41. Confession

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The figure stepped out of the shadows and Reuben recognized Ayla's lovely, dirty face. She was frowning down at him.

“What are you looking at me like that for?” she asked. “You look like you've seen a ghost.”

Reuben breathed in a heavy sigh of relief, and let his hand drop from his belt at which, of course, no sword hung.

“Err... nothing. You just startled me, that's all.” He looked around the room, which was dark, except for a candle Ayla had probably brought with her, standing on the table, too far away for its light to quite reach him. Looking back at her, he smiled, suggestively. “I'm just not used to waking up in the middle of the night and finding a beautiful girl in my room,” he lied smoothly.

Ayla's face changed color. Reuben thought she might be blushing at the compliment, though under all the mud it was difficult to tell.

“I... I'm sorry, Reuben. I suppose I should have let you sleep. It's just, I was so excited, I simply had to come and tell you, I couldn't wait! We won! We actually won!”

Reuben's brow creased.

“Won? Won what?”

“Why, the battle of course.”

“The what?”

*~*~**~*~*

Even in the semi-darkness, Ayla could see Reuben's eyes go wide.

“Battle? Ayla, what do you mean, battle? There was no battle!”

“Yes, there was. Just now, down at the bridge.”

“Just now, during the night? Do you mean to say there was a battle and I slept through it?”

He seemed to be affronted by the idea, as if it were his personal responsibility to be awake and ready for each and every violent altercation.

Ayla found it hard to suppress a smile. “Apparently.”

“Tell me what happened!” he demanded.

“Well, as I said, we won,” she replied, a warm, proud glow spreading through her.

“I would like to hear it in a little more detail if you don't mind,” he said between clenched teeth.

Nothing would have suited Ayla better. It was the middle of the night, and she was hungry, dirty, and exhausted, but she didn't want to eat, she didn't want to wash, and she most certainly didn't want to sleep. She was much too excited for that.

She, Ayla, a seventeen-year-old girl, had won a battle against an experienced mercenary commander. She could hardly believe it herself, and all she wanted to do was share the news with everybody who wanted to hear it. Reuben seemed eager enough.

Quickly, she took a seat next to Reuben on his bedstead and began.

“You see, it was like this: we came down to the bridge and at first we thought there was nobody there, but then we realized that the entire enemy army was actually right in front of us.”

Raising an eyebrow, Reuben cut her off. “Really? And how exactly did you manage to overlook it, at first?”

“It was dark, stupid! And don't interrupt.”

“My apologies, Milady. Please carry on.”

“So, they noticed we had spotted them and lit their torches and charged. They were like a swarm of locusts. There were so many, it was unbelievable!”

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