The Chronicles of the Warlands, Book 2
by Elizabeth Vaughan
His voice dropped to a low, gentle tone. "You're not eating, and I'm thinking that you're not sleeping either."
I watched the ground pass below us. "I'm fine."
"Are you pregnant?"
I dropped my head onto his shoulder and groaned. "Marcus…"
"It's a fair question." Marcus replied. "Our women take precautions in the field, but you Xyians have such strange ways…"
"I am not pregnant." I growled. I didn't want to think about that, although he was right. I hadn't taken any precautions. My courses were due any day. But the idea of being pregnant raised issues that I didn't want to consider. Of things that Keir and I had yet to talk about.
"Then what is wrong, Lara?"
The fact that Marcus was using my name, a rare event, told me that he was worried. I opened my mouth, but the truth would not come. "I'm fine, Marcus. Truly."
He snorted. "As you say, Warprize." He stiffened in the saddle, and I knew that I had upset him. This scarred little man had come to mean a great deal to me within a short period of time. He was fiercely loyal to his Warlord, and I was included in that loyalty. I wasn't sure that was by virtue of my own self, or the fact that I was Keir's chosen Warprize. Regardless, how could I confide my worries and fears to him? He already held Xyians in contempt on general principals. My fretful complaints could only heap wood on that fire.
I settled for an obvious question. "When do you think we'll stop for the night?"
"A few hours yet, Warprize. Hisself will keep us moving until we lose the light."
"Why is he in such a hurry?"
"Hisself has his reasons. You're to be confirmed when we reach the Heart of the Plains, and the sooner the better." Marcus's tone was a clear indication that the topic was now settled.
I looked about for a different distraction, and caught a glimpse of Epor reaching over to tug on Isdra's braid. "Epor seems sweet on Isdra."
"Eh?" Marcus growled. "Sweet? What means this?"
I floundered for the unfamiliar words. "That he cares for her."
"They are bonded." He spoke grudgingly, almost as if the words caused him pain. "Do you not see the ear spirals?"
"Bonded? Is that the same as married?" I twisted about, trying to get a better look at their ears, but Marcus had apparently grown weary of me.
"Ask Epor. Or Isdra." His tone was curt and he whistled, somehow catching Prest's attention. Prest raised a hand, and started to move back toward us. Because I was a burden on the horse, I was traded off every hour so as not to tire any one animal. The elements forbid that a horse be over-tired. I was starting to feel like a package in a trading caravan.
Marcus spoke as Prest moved into position. "Joden is a good man, Lara, valued for his wisdom. He is heard in senel, although he holds no rank, and even by the Elders when he appears before their councils. He will make a great Singer once he is recognized as such."
Prest drew closer, preparing to transfer me to his horse, but I ignored his outstretched hand. I leaned closer, trying to figure out what Marcus was talking about.
"If you can't confide in anyone else, you can confide in a Singer." Marcus's voice was so soft, it was almost a whisper. "Words spoken to a Singer are held to his heart, where they cannot be pried free. Talk to Joden, Lara. Please."
With that, they transferred me to Prest's horse without breaking stride, and Marcus faded back and away into the crowd.
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