Hyd slept soundly for many hours, at least through one whole day. They knew a day had passed because there was a shaft that went from the outside of the mountain down into their cave. The shaft was just big enough to let in fresh air and a small stream of light when the sun was in the exact right position overhead.
Eadward, John, Stephan and Ranee slept and woke in several shifts while Hyd slept all the way through. Ranee checked on him each time she woke. His head remained cool which was a good thing since it meant there was no infection setting in. No fever, no festering wound. They put more blankets on him to keep him warm, since they did not want to start a fire and take the chance of giving away their position.
They wanted to let Hyd sleep even more but time was running out. They needed to get moving soon. They could not take the chance of underestimating their pursuers. While they thought Sucat, on his own, would not be able to catch them, they felt Captain Kennard was hot on their tail.
They used their time in the cave to eat and drink and rest. They raised a blanket up as a screen so that Ranee could go behind it and relieve herself. She also took the time to get out of the dirty torn tunic and leggings. She washed herself with some of the water and a bit of cloth she tore off of the bottom of the tunic. She was very sore from the bruises she had received from Sucat’s rape of her.
Eadward had pulled some stored clothing from a trunk and she put them on. The cloth they were made from was heavier than what she had on before and she was grateful for that as she was cold from the shock of her ordeal over the last couple of days. She really did not believe they would get away but she liked this time with these men. They seemed like they really liked and cared for one another. They told funny stories of their life together and these stories told her how close they were to each other.
Ranee wished she had people like that in her life but the closest she got were with Preston, her father’s priest, Wayn, her father’s horseman and blacksmith and Sara, the daughter of the woman who had taught her healing and herbs. But while there were times when these people and she felt some comfort with each other most of the time she spent with them involved too much anxiety that they would all be caught and punished by her father.
These men seemed to like her even though she was a woman. They trusted her to take care of Hyd properly and she did not have to explain every move she made. Her actions and decisions were questioned. When they were eating or drinking, they offered her the first portion. They did not leer at her, even when she was not looking. She never turn to find them staring at her as if she were a morsel of meat that they could consume. She could get used to being with people, men, like this but she knew better than to hope for something she was never going to have.
She was now married to a cruel, mean man who could, would, did do whatever he wanted to her and there was nothing she could do about it. He could beat her in front of others and no one would lift a hand to stop him. She was his wife and his to do with as he wanted.
She would just enjoy this time she was having now for it would end soon. She came around the blanket wall and sat down with the others. She used her fingers to comb out her hair, untangling it and taking the leaves and twigs out of the sections she combed out. When she sat down, Eadward went behind their makeshift screen to relieve him self. When he came out again, he went to the trunk he kept pulling things out of and took out a brush and handed it to Ranee. It had a smooth thin handle made of oak. The bristles were made of boars’ hairs.
While she brushed out her hair in long slow strokes, she looked at the men around her. Eadward, who she now knew was Hyd’s half brother, was the tallest and thinnest of the four men. He also seemed to have the most difficulty keeping still. He moved around the cave room looking in wooden crates and boxes they used for storage. As he opened a crate, she smelled the lavender they put in them to keep away bugs and other pests. His hair was long and a strawberry blonde. He kept it in a single braid tied with a leather strip. He pulled out a shiny copper plate that he burnished with his tunic sleeve. He looked at himself in mirrored surface, made a face, stuck out his tongue at his reflection then handed the round platter to Ranee. His eyes, bright blue, were shiny with his mirth. He was very good looking and Ranee could imagine many women swooning for his attention, even though he would never have any land or money.
Ranee looked at her own reflection, briefly, because she did not like what she saw. She finished brushing out her hair and put the brush next to the mirror. She divided her hair into two sections and she began braiding her hair. When she got one plait done, John handed her a length of red ribbon. It surprised her that they would have such a feminine thing in this cave. John sat nearest her. He was the quietest out of the four men. He was also the largest. The hands holding another red ribbon were huge and looked very powerful. He had red hair and green eyes. He smiled shyly at her, crinkling up the skin around his eyes and dimpling his cheeks. She was not sure but she thought he was the married one of the group. She imagined his wife being quite happy and content with him.
Ranee finished her second braid and John gave her the other ribbon. She tossed her braids behind her back.
