On the road, part eleven

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They took off in the morning, Arthur, Harbend, six horses and one wagon. Harbend drove. Arthur looked back, watching the wagons behind them until the road took a turn and they were between trees again. He enjoyed the silence, broken only by the creaking of wagon wheels and the muted sound of hoofs hitting dirt beneath them. About to ask Harbend how much time they needed to spend on the road a smattering from above caught his attention. He looked up but didn't see anything. Behind him Harbend halted the wagon.

"Rain. You better get your cloak," Harbend said.

Arthur just sat in his saddle. "But I don't feel any raindrops."

"You will. The leaves are sheltering us. Hurry up!"

Arthur obeyed and climbed into the wagon in search for his chest. He found his cloak and grabbed Harbend's on his way out. They both got into the heavy leather and strung felt hats to their necks. Arthur still didn't feel much of the rain, but then the wind caught up and started shaking the canopy above them, and within moments cold water poured down. Arthur yelled in surprise but Harbend only guffawed in response.

Half a day later, with wet clothes and a cold wind chilling them through whenever they rode out from between sheltering trees, their mood had changed for the worse. It didn't help that Harbend started whining about his relations with the Termend women and the infidelity of the daughter. Not able to believe what he was hearing Arthur eventually couldn't stay silent any longer.

"So, you turned her down and she slept with the captain instead. What's the matter? She's hardly your property. Don't you think I haven't seen you look at anyone who's not a fellow merchant as if they were nothing but servants or someone you could squeeze a good price from?"

"You fail to understand. I would..."

"If you say you'd have paid well I'll bloody smash your face in!" Arthur interrupted.

"I was not thinking anything like it!"

"Oh, no. Probably only something like taking good care of her, or making sure she gets a good life, or something else where the solution is money. Can't you see that not everyone values life in coins?"

Harbend colored. "Do you not value money and the freedom it brings?"

"Hell, no! My money bought me a golden prison for twenty years. I didn't own my money. It owned me, or rather any source of wealth owned me. For the first time I'm deciding what to do with it." Hearing his own words Arthur finally accepted that such understanding had taken him a journey to another world to reach.

"And now you have the resources to do so," Harbend said with a quality of whining to his voice Arthur didn't care for.

"I stopped caring about my so called resources four years before I decided to come here, and I don't bloody plan on allowing them to run my life again."

There was no response. Harbend just gave him a sullen glare and they didn't speak with each other after that.

He didn't understand why Harbend had even breached the subject. Chaijrild was still only a child and Harbend had done right by refusing to share his bed with her. Arthur didn't even want to think about the problems they would've had with her mother if it had become known that the master of the caravan took advantage of his position in that way.

You did right. No bloody reason to start sulking now!

They continued in uncomfortable silence all the afternoon and early evening.

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