“You can get angry at a man?”
“Yes,” Jura answered. “And your husband is faithful to you or you have the right to complain in court. You can cast him out.”
By nightfall, Jura’s throat was raw from talking so much, but from the expressions on the women’s faces, she knew she had made an impression. As they walked back to the town, Ulten women everywhere were pointing and nodding at them and talking seriously among themselves. Jura smiled to herself. Perhaps Rowan’s way of fighting had some advantages to it. She didn’t think she could have caused more commotion if she had attacked the city with an army of guardsmen and women.
With a jaw-snapping yawn, she wondered what the morrow would bring.
Rowan was just waking when the first noises sounded outside the palace. He had not been able to go to sleep until quite late for worry about how to get them out of this situation. The other men seemed content to remain with the Ulten women for the rest of their lives, but Rowan, much to his disbelief, was finding the women’s fawning annoying. Tonight he had had a great deal of difficulty persuading the women he wanted no bed partner. He smiled to himself, knowing that it wasn’t that he wouldn’t love the attentions of one of the women, but the fear of Jura’s wrath was more than he liked to contemplate.
“Winning Lanconia is easy but winning Jura is next to impossible,” he muttered, then went back to trying to solve the problem of getting all of them out of their silken prison without having to hurt a woman or offend greasy old Marek.
At the first sound of women’s voices raised in anger, Rowan did not react. After having spent time with the volatile Irials and then Brita, a woman shouting in rage was a commonplace occurrence. But then he remembered that he was in a land where women were in a to-the-death competition for men and they competed with soft words and languorous smiles.
He sat up in bed. “What has Jura done now?” he asked aloud, and knew without a doubt that whatever the women were angry about was caused by Jura.
In moments he was dressed, hurriedly wrapping his cross garters about his legs, then running along the corridors to the rooms of the other men, who were each wrapped about one, two, or in Geralt’s case, three women. He ordered the men into the great room immediately. Only Geralt gave him trouble.
“You’ll be there or I’ll come for you,” Rowan said, slamming the door and beginning to run, Daire and the Fearens on his heels.
What looked to be an army of women was streaming into the palace, each face angry, and in their hands they carried whatever they could use as weapons: rakes, shovels, hand axes, long bone needles, clubs of various sizes. They were such small women and armed so poorly that they were almost an amusing sight—but Rowan did not laugh.
Rowan grabbed the arm of a woman near the front, a beautiful dark-haired wench. “What has happened?” he asked in the Ulten language.
She sneered at him. “We have been lied to,” she yelled. “We were told that all men died of the sickness, that the only ones left were here in our city, but Jura says that is not so.”
Rowan groaned as he released the woman then turned to translate to the other men.
“Jura!” Geralt snorted. “I should have known she would ruin paradise.”
Rowan grabbed his half-brother’s tunic front. “Your sister has been in slavery while you were eating figs. Now we have to stop this or we’ll have a war on our hands.”
Geralt twisted from Rowan’s grasp. “Let them kill old Marek. What do I care? I will rule the Ultens. You have taken the Irials from me, so I will take the Ultens.”
It was Jura, Cilean behind her, who pushed her way through the crowd just in time to hear her brother’s words. “You are not fit to rule you
rself much less a tribe,” she yelled at him. “You think only of yourself, not of your people or your country. You are not loyal to the Irials or anyone else in Lanconia. You could not even spend the night with Brita without starting a war. You may think so highly of yourself that you believe these women would love to follow you, but right now they are too angry to think.” She looked at the other men and they were now surrounded by angry Ulten women as they surged through the palace. “They are furious at Marek for lying to them over the years, and their blood is up. They may not stop at killing one man but may decide to kill all men. We have to get you out.” Jura turned to leave, but Rowan caught her arm.
“You did not side with your brother,” he shouted to her.
“My brother is Irial, not Lanconian,” she said, somewhat annoyed. “Is there another way out of here? Please, Rowan, do not try to talk your way out of this. These women seek blood.”
He took a moment to caress her cheek, then turned back toward the wing of bedchambers. “Follow me,” he ordered, and only Geralt hesitated. Rowan grabbed the young man’s shoulder and pulled him with the others.
Like a reluctant boy, Geralt fought. “Unhand me, you usurper. The women will not harm me. I am their master.”
Quite calmly, Jura picked up a vase from a nearby table and brought it down over Geralt’s head. He crumpled gracefully to the floor.
Rowan looked at her in disgust. “Now how do we get him out?”
“You must carry him. Come on, we haven’t much time to lose. I think the women are looting the palace.”
Rowan, without arguing, took an order from a woman and heaved the tall Geralt over his shoulder, then once again took the lead as he went down a corridor. There was no other door besides the front one, but in the last few years of safety the Ultens had become lax and had built a granary near one of the palace windows.
“Daire!” Rowan said. “Take that marble and put it between the buildings.”
It took four men and Cilean and Jura to put the long thick slab of marble between the two buildings, forming a slide. It was precariously positioned and the slippery surface made it dangerous.
“I will go first,” Jura said, but Rowan pulled her back.