Friday, 3 February 2012

Chapter 5 (Part 1)

Chapter 5

Eos bowed again and continued, "Forgive me, Master Seti," and tried to step round him but he blocked her. With strong fingers, he grabbed her chin and forced her to look up at him. HIs eyes leered into hers and travelled over her body before he smiled again, "And what is my little brother's favourite whore doing out of his quarters?" he asked. 

"I was summoned to see Lord Griffin, master," she answered, trying in vain to pull away. 

"I see, so you sleep with father as well, then? Trying to weasel yourself to a higher position?" 

"No, master. Lord Griffin merely wished to ask about Master Azea." 

Seti snorted and his hand grabbed her throat instead, lifting her feet off the ground to see her eye to eye, "Likely story. I'm sure you must have slept with plenty of men back in the cat house, haven't you?" 

Eos couldn't answer. She couldn't even breathe. 

Suddenly, he slammed her against the wall, her head hitting the hard surface. She couldn't even cry out since his grip on her throat had not slackened. If anything, it got stronger. She felt his other hand grab her silk clothes and rip it off. 

There were yellings in the background, but she couldn't make it out as her head was beginning to spin. Eos was panicking as she clawed at his hand to get him to release her but it was like scratching at a marble statue. Tears leaked out of the corner of her eyes, blurring her vision further. 

Finally, his hand was wrenched free from her throat and she fell onto the ground. Everything was hazy but she could see a tussle going on and shouts. A louder voice yelled out something and it stopped as she was gasping thankfully for air. A cloth wrapped itself round her as she was lifted from the ground. She smelt a familiar cologne and could have cried again in relief that Master Azea had found her. 

When everything stopped becoming so confusing, she found herself in Master Azea's bed as he held a cold cloth to the bump on the back of her head. She never saw him look so angry before. "Are you alright?" he asked, seeing her watching him. 

Eos opened her mouth but somehow, the words were stuck in her throat. She tried to clear it but, instead, started crying. 

Master Azea lifted her gently onto his lap, "It's alright," he assured her, stroking her hair, "We'll leave tomorrow. You'll be safe with me then," he told her, holding her. Eos didn't know what he meant by leaving. But the fear was still gripping onto her and she didn't care what he meant. As long as it would get her away from Seti. 

At last, when she managed to calm down, she pulled away from Master Azea and hugged her knees, "What happened?" she asked him. 

The master took a lock of her long hair and kissed it. 

"Adna told me that father summoned you and I was a little worried over what. I was in Jordah's quarters. Apparently Seti had raped one of his maids last night and I had to go help him calm her and had to go see father about it as well as settle the compensation fees to her family. So by the time we settled it, I returned and Adna told me where you went so I went after you. Gods bless, I managed to get there in time. I was this close to just stabbing his head with my sword when father turned up to stop us. After that, I didn't bother to stick around," he explained. 

Eos nodded and kept silent for a brief moment before leaning over to kiss him. "Thank you," she murmured. 

Master Azea shrugged, "You're my responsibility," he told her, stroking her hair, "Now go help the servants pack. We leave first thing in the morning. Your new clothes are all ready anyway." 

"Leave where?" 

"To Rozen of course. Didn't I already say?" 

Eos looked surprised. From what she was told, the trip wasn't for another month. If they left now, it would still be winter there. Master Azea saw the look on her face and said, "I'd be more comfortable if you were out of Seti's reach indefinitely," he told her. 

She couldn't help but to agree. 

Master Azea observed her for a moment then wrapped an arm round her to bring her closer to him, "From now on, don't go somewhere I can't see you." 

Eos stowed the her necklace into one of the packs. Master Azea was being fussy. He insisted she brought her all her dancing clothes along with the new clothes he had ordered for her for the cold weather. In the end, what could have been only a few packs turned out to be enough to fill a wagon. And that was not including his clothes. 

"Does the master always lug so much baggage around with him when he leaves?" Eos asked Adna who was going over the items one more time. 

"Hm? Yes, of course. After all, he will be staying there for a few months," Adna said, looking down his list as he went through the packs one by one. 

Eos looked at the luggage that was being stowed onto the wagons so they could leave at once the next morning. "Hey, Adna, have you been to Rozen too?" she asked, sitting on a bench nearby. 

"Of course. I follow Master Azea wherever he goes," Adna replied, checking something off on his list. 

"How is it there?" 

Adna frowned, thinking it over, "Cold. I don't really like it. And many people there look down on us desert people. They see us as uncivilised barbarians," he said with a snort, "Stupid pale faced creatures." 

Eos swung her long legs. "If you don't like it, why do you still go?" 

"Because," Adna said, going through one of the master's bags, "Master Azea goes there for training and his presence is also to strengthen ties between the desert and Rozen. Where Master Azea goes, I must of course follow. What kind of manservant would I be if I didn't?" 

"I guess so," Eos said. 

There was a moment of silence before Adna spoke out, "By the way, try to be more careful from now on." 

"I know, I know. I will." 

"I hope so. I've never seen Master Azea quite so angry since coming to serve him when he was eight," he said. 

"Wow, that's a long time." 

"Yes, seventeen years to be exact." 

Eos fell silent. Finally she nodded, "By the way, Master Azea said Seti raped a maid from Master Jordah's quarters. Is she alright?" she asked, deciding to change the subject. This time Adna sighed and looked up from his list, "I wish I could say she's fine. But needless to say, she's traumatised by it. Compensation fees have been sent to her family, but that's hardly enough. Not only can she no longer marry, but she doesn't wish to serve here anymore because she fears it will happen again. Her family wishes to move out of the city completely back to their hometown. And Lord Griffin is trying to keep matters under control of course. This isn't the first time this has happened though. But it's usually confined to Seti's servants and Lord Griffin still has to quieten them down." 

"He's disgusting," Eos found herself saying. 

Adna tapped her head with his quill before going back to work. 

"Eos?" Master Azea's voice floated to them. He appeared, looking round and gave a small sigh of relief when he saw her. "Don't wander off," he told her, "Come." 

The girl got to her feet and hurried after him as he walked back into the building. "What were you and Adna talking about?" Master Azea asked, sitting on the bench just outside the entrance with his feet in a copper basin. Eos poured warm water from a pitcher into the basin and washed his feet. "I was just asking him what it's like in Rozen," she answered, drying his feet with a towel and tying his sandals back on for him. 

