009 Preparations for the Duel

Gentle rapping on my door roused me from my troubled sleep. I admitted Faithful and Silver into my room.

“I trust you slept well and are prepared for our duel,” Silver spoke, feigning politeness.

How could anyone sleep before such a momentous event?

“I slept an hour. I fear duel. Not read-y,” I snapped.

“I am sorry to anger you. I was only trying to be friendly.”

I threw myself on her neck as the bottles of my tears were unstopped. Somehow, she had the same effect on me that Faithful did even though I knew who she really was.

“Duel cause much fear. I not want win, not wish loss. Not wish hurt your fu-ture.”

“Regardless of who wins, the three of us will still have each another. We won't desert you if I win,” declared Faithful.

“That not scare me. I not want hurt you like I did them. One man left fight with-out his hand. And, and…”

“What is it, Nyl?”

“I with child,” I whispered. “Not want her hurt.”

“Then I'll cede my victory to you. I will not endanger your child.”

“They not let you give up. If you do, all hate you. Not fair to wife.”

“I'm already despised by all, save the two of you. Your safety is more important than my reputation.”

My mistress prevented me from warning my only friend of his death and spoke to my mind.

“I hope you will enjoy killing him today.”

“You not give up. I for-bid it!” I crossed my arms and attempted to increase my stature.

“You can't forbid it. I'm your master.”

“If I not for-bid it, I be heir with right to for-bid you…” I stopped before I said something even more ludicrous. “Why risk self for child of vile slave?”

“Because the child is innocent. Whatever was done to you isn't your fault.”

“You not blame me?”

“Should he?” Silver asked her thrumming was gentle, but the sarcasm in her mind stung.

“I did no wrong! He trick me to wed him. He div-or-ced me one month. I want win. Then I kill him!”

Silver didn’t respond at first. She just held me until I quelled my weeping.

“Nyla, you won’t really kill him will you?” She thrummed quietly.

“How I not kill if you make me?” I whispered back.

“Force you to? Why would I? I love him.”

“But you told me kill him?”

“I did not. That was Centin. He ordered me on this hit to poison both of you, but I couldn’t do it. I traded all of my power for this body, so I could start a new life. Should I want to, I would not be able to overtake you.”

When I reached into her mind, I found no vestiges of the power she once possessed.

“I spent half of last night weeping as I told Faithful everything I’ve done to you. As you slept, I tried to steal back the pain and shame I had given you. I think I regained some and I won't send you any more.”

Her words were true, the river of guilt which perpetually flowed from her had stopped.

“Why do this?”

“Faithful told me of his God. I did it because I might just be able to earn redemption for myself. Perhaps if I can replace my hatred for you with devotion to my husband, God might forgive my iniquities.”

“There no good you can do to clean bad of past.” I told her, knowing it was also true for myself. “If you for-giv-en, it be by woe-thief more great than me.”

After Faithful left, Silver helped me to dress in trousers with a short gown over the top. In the night, my bandages had disappeared and left rough scars across my skin. I tied back my hair, fastened my dagger which was no longer gauze, to a sheath my right forearm; armor and hand-daggers were illegal for this duel. My left arm, hung useless in a sling. It throbbed with pain.

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