In the privy, Yarrow paced like a caged treecat. She felt like punching something.
“Oh, I can’t take it anymore,” she snarled out loud, only half-directing it at the Goddesses. She leaned over the sink and breathed heavily, then regarded her reflection again. She looked better than she had only half an hour ago–Caelum’s brushing of her hair had left her curls lustrous, and he’d put only half of it in a braid, letting the fire of her hair spill over her shoulders. “Absolute shite for battle,” she mused, “but not half bad. Maybe I’ll get him to do that more often.” Then she exploded away from the counter again, pacing as best she could in the tiny room, disgusted with herself for thinking about how she looked at a time like this.
Eventually she sat down on the lid of the privy bowl and forced herself to breathe. She needed to talk to Jules, she knew. He must be thinking all sorts of things about her. It was a miracle he’d not reported her yet.
“But I didn’t do it,” she whispered. “Right?” This time she really did address the Goddesses, but none answered her plea.
Terrabane was the most virulent, the most dangerous, and the most illegal of all poisons in Athering. While the use of some others merely garnered a life sentence in the dungeons, the use of terrabane merited death. Instant. Merciful. Unwavering. Only the stupidest or the most clever of people used it, for it was so dangerous that touching whatever remained of the body afterwards could spread it, killing the person foolish enough to inspect the corpse as well. There was no cure. Instantly upon reaching the bloodstream it liquefied the insides of the victim, and started decomposition of the body almost immediately.
It had been on her sword when she’d gone to kill Seigneur Timor.
Never mind that her orders had been to destroy the Timor line, to hunt down every living member of his family, including his young husband and newborn son. Never mind that she’d no idea how the terrabane had gotten onto her sword–the use of poison was so alien to Yarrow’s mind, the breaking of a law so against the core of her principles, that she’d never thought to check her weapon.
I’m just lucky I fought with my dagger through the town and into the Keep, she thought now, rubbing her hands over her face. Or everyone would have seen.
No. It had been only Jules, her forever loyal, forever argumentative Chief Medical Officer. For some reason, he had followed her up the stairs as she hunted her quarry. He had watched her deadly swordfight with Seigneur Timor―a ballet, to be sure, for the man had been trained in fencing.
It had been a tough battle. Fairly soon into it, Yarrow was hit with his blade. Angered, she’d repaid him with the same small slice on the arm.
Then he had died, decomposing before her very eyes. Before the eyes of Jules.
Now my own CMO won’t even look me in the eye, won’t speak to me. Over a month now, and we’ve not talked about it.
She made a sound of disgust in her throat. “What would you say, Yarrow? Hey, Jules, remember when you saw me commit that heinous act? Did you tell anyone? Could you not? Because I didn’t actually do it,” she half-whispered to herself, sardonically. She rolled her eyes and stood, needing to pace again.
He hadn’t been sleeping well, Ghia had said. Yarrow could tell that herself. The man looked half dead, with shadows under his eyes and stubble on his face and neck. Nightmares, like, she thought. I know him: he hasn’t told anyone. Won’t. His loyalty to me outweighs his loyalty to the Sceptre.
What about herself? She didn’t know if she’d been set up or was mad. Had the stress of her job finally just pushed her over the edge? She never let her sword out of her sight. No one could have set her up.
I must be mad then. And I’ll have to tell someone, eventually.
“But not Jules,” she whispered, knowing he was not the one she could talk to about this. She only hoped the one she could talk to would listen.
There was a pounding on the privy door then, making her jump. A loud voice penetrated the thick wood, yelling at her stridently.
“Hey! You’re not the only one who needs to piss!”
Yarrow unbolted the door and flung it open, directing her glare at the person on the other side. The man stepped back a bit, and Yarrow pushed past him into the room beyond, her glare never wavering. He quickly stepped into the privy and closed the door.
With a long-suffering sigh, she made her way back to the table she shared with Caelum and Jules, and with a nod to each of them sat down, giving some verbal excuse about not feeling well.
“Is there anything I can get you?” Jules asked, ever the medic, and Yarrow noticed he was looking her in the face now.
Hm. Wonder what brought on the change.
She shook her head. “I’m fine. Thanks,” she added, forcing herself to be friendly with the man again.
Caelum then got up with some excuse she knew he knew wouldn’t hold water, and left the two of them alone. Yarrow could have killed him.
He obviously thought they needed to talk it out. She’d never bring it up and neither would Jules; so it was pointless.
“Can I buy you a drink?” The question was so abrupt, Yarrow nearly jumped.
“I’ll bankrupt you,” she said, a small smile on her face.
“A drink,” he corrected, smiling back. “You’ll run out of ale fairly soon, at the rate you’re going.”
Looking in her tankard she saw he was right. In the time she’d sat down she’d downed two steins already, and the tankard was nearly half empty.
She growled. “This stuff is not strong enough.”
“That, or you’re too used to it,” he said with a small shrug. “You should try the noge. It may work better.”
She looked at him finishing his third?―fourth?―stein of the stuff and nearly laughed. “No way you’re already feeling something off that,” she said. It looked so weak.
“Hey now,” he said, leaning forward on the table. “Don’t dismiss the noge. It packs quite a kick.”
Now she did laugh. “Sure. That, or you have nearly no tolerance.”
He raised his eyebrows at her, leaning back in his chair and looking as superior as Jules could. “I’ll have you know I could outdrink you with any beverage, Bellica,” he said, all seriousness.
“Oh,” she said, snickering. “Really. Let’s test that, shall we?”
They shook on it, and then Ghia, with her always impeccable timing, appeared with the food, asking if they needed any more drinks. Yarrow started a tab and told her to keep the noge coming, for she was going to prove to Jules which of them was more of a woman, once and for all.
Ghia’s face held some affectionate exasperation as she went to fill this next order, and then the Midwinter Yarrow-versus-Jules games truly began.