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Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Warlord's Daughter - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Adira started struggling again when the fever returned. Pain made her clench her fists, and she imagined that she was killing her attackers.
Amin, help!”
What's the matter?” Amin asked as he rushed to his brother's aid. As a healer, he had made it his duty to stay near their patient as much as possible over the past two days.
She's hurting me! She's got my balls in a death grip!”
Amin placed a hand on her forehead. “She's feverish again. I think it's safe to leave her alone for a while.”
Gladly! Make her let me go!”
Amin held back laughter, but couldn't suppress a smirk as he uncovered his second youngest brother, and helped extricate him from her grasp.
Maybe she thinks you're one of her rapists, and she's trying to take her revenge,” the cook heckled his unfortunate brother. “Lucky for you you're wearing something, or I'm sure you'd really be in trouble!”
A minute later, he was free from her clenched fist; sighing in relief as he scrambled from the bed. Amin placed a cool cloth on her forehead, and shushed her soothingly until she fell back into a more peaceful slumber.
An hour later, their father returned home. “What's going on?” He wondered curiously. Their house was small, consisting of a main room and a bedroom on the first floor, and a loft at the top of a ladder where all the boys slept. The door to the bedroom was open, and all the boys hovered over someone in his bed.
We found a girl at death's door,” the youngest murmured.
We think she's going to live,” the second youngest added, grimacing as he unconsciously rubbed his still tender groin.
Amin beckoned their father closer. “She's peaceful now, but she's alternated between freezing and feverish for the past couple of days. Her dreams must be full of anguish because she thrashes about and calls out in delirium. … We think she was brutally raped by however many men it took to kill the men that escorted her.
Adira heard them as she slowly regained consciousness.
Why?” Their father wondered.
Six shrugs answered him. “We have no idea. All we know is that she alone survived a gruesome slaughter. There were piles of bodies, as if a fierce battle had taken place.”
The oldest took over the story. “I cannot begin to guess why such a battle would have occurred so far from the front lines, so I can only assume that she is an important Lady of some sort that was being escorted to the King. Maybe someone tried to kidnap her to hold for ransom.”
But then why rape her and leave her for dead?” The second oldest – the cook – questioned.
No one knew the answers.
Hmm... Adira thought to herself. They have no idea who I am. I could be safe here until I am strong enough to go after the bastard that murdered my father!
She desperately longed to shift onto her side and go back to sleep, but the smallest movement caused her pain. The pain was dull enough by now that she could handle it, but even so, a groan escaped her lips.
A hand felt her forehead. “Her fever's broken. I think she might finally be waking up.”
Adira opened her eyes, and looked around warily. The one with his hand on her head smiled at her gently.
Don't try to talk yet. I'm sure you must still be in a great deal of pain. I would like to help you sit up and then get a little broth in your stomach.”
Adira tried to nod, but then winced. Talking was definitely easier than moving. “Yes, please.”
Amin carefully helped her sit up, propping her up with pillows. No matter how gentle he was, every little movement hurt, but Adira was used to coping with pain. She clenched her teeth, and ignored the pain as much as possible.
After a second man helped her drink some broth, she felt a little better. She looked around at all the men in the room. From what she could tell, this was a father and his sons. The sons all ranged in age from 14 to 20, and every single one of them exuded concern for her.
Can you tell us what happened?” Their father asked.
I need to come up with a story that will make them want to keep me safe... I need to tell them something that elicits the most sympathy possible...
I … I don't know...” she replied when she couldn't think of a good story to tell them. If she told them the truth, they would probably send word to the King, and for now, that was a bad idea.
I understand if you don't want to talk about it,” the father stated in a soothing tone of voice. “What about your name? Can you at least tell us your name?”
Adira hesitated. She wasn't sure she could trust them, and if they talked about her, the tall man might discover that she hadn't died after all.
Don't you even know your name?”
Maybe she has amnesia,” Amin suggested.
Amnesia! Adira mentally cheered. That's the perfect story!
Another good look at all the honest faces around her made her decide to trust them... but only a little.
I can't remember anything. I don't even remember my name, but one word keeps circling around and around inside my head... Adira. … Who's Adira?”
Amin smiled at her. “Maybe you're Adira. It's a pretty name, and seems to suit you.” He pointed at his chest. “I'm Amin, and these are my brothers; Natan is the oldest. Marek is second oldest, and loves to cook. I'm the third oldest. Dael is fourth, Tobin is 5th, and Hemi is the youngest.”
But... you all look nearly the same age...” Adira protested in confusion.
Yes, since we're all adopted, we are all close in age. Natan is 20, Marek is almost 19, I'm 18, Dael just turned 18, Tobin is 16, and Hemi is 14,” Amin informed her.
Adopted? Then where are all the girls?” Adira wondered, oddly fascinated by this unique family.
Their father cleared his throat. “I decided that it would be inappropriate to adopt both boys and girls. … I'm Jomin, and I would be honored to add you to my family until we can find yours. Hopefully someone will come looking for you, eventually.”
Adira had a hundred questions – such as why weren't any of these boys enlisted in the King's army – but she couldn't ask them yet without revealing that she actually did remember everything. “Thank you,” she murmured gratefully.
Jomin blushed as he realized that she had nothing but a thick layer of bandages – plus a blanket – covering her body. “Looks like someone is going to have to go into town to buy our little lady some clothes.”
I can do that,” Tobin volunteered. None of his brothers were surprised in the slightest since Tobin's hobby was making and mending clothes.
I'll go with you,” Hemi offered. “I want to see how well that new harness I made works.” By this, he referred to a special harness he had made for the local shopkeeper about a month ago. The shopkeeper had expressed a desire for a harness for his horse that could easily be loaded up with wares when he didn't have enough to require a cart, but too many to carry without help.
