Captain Jorg Weiss was a florid faced graybeard who stood taller than Lilavati’s beloved, with what remnants were left of his hair combed behind and fastened with a leather band in a vain attempt to give him some sense of military dignity. His armor barely fit around a midriff gone soggy with too much fine food and wine. There was a faint tremor in one hand as he gripped the hilt of his sword. To look at him would be to count him a useless fool clinging to his long past youth.
Lilavati was no fool. She watched the way he walked, the flash of his eyes, the play of his muscles beneath his paper thin skin. The frail old man was a mask he put on, the same as she did her travel hoods. He wouldn’t be able to fight fairly as he had when he was in his prime and she knew he realized it by the way he rested his hand and shifted his weight. It was his mind that was the more active part of him now. It wasn’t as flabby as his body and that didn’t bode well for the weakening lord and his confused lady.
She took a few deep, calming breaths before linking her arm with Manas’ and walking over to the screaming guard captain. “Captain Weiss, I’ll thank you not to countermand my orders,” Manas said coldly when the old man stopped for a breath.
“Your orders? That dark skinned whore’s orders you mean. My men told me what happened here, Great Lord,” Jorg said. “You’re not in control of this camp any longer.” He jabbed a finger with swollen joints and scarred calluses. “She is.”
Lilavati met his angry stare with her bland, expressionless one. “I do as I am bid by my beloved,” she said coolly, keeping her voice devoid of emotion. “It is his will that I speak and not my own.” A faint hint of a smile twisted at the corners of her lips. “As is proper for a Northern bride.”
Jorg spat on the ground. “You’re no Northern bride. You’re a Southern slut with no manners and legs spread for more than one man I’ll wager.” He reared back and struck her hard enough to send her back a few steps. “A good beating or two will teach you a lesson, and then we can send what’s left back to your shit eating family.”
Manas’ eyes flashed and a hint of the tiikeri returned. Lilavati reacted faster than he did. She was no fighter. The scars inflicted on her naked flesh proved that. But she was a woman who’d been assaulted by men before.
Jorg wasn’t expecting her to fight back, so when her knee and the heel of her hand found sensitive spots on his aging body, he went down. He curled in on himself. “I am neither of those filthy things you called me,” Lilavati said. “Nor am I unfaithful to my beloved. I would not bring such dishonor on myself or my beloved with abominable acts such as you suggest.”
“You’re not married to him,” Jorg said in between gasps of pain. “Your words don’t matter, Southern witch.”
“Katali, that was more forceful than necessary, but an important lesson to be taught nonetheless,” Manas said. He knelt beside his military commander. “My beloved stands with me, beside me, and speaks for me in all things. As for not being bound to me in the eyes of the Twelve and the law, we’ll be taking care of that as soon as we reach a city with a temple in it. I’m done with this ridiculousness of her not having the protection of being my proper wife.”
“Your people will never accept her, Great Lord,” Jorg said, dragging himself to his feet. “I’ll see to that.”
“You speak openly of betrayal, Captain Weiss,” Lilavati said. She gestured to several men and women who’d gathered to see the spectacle. “In front of all these witnesses as well.”
“Who will cower before me and not open their worthless mouths if they want to save their lives,” Jorg snapped.
“What of their souls?” Lilavati asked, her voice just loud enough to be heard by those listening. “The high preester is dead, and only an acolyte stands in her place. Can this child who now serves to offer prayers for them grant them absolution for their betrayal of their rightful liege lord?” She wasn’t sure what she was saying, but she hoped it was helping.
Jorg’s mouth opened and closed several times. “She’s dead because you convinced the Great Lord to let that Northern shaman murder her,” he said finally.
Lilavati ignored the unfamiliar word. She tilted her head to one side and raised an eyebrow. “She was proven a traitor, as you become the more you speak,” she said. “Would you have had us let her live?”
Manas rested his hand on Lilavati’s arm. “Captain Weiss, you have your orders. I will be accompanied by two guards, no more, unless I or my lady request them. If you continue spreading these rumors, I’ll have to do come up with a more permanent solution to your continuous betrayals.”
“You can attempt such a thing, Great Lord,” Jorg said with a smirk. He lowered his voice. “We both know what happens when you do that though.” He strode off.
Lilavati flagged down a servant. “Our tent is to be cleaned and moved to the first place where Ludger wished it to be put. It is to be done immediately.”
“Yes Great Lady.” The young woman was grinning and she motioned for a few of the others to follow her. They were already talking excitedly about the upcoming ceremony and how the “old man” wasn’t going to be able to keep getting his own way for much longer.
The other servants left the area, for which Lilavati was grateful. “You are not as strong a leader as I thought,” she said softly. Manas jerked back, shock registering on his face. “He is an enemy, a man to be removed from power. He is the assassin’s blade waiting to strike in the night. Worse, he will not wait but do so when you least expect it during the day. Yet you gave him the weapons he needs to destroy me.”
to be continued…