Couples mumbled their goodnights and settled in to sleep. Rua had insisted Cait and Asla take the two beds, and their husbands lay on the floor beside them. Drest and Fia slumbered near the hob, which still glowed with coals. However, Taran and Veerah remained by the hearth with Rua.
They spent hours and hours talking and swapping stories. Taran found himself telling Rua everything, from his relationship with Kahl to Cadha’s illness and death, and he ended with the story of his disposal and banishment.
Rua spoke of how she’s spent her childhood beaten and teased in a tiny village north of Ce, until her father blew up one day over her treatment, and in a fit of rage, moved them to this forest in southern Pictavia, where she had lived ever since. Her father had passed years ago.
“That’s my story.” Rua lay back on her furs and laced her fingers behind her head. “And no children. But I suppose that was for the best. Yet I didn’t realize how lonely I was until all of you arrived. I wish people were more accepting. Then maybe I could move on, do something.”
“Come with us,” said Taran without thinking. “We’re a group ten, what’s eleven? And like you said, you’re a hunter and an excellent shot. We need someone like you. So could Camelot.”
A corner of Rua’s mouth quirked downward. “How many dark people have you seen in Camelot? I am sure none. They’d condemn or ignore me on sight.”
“That’s not how Camelot is.”
“I-I can’t. I belong here. And what would I do with my animals?”
“Give them away. I am sure we could find a farmer who’d be more than happy to take them in.”
She stared at the thatched roof. “It sounds like an incredible a...
... middle of paper ...
...jug in which pears had been soaking in strong wine for months.
“I’ve been saving these for a special occasion.” She took off the top and the scent of sweet wine and pears filled the space. “And this occasion is special, a farewell…”
“No!” Fia, normally quiet, covered her face. “Do not say goodbye. I don’t want to.”
Rua squeezed Fia close. “A goodbye for now. Because I have decided I will come to you one day.”
“But why can’t that time be now?” whined Asla, supporting her belly with her hands.
“Time’s not right yet.” Rua doled out the fruit. “But it is the time to get drunk on wine-fruit!”
They ate until a pleasant, fuzzy drunkenness settled over Taran, the men, Rua, and Siti. The pregnant ladies had little taste for wine, and Fia did not like to drink too much.
“It makes me deafer,” she teased.
That was the first joke Taran had ever heard from her and he laughed.
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