Lae opened her
eyes and looked around the hut. She moved her hand under the fur
covering that she used as a pillow. Her dagger was still there. The
good hosts had not removed her weapon although Olenka would have had
the opportunity. The medicine that she had given to Lae had put her
into a deep sleep.
Lae looked at
her fingers that protruded from a birch bark splint. The swelling
had gone down.
awake,” Olenka said.“How long have I slept?”
Lae swung her
feet to the mat that covered the hard packed earthen floor.
“Don’t move too
quickly. You may be weak.” Olenka put her hand on Lae’s shoulder,
“I would like
to exercise. Is the weather good?”
chuckled. “I think you had better exercise inside first. Come to the
table, and I’ll give you some excellent soup that Nissa has made for
“She is Eiric’s
“I know her
brothers,” Lae said.
Olenka’s help to the table and watched while she prepared three
bowls of soup.
Amidst a swirl
of snow, a hooded figure entered the hut. Nissa stared at Lae.
sit. Our guest is about to sample the soup you so kindly sent to
us,” Olenka said.
“Nissa is my
“It is a
pleasure to meet you.” Lae wondered if the banality sounded like a
Nissa stared at
the soup. “I have waited for you to awaken.”
“Why, might I
ask?” Lae watched Nissa surreptitiously to see if she would eat the
brothers were held hostage in Wessex by King Aelfred . . .”
Olenka’s voice was sharp.
turned crimson, and she dropped her spoon. She was as still as a
stone. “I am sorry,” she whispered.
“A hostage is
someone who is taken against his will. Your brothers were given to
my father’s care without coercion.” Lae’s words were short and
“I am sorry.”
Nissa looked directly at Lae. “I meant to give you a compliment. My
brothers have often spoken highly of you. If they were here, they
would be pestering you every day.”
“How are they?”
“Both have grown to strong men. You would not recognize them.”
“Where are they
now?” Lae noticed the furtive glance that Nissa gave to Olenka. Lae
was on guard.
“They are on a
journey to our homeland.” Olenka spoke quickly. “We do not expect
them back while you are here. The weather is not good.”