"Ah, yes, Rozen. It's an interesting place. Very different from the desert. I don't quite like the women there though," he added teasingly, watching her, "I much prefer the ones here," he told her, bending over to look her in the eye. 

She looked at him before pulling the string on the sandal too hard, making it pinch. "Ow!" 

"Forgive me, master," she replied drily before washing her own feet. Unlike him, she went about barefooted. Master Azea pinched her nose, "Meanwhile," he said, "Are excited? You've never left this city before, have you?" he asked. 

Eos dried her feet and went after him, "No, I haven't. But Adna said it might still be winter there. Won't it be cold?" 

"It'll be extremely cold," he agreed, "A friend of mine wrote and said it was snowing." 


"Yes. Frozen rain that comes down in white flakes. It covers the ground and its very cold. But its beautiful as well," he explained. Eos had heard of this phenomenon from the boasting travellers in Desert Gem but she thought it was mere boasting. 

As she took her evening bath with Master Azea, she wondered what other strange happenings she would experience in Rozen. "I daresay you'll find it an interesting experience," Master Azea said and she scowled openly at him, caught off guard. He grinned lazily at her as she pinned her hair more securely to keep it dry. 

She turned her back to him to reach for the soap so she could wash herself again when she felt warm lips at the back of her neck, jolting her. Neither of them said anything else but Eos ducked her head, looking worried. 

Chapter 4 (part 2)

"Eos! How's it going?" Tara asked, hugging her. 

Eos' guards were clamoured by the younger girls in the Desert Gem already. Eos sighed, sipping the juice. "It's been over a couple of months since Master Azea bought me, and honestly, I think I'm really getting fat," Eos complained.


"Yes! He's feeding me too much! And when I'm not practising my dancing or fighting, he expects me to laze around and eat with him day in and day out! How does he stay fit….?" she complained, slumping over the table. 

"Maybe he's just luckier than you," Tara said, helping herself to a raisin. 

"I'm trying to cut down here…" 

"Why don't you just tell him that you're getting fat and ask him not to make you eat so much anymore?" 

"But the food up there taste so good…" 

Tara laughed and Eos sighed, sitting up properly, "Anyway, I heard from Mother earlier that your persistent admirer hasn't given up yet," she said. 

This time it was Tara's turn to sigh, "No, he hasn't. It's beginning to get on my nerves. He's moved to the city, with his three wives," she said, rolling her eyes. Eos frowned, "Three?" she repeated. 

"Yes, not counting four bed slaves." 

"Wow- he must be rich." 

"And full of himself. Urgh, I can't stand it at all." 

The sound of laughter made the pair look round to see the girls all giggling and laughing at a joke one of the guards had told them. "They're enjoying themselves," Tara observed. "Yeah- now there's always a little fight on who accompanies me down to visit you and Mother," Eos said. 

"Oh no- that reminds me, I have to collect the incense Mother ordered!" Tara said, "Give me a moment, I'll be right back. I hope they aren't closed for the afternoon yet. Mother will punish me if she finds out I forgot!" 

"I'll go with you, it'll be nice to walk round the town again," Eos said, "C'mon- if we slip out the back, my guards can continue their enjoyment." 

"So thoughtful." 

"Just move, before the afternoon rest begins." 

The two managed to sneak out the back with the two guards much to preoccupied with the girls, to notice. Eos adjusted the veil over her head, looking around her. There were beggars out, stalls, street performers or two, hungry children scrabbling about and reaching into people's pockets. Eos was once one of them. 

Having grown up on those streets, she had a sharp eye for such going-ons. "Somehow- I'm just thankful I'm out of it," she murmured just loud enough for Tara to here. The older girl looked at her, "Yeah- you are a lucky one. Master Azea's family usually let slaves stay on, just changing their duties instead, right?" 

"That's what I hear," Eos replied, "A lot of Lord Griffin's former bed slaves now work in other parts of the palace but they are confined to ensure they do not have children with other men. That would most likely happen to me one day. But as long as I remain attractive and no other prettier girl comes his way, I can remain in Master Azea's immediate service for a good five to ten years. Even after his marriage to Lady Dareen, he expressed his wishes for me to remain as his dancer. But still- no one would want an ugly dancer." 

"True. Honestly, I don't know what I'm going to do when… you know… I get too old. I mean- Mother has hinted, that if I show I'm capable, she might leave the Desert Gem to me… but nothing is for certain," Tara said, looking worried, "Maybe I should accept the proposal." 

Eos hit Tara over the head. 

"Ow! …. Thanks, I needed that." 

"Your welcome." 

They arrived at the store that had heavily perfumed air and was, thankfully, still open. Tara gave him the order leaflet and the store owner went back to collect the order. "I hate this place. The air is so thick, I can hardly breathe," Eos complained. 

"I know," Tara said, flapping her hand to fan herself. 

There came a surprised voice, "Tara?"

Tara let out a small, very rude and unladylike curse before looking round. 

Eos did the same, her hand going straight for the baton she wore hidden in her dress that Master Azea had ordered her to wear that morning. A tall, rather proud looking man, came into the store. He was handsome enough but his skin was smooth enough to tell Eos that unlike Master Azea, this man did absolutely no labour or fighting. And he had a weak chin he hid with a small, well trimmed beard. But she noticed he had a roving eye that most men who came to the Desert Gem had. 

"Hello, Master Leorn," Tara said with a polite bow before turning round to look for the store owner, silently bidding him to hurry. 

Eos didn't like the look of this man at all and was not surprised at how Tara did not want anything to do with him. She turned her back to him but couldn't help but feel a prickling feeling through her body. The kind she had during training with Master Azea when he was about to pull a trick on her. 

"And who is your friend? Another girl from the Desert Gem?" he asked and she felt his hand in her hair. At once, she pulled away, feeling disgust. Reigning in the urge to glare at him and beat his face in with the hard baton, Eos cursed the incense merchant and his father and ancestors. Suddenly, she felt a hand grab her shoulder roughly and turn her around. Another hand gripped her chin, forcing her to look at him. 

Immediately, Eos pulled out the baton and smashed his hand away. She froze. 

Master Azea had trained her to the extent it was now a reflex for her. But still, to hit a rich man… she was going to be in so much trouble… 

Master Leorn scowled, "How dare you, you little wretch-" 

"Leave her alone!" Tara said, "You have no right to touch her anyway. She belongs to Master Azea." 

