The soldier was putting more Cristle powder over her wounds, making sure the poison didn't spread. Once she was treated yet again, he sat down across from her; they were sitting beside a torch in the roadway. The dark dirt road was illumined about twenty feet in either direction.
"Let's talk." He said, his eyes, she was just noticing were a honey brown, focused intently on her. She fidgeted, unconsciously gripping the hem of her skirt.
"Ok." She said, finding a little more courage in the hem of her skirt. "First, What's your name?"
His eyes flickered, what that remorse? Pain? The Torchlight wavered over his face, making it difficult to read.
"My name is Kerith." The sound triggered a twinge of painful remembrance, but she ignored the pain and pushed on.
"How do you know me? And why should I trust you?" Her hands twisted in the hem of her skirt.
Kerith flinched away, but he recovered, and met her eyes. His voice was gruff, his words strangled on emotion.
"I know you, because I'm your husband." Pain exploded behind her eyes. At first she thought this was the pain of memory, but then she felt the trickle of blood on her scalp. She had been hit in the back of the head. She couldn't move, even to turn to see the attacker, she only saw Kerith's eyes widen with shock then darken. The world faded. Colors to gray, gray to black.
When she woke, she felt that she was on a cart; the bumps of wheels on the road jarred her aching head. Why was it that every time she regained consciousness, her head hurt? She opened her eyes a crack, it was night still, and so the light did not hurt. She opened them fully, to see bars a few inches from her nose. She sat up, only to meet more bars, she was in a very small cage. She leaned back on one elbow, holding her forehead where it had met the metal bars, she cursed.
"Good, you're up." She jumped, she had momentarily forgotten her training, and hastily took in her surroundings. It was the back of an ox cart, that much she knew from the moment she woke. What she learned now, through the sounds coming from the flap of the covered cart, was that they were part of a caravan. She looked over where Kerith was in a similar cage, though he looked like he had taken a beating.
"What happened?" She asked, personally getting tired of never being conscious to collect the information herself.
"We were ambushed. Bounty Hunters. Apparently someone put a price on us, only condition being that we be alive."
"Good to know that I won't die today."
Kerith chuckled, a sound she hadn't heard in three years.
"So how many are there?" She asked, curious about her captors.
Kerith considered, "At least seven. That's how many I encountered after they knocked you out." Salamandria grinned.
"They had troubles with you, did they?"
Kerith's chest swelled with pride.
"Damn right they did. My only regret was that while they were dealing with me, I didn't see where they took you until they brought me in too."
Salamandria nodded, then motioned for him to be silent as she heard footsteps approaching the cart. The driver was speaking.
"I don't know if they've woken up yet, I've been up here, making sure we stay on the road. I hate mountain roads! You can go back there if you want."
The man the driver had been speaking too said something that Salamandria couldn't hear, and then there was a 'thump' as they jumped onto the cart. The flap opened, and the man came in. She didn't recognize him, but from the scowl on Kerith's face, it was one of the men who had ambushed them.
"Ah, I see you're awake!" The man said, looking at Salamandria. "Good, I know of a little grove of trees where we can take a rest stop." His black eyes gleamed, and Salamandria didn't think he was talking about food or drink. He was dressed in traveler's clothes, brown tunic and trousers, with leather boots well worn in. He also had a fur around his shoulders. She had heard the driver talk about the mountain roads; she hoped that she wouldn't freeze in the cage.
His hands were dirty; she jerked her head away when he reached to touch her face. Angered, he grabbed a fistful of her colored hair. She gasped from the pain; he had gripped her hair right by the scalp and was pulling her face to the bars.
"Now you listen to me, Girly, you'll do as I say, and you won't get hurt."
Salamandria was glaring at him when a growling voice sounded behind him.
"Get your hands off of my wife." Growled Kerith. Even though it brought a twinge of pain, Salamandria's heart fluttered when he said "my wife". It was nice to have someone who cared for her.
The man let go of her hair, and she fell back to the floor of the two-foot high cage. It was a long enough cage that she could stretch out comfortably, but little else. He turned to face Kerith.
"Wife, huh? I think you should watch the fun, then." Kerith glowered at the man, who turned back to Salamandria.
"Don't worry, we'll keep you in one piece. Mistress wants you alive. She didn't mention specifics."
