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datatime: 2022-09-26 21:01:31 Author:xCQtHOWW

What is this I hear on deck? The sailors are saying that Earl Aspitis is to be married on Spenit-married to you Is that true?

In the dark, Miriamele made a small noise. Slowly, as if approaching a dangerous animal, she considered this last idea for a moment-it was stunning in its power, even as an unvoiced thought. She had promised herself that she could outlast anything, that she could float with any tide and lie happily beneath the sun on whatever beach received her-but was it true? Could she even marry Aspitis, who had made her his whore, who had aided in murdering her uncle and was a willing catspaw of Pryrates? How could a girl-no, a woman now, she reflected ruefully-how could a woman with the blood of Prester John in her veins allow such a thing to happen to her?

Miriamele covered her eyes with her hands, trying to keep out the light. Has the wind come up?

When she had finished, Miriamele stared around the cabin in frustration, unwilling to believe that she could simply fail. Abruptly, she remembered the chest into which she had seen Aspitis pushing bags of money. Where had that gone? She dropped down onto her knees and pushed aside the bed's hanging coverlet. The chest was there, draped by Aspitis' second-best cloak. Certain that any moment the Earl of Eadne and Drina would walk through the door, Miriamele forced herself under the bed and dragged it out into the light, wincing at the loud scraping as its metal corners cut into the plank floor.

Go away, she told the Niskie. She tried to push her head back under the blanket, but Gan Itai's strong hands clutched her and pulled her upright.

She lay in the darkness for dragging minutes, listening to her own heartbeat, which was louder than the still-becalmed ocean. It was plain that all the sailors knew where Aspitis was-they expected to find the earl in his doxy's bed Shame choked her. For a moment she thought of poor Cadrach down in the shadowed hold. He was bound by iron chains, but were her own fetters any more comfortable for being invisible?

Do you not wish to brush your hair straight? the Niskie asked. It looks rumpled and windblown, and that is not how you like it, I think.

Miriamele covered her eyes with her hands, trying to keep out the light. Has the wind come up?

Do you not wish to brush your hair straight? the Niskie asked. It looks rumpled and windblown, and that is not how you like it, I think.

Do you not wish to brush your hair straight? the Niskie asked. It looks rumpled and windblown, and that is not how you like it, I think.

Miriamele was crawling under her blanket when she suddenly understood the significance of the white robe. In her oddly detached state, this realization was only one more tally added to the earl's overloaded account, but it helped to stiffen her resolve. She lay unmoving, breathing quietly, waiting for Aspitis' return, her mind set on her course so firmly that she would not allow any thoughts to distract her-not memories of her childhood and her friends, not regrets about the places she would never see. Her ears brought her every creak of the ship's timbers and every slap of the waves on the hull, but as the trudging hours passed, his booted footsteps never sounded in the passageway. Her door did not creak open. Aspitis did not come.

She felt the hands that shook her, and heard the quiet voice, but her mind did not want to return to the waking world.

Gan Itai's voice was puzzled. No, we are still becalmed. Why do you ask such a strange question?

But if the life that stretched before her was so unbearable that death seemed preferable, then she need be afraid no longer. She could do anything.

Do you not wish to brush your hair straight? the Niskie asked. It looks rumpled and windblown, and that is not how you like it, I think.

At last, groaning, Miriamele rolled over and opened her eyes. Gan Itai peered down at her, a look of concern furrowing her already wrinkled brow. Morning light from the hatch in the passageway outside spilled in through the open door. The achingly painful memories of the day before, absent for the first few moments, rolled back over her.

He left it here, she lied. Give it to me.

Do you not wish to brush your hair straight? the Niskie asked. It looks rumpled and windblown, and that is not how you like it, I think.

But if the life that stretched before her was so unbearable that death seemed preferable, then she need be afraid no longer. She could do anything.

Miriamele climbed the ladder as quietly as she could, lifting her head above the hatchway just far enough to make sure that Aspitis was still talking to the helmsman. They seemed to be having a very animated discussion, waving their lamps so that the flaming wicks left streaks across the black sky. Miriamele dropped down to the passageway as quickly as she could. A kind of cold cleverness had come over her along with her new resolution, and she moved quietly and surely along the corridor to Aspitis' doorway. When she had slipped through the door and closed it behind her, she took the hood off her lamp.

Miriamele opened her eyes. I would rather be dead.

Girl, wake up

Gan Itai gazed at the silver osprey carved so that it seemed to be alighting on the dagger's pommel. This is the earl's knife.

Miriamele slipped from the bed. After dressing quickly. she edged out into the narrow passageway.

Go away, she told the Niskie. She tried to push her head back under the blanket, but Gan Itai's strong hands clutched her and pulled her upright.

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