"Do not tell me what to do, Tara," Master Leorn snapped at her. He looked ready to grab Eos again when a firm hand was placed on his shoulder. "We must ask you to refrain from harming Lord Azea's concubine," Eos' guard said, his face stern. The second guard stood by his side, hand on his sword hilt. 

Master Leorn cast his eyes at the two guards and then at the girls. He looked angry, the expression twisting his handsome face into an ugly mask instead. Without another word, he swept off. "You need to be more careful. Master Azea would have killed us if something had happened," said one of the guards, knocking Eos lightly on the head. They accompanied Tara back to Desert Gem before heading back. 

Eos was quiet during the journey, keeping her head down. After awhile, one of the guards poked her, "What's wrong, little sparrow?" 

"I'm not a sparrow," she replied, dully, "And I'm worried about Tara. That man after her is dangerous." 

"Well, the Desert Gems have guards, don't they? And I don't think your friend will be stupid enough to go wandering on her own." 

Unlike me, Eos thought to herself. But he did have a point. Tara was the careful one. She won't go looking for trouble. Still, worry continued to gnaw on her all the way back. Who knows what a person like that may try to do. There was no point asking Master Azea for help. Tara wasn't his property. He wouldn't meddle in the affairs of others. Sure, he meddled in hers, but it was all in the intent of owning her anyway. 

When Eos got back to Master Azea's quarters, he wasn't there. She frowned. It wasn't time to train or anything. Where could he be? It wasn't like him to disappear suddenly. 

She pondered about it, wondering if she should go practice her dance or something when a servant from the main house came looking for her, "Lord Griffin summons you," the servant said. Unlike the ones that served Master Azea, this one was hard to read and was perhaps a perfect servant by the way she held herself and spoke. 

Eos bowed and went to make herself more presentable. She didn't expect Lord Griffin to try and bed her, but still she prayed Goddess Rhyga that he wouldn't try it. 

She followed the servant back to the main house. "Why does Lord Griffin wish to see me?" Eos asked her. 

"Lord Griffin merely wishes to have a word with you," the servant replied. 

Eos didn't say anything but wondered what on earth was so important that he would want to speak to a slave girl. Whatever it was, it probably was bad news for her. She continued to ponder about it as she followed the servant to Lord Griffin's study. 

She knocked on the door and opened it, "Milord, the slave girl is here." 

"Good. Let her in." 

The servant ushered Eos in quickly then left. Eos wasn't quite sure what was going to happen but she knelt on the floor in front of the desk. 

"Stand," Lord Griffin told her and she obeyed, still not looking him in the eyes. 

He surveyed her for a brief moment then started, "I still don't understand why my son would go out of his way to buy you," he said, "If anything, you've caused a bit of problems for Lady Dareen." 

Yeah, she was dead. So dead. He was going to send her off or something. 

"But I must thank you." 

Wait- what?

This time Eos looked up in surprise. Lord Griffin watched her, "I have reports from his teachers and his trainers. It would seem you had a hand in his new found enthusiasm for studies and work. I'm not sure what you did, or how you did it, but thank you." 

Eos got a grip of herself and bowed again, "It is an honour, my lord," she said. 

"Very well, that is all. For now, I hope you continue to assist my son. He has stubbornness from both his mother and myself." 

For a brief moment, Eos looked surprise but hurriedly bowed again and left. She made her way back, deep in thought. 

He has stubbornness from both his mother and myself, she repeated in her head. From what she had gathered about Lord Griffin from the stories Master Azea had told her, she believed him to be a man who didn't pay much attention to the women in his life. But from what he had just said, it seemed he still remembered Master Azea's mother. And for her to show her stubborn streak to him, it would mean that they were closer than Master Azea thought them to be. 

Someone stepped out in front of Eos, causing her to jump as she almost bumped into them. 

"Forgive me-" she stopped, seeing who it was. 

Cold black eyes stared down at her and Seti's lips twisted into a smirk. 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Chapter 4 (part 1)

Eos woke up to the loud groans from Master Azea's room the next morning. Obviously, he was paying the price for over indulging the night before. She sat up and rubbed the sleep out of her eyes. She grabbed the hair brush and dragged it through her hair to subdue it before putting on her usual clothing. When she was done, she swayed a little before falling straight back into bed. She heard Master Azea asking Adna to melt the morning bells down and make something quieter out of them. 

Deciding that there was no way she would be able to fall back asleep with Master Azea groaning like a dying horse next door, Eos washed up and went to help carry breakfast to his dining hall. 

Today it was mostly fruits and nuts with porridge with milk and a choice of cream, honey and sugar. He had a choice of four different kinds of tea and three different types of wine. For Eos, she was taking juice again. 

Just as she was setting the bowls of fruit down on the rug, Master Azea came traipsing in and rubbing his forehead. "Did Adna give master the usual potion?" she asked. Master Azea nodded, not looking to open his mouth at the moment. 

He sat down on his usual silk cushion and gestured for her to sit down. He pointed to the fruits he wanted, retching a couple of times before forcing his mouth shut again. 

Eos took the fruits and peeled and cut it for him before placing it on his plate. "Cream and honey, master?" she inquired and he nodded. She served the porridge, and guessing he wouldn't want wine at the moment, offered him a cup of tea sweetened with honey. "Sweet things help wash the medicine down," she told him and he accepted it. 

When at last, he didn't look as though he was about to throw up, he ate a few olives. 

"My only consolation is Dareen will be out of my hair for now," he said, speaking for the first time. 

"Master- it's not my place to say- but surely if you can't stand being around her now, what will happen after you marry her?" Eos asked, feeding him dates. Master Azea gave an exasperated sigh, "Don't remind me," he told her. 

She stopped herself from rolling her eyes. "I know you're dying to roll your eyes, just do it," Master Azea told her. 

And once more, he shows the ability to read other people's minds, Eos thought to herself. 

He actually gave her a grin this time. She thought better than to humour him with a reply, "Right, after lessons, let's go down to the training yard to do some training," he said, stretching and draping an arm round her. 

Eos wasn't sure what to do. She absolutely could not get any mars that would ruin her appearance. If she was no longer attractive, there was no point in being in her line of work anymore. 

"I think you'd look beautiful as a warrior," Master Azea said. 

"Master- for the last time- please stop reading my mind," Eos told him, flatly. "But I like your expression whenever I do," Master Azea said with a laugh before wincing, "Maybe I should skip lessons today," he groaned. 

Eos was disappointed. If he skipped it meant she had to as well. She had managed to learn seven new letters. 

