“It was just a spot of fun is all,” laughed Ashhgrom. “You saw how that slave girl was! No matter how much I kicked her, or cursed her, she just sat there and took it. Then, when she thought I was out of earshot, oh did she let fly! Such unladylike things she said to her mates, all bottled up from before, as would melt the tongue of a proper lass!”

“Ain’t no proper lasses in Gash Nosebrass’s kip, Ashhgrom Emptygirdle,” said Mugh Dullspoint, Ashhgrom’s sentry-partner. “Only slaves, wombs, and playthings, you know that. So what if she held her tongue and then lashed out with it when she was out of boot-range? That just shows she’s got smarts enough not to invite the boot when she’s on knees in the potato fields.”

“Hmph, you suck the fun out of everything,” grumbled Ashhgrom. “She weren’t bad looking, either. Half human I wager, or a little more. Came in with the batch Gash bought in town last year.”

“And if she was all that good-looking, Ashhgrom Emptygirdle, she’d not be in the potates but be shacked up in Gash’s tent making him sons! You can go on calling it what you will, but I think that empty girdle of yours is just aching to be filled with something that ain’t your mitts.”

“And I think, Mugh Dullspoint, that you says about me wha tyou think about yourself!”

As the two guards argued, bunched around the fire outside the hut that served them as both watchtower and barracks, the half-orc girl they had been talking about, Zeffir, was inside their tent. Careful to keep her eyes away from the light, she was already jingling softly with every last piece of gold, copper, and silver Ashhgrom had hoarded for himself. He would also find that the rawhide straps of his hammock were sawn two-thirds of the way through, the clasps had been bent on his armor, and a starchy mixture of potatoes and peppers had been smeared about his codpiece.

He was about to find out why Zeffir Thaighs bottled up her rage around folks that could do her mischief…and why she was known to hold no words or blows otherwise.

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