Chapter Eight

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When she awoke the next morning in a Minyavo infirmary, Rinnet couldn't stop grinning. Of course Yurovin developed a soft spot for her, and why wouldn't he? Warming up to him was the best decision she'd made since leaving King's Helm. She knew it might get her special treatment and save her some trouble; she didn't realize it might keep her alive.

The physicians in the infirmary kept a thick silence in the ward, but they did their jobs nonetheless. Rinnet knew they were displeased with her presence by the tight corners of their mouths and the knowing looks they exchanged. She could hear them talking low and fast down the corridor from the room where she was kept alone.

Alone, that is, other than the constant watch of a guard. She didn't mind. She was alive, wasn't she?

That Distya was fast and sure, and tricky, unlike the methodical female Guardsman. Rinnet had taken a few hard hits and gotten herself scratched up, but she'd had a plan. When Distya had taken up a pattern, Rinnet had understood it was a trap. She'd only stayed on the defensive to conserve, wait until Distya broke the series of overhead clashes to try a killing move. Then Rinnet would be ready to block it and make her own move while Distya recovered from the failure.

But once she'd seen Yurovin at the front of the group of riders, Rinnet changed her mind. He wouldn't stand by and watch her die, not after she had been a model captive and warned him of Harbaud's escape plan. He could send her into the trap, but he couldn't let it close on her. She had him.

So here she was behind enemy lines again, though enemy was a word Rinnet thought of abandoning. Just as there were no allies, she no longer had a single enemy. Perhaps she never had. Tevarian, Coretian, and Hatawan alike, people were the same — foolish. Cowardly. There was, put simply, everyone else, and her. 

Rinnet was not afraid. She was, however, a little annoyed at the damage she'd taken on the battlefield. Between Distya and the Guardsman, Rinnet's left side was bruised black, several of the ribs cracked. Her shins sported bruises as well from kicking the Guardsman's steel-plated legs, and a tender bump sprouted on her head where her helmet hit. At least the ringing in her ears had stopped soon after the battle ended. She was relieved to find they still worked well enough to eavesdrop on the physicians whispering in the corridor.

She couldn't understand much, though Yurovin's name surfaced more than once. In the late morning she thought she picked out Distya's voice, strung through with needles, but it stopped before she could be sure. Irya's name came up often, too. Rinnet wondered if she was to meet this Irya, whom she'd heard of often, but only by name. 

Of course, any meeting would have to happen in the infirmary. The physicians wouldn't let her out of bed, and the one time she tried, the guard hovering in the doorway glared and reached toward his hip. Rinnet didn't try again. Compliance, she understood now, could be worth the annoyance.

They kept away visitors. Rinnet expected to see Yurovin right as she awoke the first day, but as a week went by, she figured her isolation was no accident. The days of slow recovery dragged on. Rinnet wondered if her healing was that important, or if whoever was in charge just didn't know what to do with her. If she could talk to Yurovin — alone, preferably — she could convince him to let her go.

But if she couldn't get him by himself, success might elude her. Nobody else seemed to be on her side, including Yurovin's companion Distya. When he called for a halt on the battlefield, Distya refused to lower her weapon even a little until Yurovin gave a direct order. Then she'd yanked off her helmet and stared Rinnet down. It pained her more than her wounds to not return the glare, but Rinnet had to start playing victim in front of Yurovin. He checked her for wounds, and when he helped her to her feet, she didn't bother hanging onto the broadsword. She nudged it away with her boot for extra measure, as if the blade revolted her. 

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