Master Azea caught the look and looked torn for a brief moment. At last he sighed, "Maybe just a breath of fresh air will clear my head before lessons," he said, trying to sound nonchalant. 

The sun was up but the air still had the night's chill in the breeze. Master Azea took a deep breath, stretching. Eos stood behind him, hearing the stiff bones creak and pop.

She hugged herself, scuffing her bare feet on the dusty ground. She looked at the back of Master Azea's dark head. His hair, though carefully brushed and tied by Adna that morning, had went back to its usual tousled state already. 

He was drunk, she told herself, only half listening to Master Azea talk about some trip or another that he took every once a year. 

"Eos, are you listening?" Master Azea wanted to know, looking round at her. Eos jolted and tried to make her face more neutral, "Forgive me, master, I'm still a bit tired…" she explained. 

Master Azea nodded, "I can relate," he said, stifling another yawn, "Anyway- I was saying, after the new year, I'm planning to make a trip out to the city Rozen out north. I usually go up there to train with the knights since the desert is more or less under their rule. I'm a knight, you know," he said with distinct pride. 

"Yes, master," Eos said, hiding her disappointment. Once he was gone, she would be bored witless. After all, the servants who had become her close friends were his attendants so of course they would go with him. She supposed she could always visit Tara and Mother. But they would be busy so she couldn't keep bothering them either. 

"You know, if I leave, I still expect you to come with me," Master Azea said, catching that look, "After all, I bought you to perform during my dinners and to warm my bed at night. I intend to get my money's worth out of you," he said jokingly as he tweaked her small nose. Eos looked surprised. Really? She was going to travel out of the town? Out of the desert?!Oh Goddess Rhyga! 

Master Azea grinned, "Of course that also means I need to have a new wardrobe prepared for you. The north is cold all the time and the cold there bites," he said. The bell rang, signally the tenth hour. 

"Damn. Alright, let's get back inside." 

Inside, Eos was bubbling with happiness. To be able to travel! To see and learn new things! How wondrous was that? She couldn't stop herself from smiling, even when washing the Master's feet before they went indoors. She dried his feet and washed her own before following him into class. 

It was mathematics class that day. Eos puzzled over the lecture and the work given, peeping curiously at the book in front of Master Azea. The sight of the numbers and strange symbols frightened her more than her riding classes. 

Master Azea caught the look and stifled a laugh. "This is advance work. More advance than even what Seti is doing," he explained under his breath. 

She had to believe him. Especially since the mathematics master was speaking the same language but she still couldn't understand a single word he was saying. "Master Azea! Kindly pay attention to what I'm saying and less to your woman or she will no longer be allowed in!" the mathematics master snapped. Master Azea scowled, making him look like a spoilt child again. 

Mathematics class bored Eos seeing how she didn't understand anything that was going on. But the next class was poetry and literature. Some she had heard before. She had even performed some with Tara singing the poems. She tried to follow the words that was being read on Master Azea's books. 

After that, it wrestling training, and here, Master Azea's two younger brothers joined him. Jordah and the youngest of the brothers, Draham were bright and merry as usual. Wrestling was something that Eos had no interest in learning whatsoever, so she waited in the shade for Master Azea to finish and go for rest with him. She quite liked seeing the master with his younger brothers. 

It was nice to see him laugh so openly and good naturedly. It was good to see him laugh and be laughed at without any offence. The younger brothers didn't really insult her but they didn't pay much attention to her either. 

"Not interested in learning this, Eos?" Master Azea asked, bare chest glistening in the sun. Eos went to him to wipe his sweat from his brow and neck, "Not really, master," she replied. 

Master Azea smiled down at her but she didn't look up at him and was secretly relieved when Jordah called, "Brother! Stop playing with your woman! Hurry up!" 

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Chapter 3 (part 2)

The next morning, things were reasonably back to normal. They had their bath together and ate breakfast but Master Azea still kept a slight distance away. He wasn't as "affectionate" if that was the right word, as he was before. But he went for his lessons as he was supposed to. This was the first time in a week. He had even begun to slack in his fighting training for some reason. 

Eos went with him and sat at his feet as his head kept nodding as he dozed off. 

At last the history master, Master Adeel glared at him half way through his lecture. Eos was hugging her knees, leaning against Master Azea's legs, "What happened to the Azharan Tribes?" she asked suddenly. 

Master Adeel looked at her and Master Azea jolted out of his doze. "What happened?" she asked again. She wanted to know. She had never heard of all these things he was speaking of and she wanted to know more. Master Azea looked at her, "You're actually enjoying this?" he asked. She looked up at him, with a very different, wide eyed innocent look. One he had never seen her have before. 

It was like a child discovering new things. 

"Why not?" she asked, "I never heard of any of these. I don't even know how to read so I can't read about them." 

"You can't read?" Master Adeel asked, looking horrified. She shook her head. 

The two of them looked very surprised and Master Adeel looked as though he was about to have a fit. "Azea- your new homework. Teach this child how to read and write," he told Master Azea. 

"Since when did you teach reading and writing to give me that kind of homewo-" Master Azea complained but stopped when Eos was looking up at him hopefully, "I mean- well- it's hard to learn-" he tried to explain. 

Eos wasn't going to let this opportunity pass and she knew how to get something from Master Azea by now. It was time to get something out of the skills she had learnt. 

She rose to her knees and climbed up onto his lap. Wrapping her arms around his neck she kissed his mouth before moving to his nose and back onto his mouth. When she finally broke the kiss, he was looking very dazed again but in a happy way, "Sure, I'll teach you," he told her and she climbed back onto the floor to sit again. 

"Oh, she's good," she heard Master Adeel mutter. 

"Master Azea," Eos said, resting her head on his lap, "Will you explain the other things in the lesson to me too? I don't know a lot of the other names and things." 

"Sure, of course," Master Azea said at once. 

Eos turned her attention back to Master Adeel's teachings. That was easy, she told herself as Master Azea, stroked her hair. Glancing back, she saw him paying full attention to the lesson. 

When rest period came, Eos served Master Azea cold drinks but he didn't invite her to lie with him so she sat on the floor by his side. 

"Did you know why the Raztak tribe held a grudge against the Azharans?" he asked, suddenly. 

She shook her head, "No, I was a bit confused about that," she said. 

