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Ciranelle did not know what to think, not just of this city, not just of this country, but of everything, of her entire life, as it had been overturned, twisted around, and turned on its head. She knew what she thought, at least, of her captor, the arrogant peasant Inalor.
“Arrogant peasant” didn’t begin to sum it up, but since Ciranelle only knew about a hundred words of Callenian and her captor knew less than that of Bitrani, it would have to do. It was enough to tell him to keep his hands off of her. Again. And then again.
She admitted to herself, if to no-one else, that she rebuffed his attentions mostly because she could, because he owned her, had claimed her fair as the sunshine for his war-bride, and yet still allowed her to push him off like a nervous plowboy. The power sent shivers through her.
Sadly, that wasn’t all sending shivers through her, and it was her only power. Her situation, as fun as it might be, was more than a little terrifying, when she gave herself time to think. And these people - not the arrogant peasant, but the rest - were so strange.
And the way they looked at her was worse than their strangeness, worse than the funny way they talked or the strange clothing they wore, clothing that Inalor had made her wear by the simple process of taking away everything else. Even in her strange-buttoned qitari, Ciranelle looked strange. Exotic.
“Exotic” was new to her, and Inalor had had to translate the word, painstakingly, slowly, with gestures. “Exotic” should mean dark-haired beauties with forest eyes and tan skin, not her, not her blonde hair and blue eyes and threatening sunburn. Not Ciranelle, ordinary enough that she should have been overlooked.
“Come here.” Inalor grabbed her arm, not roughly, but firmly enough to remind her that she had not, indeed, been overlooked, that of the twenty women hiding in the ducal manse’s wine cellar, he had taken her. The mostly-decorative shackles on her wrists clanged and jangled as he pulled her.
“What?” she asked obstinately, digging in her heels, though the stone-paved road gave her very little traction. Frustrated, she repeated herself in Bitrani: “What? What is it you want from me, you difficult little man? Why won’t you just let me go? Send me back to my mother, won’t you?”
“He will not send you back to your mother because that is not the way things are done.” The accented but clear Bitrani that answered her startled Ciranelle into silence, long enough for the speaker to come out from around Inalor. “Surely you knew that. Your people do the same.”
“I know it,” she admitted cautiously. Who was this strange woman, her hair neither Bitrani blonde nor Callanthe black but a muddy in-between color, her brown skin freckled, her Callanthe tunic a customarily Bitrani rust-red? “But I don’t have to like it, do I?” The Three help her if she did.
“You don’t have to like it, of course not. I’m assuming you don’t want me to translate your… complaints… to Inalor?” The woman raised an eyebrow, amused at Ciranelle - amused! - and a little mocking, as If she was saying I know you better than you know yourself.
The worst of it was, she was right. “Please don’t,” Ciranalle asked unhappily. “It will only make him glower. He does that enough already.” And as much as she enjoyed the power saying “no” gave her, she knew it had limits, and she wasn’t nearly ready to find those edges.
“I assumed as such. It’s more entertaining to yell when no one can understand you, isn’t it?”
Ciranelle didn’t like the way the woman smirked knowingly at her. “It’s easy to yell and holler when you’ve been taken away from your home,” she answered shortly, “taken from everything you know.”
“That’s what my father always said,” the woman answered sympathetically. “He said there was a point where he decided to stop fighting, not for my mother’s sake, but because fighting was just wearing him out.”
“Your father?” Ciranelle tilted her head. She knew it happened, but…”
“A war groom, yes.”
She flinched. “How can you say such a thing about your own father?”
“Well, in Callenian it’s not so dirty. Not dirty at all, actually.” She paused. “That, as a matter of fact, is part of why Lord Inalor hired me to translate.”
“Part of why? Lord? Hired?” Ciranelle boggled.
“One question at a time,” the woman smiled. “First, let me explain to my employer.” She turned back to Inalor - Lord? It must be a joke. - and spoke with him in fluent, smooth Callenian for a few minutes. Ciranelle caught very few words - her name, “getting along.”
When the woman turned back to her, her expression had changed; she looked hard, businesslike, distant. “Lord Inalor hired me to translate a conversation between the two of you. It is his desire, as you enter his home city, to be perfectly clear about the situation that you are in.”
Ciranelle swallowed hard. That didn’t sound good. “When did he have time to hire you?” she asked, instead of the questions she wanted to ask, instead of screaming. Lord. Lord, again. “I don’t know what there is to explain, either. I know the position I am in. I’m his whore.”
The woman spoke rapidly in Callenian, frowning deeper and deeper; in return, Inalor frowned deeply and spoke back to her, short, staccato syllables, with broad, angry hand gestures. She hadn’t seen him that angry in all of their trip here. She hadn’t seen him that angry when she rebuffed him.
Slowly, the woman turned back to Ciranelle and translated. “I think we have having that problem again, that you had in speaking about my father. Inalor wishes me to make it very clear to you that you are not, in his mind, a whore of any sort. You’re his wife.”
“How can I be his wife?” she protested. “He dragged me from everything I know. He…”
“He captured you as legal and right spoils of war, as our people - both of our peoples - have been doing as long as there has been war, and made you his wife.”
“He…” She sat down, perplexed. “He can do that, without me knowing about it?”
“He can, although it’s courteous for him to take you to the temple. He says he intends to, by the way, when you stop yelling at him quiet so much.”
“He… he intends to marry me?”
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