Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 9. by Richard Walker

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Chapter 9.

Myranna was smiling in true good humor when they reached their camp. There they found Basithia, having taken her mistress' words to heart, asleep on the ground by the fire wrapped up in her shawl. Supper sat in covered dishes beside her, hard by the fire, and in the little cauldron on legs which had also been covered and pulled to the side. The fire had long since died down to a shallow bed of coals and a very few sporadic crackling tongues, but was still going. Tarl lay there also, asleep, but on the opposite side of the fire, wrapped tightly in his cloak. There was no evidence that either had eaten. Myranna smiled to think that she had conditioned them so well that they had fallen asleep hungry rather than take their meal before her. Her own belly grumbled audibly at the sight of the waiting food. She prodded Basithia with the toe of her slippered foot.
"Get up, wench. I would eat before I turn in." Basithia quickly shook herself awake and scrambled to her feet. "Tarl!! Get up you moth-eaten cur!! It is time to break your fast and mine as well." He groaned and rolled over, which was a good sign. He blinked owlishly at her, and as soon as her identity registered in his brain, he was upright and wary, attentive as she required.
"Nileus, put our newest box of goodies on the table in my wagon. Bandar, go draw me a mug of beer. Don't just look at me, dolt! Yes, I said 'beer'! I've no head for wine just now, and I'm certainly not going to wait for Basithia to go fetch water and boil it for spiced tisane! Speaking of which, as soon as you dish up last night's dinner for Bandar, Nileus and myself, girl, I want you and Tarl to go fetch water. Tarl, dig out the extra bucket for Basithia and get the yoke and buckets to carry yourself. You two can eat after you get back, you've had sleep, so you're one up on the three of us â" the four of us, actually." She hitched a thumb at Ruggles, standing to one side and behind them, trying to stay out of the way. "Remember Ruggles? He's with us for the duration, now, as will be his friend Patches, as soon as he returns. Patches had to run a little errand for me." Her cold little smile hinted at a mood that spurred Basithia to quickly attend to their breakfast, especially in light of the performance her mistress had treated them to the night before. She served Myranna, Bandar, and Nileus, but then Tarl was ready to go and eager to get back for his own long overdue dinner, so the girl left Ruggles to fend for himself with a wicked grin the older man didn't quite know how to take.
Dinner was a little dry but by no means burnt, and still good and hot. Myranna felt herself begin to unwind, like the tension being slowly drawn out of a steel spring. She hadn't realized she had been so tightly wound. The beer helped tremendously, starting a mind-numbing buzzing directly behind her eyes and across her lips before she had finished eating. Tired, hungry, and thirsty, it had gone right to her head.
Ruggles hunkered down by the fire, looking about as the others ate, being ignored and not sure what he might be allowed to do about it.

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