"Alright, you see, the Azharan had a chief a long time before that, Dakim, he fell in love with the chief of the Raztak; Luqar's younger sister, Jeen-ah. But Luqar refused to give her to him and he stole her one night and raped her. It's bad enough our kind hold grudges so long, but something like that… the Raztaks were angry for a very long time…" 

Eos leaned back, listening to Master Azea as he continued to tell her about how the mighty Azharan tribe were completely wiped out. She was half amazed and yet not surprised of Master Azea's knowledge. He really was more intelligent than he let other people realise. 

But why was that? He was a very talented man but he often slacked, or made it appear that he was incapable. Could it be that he just couldn't care less? But he was hardly trying and he already could remember so much when half listening to his lessons. He made himself appear even less than what he was when he wasn't even trying. Now that she thought about it, it was as though he was purposely working to make himself look incompetent. Why? Was it because he was not supposed to outshine his older brother?

When he was done telling her he touched her hair again, making her look up at him. 

"Did you understand all of that?" he asked and she nodded. 

He looked at her for the briefest moment but there came the sound of footsteps and by the way he groaned, she guessed it was Lady Dareen. 

She had guessed correctly. Lady Dareen, tall and beautiful in white silk and gold jewellery, came to the pavilion, looking haughty. Master Azea had a smile fixed on his face, "My beautiful Dareen, may I help you?" he asked, his voice very charming. 

"Father has bidden me to come home," she said, looking at Eos like she was some king of pus filled wart on the back of a toad. 

"Of course, my beautiful desert flower. When must you return?" he asked. 

"Tomorrow morning," she replied. 

Master Azea heaved a sigh, "Very well, but your stay has been so brief, my dear," he said but seeing him, Eos couldn't help but notice his eyes dancing despite his sorrowful tone. He certainly was good at acting, "Unfortunately, I have my training tomorrow, or I would see you off," he added, getting to his feet. 

Dareen pouted and looked as though she was going to protest. "Eos, would you excuse us for a moment?" Master Azea asked, noticing this as well. Eos got up and bowed before leaving the pavilion. Looking up at the sun's position, she guessed rest period was about to be over anyway. Maybe she should go look for the musicians to practice again. Or would Master Azea have dinner with Lady Dareen? If he did, she wouldn't have to dance. Still - she might as well practice anyway. 

Eos mopped her sweat, panting a little. "Enough practice for one day?" on of the musicians asked. She nodded, "Yeah- thanks," she said.

"You know- if Lady Dareen is leaving tomorrow, he might want to dine with her tonight," the flutist commented. Eos sat down fanning herself with a hand, "Wow- news travels fast here. Anyway- if there's one thing we can say about master, is that he isn't the most predictable person." 


A few maids burst in, giggling and chattering, "Did you hear?" they asked them. 

The man who played the lute gestured to the maids with a flourish, "Behold, our method of getting fast news," he said. 

Eos laughed. "What is it?" asked the man who played the tambour. 

"Some of the men at arms saw master kissing Lady Dareen at the water pavilion," they giggled. 

Everyone turned to look at Eos, "Why does everyone look at me each time master does something with Lady Dareen?" she wanted to know, "Besides- she his fiancee. Why are you lot so surprised that he's kissing her?" 

"Because, master has never once laid hands on her. The furthest he ever went was to kiss her hand," the flutist explained. 


Still, it didn't bother her. She liked Master Azea well enough and was happy whenever he offered comfort and protection. But whenever he entertained Lady Dareen, it never affected her. She would never understand why everyone expected her to be in love with Master Azea. 

She went off, thinking about washing up a little. When she got to the top floor, she popped out from the servants stair and spotted Master Azea walking towards his bedroom. He spotted her and raised his eyebrows. "Dance practice?" he asked as she got nearer. She nodded and saw the rouge Lady Dareen wore on her lips on his mouth, cheek and collar. She went closer and wiped it off with her spare handkerchief. 

"I think this is a stain," she commented, after failing to rid the colour on his collar. 

"Never mind, I'll have Adna burn it," Master Azea said, "Judging your lack of surprise, I think you already found out my final, desperate act to pacify Dareen?" he asked, sounding tired. 

"Not really. Even if the maids hadn't told us, I wouldn't be surprised, but is it fair for Lady Dareen for you to lead her on like this?" Eos asked. Master Azea opened the door and gestured for her to enter. She went into his bedroom and he shut the door behind him. 

"Either way- I still have to marry her so it makes no difference," he said, removing his jerkin and shirt. He dug around in his wardrobe for a new one and she went to help him before he made a mess of it. 

He allowed her to dress him, "Still… it's painful for a woman to realise that the man who gives her romantic attention isn't really in love with her," she said, lacing his jerkin. He looked at her, "Has it happened to you, then?" he asked. 

"No. But it's common sense, isn't it?"

He looked at her for a moment before stepping away with a heavy, exasperated sigh. "I'm going to go train," he said suddenly, surprising her. He hadn't gone to the training yard for several days. 

"Can I come?" she asked, surprising him in turn. 

She had never seen him train before. It had been ages since she saw someone spar. She missed it. She wished she could learn as well. 

Master Azea looked at her then stepped towards her. He held her chin and made her look up at him. He surveyed her face for a moment and frowned, "Do you want to learn fighting arts as well?" he asked. 

She felt herself redden, "Women don't bear arms," she said. 

"Then don't. Fight with your hands." 

"I'm a slave," she said, "We don't learn how to fight." 

"No. But you have to obey your masters. So I say, you come down to the training yard with me. I'll teach you the basics." 

Eos groaned. She remembered that feeling all too well. Her muscles were protesting and aching the same way they did when she had first started training in dance. She was in a hot bath with Master Azea and the heat from the water helped ease the pain. 

Master Azea watched her, looking amused. 

"You did very well, you know. It must be from the dancing," he said, "Most other people would have started complaining much earlier." 

A few rude invitations that were not commonly offered out nor seemed very possible to do, crossed Eos' mind but she said nothing as she sank lower into the bath until only her closed eyes were seen above the water perfumed water surface. 

There was a knock on the door as Master Azea scrubbed the back of his neck, "Come in," he called lazily. 

Adna appeared and went over to them. He bowed low to Master Azea, "Master- Lady Dareen has requested you join her for dinner in the guest wing," he said. Master Azea sighed, pushing his wet hair back, "Of course, of course…" he stepped out of the bath and Eos slowly struggled to follow suit, "It's alright," he told her, "You soak a little longer. One of us should enjoy the bath at least." 

