- 2a (Argentum’s Song – PG)
Martha watched with a mixture of admiration and disappointment as the lanky youth, with the fur poncho and huge sword slung on his back, diffused the potential violence between Ladin and the massive barbarian that had just saved them from the monsters. She had been half hoping that Ladin would get some of what he deserved. However, a quick glance around the caravan showed that Franklin and the other two guards were getting ready to face off with the barbarians if worse came to worse, and she had to grudgingly respect the younger boy’s intuitive skill at dampening his mentor’s temper and keeping things from coming to that.
She returned her gaze to Argent, that was what the big one had called him before they had examined the corpses. It was strange, they had been travelling together for weeks but this was the first she had heard his name.
When the two barbarians had joined their caravan she had tried to befriend him as he seemed to be within a year or two of her and Franklin’s ages. He had even returned her smile and she thought she might have a chance at breaking through his shy silence. Then Franklin waltzed over and started loudly telling her about what the ‘ignorant barbarian youth’ had done with the cutlery at meal time. He pretended to suddenly notice Argent and quickly moved between the two of them with his hand protectively on the hilt of his sabre.
That had crushed any chance at getting to know Argent better as he apparently assumed that she shared Franklin’s disdain of him and had nothing to do with either of them after that. She certainly wasn’t going to go chasing him if he didn’t have the ability to give her the benefit of the doubt, and up until now she hadn’t considered it any great loss.
- 2b (Argentum’s Song)
There had only been one other time when she had almost tried striking up a conversation.
Three days ago, Thom, the old guard, had pulled out the pan reed flute that he would play every so often. He started playing a lilting dance tune and, as their work was already finished for the night, she and Father started to dance. Then a new instrument joined in and she was surprised to see Argent sitting down beside the older man and accompanying him on a tin flute. He wasn’t a court musician but he was at least as good as Thom. It was a more natural, unrefined, talent but with a lot of potential. She wondered what he could have become if he’d had the access to music teachers as a child that she’d had. Then, before finishing even one song, he stopped abruptly. His face was crimson and he dropped his eyes to the ground from where they had been fixed. When she whirled to see what he had been looking at, she saw the silent older barbarian and the obvious disapproval in his gaze had made her spine shiver.
After Thom finished the melody alone, Father bowed and then fetched Mother for the next song. Martha started walking in the direction where Argent had disappeared when Franklin had caught her by the elbow and asked for the next dance. She wasn’t an idiot and knew that despite being indentured as well, Franklin considered himself above her station and the only reason he was asking her was due to lack of options. However, she also couldn’t say that she minded the dark young noble’s attention while it lasted. Besides, she loved to dance and she could always try to corner Argent to ask him about his music later.
Now she realized she was unlikely to get that chance after all.
- 2c (Argentum’s Song)
As she watched, Argent fished something from his pouch and then glanced around. His blue eyes met her own and he quickly made his way over to her.
“Put a string of fifteen knots in this.”
She looked at the piece of sinew he was holding out to her. Ladin had made some power drunk demands of her and her family since they hadn’t been able to cover their debt and been forced into indenture. However, this was by far the most arbitrary thing she had ever been ordered to do. She might have swallowed her pride and done it anyway if Ladin had ordered it, to keep him from having an excuse to increase their term of indenture. Argent, however, had no such power over her and she wasn’t about to let this barbarian treat her as if she was his slave too.
“Do it yourself.”
Argent sucked in a breath and whispered.
“I can’t … I can’t count that high. Please just do it before Simon notices.”
Now it was Martha’s turn to blush as she realized that this time she had refused to give the benefit of the doubt. She quickly added the knots to the sinew and tried to phrase an appropriate apology. He was already walking away with the knots in hand before she had the chance to voice it. As Argent started up the mountainside, hefting a burden that would make most men twice his weight stagger, she heard her father’s voice at her side.
“What was that about?”
“He wanted me to tie fifteen knots for him.”
“I think so he could learn to count. I’m not sure.”
Franklin’s guffaw surprised her. She hadn’t heard him come up on the other side.
“What an idiot. If he wanted to learn math he should have asked for ten knots. Or possibly eight if he were travelling to the Eastern continent. No math system has base fifteen.”
For some reason it hurt her that Father joined him in laughing at the esoteric joke.