Coffee Break Read – What Is Hers

Then the flap of the pavilion was thrown back and Alexa stood there, her eyes blazing and her face almost ugly with anger.
“What do you think you are doing?” she demanded. The Zoukai fell silent like a group of guilty children. “How dare you show these things to the entire caravan before I have so much as set eyes on them? Dogs. This all belongs to me. It is not common property.”
She rounded on Caer her tone venomous. “I sent you to fetch what is mine, Captain, not to set up a stall for your Zoukai to maul over my goods. How dare you allow it. You have no right to even touch these things without my permission. You would not pull apart the bales in the wagons, and these things are as much mine as the contents of those bales. I do not expect to see you and your men pawing through them.”
Caer stood with his eyes downcast, tightening the grip on his own anger. It was beneath his pride to make any excuse or apology. Instead, he waited until she had finished, then turned and snapped at his men. “Bring the Caravansi what is hers.” They laid it all out before her as if making an offering to a goddess or bringing tribute to a queen, but Alexa remained utterly cold and aloof, as if nothing she was being shown was of any real value. Even when Caer manhandled the unconscious captive and added him to the display she seemed unmoved.
“Is this all there was?” Her tone was contemptuous.
“No, Honoured One. This is only a small part of what we found,” Caer told her, quickly. “There is much more.”
Alexa looked as though it was a matter of complete indifference to her.
“Very well, Captain, tomorrow you and your men will take some slaves up the mithan and bring away whatever you think we can carry that might have some small value.”
Caer struggled to know what he was supposed to say to her. He was utterly confused by her attitude. After all she had said before, it made no sense, he had expected she would be overjoyed. Then with a suddenly pounding heart, Caer realised that there was a reason she was being like this. He and he alone had been allowed to see the truth of her feelings – the naked excitement burning in her eyes when she had first talked of the discovery. If she gave no special value to these things then the rest of the caravan would not think them so precious and their cargo would be safer.
“Your will, Caravansi,” he murmured obediently.
Alexa turned on her heel and swept back into her pavilion, the girl holding the flap aside for her to pass. Letting his breath hiss out between his teeth, Caer swung himself back onto the pony and issued sharp orders for the salvaged items to be stored and guarded. The Zoukai moved to obey, faces grim, their mood subdued by their Caravansi’s chilly reaction. Then Caer remembered the unconscious man and pushed his pony over to where he lay.
“Take him to the herb woman,” he instructed Zarul, “and make sure she understands that if he dies I will hold her responsible.”
“Your will, my Captain,” the young Zoukai responded promptly.
Then Caer headed his pony to the picket. What he really needed now was food, strong wine and an obliging slave girl, followed by a good night’s rest. He wanted to have cleared the mithan by midday and be back on the road before dusk. Tomorrow was going to be a long, hard day.

From The Fated Sky the first part of Transgressor Trilogy, and the first book in Fortunes Fools by E.M. Swift-Hook.

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