Posted by Jennifer
Oriane winced as the servant delicately sponged grime away from yet another cut. Sores, bruises and scrapes covered what felt like Oriane’s entire body, yet the men seemed undismayed by the pace of their travel. Many had left for other duties, but d’Armagnac, des Saults and his six most loyal horsemen remained and there was still nothing Oriane could do about them. They were smart enough to avoid places where she might seek aid from noblemen with better souls and more soldiers, keeping to the wild lands while they searched for some word of Lothaire’s whereabouts and quietly advertised their possession of Oriane.
This was the first time they’d put up in an inn—a dingy, smoky hovel of an inn, to be sure, but Oriane had still felt such an overpowering craving for a bath and clean clothing that she’d almost fainted. The constant, terrible strain of not asking for anything from her captors was making her sick; Yvon was always damply solicitous and Gervais gloated obscenely whenever she admitted any kind of need or desire. She was unspeakably grateful to the servants who just assumed “the lady” would require such comforts and spared her the indignity of speech.
“The lady has such lovely hair,” the serving girl murmured, gently working out the last of the tangles. Oriane leaned closer to the fire and drew the clean but threadbare robe closer around her body. She’d always been a bit thin and bony, but now she felt positively emaciated in this too-large robe, like she could feel her own protruding bones stabbing through the cloth. “It’s unkind of the lady’s husband to force such hardships on her.”
“What?!” Oriane gasped, whirling to look at the servant, who recoiled in terror.
“Your pardon, your pardon, kind lady, I did not mean . . .”
“You’ve seen my husband?!” Oriane demanded wildly. The girl looked blank.
“Of course, he was . . .” then Oriane realized. This simple girl thought Gervais was her husband. She was overcome by such a wave of nausea that she missed whatever the servant babbled next; she waved it off and shrank back into her seat. Timidly, the girl finished combing the shining curtain of Oriane’s hair, murmuring more of what she must have thought was soothing nonsense as she did so.
The door suddenly flew open and Gervais entered. The servant instantly cowered to the floor in a gesture that vaguely resembled a curtsey, her knees practically at her shoulders in terrified obeisance. “Get out,” Gervais ordered, punctuating his command by seizing the girl’s arm and ejecting her bodily. He then slammed the door and shot the bolt home. Oriane stared resolutely at the fire, commanding her mind and her stomach to be calm, to show no sign. Gervais sprawled across the narrow bed, propping his booted feet against the wall.