Bildad glared back at Martha. Argent walked between them.
“Look Bildad, it’s not just for her O.K.. I’m really cold, and with the door shut and the fire going it is heating up in here. If I had some stew in me too, I think it would really help.”
“Which is why you should never have given it your poncho in the first place.”
“But I did give it to her. Her, Bildad, not it. You said you would let me make the decision this once. Maybe you’ll be right. Maybe she will burn up. But if you really are going to accept me as an equal, then you have to let me treat her as if she’s a her, even if you don’t believe she is.”
Bildad seemed to consider his words closely then turned around and dropped back onto the cot he had salvaged.
“Fine, get your snow and onions.”
Argent grinned at Martha, picked up the pot and slipped outside. As soon as the door was shut behind him, Bildad was back on his feet and inches away from Martha’s face.
“I know what you’re doing monster. You won’t succeed. You’ll hurt his heart, but that hurt will only make him that much better of a Warrior. So far, the good that I will do with that silver outweighs the evil of having you attempt to corrupt him with your seductions. But now … I’m re-evaluating. The instant that the silver no longer outweighs the risk of your presence, I will end you.”
“But your oath.”
“My oath clearly stated that I would remove your head if you hindered our progress.”
“You wouldn’t … I’m defenceless.”
“You are no more defenceless than I am. You might look as delicate as a snowflake, but your venom is as deadly as a frost spider. Even if Argent did manage to somehow slow down or temporarily reverse the turning with that witchcrafting, do you really think that would stop me from ending you? I ended Walt before he turned. I’ve ended rangers before they’ve turned. If you were really as good as you are pretending to be, you’d be following their example. You’d make the condition of giving me the silver be that I end you as soon as possible after I have it, so that you wouldn’t be a danger to those around you. You wouldn’t be trying to stretch out your pitiful life to it’s last second.”
The words struck Martha like a physical blow. She staggered backward and nearly tripped over the remains of Bart’s torn and bloody outer cloak.
The silence grew almost tangible as she stared at the cloak. Could there be any truth in what Bildad was saying? She certainly wasn’t beyond putting others at risk for her own gain, the cloak proved that. She was probably responsible for his death. She let the thought linger before expanding on it. Two men had likely died because she had allowed the weirs access to this cave when trying to find safety. Was she doing the same thing again? Was she putting Argent in danger? Argent was whistling as he pushed the door open, he stopped as he noticed their showdown.
“What’s going on?”
Bildad returning to the cot.
“We were just making sure that we really understood each other.”
Martha could see the goosebumps on Argent’s arms as he balanced the pot of snow on the three cooking stones. She pulled his poncho over her head and handed it back to him.
“Here, I don’t need it anymore.”
Martha wrapped Bart’s cloak around her, it would still be making it’s accusations later. She could try to find the answers then, for now there was soup to make. Martha directed Argent in how to chop up the leeks, mushrooms and potatoes for the soup. Soon the ingredients were in the boiling water and they were waiting for it to cook.
The smells reminded her how hungry she was and her stomach grumbled again. Argent smiled and opened his pouch. He shook out the last of his dried meat and berries and offered them to her as he had on the mountain next to the stream. She took them but then imagined Bildad’s gaze burning into her back. Would he consider this interaction to be seductive corruption? Instead of eating the food she quickly dropped it in the stew.
“Hey, I that was a gift. If you didnt want it know you could have at least kept it for the road.”
“Whatever, look just dig behind those plates and see if you can find a small tin of salt.”
Argent’s face narrowed as he left but he returned shortly with the salt. Before long the potato soup, she had planned to make a lifetime ago, was finally complete.