Eos looked grateful and sank back into the water as Adna dried Master Azea with a few towels. The two men left for the bedroom. 

She stayed in there long enough to ease her muscles a little before being forced to get out by the fact she was beginning to wrinkle. Back in her room, she dried herself off and started picking through the lotions and creams that she had to use on her skin, face, hands and hair. Some were given by Mother, others had been bought by Master Azea. It was a pain but it was vital that she looked beautiful for as long as possible. 

Maybe learning to fight was a bad idea… She would get ugly scars and too much muscle and her hands would no longer be smooth and soft… it was a problem. But then again- she couldn't say no. it was Master Azea who asked for her to learn after all. 

Brushing her hair after putting the perfumed oil in it that made it thick and shiny, Eos dressed herself in a shirt and breeches. She still hadn't worn the dress that she suspected Tara put in her packs for her. It was getting late by the time her hair dried, it was late and Master Azea still had not return. She thought of practising the kicks he had thought her earlier that day, but her muscles were screaming in protest so she merely dropped herself on her bed and laid there like a slug. 

"Hm… you really make that pose look tempting." 

Eos sat up at once, not realising she had dozed off. She saw who was standing at her door frame and heaved a sigh of relief, "Gods- Adna- don't scare me like that," she told him, brushing the mess that was now her hair, back from her eyes. 

"Yes- well- Master Azea is well and truly drunk and you need to help him change." 

"Why not you? I thought this was your job," Eos pointed out, scowling and dragging a brush through her hair to tame it. 

"I would- but he insists on you." 

Eos groaned and got to her feet. She was so tired. Why won't they let her sleep? 

Adna grinned and left through the other door as Eos went to look for Master Azea. 

He was singing something, completely off tune while half in bed and half on the floor. "Master," she said, taking his night shirt from the wardrobe. Master Azea tried to get himself out of bed but fell onto the floor head first. He got up, supporting himself on the bedpost, hiccoughing, "E-Eyos?" he said as she tried to undress him. "Yes, master," she replied, managing to remove his tunic. 

"You's so pretty," he declared, swaying. She grabbed him to stop him from falling again and removed his shirt then his leggings. "Thank you master," she told him, pulling the night shirt over his head. He struggled, yelping in surprise, "Why's we in a tent?!" he demanded, his words slurring. 

"We're not in a tent, master," she said, patiently, successfully pulling the shirt on and putting his arms through the sleeves. She let him fall back onto bed and poured the warm water into a basin to clean his face, arms and legs. When she was almost done, Master Azea pulled her down onto him, "Do youse hate me, Eyos?" he asked as she wrinkled her nose. They were so close and his breath was anything but pleasant at the moment. 

"Y-Youse hates me-" he hiccoughed, "don'ts youse, Eyoooose?" he asked. 

Eos looked at him. She had handled many drunks in her life, and she had the feeling that Master Azea was the type to start conveying his thoughts and feelings that he usually kept very personal to everyone and anyone, be it man, woman or palm tree. 

"No," she told him softly, "I don't hate you." 

"Goods…" he said, dozing off. 

She managed to tuck him into bed and smiled. He looked at her and said, "I love you." 

Coffee Break

Tsuki, just curious… But when exactly was the last time you updated this thing?
… Shut up.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Chapter 3 (part1)

Light conversation was made between Lady Dareen and Lord Griffin but Master Azea only spoke when he was spoken to and even then, he gave short answers. Whenever he bordered on rudeness Eos would accidentally hit him lightly with the fan. He would scowl at her and she just looked back, raising an eyebrow slightly. Whether or not it was impudent of her- she was not going to allow him to sour his relationship with his father any further. 

"Azea- so this is the prostitute you bought for yourself?" Lord Griffin asked suddenly. 

Master Azea shut his eyes for a brief moment. He always hated it when people referred to Eos as a prostitute or whore. She had no idea why. It was what she did for a living after all. When he opened them again, he looked like he was having a headache. 

"Yes, father. This is Eos." 

Eos kept her eyes down as she fanned Master Azea. 

"I don't approve of you using her," Lord Griffin said, lifting his wine glass for the serving girls to refill. Master Azea stiffened, "Father, you never have less than three bed slaves for yourself," he said, keeping his temper reared in. 

"Yes- but they had only ever served me. This wench on the other hand- gods only know how many men she has bedded." 

Yeah- you included, Eos thought to herself but said nothing. 

"I bought her," Master Azea said, "What I want to do with her is up to me." 

Darleen scowled at Eos from across the table. "I hope you planning to get rid of her after we wed," she said icily. Master Azea's temper was growing shorter and shorter. No doubt he was going to snap at his fiancee. Under the table, Eos slipped her hand over his and gave it a light squeeze. He looked at her for a moment and released a breath. "I will keep her as a dancer," he said at last. 

"But is she just your bed warmer?" Lord Griffin asked, watching him carefully, "I hope you aren't trying to get a child out of her." 

Eos had to stop herself from wrinkling her nose. A child? What was Lord Griffin? Senile? Everyone knew it was a ridiculous idea of getting a prostitute pregnant. What then? There would be dozens of possible fathers and none who would claim it. No money. And after birth, there was a high chance of them losing their good body shape. 

Master Azea clenched Eos' hand before getting to his feet, "This is why I'd rather not dine with you. Or even be in the same room with you. You only ever spend all your time criticising me and ordering me around. I'm not a child you can control anymore and you don't like that. What I wish to do is my own business," he said and stalked out of the room. Eos followed him, puzzled. 

Why was he suddenly so angry? 

Glancing back, she saw Lord Griffin cast his eyes down, looking downcast though he tried to hide it. Lady Dareen on the other hand just looked angry. 

They didn't say a word as they returned to Master Azea's wing. When they reached his bed chambers he waved out all of his servants. Once they were gone, he aimed a kick at a chair and sent it half way across the room. 

The man has strong leg muscles, Eos found herself thinking. 

"What?" he snapped when he saw her staring at him. 

"Nothing. I just never expected you to behave just as spoilt as Lady Dareen." 

He glared at her, "What?" he asked again. 

