We’re up to chapter three
I hope you all enjoy this chapter, and as always, if you like the story, you will find the links to buy the full book at the bottom of the page
Chapter three – Presenting an opportunity
When they finally left the forest behind, they crossed wide fields. They reminded Eve of the days before she had met Kal. Despite the dangers she had faced amongst his fellow soldiers and the pains her bottom had endured in those few days, she preferred those memories over those associated with fields and cruel farmers that worked them. Perhaps it was just the view in the distance of the village they were slowly approaching that soured her mood. She was scared to again be amongst people she did not know. Kal would probably leave her, having brought her to safety, he would want to go his own way, perhaps find a way to get back to his lover. She would be all alone, surrounded by people who could ask anything of her. As a gaeth it should not scare her, but as a girl without her memories, it did.
The village was bustling with activity when they arrived, it looked so much like the village she had visited with Jack that she almost thought she had travelled in a circle and returned. A small market square surrounded by low houses was filled with farmers trading their harvest, this time however the man at her side wasn’t greeted by anyone or bartering at stalls. He made his way to a small tavern, which almost seemed out of place in a village this small. When they entered Kal asked for a room for them both. Eve appreciated the gesture greatly, because inviting her to his room clearly stated that she was working for him, no-one could give her other work until he let her go. She was safe, for now.
The room was small and had only a single bed, Kal didn’t comment on it and neither did Eve. They had slept on the forest floor together, a single bed would do. Kal had asked for a bathtub, but had to carry it up to the room himself, Eve had made herself useful carrying the buckets of hot water. Another gaeth would have probably offered to wash his back, but Eve was still too embarrassed around Kal and left him alone until she could use the leftover water. She got a hot drink from the tavern-keeper, a well-rounded woman, and waited in the small common room.
“So, where do you two come from?” She asked. The woman probably got very few guests and wanted to talk, Eve wondered how many questions she could safely answer.
“From Braich.” She answered, “through the forest.”
“Oh, really. I’ve never heard of a man and a gaeth travelling together, at least not for such a long distance.” She sounded truly curious.
“Oh no. I only met Kal in the forest, I was lost, you could say he saved me by bringing me here.”
“Really?” Their short talk was suddenly interrupted by noises from outside.
Eve looked out the window and saw a laughing group of soldiers quickly approaching the tavern. “I better go check if Kal wants any help,” she said and hurried upstairs to their little room. “Soldiers, outside!” She blurted out as soon as she entered the room.
Kal was still in the tub, leaning his head against the edge. At that moment they heard the sounds of the soldiers entering the tavern. Kal looked up at her. “Take off your dress, get in the tub.” He said. Eve blushed deeply, but there were already footsteps on the stairs. She dropped her dress on top of Kal’s uniform, trying to cover it up and climbed in. There was no room for her and she sat on the edge, the water barely reaching her knees. “Take the bath brush.” Kal explained. “With a little bit of luck they won’t recognize me without my uniform.” Eve dipped the brush in the water and brushed it across Kal’s back as the soldiers suddenly barged into their room.
“It’s true.” One of them said upon entering. “Just an old man and a pretty girl half his age.” The others laughed.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Kal asked. He sounded angry. Eve realised he was playing his part. She should act upset as well, but all she could do was blush. It was all too obvious the soldiers were enjoying the view of a young woman perched on the edge of the tub.
“Don’t worry old man, we’re not here for you or some silly gaeth. Though I do wish we had more time so you could lend her to us, my back needs a good brushing.” The others laughed again.
Kal didn’t answer this time, but waited until they had left again. Right after they left the tavern keeper entered. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “are you all right?” She blushed seeing Eve climb out of the tub, with Kal still in it. “Oh, I didn’t realise… I’m sorry, I hope they didn’t disturb you, I couldn’t stop them, I told them you were just a soldier and a gaeth.” Despite being sorry, she didn’t look away while Eve grabbed her dress. And why should she? Kal was mostly hidden in his tub and a gaeth would not be ashamed.
“They weren’t after us, they were soldiers from the high king.” Kal said when they were alone again.. “I wonder what they are doing all the way out here.” Eve dried her legs with a small towel while Kal took the bigger one. “We got lucky this time, we can’t trust the tavern-keeper to keep our identity secret, not without a good reason.” He seemed unashamed of his nudity, how could he not see her stare? He might not be interested in women, but that didn’t mean they weren’t interested in him, she thought. “You will have to go to the market and try buy me some farmer’s clothes. Then we have to travel on to another village where they haven’t seen me in uniform.” Kal continued, unaware of her blushing looks.
Eve cringed, she did not want to go out alone, but as a gaeth she could not refuse such a simple task and as a woman she knew the danger paled compared to the things he in turn had done for her.
There were still quite a few townspeople outside, but they did not seem interested in her. Eve caught bits of conversation as she looked for a farmer that had more to sell than just the day’s harvest of fruits and vegetables. Everyone seemed to talk about the soldiers, invading their homes, looking for someone or something. Eve wondered if they were the same as those that had upset the nice family she had stayed with before meeting Kal. To think that was only a few days ago, it seemed like months.