“Lovely,” said Stephan. He sat back, looking the most relaxed of all of them. He spent his time cleaning the knives and swords they had with them. He had already cleaned them all twice and now he was just sitting and waiting. He was the shortest of the group, but broad, and he was still taller than her new husband or even her father. He too was blonde but his eyes were a soft smoky grey. Despite the fashion of the day, Stephan’s hair was cropped short, well above his collar line. He looked at Ranee often but it was more like he was trying to figure things out about her instead of leering at her.
“I suspect that you have not been told how pretty you are,” he said. “You are very pretty, even in men’s clothing.”
Ranee felt her cheeks get warm and she put her hands in her lap and looked down at them.
“Do not get all missish on us,” he said. “We all like a pretty woman, but I think you are smart too and that is even more interesting.”
“You are making the girl nervous,” said John. “I do not think she is used to people speaking their minds about anything, so stop scaring her.”
“I am sorry,” said Stephan. “You remind me of my sisters who also very pretty and quite smart. I am their only brother and so we have always spoken freely to one another. I did not mean to offend you.”
“You did not offend. I am not used to such attention.” Ranee got up to check on Hyd and to get the attention away from her. He was sleeping peacefully. His skin was still cool when she touched his cheek which had fine golden stubble on it. His hair was the same golden dark blonde hair. He wore his hair long too like his brother. Ranee got the brush and tried to comb out some of the tangles in his hair and get out some of the grass still stuck in it. She sat next to him with her back to the rest of the men, who watched her take care of Hyd. They smiled at each other.
They were all thinking the same thing. This woman would be a good match for Hyd. Unfortunately, she was married to Sucat. It was quite unfair of fate to treat them all so badly but none of them worried about fate. They all got along so well because they each believed that they had more control over the world than mere fate would allow. They did not agree with the Church’s thought on predestination. While God might know everything that would happen they were sure He gave them plenty of wiggle room.
Stephan began singing a little tune as Ranee continued to brush out Hyd’s hair. She had not seen Hyd’s eyes before. She had been too busy to notice. She wished he would open his eyes so she could see what color they were. Maybe they were the same color as his brother’s even though the hair color was different. She had a strong urge to bend down and kiss his mouth.
The song Stephan was singing sounded like a lullaby but she did not recognize it or the language he sang it in. His voice was deep and low and smooth. She felt her eye lids droop. The singing and the gentle movement of her brushing of Hyd’s hair was making her drowsy. She closed her eyes just for a moment.
When she opened them again she found Hyd looking up at her. His eyes were a bright green that startled her. She could not take her eyes from his. She did not notice right away that he hand put his left hand on her arm and that he was moving his thumb in little circles on her wrist. Neither had noticed that Stephan had stopped singing.
“Our little boy is awake,” said Eadward. He walked over to Hyd and Ranee. He noticed that Hyd held Ranee’s hand but he looked away quickly so he would not embarrass Ranee.
“You are looking better, brother,” he said. “We have been here for almost two days. Do you think you can move? We really should be going.”
Hyd sat up. Ranee tried to get up so he could move but Hyd still held her hand.
“My shoulder is sore but it does not hurt too badly. I just need some food and drink and maybe a splash of water in the face and I will be ready to move.”
“I should repack your wound,” said Ranee.
“It does not seem to be bleeding right now so I do not think we should take the chance,” said Hyd. “From the burning I felt last night I think you poured enough alcohol in it to keep it clean. We will just go with that.” Hyd brushed a stray lock of black hair out of Ranee’s face.
“Thank you for all of your care. I have been hurt often enough to know you did a good job.” Hyd lifted her hand to his lips and brushed a light kiss across her knuckles. Ranee got a chill and shivered. Hyd smiled at her, his green eyes bright and clear.
“Please help me up,” he said.
Ranee rose and pulled Hyd up. She suspected he could get up perfectly well on his own, but was looking for an excuse to keep touching her and she did not mind.
Hyd let go of her hand. He stepped behind the hanging blanket and relieved himself. When he came out from behind the curtain he was toweling off his damp hair and face. He took the tunic Eadward handed him and asked for Ranee’s help to put it on. He seemed to be moving just fine but was looking for reasons to keep Ranee near by and touching him occasionally.
He ate the dried meat John gave him and drank some water to wash it down. As he was finishing a second cup of water, he heard a noise in the tunnel. They all stopped moving to listen. They heard the sound again. They all grabbed their prepared bundles, Hyd took Ranee’s hand and Eadward blew out the candles. As they were plunged into the dark they definitely heard men’s voices coming to them from the tunnel.