Chapter Four

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Sitting under the tree she felt a hundred times better. Her legs and feet still ached, but getting the weight off of them was the sweetest feeling she had experienced in a long while. To her left, lying on the ground, was Seros's bag. Selene looked at it for a long moment, the gurgle in her belly growing as she thought about what food might be inside the bag. It was not right for her to look through it, she knew, but she could not remember when she had been so hungry. Besides, he would give her food if she asked, so it would not be stealing. What would he care if she took some? Only enough to satisfy her hunger, no more, no less, she told herself.

She peered in cautiously, and shuffled a few things around as she looked. There was a thin leather bound book with a leather clasp and some writing quills, along with a change of clothes and an old, hard loaf of bread. She pulled out the bread and set it beside the bag, and returned her gaze to the bag. Perhaps he has some meat or hard cheese, she thought. Selene pushed the book aside and was feeling around when a shot of pain snaked up her hand. She pulled it back quickly and inspected the painful digit. There was a cut on the palm of her hand. A curse escaped her lips as blood began to drip from her palm.

"Careful, it's sharp." His voice startled her. She looked up at Seros and then to his half emptied bag that lay open beside her, and lowered her head in shame.

A shallow chuckle escaped his throat. "Do not worry, my dear. There is naught in there worth fretting about. Let me see that cut."

Selene held out her hand and he looked over it for a moment. He pulled out the shirt from his bag and ripped it into a long strip. Gently, he wrapped it around her hand. "We will keep an eye on that. Could you break a piece off of that bread?"

Did nothing anger this man? She had just blatantly violated his privacy and trust, yet he still stood there with a smile—his soft eyes betraying no ire, hinting no aggression. She broke off a piece of the hard, stale bread and handed him the larger piece. He nodded in thanks and took a bite.

"It is stale and old, but it will do," he said with a frown. "There is a small village not a half night's walk, if you feel up to the challenge." He popped the rest of the bread into his mouth.

"There will be an inn?" Her face brightened, but she quickly remembered her situation. "But I have no coin to offer for a room."

"There is most assuredly an inn, and let me worry about the payment," he said with a wink. "Now, up we go, if you dream of sleeping in a twine bed tonight."

He hopped up and shrugged on his bag. Selene followed, reluctantly at first, though not because she did not desire to move, but more because her legs were like clay and her body protested every movement.

"Does one ever get used to walking so far?" she asked with a groan.

Seros chuckled and looked back over his shoulder. "The body is a magnificent thing, my dear. It can be soft and mushy and unreliable on one hand; on the other, it can be the most deadly weapon in the entire world."

Selene pondered that for a moment. "More deadly than the Steel of the Isles?"

"My my, the little lady knows her weapons." A large hill loomed in front of them and Seros took it in stride. "You must know then that a blade, even one as sharp as those from the Isles, is only as good as the man or woman that wields it. Now, where is it that you learned about the phantom blades, I wonder?"

"Everyone knows about the Isles," she said matter-of-factly. "I still remember some of the stories my mother told me when I was a child, before she died." Her demeanor quieted slightly at the mention of her mother, as if she had not meant to talk about her.

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