"Look around you. You have everything we could only dream about in the lower city. What you have on your dinner table alone each night, is what my mother and I used to have in half a month. You have a good bed. An education you're not even bothering with. You think all this just fell from the sky? You only have this kind of luxury because of your father-" 

"Who is a self centred man whom I ever had the displeasure of being remotely related to-" 

"Which brings me to my next point," Eos said, raising her voice a little to cut him off. She looked at him, calmly, "You have a father. Something I had never had in my life. My entire life was a huge question without him. Even if he's done some wrong to you, he's still your father. He's been around for you. He's trying to mold you into a better person. And yet, because of your own selfish whim for pleasure, you're throwing it all away. You've been with people who tell you nothing but what you want to hear for so long, you blocked yourself to the only person who has been trying to tell you what you need to hear your entire life," she said. 

Master Azea stared at her, looking shocked. 

Eos breathed for a moment, "Good night, master," she told him and returned to her room. Propping a chair to the door knob to keep it shut, Eos changed her clothes and dropped onto the bed. 

Any other master would hand her a trashing for her words. 

Her eye lids began to draw shut. Ah well- tomorrow she would deal with it. 

Tomorrow she would take whatever he had to throw at her. 

The next morning, she met Master Azea at his breakfast table. He was quiet and seemed deep in thought. When she stepped up in front of him, he looked up, "Adna, lock the door and pretend you don't have a key if Dareen comes looking," he told his servant. 

"Yes, master," Adna bowed and left. The door clicked as he turned the key in the lock. 

Once they were alone, Master Azea reached out a hand for Eos. She took it and allowed him to draw her onto his lap. He kissed her forehead and wrapped his arms around her, cradling her to him. Eos observed his manner as she ran her fingers through his hair. 

"You didn't sleep well last night," she commented. 

"No. I couldn't. And when I thought of sleeping with you, I found you have somehow shut your door on me," he said, lightly tapping his fingers up her spine again. "Forgive me, master," she whispered. 

"No, I understand. You've probably grown tired of being around me all the time," he said before pulling away and clearing his throat, "Today… you're going to visit the Desert Gem, am I right? I'll have Adna arrange for some guards for you and a horse," he said, letting her sit down on the cushion next to him instead. 

Eos felt hurt suddenly. She knew he had already mentioned she could have the day off already. But for some reason, she felt like he didn't want her suddenly. The day before in the palm pavilion, he could barely keep his hands off her. Now he wasn't even looking at her. She shut her eyes for a moment, reminding herself of her place. One day he would stop calling for her and that would be that.

She poured his wine and served him before helping herself. 

After breakfast, she changed into a shirt and trousers and went to look for Adna. He assigned her two of the men at arms and a mare. 

Eos looked at the mare as though it was a rabid wild dog. "Relax," Adna said with a grin, "This is Moonbeam. She's as gentle and sweet as can be. The master had gotten her especially for you," he said, handing her the reins. 

Looking uncertain, Eos mounted the mare and wriggled herself into a more comfortable position. Moonbeam didn't even fidget or toss her head as the other horses she practice on did. One of the men at arms had his horse amble up next to her, 

"Do you want me to use a lead rein?" he asked, "You never practiced in the town roads before." 

"Why? What would happen?" 

"Well- more distractions for a horse. She might bolt," he said and Eos looked horrified. 

"Don't tease her," said the other guard, "Moonbeam has been in town plenty of times before. She won't even rear if she gets chased by dogs." 

Eos still didn't look certain as she gripped the reins as though her life depended on it. "Master Azea has given the order for you to use the servant exits and make sure no one outside, nor inside the palace, harm her. By that, Eos knew that Master Azea still feared Seti might harm her 

Riding down to the town, Eos was flanked by the two guards. They went down the streets that Eos still knew so well. It had been only a few weeks but it felt like a lifetime. They went straight down the main road and took a right by the spicer stall and then a left at the store that sold god idols made of bronze and sometimes gilded depending on the order. And at the very end of that street was the Desert Gem. 

A girl in a simple dark gown and head scarf was walking towards it, her back to them. 

Eos recognised her from the manner she walked and held herself and kicked Moonbeam into a gallop. "Oh great- now she decides to speed up," the guard who teased her muttered, having his gelding gallop after her with his partner. 

Tara turned around at the sound of hooves and immediately spotted Eos. 

"Eos!" she cried as the younger girl jumped off the horse. 

The two hugged, "Look at you! You look so beautiful- have you gained weight?" 

"No!" Eos said at once. She gained weight easily which was why Mother always told her to watch what she ate. The dancing and sex helped to keep her weight down as well. "How about you? You haven't been using that lotion Mother told you to use, your skin looks dried out again," she said. 

Tara sighed, "I know, but it can be such a bother. Besides, we're in a room that's half dark all the time, they can't see too well," she pointed out, "So- how are things with you and the young lord?" she asked. 

Eos looked at the two man at arms who were looking around but she could swear they had edged closer when Tara asked that question. "Let's talk inside…" she said but the guards followed them. Eos glanced at them and signalled to some of the girls hanging around. The sign she sent told them that those two men following her had close contact with a very rich man. At once, the girls disappeared and returned, less dressed and fluttered around the guards. 

With them distracted, Eos and Tara went to a corner to talk. 

"Well?" Tara asked. 

"I'm not too sure… I think I might have offended him last night," she said. 

"What did you do?" she demanded. 

"I… I might have yelled at him a bit," she said and received a cuff on the top of her head, "Ow!" 

"What are you!? Stupid? Why did you yell at him for!?" 

"If you stop yelling at me, I'll tell you why I yelled at him," she said, rubbing her head, "Look, he blew his da off, alright? Not to mention he's always skipping his lessons and things. So I might have yelled at him for doing those things, that's all," she said, "Anyway- what happened to you? Anything new?" 

Tara sighed, "Well… I got a new customer. He's rich and completely in love. I got a pair of new earrings. An old suitor of mine came to try and buy me back. Mother has been trying to find a dancer to replace you-" 

"Wait- what!?" 

"I know!" Tara said, "It's been absolutely useless. No one can dance like you-" 

"No- I mean, an old suitor came to buy you back? What happened!?" 

"Oh, it was some rich merchant's son from my old village," Tara said waving a hand, dismissively, "Honestly, he already has two wives last I heard. When he asked for my hand, his mother saw my parents couldn't pay much so she gave him another bride and he took her, no complaints. Suddenly, he appears in Desert Gem a week ago and recognised me. Next thing I know, he's all over me," she said, "Even offered to buy me back but I told Mother no." 

"But why?" 

"Oh, please, Eos. He's not the same kind of man Master Azea is. And I know for a fact, he's one of those who only like me because I'm pretty. The moment I get old, or he finds a more beautiful girl, he'll drop me like a pair of old riding gloves," Tara said. 

