An old story, written a very long time ago. Published for the Repository, so that I can collect all the old writing in one place.
You can read Part 1 here.
Rain gazed at the man who was readying the horse. She didn’t trust him. Not that she particularly trusted anyone, but this man made her nervous. His eyes were dark, almost black, and she hadn’t been able to see any feelings displayed in them. He was a handsome man, she couldn’t deny that, tall and slim, without being skinny. A day’s growth darkened his square jaw, and dark hair fell to his shoulders, curling slightly at the collar of his tunic.
Dressed all in black he didn’t look like someone you could trust. He was cleaner than most men she’d encountered in the city, but who ever said cleanliness meant you were a good man? Her father had been clean, and he’d been as mean as they come. She shuddered slightly at the memory of her father. It was a time of her life she’d just as soon forget.
Ereptus had finished with the horse and mounted, motioning for her to join him. She walked over to the horse, and Ereptus took her arm and pulled her up behind him, as if she weighed no more than a toddler. They soon took off, and Rain had to grab hold of Ereptus’ tunic as to not fall off the horse. Peeves were complaining a little bit inside her tunic until he settled himself in a spot where he wasn’t squeezed between her and Ereptus.
She’d told herself that she wasn’t going to speak, but she soon grew bored. The previous day she’d still been seething with anger about being forced out of the city where she thought she’d made an acceptable life for herself. Although she liked Gaylen, she was angry about the highhanded way he’d decided that she should be taken away without consulting her first.
“Ereptus?” she said, her voice hesitant.
“What is this place like?”
“This place,” Ereptus said. “Is called Messina.”
“Fine,” Rain grumbled. “What is Messina like?”
“It’s the capital of Erya, and the seat of the Council and High King. Probably the most peaceful city in our lands because of the Kingsguard and Peacekeepers. You’ll be safe there, it’s not like the city you’re used to.”
“I was safe where I was,” Rain huffed. “Despite what you think, I am fully capable of taking care of myself. I have done for years!”
“You’re a child”, he replied dismissively, making her grind her teeth in anger.
“I’m not a child!” she snapped. “And even if I was, you were once a child living on the streets, and you’re still alive.”
She could feel that he was growing exasperated. “It’s not the same,” he muttered. “You can’t compare a grubby boy running around on the streets to a beautiful girl. It may not be fair, but that’s the way the world is.”
Rain wasn’t sure whether to feel offended by his belief that she couldn’t defend herself, or thank him for the unintended compliment. “I’ve managed fine,” she finally said. “I’m really quick on my feet.”
“Sooner or later you would meet someone quicker,” Ereptus said.
She sighed. There was no use arguing with him, he wouldn’t ever believe that she could take care of herself. Gaylen had been exactly the same, always worrying when she was out on the streets.
The horse slowed down, and Rain leaned over to look at the road ahead, but Ereptus’ back was too wide for her to be able to see anything.
“Why are you slowing down?” she asked.
“There’s a carriage standing on the road,” Ereptus told her. “I think one of the wheels has been damaged.”
They got closer to the carriage. A man, who was most likely the driver was trying to get the damaged wheel off, but it was a futile effort without assistance. A beautiful lady was standing next to the carriage. Ereptus quickly offered to help the man, who was quick to agree. With some help, it was a quick job to replace the broken wheel with a spare one.
“I must be allowed to thank you,” the lady gushed when they were done, her gaze raking over Ereptus in a way that made Rain feel sick to her stomach. “Please, ride with me in my carriage to the next town, and allow your horse some rest.”
“We would be most pleased to do so,” Ereptus said with a bow and a wink that made the lady giggle girlishly.
While he was tying their horse to the back of the carriage, the lady gave Rain a disdainful look and stepped in. Rain realised that she must look terrible to a fine lady, dressed in her patched hoses and dirty tunic as she was. She’d never cared about her appearance, but compared to the lady, she looked like something a cat had dragged in.
“Come on, kid,” Ereptus said, holding up the carriage door for her. “Let’s join the lady.” The grin Ereptus gave her when he said that made her uncomfortable.
Inside the carriage, Rain ended up spending most of the time in a corner petting Peeves inside her tunic, fascinated with the game Ereptus and the lady played. Both seemed to have forgotten that Rain was there at all. It was as if they were dancing, but with words instead of feet. Used as she was to see Ereptus mainly surly or with no expression at all, Rain found it unsettling to see him smile and be as charming as any gentleman, if not more.
He had the lady blushing repeatedly, her gaze never leaving him for a second. Sometimes the things he told the lady almost made Rain want to laugh, they were so ridiculous. He gave her compliments on her eyes, her skin, her hair, and any other thing he could possibly think of.
Towards the end of the day they finally reached a small town and it was time for them to part from the lady and her carriage. Ereptus took a long farewell of the lady, whispering something in her ear, then bowing low and slowly kissing her hand. Then he took their horse and went with Rain down the street.
Once they were out of sight from the carriage he spat something out in his hand and looked at it. Curious, Rain peeked. It was a golden ring filled with pale, blue gemstones.
“This should give us some food and a roof over our heads for a few nights,” he said, sounding quite pleased with himself.
Rain couldn’t help it but burst out laughing. It seemed to surprise Ereptus, who was staring at her.
“What is so funny?” he asked, almost seeming offended.
“All that gooey talk with the lady was just to get to her ring?” Rain grinned.
Ereptus shrugged, but couldn’t hide his grin from her. “It’s an easy way to keep a lady’s concentration elsewhere.”
“You have guts,” Rain admitted. “I’ve stolen a few things myself, but I would never dare to steal something right off their finger!”
“It’s not so hard,” Ereptus said. “Although I suppose it would be harder for you to get away with kissing a lady’s hand.”
Rain chuckled. Ereptus looked at her, but she couldn’t determine what he was thinking. It almost seemed as if he wasn’t sure how to handle her when she wasn’t grumpy and disliking him.
They quickly found a less than honest man in a shabby store where Ereptus quickly sold off the ring for a nice, round sum. After that they went to an inn and got a room for the night. As the stores were still open Ereptus took Rain with him to a clothing store.
“I think you should have some decent clothes before we reach Messina,” he told her with a pointed look towards her clothes. To his obvious surprise, she didn’t protest. She’d realised it herself. If she was going to start a new life, she couldn’t walk around looking the way she did.
They were lucky and found a store that had clothes that were already sown. Ereptus bought her a simple skirt, a pair of sandals and a tunic with a belt to tie it at the waist. Rain went back to the inn after this, while Ereptus stayed in town to look at a few more things.
After riding for two full days she felt dirtier than ever and asked the innkeeper for a bath. She was told there was a small bath house behind the inn, so she quickly made use of it. When Ereptus returned to their room she was sitting on her bed, dressed in her new clothes, brushing her long, wet hair. Ereptus closed the door without taking his eyes off her. He came and sat down on the bed opposite hers, almost sitting down on Peeves, who had been slumbering there in his absence.
Frowning, he picked up the little dragon and put him next to Rain on her bed, then sat down again on his own. “How old are you, kid?” he asked, looking at her.
Rain shrugged. “I’m not entirely certain. I think sixteen or seventeen.”
Ereptus gave her a quick nod, removed his tunic and boots and went to bed. Rain finished brushing her hair, blew out the light and went to bed as well.