When a hand touched her shoulder she turned around and looked up in the eyes of a young man. “Can I help you?” He asked.
Eve was shortly startled, but she could definitely use some help on her quest. “I’m looking for clothes.” She said. “For a man.”
“I see, so you have an errand, how unfortunate, at least let me accompany you and show you where you can find some.”
Eve was immediately charmed by the friendly stranger who offered to help a gaeth with her task. He wore simple farmers’ clothes and whilst walking told her he was from a nearby village, he introduced himself as Alex. “So, anything fancy? The clothes I mean, for your…”
“My friend, no just something to work the fields.” Eve replied, she was delighted to be able to talk to someone and felt ten times as safe not wandering around alone.
“So, he is a farmer then, perhaps when you finished your errand for him, you could do something for me?”
Eve almost missed a step, she should’ve expected this. At least he didn’t seem to be asking something dishonourable. “Oh, maybe, my friend and I are leaving soon, I’ll have to ask him if I have time.”
“Of course… You’re travelling together? Perhaps I could accompany you. The errand I had in mind isn’t an urgent one. I was planning on leaving tomorrow…”
Eve blushed. “I don’t know, I’d have to ask him.” She didn’t know what to make of this man, was he just being friendly or was he flirting with her? People didn’t flirt with gaeth, did they?
“I’m sure he will agree, but let’s pick out some clothes first.” They had arrived at the outer edge of the market, where several farmers’ wives sold piles of second hand clothing.
Eve strolled back to the tavern with a pile of clothing in her arms and the kind stranger right behind her. She wondered how Kal would react, but he could hardly blame her. She couldn’t just forbid him from following her.
Once arrived she went straight up to their room, leaving Alex behind in the tavern’s common room. “I’ve got you some things.” She told Kal, who had all this time been waiting for her. “I hope they fit.”
Kal took the clothes from her arms and immediately picked out a shirt from amongst them. “Perfect.” He said, “I take it you didn’t ran into any trouble?”
Eve smiled, so he was concerned about her! “No, I actually got help from a man, he showed me where to find the clothes.”
“You sound surprised.” Kal said with a grin. “Not all men are pigs you know.”
Eve blushed, most of them were, at least amongst the few she had met since losing her memory. But she hadn’t told Kal about that yet. Perhaps she should. “He’s down in the common room.” She just said instead.
“You brought him along?” Kal sounded surprised.
“Well I couldn’t really stop him, could I?”
Kal grimaced, “well let’s go meet him then.” He had just pulled on one of the trousers she had bought him, the clothes fit him almost perfectly. Eve was at the same time proud of herself and startled that she had hardly noticed him taking the others off.
Later that evening Eve tried to sleep, she still had her dress on, laying against Kal’s back in the narrow bed. She hadn’t wanted to take it off, it would make both of them too uncomfortable. It was a strange thought that she could’ve been sharing a bed with Alex. He hadn’t asked her, nothing like that. But Kal had told her he was clearly interested in her. She did remember his reaction when they parted: “Oh.. you share a bed.”
Kal had told her, right after telling her he didn’t trust him. “Doesn’t sound like a farmer.” He had said. Perhaps that’s why he had silently agreed to continue their pretend relationship.
Other than that they had chatted quite amiably. They had even agreed to travel together. Alex seemed to know the region and could function as a guide. Kal had also admitted he was quite handsome.
The start of their journey with Alex was a bit uneasy. He would ask them questions soon: where were they going, why were they travelling together… The story that Kal had saved her in the forest in Braich only explained why they had arrived in the village together not why they were leaving together.
So far Alex hadn’t asked anything about their travels however. “There’s a small village, quite close to the keep. It’s the furthest west we can go without entering the marshland. Unless you had a more specific goal.” He suddenly said.
Eve didn’t answer, she didn’t even know which keep he meant, probably that of a lowborn noble. She was also not sure he needed to know they did not have a real goal. Kal however had a reply ready: “Don’t you have to go back to your farm?”
Alex grimaced. “I could, but did not ask the same of you.”
Kal nodded. “Fair enough, I’m no longer interested.”
The two men walked on as if nothing had been said and Eve stumbled just behind them. She was surprised, that had gone a lot easier than she had hoped. Perhaps Kal was right, maybe Alex wasn’t a farmer. She knew now what Kal had meant the other day. Alex spoke more… sophisticated than any farmer she had met so far. Walking through the fields, occasionally passing a farm or some cows, she let the talking to the two men. She had started to wonder where she was going, to the west, and then? Once she was far enough from Kal’s army, she would be safe again, she could not stay with him forever. Did she really want to stay out here for the winter? She was much farther in the north than she had originally thought.
At nightfall they had stopped at a small stream that fed water to the surrounding fields. A group of just four willows offered them some cover. “I will come and help you.” Alex said after Eve had mentioned she wanted to wash her dress in the stream.
