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煤 ま み れ の 騎 士
Chapter 1 – Part 10
Into the hands of a slaver she went.
No Man of this trade, to wit, would dare purchase for his own wheelings and dealings a slave with an affinity for the covenantal magicks. But of affinities, the mercantile sort seemed spurned from this slaver. Indeed, he was bereft of both clout and acumen, a tradesman of no repute in his trade. Thus upon this fool was forced the purchase of the ungainly girl, and the Fiefguard’s traffickers were, by no means, wont to abide complaint.
A slave, in whom was instilled the potential to turn her master into her own slave. What foul fortune. To be damned with such dead stock, with so defective a product, was, to the slaver, a hounding headache.
“Oi. Alga,” he growled at her. “Bloody ‘ell. Even yer mouth be broke, is it? Eh?”
Often were the times when her reticence ignited his rage. Often did her silence precipitate a beating by his hands.
But it was nothing worth caring about.
Not to the girl.
The half-week of this hell was in no hurry to hie by. At its end did the girl find herself stepping through a sunless alleyway, tugged along by the slaver. Across the cold cobblestones her naked feet coursed, chains jangling with every pace, each as empty of speed as her lips were of speech.
Then, a gale of motion.
The fellow slave before her, a felon in his time, somehow shed off his shackles and assailed the slaver.
A glint in the dark. The draw of a knife.
The two Men struggled and strained against each other. A brawl as brief as it was bloody, for when the dust settled, the aggressor was laid low. His bosom bled. His days, numbered.
A stamp of the foot. A spit upon the corpse. The slaver, livid at the loss of his merchandise.
It was then that a light illuminated the alleyway. Another Man arrived at the scene. The lantern in his hand revealed his towering figure and the youth of his features.
The slaver set the price, and the young Man paid up. A deal sealed and settled; henceforth was the latter her master, and the girl his slave, in law, lot, and life.
The next evening, she was neither in the clogged alleys nor out upon the cold, scorning streets, but in the quaint quarters that was the young Man’s home.
But of homes, fear found none in her. Beatings, burnings, or whippings. Derision, deceit, or wrath. The girl knew not of what was to come, but come what may, it mattered not.
For pain was no longer painful.
Yet the young Man said something rather peculiar.
“I’ll not hurt you.”
Peculiar indeed. To be pained was now her purpose. For why else was she here?
This, the girl thought.
But what the young Man endeavoured next further escaped all reason and expectation that the girl’s wit could muster.
His hand alighted upon her cheek. Delicately so.
And there, stayed for many a moment.
The girl had lost all care and curiosity for the world, and she certainly nurtured none for the young Man. Hence why she had hitherto given him not a single glance.
And hence, why she could not comprehend how it came to be that her empty gaze, in the course of that long lull, gingerly made its way up to meet his.
Then and there, a smile upon his rugged regard.
At the end of those innumerable moments, the young Man made himself absent. Out to the streets he went, to—by his words—buy some food and clothes.
An errand rather abrupt.
Perhaps he had missed a meal during the day.
Perhaps he had not a change of attire for business on the morrow.
The girl could not know. And truth be told, she had not the heart to care.
And for whatever reason, the young Man had left home not thinking to set chains upon her, slave that she was. Instead, words were said. That she was to “wash herself up”.
Sure enough, a basin of bathwater had been prepared and placed beside her.
An order from the young Man, perhaps?
Yes. Orders are to be obeyed. A teaching verily beaten into her during her time at the concentration camp. Her heart may be too broken to act upon it, but her body recalled well enough to move by its own accord.
Off her battered body was her ragged raiment slipped off.
Then, with flannel in hand, into the basin she slowly went.
Sat in the bath, she began washing herself.
Water most warm.
A comfort not felt in three moons.
Warm, as well, was the young Man’s hand.
A gentle and deliberate warmth, set upon her cheek.
To that same spot the girl’s own hand went, the caress of her fingers coursing across it.
With a sack in hand, filled with food and a set of clothes, I returned to the residence. Opening the door revealed the Nafílim girl all but standing there, stark naked, having just finished her bath.
Keeping my composure as best I could, I quickly handed to her both a garment and a set of smallclothes.
“Here. Wear these,” I said, before turning away. Soon enough, the rustling of fabrics met my ears. Not till its ceasing did I think to turn to the girl once more.
There she stood, shrouded in a simple chemise, plain and white.
Of course, no soul such as I could feign a feel for the intricacies of women’s fashion, thus I had I gone with the safest selection of clothes. And glad was I that I did, for it seemed my sense was not mistaken.
The white fabric matched most splendidly with the fair tawn of her skin, uniquely Nafílim in its warm hue.
“It well-suits you.”
My concise conclusion, met with no overt response on the girl’s part. Only, our eyes did meet at that moment.
Face-to-face as we were, I realised then that, though she was yet quite young, her visage was verily lovesome to behold. Not before could I have perceived such grace, soiled as it was from her prior hardships.
I continued to gaze into her eyes, giving my all to find even the faintest wisp of emotion in them. And in the course of trying to bridge our minds as best I could, I found her lips slowly parting open.
“…I… I’m… Mia…”
And a charming ring upon the ears, at that.
There was gladness in my heart. To hear her name. To hear her voice. Thus I could not go for long without some words of my own.
“Good to meet you, Mia.”
And then there was mirth upon the young Man’s face.
A smile made with mustered sincerity.
For it was not in his nature to smile much. And his life of late gave little to smile about.
But a smile it was, nonetheless.
The gladness of a large Man glowing upon a little girl.
For her part, she had earned it by doing little but looking back at length and airing her name purely out of politeness.
A politeness, long ago once taught, now remembered.
“…Now, Mia… First, your name… to whomever you meet…”
Remembered, from within the mists somewhere deep down inside. A voice most dear, and dearly departed.
And that was why she told him her name. And only because of that.
Yet, the moment it met the young Man’s ears was the moment his heart welled with warmth and cheer. For to him, it was a momentous moment, indeed. A bond was born between them at last, he felt.
His gift of the white garment glimmered upon her person, breathing back the merry light of the hearth nearby.
But upon the young Man’s own person were spans of leather and plates of iron. Attire not unlike the sort donned by the Men who marauded her home. Thus he was, beyond any doubt, a Man of war-waging.
And what awaited him from here on out would certainly be more battles to come, burning and burgeoning evermore.
The young Man kneeling before her—
—at whom shall he bare the blade?
And for whom shall he swing the sword?
The answers—none, could the little girl have known.
Chapter 1 ─ End
Thanks for the chapter.