“Who is the father?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
With this admission a surge of anger shot from her so strong that he could almost taste it. So, his soldiers had had their way with her. He’d already surmised that, and knew that she’d fought, judging not only by the bruise under her eye, but the ones appearing elsewhere on her body. He knew he wouldn’t have helped, but watched and enjoyed watching. He’d have felt no pity. Rape was common enough, and Rose came from an area where the men had raided before. She’d probably been raped as a child. He felt no pity for that, either.
Someone coughed, breaking the silence. The Tu’el came out of his thoughts to find that while he’d been staring at her, she’d been staring at him. No one ever looked directly at him, and they certainly didn’t glare. Didn’t she know her life was at stake?
Perhaps it was the news of the child. Perhaps she was considering death. Sometimes women did that. He’d never fathered a child, and in the days when the Dark One had been turning and shaping him into what he was now, if any woman had told him that she was carrying his seed, he’d have killed her on the spot.
Now, he said, “If you do not rid yourself of the child,” he told her. “Bring it to me eight days after it is born and I will give you a new name.”
Her expression changed. She nearly smiled. A new name. So, she knew what he was offering.
A new name meant a new life.
“Consider it done, Mi’Lord,” and only then had Rose glanced down in obeisance while making a curtsey.
She hadn’t seen him for months after but in his own way, the Tu’el had been mindful. Scant care but as the others got no care at all, there’d been jealously from the start. She’d been taken from the Hungry Rocks, lest she break herself against them, and given a warm place in the kitchen in this land where it was always cold, even when the sun shone. She’d been given two wool dresses, new ones. They hadn’t been dyed, but no one else had ever worn them, and they didn’t drag the ground. No one hit her. She was fed, but she wasn’t pampered. She worked hard in the kitchen, chopping and peeling, washing the pots, carrying plates and platters, unmindful of her condition.
She remembered her promise to him and the promise he’d given to her, but when Rose felt the child kick and turn within her, she’d wanted to take it out with sharp spears. She’d held on only by remembering the promise of a new name and worked harder at whatever task she was engaged in, enduring her condition.
The envy of the kitchen staff turned to fear when she was given a small room of her own. A bed with a feather tick mattress was in it; she’d never had a bed before. None of the others had either, and she was smart enough not to lord it over them. Rose didn’t want friends, but she didn’t want enemies either, which was saying something in this cold land where it was easy to hate.
A land where the bodies of slaves were gathered up and put into the dead cart daily like soft fruit and dumped on Carrion Hill, where the crows were fat and patient.