Their father nodded permission, and then reminded Dael that he'd brought the sheep in to be sheered. Dael nodded, tapping both Natan and Marek on the arm in a silent query for help.
That left Adira alone with Amin and his father.
If you feel up to it, I'd like to change your bandages. Better yet, another bath might be a good idea to see how well you're healing,” Amin suggested.
Adira shrugged, winced at the pain, and then nodded. She had maintained basic modesty while fighting alongside her father's soldiers, but even so, after a long hard day of fighting, bathing in the river with the men was far quicker than waiting for a bath to be prepared for her. As a result, she wasn't shy about letting him help her.
Besides, the way her body hurt, she doubted that she'd be able to bathe herself anyway.
Amin looked towards his father. “We have plenty of water heated in anticipation that we'd have to give her another bath soon. Will you help me fill the tub?”
Jomin nodded. Together, they brought the wooden tub – called a hip bath because it was designed for these decently tall men (who were all nearing, but not quite 6 feet tall) to sit in and the water would cover their hips – into the room, and filled it with water. At a hair shy of 5 feet tall, Adira actually had room to relax a bit as Amin bathed her.
No matter how much she tried to bite back the gasps of pain, she sounded like bacon sizzling over a hot flame. Amin rubbed her muscles to promote healing as he washed off the ointment and herbs he had previously covered her in.
Sacred Mother!” Jomin gasped at the sight of her bruises.
Amin nodded sadly. “Believe it or not, she looks much better than she did when we first found her. She's healing well. Most of these wounds may not even scar.”
Adira examined her body thoroughly. Yep, that's pretty much how I feel, ugh... Thank the Gods that I was drugged and didn't feel most of this!
Do you want something for the pain?” Amin asked. “I'm amazed that you're not screaming in agony!”
No,” Adira shook her head. There was a small chance that the enemy would realize that she had survived and come after her. She needed to be fully aware, and anything that dulled the pain would also dull her senses and reflexes.
Are you sure?”
Adira nodded. “Though I am a bit hungry again.”
Amin nodded. “Just let me put some ointment on you, and then I'll bandage you up. After that, you can eat some of the stew Marek made.”
It took some time, but soon, Adira was bandaged and resting in Jomin's bed once more. Amin fretted over the continual bleeding between her legs, but took it as a sign that they hadn't impregnated her. He handed her a bowl of stew, and though it hurt more than she thought possible, she ate it without help from anyone.
I'm amazed that they didn't break anything! The only good thing about the whole situation was that none of her bones were broken. It felt like many of her internal organs were damaged, but they were healing just like the rest of her. She did find it ironic that she also had her monthly, but at least all the other pain made the normal cramps impossible to feel.
After eating as much as she could, she fell back to sleep. This time, her rest was calm and peaceful. Shortly after Marek started making breakfast the next morning, Adira started dreaming about the ambush. She moaned and thrashed about, inadvertently waking the rest of the house.
Father no! Don't die!” She screamed.”Kill him! Kill that – !” Adira sat up so quickly that she squealed from the unexpected pain of moving, which woke her up.
Adira,” Jomin whispered urgently. He'd been sleeping on the floor, but now gently wrapped one arm around her to calm her down.
Adira felt like burying her face in his shoulder and sobbing until there were no tears left in the world, but she couldn't allow such a weak display of emotion. She took a few deep breaths, slowly gaining control over her erratic breathing.
I'm sorry,” she whispered.
You have nothing to be sorry for. They were the ones that hurt you,” Jomin assured her. “Did your dream trigger a memory?”
Adira shook her head. “If it did, I don't remember it now.”
Natan now leaned against the open doorway. His brothers grumbling sleepily as they arranged themselves around the large, rectangular table in the main room. “It's entirely possibly that your nightmare was about what happened to you. You cried out for your father not to die. There were more bodies than I wanted to count where we found you, so your father was probably one of the men who died protecting you.”
Adira shrugged, thankful that doing so no longer sent sharp pains racing across her body. She pushed herself free from Jomin's fatherly embrace. The longer he held her, the more she wanted to break down and cry.
Uh... Amin? Can you help me attend to some basic needs?” Adira asked as she scooted to the edge of the bed. Even if she was able to walk – which she doubted that she could do on her own – she'd still need the healer's help to remove the bandages around her waist.
Certainly,” Amin agreed.
He decided that since he had to unwrap her anyway, it was time to sponge her off and reapply the ointment – after she'd emptied her bladder. The good news was that most of her wounds – even the blood between her legs – were healing well enough that she could wear smaller bandages. This left her with inadequate covering until Tobin remembered that he'd gone shopping for her.
I think I found the right size, but you must understand that there was very little selection,” he said as a way of apologizing when he showed her the plain brown rough-spun dress. “At least it matches your hair and eyes... a little...”
Adira smiled faintly, and allowed him to dress her like a doll because moving on her own made the pain return much more fiercely than letting him move her. He took a moment to check the fit when he was done, and grumbled as he made mental notes.
I also bought fabric so that I can make you a better dress when I have time.”
Thank you, Tobin,” she smiled at him gratefully. She wasn't used to wearing dresses, but this actually suited her perfectly at the moment.
That's right... my mother always told me that it was easier to be sweet to a man. If I pretend to be the Lady they think I am, I'll soon have them willing to protect me with their lives, if need be.
Now that she had some clothes on, Adira gritted her teeth, and forced herself to eat her breakfast at the table with the rest of them.
Amin cast his father a concerned look that clearly wondered, how is she able to cope with all that pain? Aside from a hastily erased grimace here and there, Adira never once admitted that she felt any discomfort at all! Though they kept it to themselves, both Amin and his father suspected that there was more to their newest family member than she let on.

Go To Chapter 3 

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