We travelled for several hours and then stopped to make camp for the night. As hard as I had tried to focus on my own predicament and make a plan to escape my thoughts were continually interrupted by the picture of Ronald Nealy hanging in the tree like a field dressed deer. I will admit that despite the change in the way they handled me I wonder if my fate is to shortly be the same as his. It should have given me reason to seek an escape all the harder but it was like a fatalism had infected me.
I was left astride while several of the corrupted Borderlanders ministered to their leader who did not appear to be doing well. That’s when I noticed none of them in the party seemed in very good health. I had noticed that as some passed me on the trail they exhibited a smell of purtrification, as if they had wounds that were not being tended properly. Several also looked like they were in pain though none said anything.
It was that silence in the face of so much pain and suffering that I believe bothered me the most. I wondered if they did not feel it or if they simply accepted it as the way things were … or if they viewed it as evidence of the blessings by their dark god. I berated myself for feeling any such curiosity for my captors but I could not stop feeling pity for them. It made me itch to help at least one of them. It was like something was driving me. Part of me wanted to believe it was simply my training trying to take over to keep me sane, but another part of me wondered if it wasn’t something different.
I was interrupted when the Borderlander leader snapped, “What are you looking at? Believe you are so much better than we do you?”
Answering him as calmly as my nerves would allow I told him, “I wasn’t thinking much beyond it irritates me to no end to not be allowed to address the wounds and illnesses I see all around me. The pain and suffering I see is completely unnecessary.”
“Hah! So I heard our god’s warning correctly. So you seek to take our blessings away.”
Shaking my head I said, “What I see I do not view as blessings but the foolishness of men. Do your women not minister to you at all? Do you not have those amongst you that are healers?”
The old man spit, “Blasphemy! Our afflictions are badges of honor.”
Trying to use logic I asked, “Then why call them afflictions? Why hide them? Why cover the seeping wounds or the twisted bodies?”
“Silence you Harper harlot!”
My outrage peeked out at being thus called. It may have not the best of sense to snap at him but I did. “Harper I am but harlot I am not! This is lunacy. By what right do you judge me and call me thus?”
“I am a Priest of the Damned! And you conspired to marry a Linder!” he roared.
Still in anger I responded, “I am not damned … at least not by your definition … therefore you are not my priest and hold no authority over me. As for my marriage, I assure you it was not of my choosing but was wished upon me … apparently with the assistance of some of your own people conspiring to bring about some silly false prophecy. And whatever could have been made of the marriage was prevented from being by your people as well … namely my sister wives and any that were their accomplices in the matter.”
“You slut!” he cried in fury and raised his cane to strike me.
I do not know whether it was a conscious decision or not but my knees directed the Linderhall horse to protect me and all I could do was hold on while it spun and kicked out with its hind legs. In the gloaming darkness all I got was a brief glimpse of the self-proclaimed priest as he went flying and his men running to his aid and protection. The horse, now having a mind of its own took flight back down the trail and all I could do was hold on for dear life to the saddle as my hands were still tightly bound in front of me and unable to grab the reins.