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"Unholy," she said, with venom in her tone. "Graceless. You look like a..." her voice trailed away. "Damn you," she finally said. "We can't hide like this! Everyone will see you. What were you thinking?" She was definitely not sitting down.

"What are the people of Dardun looking for?" I asked, rhetorically. "They're looking for a cooper and a scarred Magistrate's daughter. When the people of other towns see you and me, that is not what they will see."

"They will see a heathen, and they will beat him with stones."

"Amina, please. Tie off the horse and sit. I will explain."

"I am beginning to question whether I should travel with you. Why haven't you put your shaving blade away? What is this about?"

My jaw clenched. She wasn't going to like my answer. She was going to have to deal with it, though. She had clearly lost her perspective, and it was high time I set her straight: "I bandaged your wounds. I carried you home. I kept your secret. When your husband sought to cut you down, I was the only one in Dardun who stepped forward to stop him. I am here now, with no place to call my home, because of all this. And you -- you treat me with suspicion. How dare you? How dare you?"

Amina stared at me for a long moment, and then silently moved to tie the horse to a nearby tree. When she was done, she approached me, and knelt in the grass before me. No words of apology came from her, but these simple gestures of silent acquiescence were more than enough to satisfy me.

"Do you know who lived here in Vanders before Amaya's..." I wanted to say "scourge," but I didn't think she would take kindly to it. "...before Amaya's will was known?"

Amina furrowed her brow, a frown tugging at her lips, "This was a Maridan town."

"And in those days, it flew the standard of the red eagle," I added.

"Red eagle? Like the one on your shield?"

I nodded.

"But you're not one of them," Amina said, emphatically. "Maridan men are..."

I arched my eyebrows, "Are what?"

"Well, they're vile. They're godless, decadent, arrogant, lascivious, and treacherous."

"Is that what they tell girls these days? I wonder just what sort of stories they told you."

Amina pursed her lips and averted her eyes, her cheeks flushing slightly.

I smiled slightly, "You don't want to say."

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