Without realizing it she looked up at Kal who had turned his heads to her in the same moment. He wore a sad smile and put his hand on Alex’ shoulder. “As a daughter of the gods she might still be a child, but she is also a woman entitled to her privacy and she can surely take care of herself.”
Alex merely nodded and with a smile Eve left them alone so she could finally wash that black rag she slept and lived in. The willow’s branches hang low to the ground and offered her just enough protection from their eyes; still she stared long in their direction to make sure they had not followed before taking off her dress.
She washed the dress first so she could leave it to dry before submerging herself in the cool water. It was not deep, barely reaching her hips, but fresh and clean. She was not left alone for long however as she suddenly noticed Kal pushing aside the willow branches and approaching her. She covered her breasts on instinct. “Kal!” She said. “I thought you just told Alex something about privacy…”
Kal smiled. “I think I’ve seen you naked often enough by now Eve, to know what you’re hiding behind your arms and under the water.”
Eve blushed. “So what? You liked what you saw so much that you wanted to see it again, perhaps reconsider your interest in another gender?”
Kal laughed and Eve wondered when she had gotten so comfortable around him that she could joke in this situation. “Nothing like that young lady, I just wanted to talk, in private.” To Eve’s surprised he pulled of his shirt and started undoing his breeches.
“Don’t you think Alex will be jealous, seeing you do what you told him not to?”
“Well, that’s why I’m here,” Kal said, “perhaps he doesn’t have to be jealous much longer.”
Eve raised an eyebrow, refusing to come out of the water, her dress was still wet anyway. But Kal had fully undressed and slipped in just a few steps away.
“I don’t understand you Eve. Alex is a nice guy, he won’t hurt you like the men I’ve protected you from. Why are you so afraid, a gaeth as beautiful as you must have bedded a dozen men if not more.”
Eve blushed, she could not explain, “I thought you didn’t trust him?” She could hardly think, why didn’t Kal realise she was uncomfortable with seeing him naked… As beautiful as her? She stared at the reflection in the water, it did not tell her much.
“I don’t think he’s a farmer, no. The way he talks, he might be a noble. But why he is out here, dressed as a farmer, I don’t know. Let him have his secrets, like we have ours. Is that why you fear him?”
“No, it’s just, all those men, I don’t remember them.” There, she had said it.
Kal looked confused. “What do you mean?”
“Before I met you, only a couple of days earlier, I awoke in a farm, wearing my black dress. I have no memories of before that day. Perhaps the farmer hurt me, perhaps it was an accident. I just ran away and then I found you. I don’t know my name, who I am, where I came from.”
Kal stared at her with eyes wide open. “And you never thought to tell me?”
Eve looked at the ripples her fingers made on the surface of the water. “It did not seem important.”
“Not important?” Kal asked with a slight tone of anger. “I should spank you right now if I didn’t think you’d like that!”
Eve blushed. “What? I don’t!”
Kal laughed, “Back in the forest, despite all your wriggling and squealing, you kept your bottom up nice high and ready.”
Eve blushed. “I did not!” The cold water had turned her nipples erect, giving her a false feeling of excitement upon the memory of that awful event.
“Well I think I had a better view to judge the situation.” Kal said, he could no longer hide his smile.
“You’re teasing me!” Eve cried out, spraying water in his direction.
“Careful young lady.” Kal replied with a laugh, “remember what happened last time you threw things at me.”
“According to you, that’s exactly what I want.” Eve replied, no longer willing to be the butt of his jokes.
Kal smiled, “good one… Well try to think about what I said. Alex wouldn’t be a bad choice to help you regain your memories of life as a gaeth.”
After climbing out of the water, trying hard not to blush as Kal’s eyes must surely follow her, Eve did think of what Kal had said. He was right, it would happen sooner or later, so why not with someone of her own choice. She thought about Alex, she did like him and he wouldn’t have looked as calm as Kal if it had been him watching her climb up the water’s edge, water dripping from her naked body. With an excited blush she realized that might have been easier, she might have not had to decide anything herself then. If he had just ordered her to stay and… wash his back.
It did not take long before Kal returned to the fire as well. There was an uncomfortable silence as they dined on the fruits they had bought at the market. Eve stared at Alex, blushing each time she wondered how he would have looked, undressing like Kal had, to join her in the water. Alex in turn stared at Kal, trying to hold back his jealousy, while Kal tried to act as if everything was normal.
“I know a good girl when I see one.” Eve remembered the farmer’s wife’s words. She had a choice now, to make the woman’s words truth, or to seize this opportunity for her first experience in her new life to be with a man of her own choice. She didn’t remember much about gaeth. The idea that men could demand sexual favours from her wasn’t new, but it had never felt right. Except for the soldiers, none of the men she had met had asked it of her, Alex had shown interest but never forced her and even Jake, despite his offering of ointment, had been too shy. All she had was the gossip from cities and the behaviour of soldiers.
If she stayed away from that, travelled between villages and farms, she wouldn’t have to become again what she must’ve surely been in the past.