about that," said Darah, "how did you come to be the ship's owner."

"Can you read?" Tewer pulled out the precious parchment. They started to laugh, then stopped, and nodded. Nimianne took the parchment and unrolled it, and both girls read it. Then they touched the seal, and tears filled their eyes again.

"Oh don't cry again," said Tewer, "are you children? From the looks of things you're grown up." He looked pointedly at their hidden bosoms.

Darah cried out angrily, but Nimianne laughed again, though tears rolled down her cheeks.

"Don't be angry, Darah my love," said Nimianne, "he just doesn't know our customs, and how we've been raised. It's only ignorance, and despite it, he has a good heart, as dear Sir Rudigar said so plainly."

"It would be best if you did not refer to that shameful episode," said Darah, "we forgive you, but please don't remind us of that humiliation.

"What's humiliation?"

Both girls laughed ruefully, then tried to explain without success.

"Different worlds, even though we live under the same moons," said Nimianne, "we'll just have to be patient with him. And please...what is your name?"

"Captain Tewer," said Tewer. After all, he owned a ship.

"Please, Captain Tewer," she said, "be patient with us too. We don't understand how things work here, and how you lived your life. We'll try to explain how things are with women, so that you don't inadvertently insult us."

"What does inadvertently mean?"

"Without meaning to," said Darah.

"Ah, that's good," said Tewer, "I wouldn't want to insult anybody. You can get killed for that."

"We don't know anything about weapons," said Nimianne, "one reason we were so easily captured."

"It was horrible," said Darah, "they killed our guards before us and threw them into the water. I'm so glad you buried Sir Rudigar." She turned to look at Nimianne, and both of them started crying again!

"Why are you crying?" Tewer felt like he couldn't possibly be any more patient that he already had been.

"It's something that happens a lot to women," sobbed Darah, "when we were in danger and become safe, when we were worried and the worry turns out to be nothing, things like that. It's like a release—all the feelings suddenly come back and we can't help ourselves."

"I've never heard of such a thing," said Tewer, "but my inner layer of clothes are soaked with blood. I'm going to wash them off. By the way, this pool is clear and safe—the murder-worms don't come here because the mogote above us makes the water taste funny and they don't like it. Don't drink too much of it. There's a spring nearby and I'll get water from there. If you want to swim, you can do so safely in this cove, but don't venture out."

"What's a mogote?" Nimianne smiled through her tears, but really wanted to know.

"A mogote is a rock that thrusts up with nearly straight sides," said Tewer, "and usually has trees and bushes on top. There are lots of caves in them and under them. The whole island is like that, full of swamps and mogotes."

"I'll remember that," said Nimianne.

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