“What does it matter to you? You will be d
ead. You will have sacrificed yourself for this dead boy.”
Rowan looked back at Keon’s body and his face fell again. “Yes, that is true. Geralt will make an excellent king, I am sure.”
“If he wins,” Jura said.
“Being married to a king has given me a taste of power. I shall marry Daire and perhaps we will fight Brita for control of her tribe. Perhaps I shall be queen of all Lanconia yet.” She smiled. “Yes, I like that idea.”
Rowan turned to look at her and the sadness in his eyes began to change. It changed to hate and the hate was directed toward her. “War,” he whispered. “War and power are all you Lanconians think of. You would war on your own brother to gain power. For your own selfish wants you would cause the death of thousands of people. You do not care about Lanconia.”
“And you do? You would leave what you have started behind and sacrifice yourself to Brocain?”
“I must,” he said softly. “I gave the man my word. A knight’s word is his bond.”
“You are English,” she spat at him. “You are English purely and I am glad you go to die. We need no cowards such as you who cannot finish what they start. Go then. Go to Brocain. Go back to England. Go to the devil for all I care.” She turned on her heel and stormed away from him.
She didn’t go far, just until she was out of sight of him and then she stopped. Great sobs began to well inside her, and before she knew what she was doing, she sank to her knees and began to cry. It was as if all the tears that had been denied her all her life were coming to the surface. Her shoulders heaved, her hands clenched. She fell forward into the dirt and cried harder. She would die if Rowan gave himself to Brocain, but she could not tell him that. He did not need sympathy, so she had not given it. He had needed her anger, but she had not been prepared for the look of hate in his eyes.
After a while, she lifted herself and went back to the camp. The others were sitting about quietly and looked up with hope in their eyes when they heard Jura. But when they saw she was not Rowan, they looked away.
They need him as much as I do, Jura thought.
Cilean came toward her and Jura turned her face away. “You have been…crying?” Cilean asked in disbelief. “What have you done to him?”
Jura could tell no one, not even a friend as close as Cilean, of what she had seen. How could a Lanconian understand a man who cried like an infant? Yet Jura had understood. Did that mean she was not wholly Lanconian?
“Merely smoke in my eyes,” Jura said. “He will return soon, I think,” she added.
It wasn’t long before Rowan returned. His hair was wet, as if he had been bathing, and he ordered everyone to prepare to ride. The Fearens stood apart, and Rowan went to them and talked quietly for a long while. Jura saw him pointing out the different people in the group and, Jura thought, no doubt guaranteeing their safety with his own life.
She watched him closely and she could detect a difference in his eyes, an emptiness that wasn’t there before, but he looked as if he were ready to resume command.
She waited until he looked at her so she could smile at him.
But Rowan did not look at Jura.
All day they rode and he never once looked at her. Did he not understand that she had said what she had on purpose to enrage him? That she wanted to spur him out of his misery? Tonight, she thought, tonight she would get him alone and he would touch her again, perhaps even make love to her.
But it was not to be. They camped and Rowan avoided her. She asked him to walk with her into the trees, but he said he had to stay with the Fearens.
“I cannot leave them with your brother,” he said, then looked at her with cold eyes. “Or perhaps I should call him the Rightful King.” Before Jura could say a word, Rowan left her standing alone.
Cilean saw Jura standing there and ordered her to unsaddle the horses and Jura went about the familiar task blindly.
“You have hurt him,” Cilean said.
“I have helped him but he does not know it.” Jura looked across the firelight to where Rowan sat sharpening his sword. “I am—”
“—a fool,” Cilean said, taking her saddle and walking away in anger.
Jura had her own attack of self-pity. Did no one believe she was capable of at last seeing the light? She sat quietly with the others by the fire that night and took her turn at watch near dawn, but Rowan made no attempt to speak to her privately. He gave her duties and orders like he did the others.
No one else besides Cilean seemed to notice any difference because Rowan was treating her as Lanconian men treated their women: as equals. But Jura had grown rather used to Rowan’s protectiveness and the way he thought of her as soft and fragile.
And she also missed their lovemaking.