Ranmus thought he heard someone in the hall but ignored it; they were probably just another servant on their way to clean or whatever else the earl was having them do. The Earl of Tournay kept a staff of about twenty servants, three of which were prisoners of war he had purchased from the Ayleran slavers, Ranmus among them. Unlike the other prisoners-turned-slaves, Ranmus had not been put to work until that morning. His wounds had kept him bedridden for weeks while doctors tended to him. Finally healed, he was glad to be on his feet, although he wished he could have been free.
The Earl of Tournay had given him no cause for distrust yet. He had, after all, seen that Ranmus’ injuries were mended. If left to the slavers and lesser masters, Ranmus might have died from his wounds. The shame of his scars made him stoop, his once powerful body diminished to a slave’s vessel. Whatever he was asked, he thought he would do it.
The other slave was younger than him, and not a soldier. He’d been taken with his father, who had seen to Ranmus on occasion. The ex-soldier made a note to seek the man out and thank him for his help. The familiar tones of the Menasian accent would be a comfort to him in this land he’d spent five years fighting to protect his home from. The doctor’s boy couldn’t be settling in well, Ranmus thought, so he would make himself available to him.
Ranmus looked up from the statue he was dusting off, his hair falling in front of his left eye. The earl’s son was standing in the doorway, watching him with a curious stare. Grating against the restraints of slavery, Ranmus bent himself slowly in a bow. “My lord,” he said, pausing in his cleaning.
“You’re the soldier,” the earl’s son said, pushing away from the doorframe and coming into the study. He leaned against the desk, and when Ranmus didn’t reply, he looked cross. “Well?”
Ranmus could think of no reason why the earl’s son would go out of his way to talk to him. He was, after all, a slave and a disgraced soldier from Menasse. “Yes, sir. I was a soldier.”
“Yes, that’s what I said. I haven’t seen you yet. I just figured who you were by looking at you.” The young noble adjusted his rolled up sleeves; he’d clearly come from fencing instruction. There was a flush in his cheeks and a tousled look to his light hair that told he’d not neglected his practice.
Ranmus looked down at the floor, folding his cleaning rag. He didn’t know what the boy wanted and was nervous lest the butler or the earl himself found him standing idly by. “Sir.”
“My name is Alwyn. You can call me by my name if you tell me yours.” The boy grinned when Ranmus didn’t answer. “Tell me your name.”
The first chance he got, Ranmus would plan his escape. It was decided. “Ranmus.”
Alwyn grimaced at the sound. “Menasian, clearly. Well, I must say, it was nice to make your acquaintance. I’ll let you get to it, then.”
Ranmus breathed a silent sigh when the boy left. He would do his best to avoid Alwyn until such a time as he could escape and return home to Menasse.