Recovery and Rations: from "The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu"

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Recovery and Rations     
                Rautu heard the shuffling sounds of the pelts grazing along the ground and he turned to find the commander attempting lift her thick legs. He went to her side and placed his hand beneath her back to support her. “Are you able to move?”
                “Somewhat.” Her limbs moved well enough on their own, having all the benefit of wiggling fingers and toes, but when she placed her hand on the ground to give her leverage in sitting up, she found that though they seemed hale, they had been severely weakened by the toxin and could not sustain her weight. “Unfortunately, to do so, I shall probably need your assistance,” she added. “Attempting to lift me will be a difficult task for you.”
                “I carried you here, woman,” Rautu contended.
                “Over your shoulder or by the hair?”
                The giant huffed at her remarks and helped her to the wall where she could lean against it with some comfort and have the advantage of the table beside her. He placed one of the flatbreads on the table and sat with his back against the adjacent wall. “You must eat to restore your strength.”
                “Is this another revolting item you’re going to force into my mouth? Because if you are, I shall refuse to eat it until you fulfill the means of such a promise.”
                Rautu pointed fervently to the bread, beckoning her to eat it with a pursed lip and a fiendish eye.
                “May I ask what this sandal-like contrivance is?” she said warily, taking the provisions into her hand.
                “These are Sindhaas, breads mixed with herbs to ensure vitality. They are made in the stone ovens of the Mhojhudarron and given to all Ambesari and Mivaari living in the temple.”
                The commander sniffed the crust and determined that it at least smelled edible. Upon biting into it, however, she found that she had been mistaken.“By the Gods,” she swore, grimacing as she chewed. She swallowed and stared at the remainder of the bread. “Oh, that was rather appalling.”
                “Sindhaas are more tolerable than what Amghari are made to eat,” the giant grunted.
                “I am terrified to ask you about that considering how dry and tasteless this is.”
                “Steam grains wrapped in leaves, left to bake in the sun,” Rautu said in disdain, scowling at his Sindhaas as he tore into it.
                “That doesn’t sound terrible.”
                “It is when being forced to eat it every day for every meal.”
                “Oh, you poor creature,” she said laughingly. “Now I should no longer wonder why you happily ate the cured pork I had given you nor why you chose to challenge our men for their rations.” She sighed, scrutinizing the remainder of the flatbread, and knew she must cultivate the courage to finish it. She imagined it was some of the maple bread she had been used to eat while in Tyferrim, but when the crust touched her lips, she could not bring herself to take another bite. “You are fortunate I was so kindly in sharing my rations with you after you had done well to eat everyone else’s,” she added, laying the bread aside. “No wonder you never strayed far from me while at camp.”
                 “You were the only one I could tolerate. The ignorance of your people was insufferable.”
                “Such harshness for those who adored your company so well,” she snickered behind a raised hand.
                “They claimed to be bred as warriors and yet they required rest after a walk,” the giant said heatedly. “Our Amghari are well-trained in their art and do not need rest.”
                “I have seen you sleep on occasion, Rau.”
                “I rest during my meditations,” he retorted. “Your soldiers required rest every night when there were cities to be scouted and battles to be planned.”
                “How rude of them to need sleep after fending off an invasion. Perhaps if you would have shared your people’s clandestine practices-“
                “Your men would not survive the training of an Amghari,” he grunted. “You are able to withstand many days without food or rest.”
                “A woman can do what a man cannot. How shocking,” she said, flashing her eyes.
                “Perhaps what a man of your kingdom cannot.”
                “Well, it is quite astounding what one learns while in poverty. My father and I worked without sleep or food numerous times. We had minor resistance training when I join the ranks but they were far too simple for anything I had already withstood. Commander Vyrdin was a cruel master all the same,” she said with a reminiscent smile. “He tormented poor Alasdair well enough. After he was killed, however, we were forced to accept anyone into the ranks with a willingness to defend their home. I am aware it is not the usual way to win a war, but with a few thousand peasants, a few captains and one rampant giant, we did manage to do well. A win is a win, wouldn’t you agree?”
                “No, I would not,” Rautu pouted, folding his arms. “Eat your Sindhaas, woman.”
                 She moaned, took the bread into her hand, and gnawed on its brittle edges with contempt. She softened it as much as was possible but even the sections which contained the pockets of herbs were objectionable. The bread was at first unpleasant and then unendurable. She had finished half when she entreated Rautu to allow her to stop. All her beseeching could not save her from the powerful hands of the colossal benefactor at her side. In her fragile state, she was unable to resist the unassailable gasp clutching her chin. Her mouth was held open and the giant warned her one last time to obey him.
                “Eat, woman,” he bellowed, leaning over her, prepared to force the remainder of her meal into her opened mouth.
                “I would,” she said in a strained voice, “But there is a giant attached to my chin. Perhaps if he would be so gracious as to remove the cured pork from my pack, I would share it with him.”
                Rautu’s eyes blazed in senseless joy. He released his companion and hastened toward her effects, rummaging through them with great anticipation. He found a small brown parchment parcel and assumed that this was the source of his happiness. He sniffed the outside of the paper and hummed in delight for the exquisite scent. He tore open the barrier between him and his prize and he was compelled to smile when remarking the numerous slices of meat in his hands. He began eating them immediately, leaving no time between one slice and the next to savour that which he had longed to again taste. The superior fare of Frewyn had been the chief of his consolation during the war, and if he was to remain on the islands with all its splendor, all its comforting familiarity, all its temperate climate, and all its horrendous food, he would relish this last ember of bliss before being made to suffer a diet of steamed grains again.             
                “I did say share,” the commander called out
                “I am responsible for securing your life,” he replied with a full mouth and without turning around.
                “And I thanked you accordingly.” The commander’s remonstrations were unanswered, and she scoffed in aversion as she watched the voracious beast consume nearly all the provisions she had been saving for the return journey. “I know you shall not be satisfied until you have all the tribute in the world, but that pork does belong to me, Rau.”
                “You are not permitted to have meat while taking our medicines,” he said, dismissively.
                She peered at him in circumspection. “I don’t recall you mentioning that stipulation before. I find it convenient that you should care to do so now.”
                The giant paused, his cheeks filled with pork. “And?” he said, shoving another slice into his mouth.
                “And,” she laughed, “You’re going to allow me to starve on your inedible bread while you skulk off with something that was meant for both of us?”
                “Savior, indeed,” the commander fleered. “You have saved me from one means of death only to plunge me into another.”
                The giant had some pity for her due to how grateful he was that she had given him a last glimmer of gastronomic joy, and in his charitable appreciation he accorded her one piece.
                “Oh, is that all?” she said, quickly plunging the slice into her mouth before the giant could change his mind.
                “You are much smaller than I am, woman. You do not require the same amount of nourishment,” was Rautu’s defensible excuse.
                “I need more than usual, Rau. I’m supposed to be mending,” she professed, holding her hand out, expecting her palm to be graced with more.
                The Den Asaan put the last piece into his mouth and untied the leaves around her wrist to show that her injury had been cured. Her argument had been deflated and all her claimed of possession and illness were now irrelevant. He thrummed and exhaled, swallowing his last slice of culinary contentment for what he believed to be a very long time to come.