10. Chapter 10
Another day has gone, another day come much the same. Sudden waves of terror, rebellion, homesickness, wash across Farielle, making her almost frantic and unable to sit still. Then she paces - if no one is there - or bites down on the heel of her hand until the pain without eases the pain within. In between, she sits numbly on her cot and waits, she knows not for what.
It is late afternoon, nearing dusk, and the breeze is coming in nicely, if a little damp. The camp outside, if one should see it, has tidied up nicely: the blood is washed away, the rubble nudged, moved, and swept. The Haradrim are preparing to depart.
From within a closed-off portion of Lady Eruphel's tent, there is the angry sound of raised voices, uttered in Haradaic. And then Nisrin storms out into the main area of the tent, looking very much ruffled.
Farielle has no idea what the camp looks like; she is inside. All the time. It's getting boring, sitting, waiting. She looks much better than the day before, her lips are still a little chapped, but her face isn't so hollow and she has more energy. She listens to the arguing with idle interest - having no idea what is being said - but then, there's not much else to listen to either.
Nisrin stops short. Taking a deep breath, the girl runs a hand through her dishevelled hair and smiles towards Farielle. "You look better today. They didn't let me in, but I heard Lord Khaan was not happy."
Farielle gives Nisrin a half-twist of her mouth that might be a smile. "I suppose it was foolish of me to hope," she says quietly. "I should have known someone would see." She shrugs, nodding towards a cup and pitcher that are both full. "But as you see, I am drinking." She sounds resigned; and just as she says this, a guard pokes his head around some curtain or other, and Farielle looks up, then sighs and does actually take several swallows. The guard nods and vanishes.
The Haradrim girl settles herself comfortably on the floor, startling once when a guard pops his head out of nowhere. "What were you trying to do?" Nisrin asks. "Lord Alphros doesn't like desiccated ladies."
The older girl looks at Nisrin levelly for several minutes. "What do you think? If they hadn't noticed a little longer, Lord Alphros could have found himself another lady, as fat as he liked."
Nisrin holds Farielle's stare, then looks away. "Oh," she says shortly, biting her lip. "There are more honorable ways to ... do that." The girl hugs her knees, then says, her voice flat, "I thought you were different. Stronger than what I was told of your women."
"I have no other ways," Farielle says quietly. She gestures around. "What would you suggest? That I steal Hayya's sword, while he is sleeping with it?" She looks away at the girl's condemning words, then back, her head held high. "You could not understand."
"I could not," agrees Nisrin levelly. Her eyes flash, proud, as she looks at the other woman, "My people are not brought up to die quietly. If I were to be shipped off to be wed to one of your men -- not that any would want me, really -- I would have taken as many as I could down with me in the camp. I was surprised you would not try to throttle me while we were alone."
"All the same," the girl says softly, tilting her head, "I wish you would not try it again."
"You are taught to fight," Farielle says uncaringly. "We are taught nobility. Why should I kill you? You have done nothing to me. And if I did as you suggested, and somehow got a weapon, it would be worse than useless, for I do not know how to use it, and could kill no one, even if I wished to try, and then I would be in much worse case than I am now with nothing to show for it."
But the other girl's sudden - sympathy? - makes her falter, where contempt has not. She looks down at the floor. Very quietly, "I betray my family's honor by living." Tears sparkle in her eyes, but do not fall.
"I am not a boor, nor a monster," replies Nisrin with frank displeasure. "I might help you run," she adds quietly, "if I thought it would do any good. You are my age, and I have had no one else to talk to. But your ships sailed days ago."
"You dishonor House Girithlin by starving like a dog. There are better ways to die, but surely better ways to live."
Farielle nods, her face both sad and resigned. "They are gone, and I cannot hide among you," she says, looking at the extreme difference between her skin and Nisrin's. She sighs, shaking her head at the other girl's last comment, and seems unsure what exactly to say. But she tries, moved by some impulse - another girl, near her age, and she has no one else to talk to either, save Yildirim.
"It is my heritage," she tries to explain. "We are descended through age after age from the first fathers of men in Middle Earth, who were allies of the Eldar. And my many-times great grandmother was one." Her voice is quiet, still awed by the thought no matter how long she has known it. "It is our honor to keep our name and our line pure. I .. no matter what happens to me, if I live, here, I cannot keep to that."
"A close-knit family?" says Nisrin, and her sneer is defensive, envious. "That is a nice story, to be sure, but the pale Faeries are a thing of the past. Your lineage may be pure, but here you are alone. What will -you- do now?"
But Farielle isn't hurt by the sneer. She looks at the girl, meeting her eyes, and it seems she understands Nisrin's envy. She nods once, in acknowledgement or acceptance, and then bows her head, looking unseeingly down at her hands. "I do not know," she whispers. "I do not know what to do."
"Stay?" Nisrin suggests mildly, raising her eyebrows. She shuffles closer, leaning back against the posts of the cot. "Stay and live for a while. It cannot grow worse, I am sure. Lord Alphros is noble and not cruel; he has been long misunderstood by the Northerners."
Farielle wavers. She is young, and doesn't really /want/ to die. "But if I have a child," she says uncertainly, and blushes faintly.
"Your son," answers the Haradrim girl matter-of-factly. "And Alphros's heir."
The Gondorian girl shivers all over, looking suddenly ill. "I - I /cannot/!" she says, desperately, and lifts her head, looking around the tent as if she might miraculously see a knife that had somehow been overlooked.
"He will not force you," says Nisrin with a raised brow. "Surely he has learned from Lord Pharazon's faults."
"You are envied!" the girl adds with jesting jealousy. "Lord Alphros is well-liked by many women, surely. How we sighed when we learned he wished for a Gondorian Queen!"
Farielle shivers again at that name, the worst of all the Kings of Numenor, though for a time, the brightest and best. But what she says, almost to herself, is, "He speaks as though I have choices, when there are none." Then she lifts her gaze again and tries to match the joking tone. "I will trade with you... though we will have to bleach your skin somehow. Or paint it white."
"You are too tall," points out Nisrin in an effort to make light of things, sighing. "And I haven't your eyes, nor your figure. And you do not know how to sail."
"I can sail," Farielle protests. "A little, anyways. I've been, and I watched how they did it, and even steered some. We live along the coast, after all."
"Perhaps we could stretch you out? You would have to go around with your eyes shut..." As humor goes, it is fairly feeble, but she is trying.
"My brother would notice straightaway," Nisrin grimaces, glancing angrily toward that section of the tent. "I am sorry. Could I bring you anything?"
"I would like something to do," Farielle says wistfully.
"What do your nobles learn? Besides how not to fight?" asks Nisrin pointedly. "Although I do not think there is a harp in the camp."
"I can play things other than a harp," Farielle replies. "But... I would rather not, here. I do not know what you can bring - paper and ink? I can draw and paint and sing and embroider and ride and sail - a little - and hunt with a bow, and supervise the stillroom women, and tell if my steward is cheating me." A half-smile hovers on her mouth for a second. "But paper. If that is not too difficult."
"Pen and paper," echoes Nisrin, then smiles. "As long as you are not drafting up your will!" She ducks out of the tent-flap into the bright hazy afternoon.