by Ellis B.
Armin eyed the well-appointed table, stunned by its richness. He raised a goblet, watched the firelight glance from its facets. When had he last touched such a vessel? These days, his thirst was quenched with a chipped mug, or cupped hands dipped into a stream. The world of fine crystal died years ago.
The girl approached. He set the goblet down, watched silently while she poured bright red wine. Her face, half hidden behind honey-colored waves, remained impassive.
She met his gaze. His heart missed a beat.
Her emerald eyes, more familiar than his own, matched those of a boy he raised to a man. Armin was unaccustomed to seeing such fathomless hatred in those eyes.
Her skin was brown, like the boy’s, but where Armin’s charge showed the first hopeful attempts at a man’s beard, hers was marred by the bloodred handprint Maja had slapped across her cheek. It was beginning to swell. She would carry a bruise for days.
Maja’s voice pulled Armin from his musings. “Can the boy be trusted? What are his bloodlines?”
Armin lifted his glass. Spun it. The viscous red liquid adhered to its sides, dripped slowly to the bowl. “Whatever his bloodlines, I trust him with my life.”
Maja’s sigh was dismissive. “Little comfort.”
Armin looked up, retort on his lips, to see the girl observing him with a wry, conspiratorial smile. He sipped from the goblet, wine suppressing words.
Given time, he and this girl might see eye-to-eye.