The fencer walked back towards the caravan, stifling a laugh amidst a frown. She stopped, and unlaced something from her belt. She flung it, and it landed upon the young man's leg.
He turned from the drowsy woman beside him, and examined the object. It dangled from his hand in a wide band, coming down at the middle in a loosely padded cradle. His face contorted briefly, until he realized what it was. Then, without a word, he slid it over his legs and drew the loincloth up to his waist.
"Naieyle," he told her, head bowed, "thank you."
"It's the least I could do." She struggled to remain serious, asking, "How does it fit?"
"It's a little bulky," he paused, thinking too carefully, "I guess."
"Well," she winked, "it will get cold here in a few passes of the moon."
"Change the subject," he pleaded, "please."
"Allerk, you're sure your clothes ain't tucked away in the caravan?"
"For a time, they had my traveling robes. Sold 'em." For a hefty price. "All that's in there is the womens' and the slavers' to wear."
"What'd they look like?" she queried, "Do you reckon we can find something similar here at the tailor's?"
Dung of a demon, no! he cocked his head to one side, "Sure, I reckon we can find something similar." Then, Allerk stood, a head above the woman.
There is something intimidating about his height, she thought, despite his youth. Almost commanding. She indicated the three waking women at the roadside, "They won't be able to move for another quarter turn of a sundial."
"Great," he said. Allerk then began to walk down the road, though his head was spinning.
"You're going through the streets of the slough in just that?"
"Well, yeah." he frowned, "Anything I wear is just going to get wet. Besides, half the bloody town already saw my naked flesh, thanks to that screamin' hag!"
"Modesty, young man," she chided. "As much as I don't like it, borrow the slaver's extra clothes 'til we buy you some. He won't be needing them anytime soon."
"Fine," he gave in reluctantly, turning back towards the caravan. "It'll be short on me, though."
"Such is my patience," she countered. "The tailor's wife is about done washin' 'n' dyein' my cape."
Then, as he was digging into a bin at the edge of the caravan for matching socks, Allerk's stomach let out a discontented growl.
"Clothes first," she told him, "then food -- then prayer."
However, Allerk spotted a woven bag of nuts behind the driver's seat, and helped himself. I hope that lasts me. This is no fine delicacy.
"Qurr," she exclaimed. "You're like a chipmunk before winter."
"What's a chipmunk?"
"You aren't from around here, at all, are you?"
"Nope. Two countries to the south. What's a chipmunk?"
"Striped rodent, size o' yer fist. Likes to chitter-chatter and run into little holes in the ground."
He watched her carefully, I shouldn't have said that. Then, with indifference, "Oh, those tree rats."
Moments later, Naieyle emerged with a freshly dyed cape, now indigo, trailing behind her in graceful translucence. Her wig of short brown hair sat firmly upon her skull, curling about her ears and neck. Below, her bosom was encased by a tanned, leathery lorica with gleaming, silvery iron studs. Behind her backpack, it was bound tightly.
Under her right arm, she carried three womens' tunics. And under her left arm, three dresses and some unmentionables.
Allerk came out of the store behind her. He wore a soft, slated, gray robe trimmed with blue. Despite his height, it dragged almost to the ground. It was, without question, the most pretentious item on sale. He found it soft, warm, free and full of pockets.
They walked down the street together, and Allerk eyed a tavern. He started to lead her towards it, when she stopped.
"We've got to tend to the others," she told him. "We'll see what traveling supplies the old man has. There's got to be more than those nuts you grabbed."
"Aye," he said, trying to forget the wafting smells that had caught his attention. "They fed me fodder, but I know they ate well enough. We can feed five."