At that point, the other girls were already all over the guards, laughing at their least humorous remarks and fluttering their eyes. The guards looked as though they had absolutely no regrets about accompanying Eos at all. 

"They look happy," Tara observed. 

"Tara- I want to ask you- please be careful? You don't know what will happen." 

They had plenty of bad experiences with men who had gotten too infatuated with them. Many times it was harmless. But there were times when some got too obsessed. It was to the extent the girls could hardly move about without having one of the men workers follow them around to make sure they were kept safe.  

Tara smiled, "Whose being a grandmother now?" 

"Tara, I'm serious. Remember what happened to the last girl?" 

The pair fell silent. That last girl had been killed. The man who had fallen so obsessively in love with her could not handle her constant rejection any further. Somehow he had led her away from the Desert Gem and the next day, someone came to the Desert Gem and said she had been seen being dragged away. Her screams had stopped when she was out of sight from the witness. Her body was found in the home of the man who had killed her. 

"I'll be fine," Tara assured her. 

The two continued chatting, talking about the latest gossip in town and in the Desert Gem. 

At last, the two guards managed to extract themselves from the girls, with much regret, to tell Eos it was time for her to return. Tara sighed, "I'll let Mother know you dropped by. She's out visiting slave pens again," she said as they got to their feet. Eos hugged her tightly, "Thanks. I'll visit as soon as I can. And i'm sure you two want to come too, right?" she asked the two guards who nodded, trying not to look too eager. 

"Take care of yourself too," Tara told Eos, "And keep a guard on your tongue and temper," she reminded, smacking her arm lightly. "Yes, grandmother." 

Back in the palace, Adna informed Eos that Master Azea was entertaining Lady Dareen so she had dinner with the servants and went back to her room. Washing herself from the water in a small basin, she dried off and heaved a sigh of relief. 

She had forgotten how dusty the streets could be. She brushed the dust out of her hair and set the brush down on the dressing table. Her hand stopped for a moment and slid the drawer open. 

Inside was a small piece of linen with the pendant hidden inside. She took it out and and sat down on the bed. 

Setting the square of cloth on her lap, she opened it up and took the pendant out. The silver was slightly tarnished. She should polish it again soon. She touched the intricate pattern, feeling the cool, smooth surface. 

Mama loved him…. she found herself thinking, Mama loved him to the vey end. But did he love mama? Did he love her, his daughter? Did he even know she existed? 

"What is that?" 

Eos jumped and fumbled the pendant before clutching it to her chest once more to stop it from falling. She hadn't even heard Master Azea enter her bedroom. She could smell Lady Dareen's sweet, jasmine perfume on him as he sat next to her. 

"What is that?" he asked again, sitting next to her, "Wow- your bed is harder than mine," he suddenly commented.

He took the chain that hung from her grip and she let him take it from her. "Wow- what is this?" he asked, "A trinket from an admirer?" 

"No," Eos said, looking at it, "It's something my mother gave me, before she died. She said it belongs to my father." 

"Oh…" he said and handed it back to her. She took it and rubbed it with her thumb. "It looks like you really treasure that thing," he observed, "You never even knew him." 

She drew her knees up and rested her chin on them. She held the pendant in her hands, watching the shining surfaces that peeped out from beneath the tarnish wink and glisten in the light, "Exactly…" she said softly, "I don't have anything else from him. Not a picture. Not a face. Not a smile. Not even a memory. When mama gave this to me she said this belongs to him. Not belonged. It means it was still his when she handed it to me. Maybe she was waiting for him to come back and take it." 

"And you're waiting for him to come back and take it too… huh?" Master Azea asked, his voice gentle. 

Eos nodded, clutching the pendant harder. 

From the corner of her eye, she saw Master Azea reach out as though he wanted to wrap his arm around her but stopped suddenly. Instead he gave her hair a stroke, "It's going to be all right," he told her before getting to his feet, "Well… good night, Eos. Sleep well." 

And he left. 

Eos watched him leave, feeling a little hurt despite herself. 

Shaking it from mind, she wrapped the pendant back into the cloth and put it back into the drawer. With nothing to do, and suddenly not feeling quite so sleepy anymore, Eos went down to the servants quarters to beg the cook for something to eat.

She had gotten hold of a roll with raisins and some honey when Adna came looking for her, "What on earth did you do to the young master?" he asked as she was about to bite into the roll. She raised an eyebrow, "Nothing. Why?" she asked. 

"I just asked him why he wasn't sleeping with you tonight, and did you know what he said?" Adna said, helping himself to some raisins in a dish only to get his hand smacked with a wooden spoon. "Adna! That's for the master's breakfast bread tomorrow morning," the cook snapped and Adna quickly pulled his hand back, nursing it to his chest. Eos bit into the roll, waiting for him to answer his own question. 

"Anyway- he said you're getting bored of him." 

Eos swallowed, "What?" she asked, staring at him.

"He says- you might be getting bored of him that's why he wants to give you some breathing space. He doesn't want you to hang around him because you have to," Adna said. 

The girl stared at him, "Right- someone needs to remind the master that he bought me. It doesn't matter what I think," she pointed out. Adna shrugged, "I don't know, I'm just telling you what you need to know. And also, a word of advice, no slave should bite the hand that feeds them." "I don't bite cookie's hand," Eos said and cook grinned. 

Adna glared at her, "You know what I mean." 

"Fine!" Eos said, stuffing the rest of her roll in Adna's mouth and going up to the master's bedroom. 

The man was already in bed as the servants' were still dimming the lamps and stoking the fire. Eos could tell that Master Azea wasn't asleep yet. "Private moment?" she mouthed to the other servants in the room. 

They nodded and quickly finished their chores and left the room.

Shutting the door, Eos went over to Master Azea, moving carefully and lightly. She leaned on his side of the bed, "Master?" she called softly and he opened his eyes at once and looked surprised. 

"Eos! What's wrong?" he asked. 

"I couldn't sleep," she lied, "Can I sleep with you…? Please?" 

Master Azea gently touched her hand, "Sure," he said and she could see him smile a little in the darkness. He moved a little to give her space and she climbed into the bed with him. He tucked an arm around her securely. 

"Why couldn't you sleep?" he murmured, his lips pressed to her forehead. 

"I dunno," she replied, edging closer to him. She heard him give a very quiet, content sigh and she couldn't help but smile.