When Uluki made her suggestion about Julen and Rosemary finding a room upstairs, Julen expected the Lightswords to set him down so that he could go do so. However, the pair had carried him this far, and it seemed that they intended to finish the job, because they started walking toward the stairs without showing any sign of releasing their burden. Wonderful. Julen had wanted to make a good impression on his new comrades, but all they knew so far was that he weighed about the same as a large sack of potatoes -- and was just as useful as one, too. Still, mindful that he was supposed to be injured, Julen submitted to the continued indignity. There were more important things at stake than his pride.
However, before Julen had been taken very far, Uluki bent over him, speaking in a soft voice. Julen’s eyes widened when she shouldered responsibility for what had happened. Never, not in his most delirious moment, had he thought this was her fault. He was the one who should have informed her where he was going. He was the one who should have thought to bring someone with him. If he’d asked even just Krarug to come along...Julen indulged in a brief and extremely satisfying visualization of what Krarug would have done to Snyde. Opening his mouth, Julen started to assure Uluki that she’d done nothing wrong. But at that moment, Rollick called her name, and as she turned her attention to him, Julen’s escorts considered that a dismissal. With Rosemary tagging along, they resumed their journey upstairs.
After Julen had been deposited in an empty room, the pair of Lightswords left to search for some bedding. Rosemary started to go with them, but Julen caught her hand, holding her back. Now that they were alone, he could finally tell her the truth. “Rosemary, wait. I really am fine. Look.” Without any trace of weakness, Julen stood up. “See?”
His revelation appeared to cause both relief and confusion. “I—I don’t understand. Why were they carrying you if you’re not hurt?”
“I needed to pretend,” Julen admitted. “I did get hurt. But Uluki healed me. Except, it’s not like Aorle healing me, because Uluki doesn’t have a license. She could be arrested for using magic.” Raising his wife’s hand to his lips, Julen placed a gentle kiss on her knuckles. “I’m telling you because I trust you. And because I can’t stand for you to think I’m suffering when I’m not. But you can’t say a word to anyone else. She did a good thing, a brave and selfless thing. We can’t let any harm come to her because of it.”
Rosemary bit her lip, then nodded, her eyes shining fiercely. “I won’t tell anyone,” she vowed. “But what about Aorle? Won’t he need to know?”
That presented a tricky dilemma. Julen wasn’t going to lie to Aorle. But, on the other hand, he didn’t want to betray Uluki. “I’ll speak with Uluki as soon as I have chance. Once she understands that being honest with Aorle presents no danger to her or her family, I’m sure she’ll do the right thing.”
The mention of Aorle reminded Julen that he hadn’t noticed him downstairs. “Where is Aorle, anyway? Still at House Anstrun?”
Rosemary shook her head. “He went looking for you.”
“What?!” Suddenly filled with concern for his friend, Julen started towards the door. “If Snyde set a trap for me, he might set another for him. I can’t just stand by and let him walk into it.”
“You’re not going anywhere.” Firmly, Rosemary caught hold of her husband’s arm. “First of all, you’re supposed to be injured. Second of all, if we start sending search parties to find other search parties, we’ll spend the rest of our lives in the shanty town. And finally, unlike certain people in this room, Aorle can look after himself.”
Julen wanted to protest further. But approaching footsteps announced the return of the two Lightswords. Despite beginning to feel like a child feigning illness in order to avoid his chores, Julen he still got back down on the floor and did his best to look wounded. The Lightswords laid out a piece of padded armor on the floor, which they lifted Julen onto, before spreading a cloak over him. Then they departed again, promising to fetch food and water.
After they’d gone, Rosemary sat down beside her husband, and repeated the question she’d asked much earlier. “What happened? Did you really get hurt defending that girl?”
Now, suddenly, the truth didn’t seem so appealing. But Julen forced himself to speak it. He recounted a fairly accurate description of what had happened, including his various mistakes, right up until he lost his sword in the battle against the six thugs. Here, his resolve finally failed him. He couldn’t torment Rosemary with the image of her husband lying helpless, getting beaten within an inch of his life. He just couldn’t. “Snyde roughed me up a bit. Nothing too bad, but enough that Uluki’s healing made a difference. And he stole my stuff.”
Only as he said it did the enormity of that statement really strike Julen. The armor was gone. His sword and dagger were gone. His money pouch was gone. The cord with his trophy rings was gone. And the locket, which not even Phelan Anstrun had been able to take from him, was gone. “Gods,” Julen groaned. “I’m so sorry, Rosemary. He took everything.”
“Not everything,” Rosemary comforted. Taking Julen’s hand in her own, she turned it, so he could see the simple iron band which still circled one finger. Somehow, Snyde had missed that -- Julen’s first trophy ring, which he wore separately from the others as a small honor paid to the man who had trained him. Seeing it raised Julen’s spirits considerably. Encouraged by his lift in mood, Rosemary continued. “We still have some money, plus my share of the plunder, stashed in your room at the bakery. Your gloves, shield, spear, and bow are waiting for you downstairs. And your gambeson. I finished your gambeson today.”
This final absurdity proved too much for Julen. Because he needed to release some of the emotion pent up inside him, because he couldn’t let himself cry, and because it really was kind of funny, he started to laugh. Rosemary hesitated a moment, giving him a curious look. But she must have decided that her husband wasn’t hysterical, because she joined him, wrapping her arms around him as she giggled.
They both managed to repress their mirth when the Lightswords returned for a final time, bringing water, rags, a bowl of stew, and even a pair of pants. Rosemary thanked the warriors profusely for their help, while they expressed their wishes for Julen’s swift recovery. After that, they left, and Julen was alone with his wife once more.
Pouring some of the water into a cup, Rosemary offered it to Julen. “I love you. As long as they don’t take you from me, nothing else they can steal matters.”
“I love you, too.” Julen sat up, accepting the cup from her. After using the first few swallows of water to rinse the filth from his mouth, Julen drank the rest, along with two additional cupfuls. Then, he felt something cold trickling down his spine. Shuddering, Julen glanced at Rosemary, who held a wet rag in her hand, gripping it just hard enough to squeeze individual drops of water onto his bare skin. A wicked light burned in her hazel eyes.
“Now that we’ve established that you’re alright,” she suggested, “perhaps you’ll let me help you wash up?”
Another drop fell against Julen, awakening all his senses as it caressed his flesh, and he felt his lips curve into a wide grin. “I thought you’d never ask.”