As Maegla talked, the taste of the blind woman’s badly overspiced squirrel stew reminded Vorodon of his childhood, even as it made his eyes water. Memories rose to the surface, idyllic times from his youth.
Papa was at the battered table on the mountain cabin’s shady back porch, cleaning and dressing his kills after a successful hunt. While he worked, the hulking mercenary Volgottir jovially gave pointers to his young son, chatting with the lad in the guttural language of the Volgotoi people. These times were always exciting for little Vorodon, as his father often made presents of the colorful tattoos with which the hill bandits adorned their skin.
“Little Volye, you want to be careful when you’re dealing with the city folk,” he suggested. “Their livers are often swollen and unhealthy because of all the lies they tell. They aren’t like the Hill Folk; they betray even their own kin. It’s better to devour their hearts instead; that way you can be sure that their Lower Spirits, the spirits of their weaknesses, won’t come back to haunt you.
“Their hearts will make you strong. You can add them to stew; they need to simmer slowly, and then be chopped finely. Otherwise they’re chewy as shoe leather,” advised the massive creature as he set some of the lean brigand’s better cuts aside to be roasted later.
“Volye, you need to get cleaned up and come inside,” called his mother from the cabin’s humble kitchen. Her voice was musical with the sing-song dialect of the Hill People. “The squirrel stew is ready!”
“Papa, do I HAVE to? Getting cleaned up before I eat is so dumb! I’ll just get dirty again,” the petulant child pointed out. “And I’m not hungry, anyway!”
“You listen to your Mama, little one,” his father ordered, his voice rumbling the way it always did when he wasn’t to be argued with. “I understand that cleaning yourself so often is silly, but you need to listen to your mother. Someday you’ll be all grown up and have a wife to order you around, so you’d better get used to doing what you’re told.”
Vorodon’s reverie was cut off by the sordid tale that Maegla shared with him. At first, he found it hard to credit, but he was starting to learn the blind woman’s body language, and she gave no indication of treachery. So, Senior Leftenant Hepple Faerax man, had ambushed Bross so that he could steal Bross’ woman, then had forced him to leave town when that plan failed. Of all the treacherous, womanish tricks!
After digesting that unpleasant information for a few minutes, Vorodon reached a few equally unpleasant conclusions: Leftenant Faerax had to be the one responsible for Maegla’s rape as well. The man was either a fool or he would have more treachery prepared; he couldn’t risk that Bross would come home unscathed to seek revenge. Now that Maegla had found Vorodon to champion her, it wouldn’t be long before Senior Leftenant came after him as well. Very well, if that was to happen, Vorodon would be ready!
“Nice Lady Maegla! You come now for Inn! Friend Insecter hear need for to how happen! Bad mans come more, need for Maegla take things and come for Inn! Then Vorodon help. Nice Lady, for to hide must! Manys mens in town strange; strange mens make guard more… faoss… to work, they no to found can you. Ott!” he rapidly told the girl in garbled Common, seized by the suspicion that they didn’t have much time. Forcing himself to slow down, he began speaking more carefully, “Maegla, Leftenant not be happy much you found way escape him. He want to try stop. I need help to project, no… protect Maegla. Take you things in here, we hide you! Then Vorodon go find Bross. Good?”
Moving rapidly, he began preparing for the perilous journey back to the Inn. They'd better stay in the shadows and back alleys, he thought to himself.