Chapter 14 - A Night’s Sleep
At that moment, he heard Gigg’s playful voice, “What a beauty,” Giggs grinned, continuing as if he had read Gareth’s mind, “The stew is delicious as well. The maid says she’s good at cooking. She’s 19 years old. Isn’t that pretty late to get married?” he whispered the new information he had obtained from talking to a servant.
Gareth remained silent, which only served to excite Giggs. He was confident that Gareth was having some serious thoughts about that woman since he had noticed his eyes constantly following her. It was the first time his boss had paid so much attention to a woman. Moreover, they were on their way home after a year of wandering around the country, which meant their long-anticipated days of rest were waiting for them. It was only on these rare occasions when Gareth was less on edge that Giggs could joke around with him.
“If you like her that much, why don’t you take her back home as your wife?” Giggs asked, “From what I’ve seen, she seems like a character. I think she’ll suit you well.”
“One night is enough,” Gareth spit out coldly.
‘I was right! He does really like her.’ Now fully entertained, Giggs moved closer to Gareth and asked, “Are you sure you’ll be satisfied with just one night?”
He knew Gareth didn’t usually pay attention to women. Gareth never went as far as spending the night with one even if he were to sleep with them. Such a man was now constantly staring at a woman. It was a strange sight that Giggs had never seen before. “Shouldn’t you be thinking about marriage now? You need an heir, you know,” he reminded Gareth.
‘What good is an heir for a mercenary?’ Gareth wondered why he even needed a family he couldn’t protect when he lived such an uncertain life. He could die at any time. A family would only stand in his way as a potential weakness. He had no idea why he would do such a dangerous thing as starting a family. “Giggs, stop talking and eat,” he replied coldly, sneering.
Giggs gave a quick smile when he noticed that Gareth’s tone had turned cold and crept away. His tongue wouldn’t be safe if he didn’t read the atmosphere and stop talking. Even though Gareth regarded the 11 knights as his blood, it was well known that brothers fought. And there were always scary brothers. In their case, that was Gareth.
* * *
Hot baths were prepared after the noisy meal, which allowed Giggs and other knights to finally indulge in the luxury.
Gareth was moving toward a basin to take his bath when a maid approached him and said, “We’ve arranged for you to take a bath in your room.”
Gareth furrowed his eyebrows at this unexpected gesture. He had often stayed at the estates of the nobles who hired him, but he had never been provided with such thorough accommodations. It seemed that the Townsends had experience entertaining guests. Elena probably knew exactly what was needed since she was tasked with serving guests many times before. It was clear that she was treating the knights and their leader in a distinguished way.
“What a wise woman,” he said as he went upstairs, and elsewhere, Elena was called to Count Townsend’s study for a scolding.
* * *
“Elena, what in the world is this? I saw the ingredients you used today. You are being wasteful.”
Elena didn’t respond at all. She knew this was just an excuse to scold her. Housekeeping was her responsibility, and her father normally did not pay attention to it at all. There was no way he could know the costs of ingredients spent on preparing the dinner tonight. He was only trying to scold Elena for a small mistake because he was dissatisfied with her behavior these days. ‘Who is irritating him more? Logan, who attacked the village near the castle, or Gareth?’ she wondered.
The answer came soon after. “Take extra care until they leave tomorrow. They’re beasts. Don’t bring disgrace on me,” her father said. It was Gareth, not Logan, who had displeased her father. It seemed that he didn’t like how Gareth’s cold gaze had followed her throughout the dinner. Her father was probably inwardly cursing the lowly mercenary for daring to even look at his daughter.
Elena lowered her head slightly and calmly replied, “You don’t need to worry, Father. I told Rowena and Marina to lock the latch on their doors as well.”
Reason and self-control had been disappearing throughout the country, perhaps because of the constant chaos from the in-fighting. The amount of promiscuity in the city was indescribable, and immorality had spread to the nobles as well. The ‘right of the first night’[mfn]Also known as ‘jus primae noctis.’ A likely mythical, legal right in medieval Europe allowing feudal lords to have forced sexual relations with subordinant women, particularly on their wedding nights. [/mfn] was already widely practiced throughout the country. The lewd tradition was only rarer here because the county was under Elena’s management, and Count Townsend was not interested in such things.
“Don’t come down alone tomorrow morning, Elena,” her father ordered.
Elena stared at him with deep emerald eyes, then opened her mouth. “Father, I’ve been thinking about what happened today, and… what if we hired someone to help us?” Elena tried to figure out what her father was thinking as she knew that he was opposed to even the word ‘mercenary.’
As expected, Count Townsend immediately gave a cynical answer, “It’s a waste of money to pay lowly things like that. Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of it.”
‘Why is he avoiding getting help from others? It’s the lord’s duty to relieve the people’s fear… Anyway, what does he mean that he is going to take care of it?’ After witnessing what had happened during Logan’s attack, Elena thought it made all the more sense to get help. She couldn’t even begin to express how afraid she had been.
“We will continue to endure like we have done so far,” her father said.
Elena held back a sigh. Her father was saying this because he only took care of the aftermath of the disasters. Or perhaps it was his pride talking because he knew he couldn’t afford to hire anyone for help.
“You may leave now.” With this, Count Townsend sent Elena out of his study.
The hour grew late.
* * *
Gareth took off his heavy armor and sat on the bed, naked. As was habit, he began to clean his blood-stained armor and sword with a cotton cloth. The accumulated layers of blood were hard to clean, but he continued to polish them diligently in silence. On the other side of the room was a steaming bathtub that the maids had brought in.
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Lantern Against the Wind
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