Next morning, the girl was sullen, fresh bruises on her face when she walked out of the tent behind Amarkash and was assisted into the chariot by a soldier. Wrists tightly bound behind her, she stayed in the chariot or next to it during the hours of marching and the few stops made for resting the horses and men. Nima never glanced at Kamin. After a quick assessment at the start of the day to reassure himself she was more or less unharmed, Kamin deliberately averted his gaze. Something about her, not only the undeniable beauty, but also her bravery in this situation, touched him. Her attitude made him all the more determined to rescue her as well as extricating himself from the current predicament.
If only they didn’t guard me so closely on the march. He glanced at the four soldiers marching in formation around him, spears and knives ready to take him down if he made any move to escape. His planning centered around a break after dark. They’re much less alert once they’ve made camp and had dinner.
During the rest breaks, Amarkash personally gave Nima water to drink and allowed no opportunity for her to share. Soldiers provided Kamin with small sips of water every other rest stop, with much jeering and insults. He didn’t care. Let them enjoy themselves as long as they gave him the precious water. Maintaining his strength was essential in this heat, not his dignity.
The column stopped before sunset, camping in a small oasis.
Curious about what would happen this evening, his attention was drawn to Nima, in tense discussion with the Hyksos captain. As he watched, the ropes on her arms were slashed, and she was given a small basket. Escorted by a soldier, she harvested plants of some sort from the overgrown gardens left by the former residents of the tiny oasis.
Going to the fire where her big stewpot glowed red hot, Nima busied herself with serious cooking. Pleased by her grace, her beauty, her stubborn refusal to give in to the terror of her situation, Kamin found some relief from his own aches and pains in observing her activities.
Him, they could only torture and kill. They could inflict much worse on her. Plainly, the Hyksos soldiers harbored some lingering hope of being allowed to assault her, touching her lasciviously whenever the captain’s attention was elsewhere. But the captain has staked his claim, and they all fear him enough to restrain themselves until he tires of her, which I suppose is a mercy. Nima slapped one man’s hands away with a curse. She’s strong. Kamin looked again. Or in shock.
Tonight’s meal smelled even better than the stew the night before. Sundown breezes brought a whiff his way, causing painful cramps in his gut, which grumbled.
Finally, after the officers and the soldiers had been fed, she scooped a bowl full of stew from the kettle and sauntered in his direction, her walk unhurried. Kamin enjoyed the view, realizing with a little jolt of dismay how eagerly he was anticipating even the most fleeting contact with her.
She set the bowl in his outstretched palms and looked him straight in the eyes, her own gaze intense. “Don’t eat it,” she said in a barely audible whisper, before walking away without a backward glance.
The guards watched him so he made a show of fumbling with the bowl, as if trying to get a better grip. He allowed the bowl to slip from his fingers, struggling against the ropes in a convincing show of desperation, attempting to catch it as it rolled off his fingertips. The bowl shattered on a rock, splattering him with stew. The guards standing nearby howled at his predicament. Kamin glared at them before bringing his greasy fingers to his lips, as if to lick some nourishment at least. Tempting as the aroma was, he didn’t actually touch his tongue to the drippings.
I hope she knows what she’s doing.
Veronica sez: Oh yes, Nima the Dancer has a plan.....