129. Nevynne’s Tale: A Rude Awakening

“I was overjoyed to see Bodogon again,” Nevynne continues. “Since my flight from Combray, I’d barely ever slept through a single night, camping alone in woods or abandoned buildings, always afraid to be murdered in my sleep by brigands or vagrants, or mauled by wolves.

“To have company again, and that of my trusted childhood friend at that—I wept with gladness and embraced him, casting all propriety to the wind. Of course I thought of that awkward moment in the stables, but it seemed so distant, so trifling next to all the dreadful things that had happened, I could not imagine that it should be on his mind in our present situation. More the fool I! We settled in for the night in the dilapidated barn, and Bodogon told me what had happened to him during the attack on Combray. He’d wanted to help defend the castle, he said, but being unused to fighting, he was struck down by a cudgel early during the battle. He lived, but when he came to, he found himself surrounded by the dead and dying, with flames about to engulf him. He tried to escape through the main gate, but found the queen’s soldiers still about. He made his way to the postern door instead. There, he said, he found Odrynn amongst a score of slain enemies, himself mortally wounded. He lived long enough to tell Bodogon where our father had sent me, and begged him to find and protect me if he could.”

Nevynne exhales heavily.

“My sweet brother, deeming me helpless to the last. Bodogon swore that he would find me, and after Odrynn lay dead, he set out to follow me, guessing as best he could the route I might take. Still, it was pure chance that he crossed paths with me in the end. He was close behind me at first, having procured a horse for himself, but I kept off the roads for the most part, and so he never managed to find me. Many times he came close to giving up, but the promise he made to Odrynn kept him from abandoning his search. Or so he said. The only reason he came to the barn that night was because one of the local farmers had offered to let him sleep there for a copper or two. So there we were. As it happened, Bodogon had with him a flask of wine he had bought some time ago, and that he’d saved in hopes of one day drinking it with me in celebration of our reunion.”

“You must have slept well that night, for a change.”

“Too well,” Nevynne says. “I woke up with a cruel headache, and my hands and feet bound with rope.”

“What?”

“In seeking to aid me against disaster, my poor brother brought it about. Odrynn trusted Bodogon, because as far as he knew, he was a devoted servant as well as a friend to me. And Bodogon betrayed him. He betrayed us all.”

“But why? Why would he do that?”

“Hurt pride,” Nevynne says. “At least that’s what it came down to, in the end. He was never quite clear in the way he talked to me, after that morning. What I gathered from his ranting was that his father, our equerry, had long harbored resentment for his low station, and would often gripe about us arrogant lords and ladies, how we were no better than the common man whom we held in such contempt, how some day we’d all get what was coming to us, and so on. This from a man who had never seen any unkindness from my father, nor any of us! Bodogon said that at first he’d not wanted to believe what his father was saying, or that he even really meant it, because he mostly talked that way after a few drinks. Oh, but after I rejected him, he decided that his old man had been right about the likes of me all along! Now he spewed the same nonsense back at me. How I was spoiled and haughty! How any village whore who sold herself to the peasantry for a few pennies still had more worth and virtue than conceited high-born brats like me! There was no end to his nonsense.”

“Such anger,” Stellia says. “Was nothing left of his love for you?”

“Love? Ha! Whatever Bodogon thought he felt for me, love never had a thing to do with it. A rutting dog knows more of love!”

“What did he want from you then?” Stellia blushes as the likely answer occurs to her. “Did he—?”

“Not at first,” Nevynne says. “I think some small part of his mind was still too ashamed to admit such intentions to himself. Not that the reasons he did cite for his actions were any less contemptible. He meant to take me back to Baramond, and hand me over to Ingharad in hopes of a reward.”

“He wanted to deliver you to your death?”

“Or worse, judging by the Shadow’s tale. I don’t know how Bodogon got the idea. His rants would always turn into incoherent babbling when it came to this subject. But I think some agent of the queen’s approached his father to coax him into treachery against us, some time before the attack. His father refused. Apparently for all his tirades about high-handed lords and ladies, he had no wish to act dishonorably. I don’t know if Bodogon overheard such conversations, or if his father mentioned them to him. But somehow he developed the notion that the queen would reward him with gold if he delivered me to her. The dimwitted wretch! His entire family was wiped out in the attack on Combray, killed by Ingharad’s soldiers. And yet he still wanted to serve her! I told him how foolish this was. You know what he said to me? That it was my father’s sedition that brought the queen’s wrath down on Combray, that she had no choice but to punish us. He blamed us for the death of his family! At first I tried to argue with him, but I soon realized that nothing I said mattered. He wanted to believe those lies, because it was the only way he could justify to himself what he was doing to me.”

“Would the queen really have rewarded him?”

“Ingharad would have been pleased to get her foul hands on the last of the Combrays, no doubt,” Nevynne says. “And equally pleased to flay a petty traitor who was of no further use to her. You think the queen has love for servants who turn on their masters? She would have thanked Bodogon for capturing me, and then killed him for having rebelled against his lord. I told him this, too. It made no difference, of course. And so he dragged me off toward Ceriselle. Our road was a long one, especially for me. Bodogon had only one horse, which he had stolen somewhere, and so one of us was always walking. Mostly it was me, except on those days when my feet grew so raw with burst blisters that I couldn’t take a step without slipping in my own pus. And now that he had me as his prisoner, Bodogon kept off the roads as well, for fear someone might rob him of his prize. Nights we would camp in the woods. If a village or town was nearby, he would tie me to a tree and ride off to procure wine. Turns out he’d become no less a drunkard than his father. It was on one of those nights when he drank that I got away from him.”

“How did you manage that, in the end?”

NEXT: Nevynne’s Tale: Innocence Lost

 

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