Salamandria was dreading the "fun" the man had mentioned. It was another ten to fifteen minutes before the ox cart lurched to a stop. They were at the rest stop. Five men came in, and headed for Salamandria first. They pulled her roughly out of the box and tied her wrist together, securing the rope so tightly that it bit into her flesh. They then pulled out a strip of cloth to gag her while they lead her away from the road. They threw her down to the ground, calling over four extra men: two to watch her, two to join the others in bringing Kerith. Salamandria heard the sounds of a struggle, before seeing Kerith being dragged into the mossy clearing. It was a good ways from the road, almost half a mile. No one would hear them. They tied Kerith to the trunk of a tree, facing outwards so that he would have a clear view. They untied her wrists, two men held her arms and legs still while the first man started undressing her, ripping at the cloth when it proved too much trouble for patience. Salamandria was glaring daggers at them the whole time, or looking at Kerith, who watched. If he ever got free, they were all dead. They just didn't know it yet. When he was done, and Salamandria lay on the grass, vulnerable to whatever the men wished, he took out the gag.
"Understand this, wench," he spoke into her ear, but loud enough that Kerith was sure to hear. "I want to hear you scream."
Salamandria spat in his face. "You'll get no satisfaction from me." She snarled. She noticed movement in the corner of her eye, but chose to stare at the sky instead. The other men were making lurid comments about her figure. One man, obviously the ringleader, prepared himself. Salamandria stared purposefully at the sky before a gruff hand gripped her chin and forced her to look at him.
"Scream for me, wench." He ordered. Salamandria met his eyes with cold fury.
"Never, you bastard."
He struck her across the face, it was open handed, and stung. She hardly blinked. She felt the heat on her skin, where it had turned red from the force of the blow. She turned her head, popping tense muscles in her neck. Angered by her lack of reaction, he thrust; Salamandria looked back to the sky. They might make her bleed, but they couldn't make her scream. The next man came up, this time with knifes. He started to make shallow cuts on her legs and stomach. She didn't flinch at that either.
It killed Kerith, though. With a particularly deep cut he even called out "Dria!" a nickname he had given her since before their wedding, all those years ago. Salamandria glanced at him, a twinge of pain triggered from the memory. While the scene went on, Salamandria didn't fight back. How could she? She had no weapons, surrounded by armed men, and miles away from any type of civilization. No one would hear her even if she did scream. After the fifth, the guards let go of her hands and feet, she needed one chance, and most of the men had passed out already. She was still wearing the necklace; she praised the Gods that she had added a charm against pregnancy to it in her last stop to a market. The fifth finished, to collapse a little ways off. There were only two men left now, and one was in a vulnerable position himself. She still had her sandals on. As the sixth approached, she suddenly kicked out. Her aim and choice of target was wise, and the man collapsed on the ground a strangled sound of pain gurgling out of him. Salamandria leapt up, to grab one of the swords, one blow to the neck and the man on the ground was down. She had to spin and slash to the side to catch the remaining guard before he had her. He went down with a gurgle from his sliced throat. She picked up her clothes and put them on. Covering the ripped parts with her cloak. She then cut the ropes binding Kerith to the tree. He slumped forward into her arms.
"Dria, I couldn't get free, I couldn't save you." He whispered, the feeling of failure weighing at his heart. She held him, soothing his heavy heart with gentle words. After he had calmed, she dealt with the unconscious men. They wouldn't rise from where they lay. Kerith had to marvel at how she changed attitudes. From comforting woman to cold blooded killer in seconds. Though, he reasoned, it wasn't exactly in cold blood. His own blood burned whenever he thought of what he had just witnessed. They took two horses from where the men had tied them, and released the rest. They'd find their way to safety. All but one of the drivers knew nothing of what had happened or who Kerith and Salamandria were. The one who did know told them that he had been hired for transportation, and nothing else. They gave him some gold for his silence and rode on. Whoever the Mistress was, Salamandria had a bone to pick with her. Was she the one who put the memory curse on her? She knew now, that that was what it was. What else could it be? Salamandria scowled at the road all the way to the next town. When Kerith commented on this, she snapped.
"Being forced to be the wench of half dozen men makes me a little irritable. Can you say you blame me?" He couldn't and remained silent the rest of the trip. Salamandria was in much better spirits once they had purchased a room and she could bathe, and get the "Filth of the Slime Crawlers off me".
Kerith wondered about The Mistress. What did she want with Kerith and Salamandria? Was it even them specifically that she wanted? Who knew? But Kerith was determined to find out.