12. Wobbling Bulwark

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The impudent scoundrel! Fuming, Ayla marched down the corridor away from the chamber where that saucy, villainous, brain-boiled bastard lay in peace, probably contemplating how best to get his “compensation” out of her, while she had to get out there and face the Margrave von Falkenstein. Plucking eyebrows indeed! What did he know about her and the tasks ahead of her? Nothing!

Yet what had aggravated her the most wasn't the fact that he seemed to radiate arrogance, nor that he had dared to order her servants about in her own castle, nor even the fact that he obviously thought of her as a brainless hen.

No, what angered her was that through the entire procedure of removing the arrows, a process which should have left a pampered merchant like him, or indeed any man, screaming in agony, he hadn't uttered so much as a single sound of pain. He had even made polite conversation with her, for heaven's sake—the only time during their short acquaintance when he had actually deigned to be polite, so far.

She had wanted to hurt him so badly—instead she ended up healing him. How she had wanted to hurt him! Especially, oh, especially when she had been forced to put her arms around him and—the thought almost made her blush even now—she had fallen on him.

His insolent grin had been enough for her to want to sink into the floor right there and then. She wondered at the fact that it hadn't burned an everlasting mark of shame on her forehead.

Nonsense, she forced herself to think. I was only bandaging him. And the falling on him, that was an accident.

Ah, a small voice in the back of her head said. But the problem isn't that it happened, is it? It's that you enjoyed it.

“Shut up!” she growled.

“Err... Milady? I didn't say anything.”

Ayla looked up to see Dilli and three guards waiting at the end of the corridor. They stared at her with worried expressions.

“What is it, Milady?” Dilli asked.

Ayla just shook her head. “Nothing, Dilli. Will you look after our guest for the time being? I have to get down to the bridge to check how the barricade is coming along.”

The maid blanched slightly, but curtsied. “Certainly, Milady. If I may ask, Milady, what should I do if our guest asks for a meal? Should I prepare something special?”

Ayla scowled, not noticing the way her maid's voice shook when she mentioned their guest. “No! Just give him the same as the rest of us...” She stopped and considered for a moment. Thoughtfully, she tugged on her lower lip. “Actually, no, Dilli. You had a good idea there. Prepare him a meal according to the special diet for the sick and wounded by Hildegard von Bingen. You know the recipe?”

“Yes, Milady. You taught it to me last winter, when the smith got taken ill.” The maid hesitated. “Forgive me for asking, Milady, but what if our guest does not like his, err... special diet?”

Ayla smiled and shrugged. “He will just have to stomach it, now, won't he?”

“And... I am to bring him his meal myself? Alone? Without any guards accompanying me?”

Ayla was looking another way and didn't see the pleading look in her maid's eyes.

“Yes, yes. Sorry Dilli, but I can't chat anymore. I have to go now. You three!” She waved at the three guards. Still, there was a slightly vindictive smile on her face. She knew the special diet of Hildegard von Bingen. Reuben's reaction would be... interesting. “Follow me! We're heading down to the bridge.”

*~*~**~*~*

“You seem in a good mood this afternoon, considering we're about to be attacked by an evil tyrant,” Burchard remarked suspiciously as he beheld her striding towards the bridge.

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