While Aloysius talked with Wynne in the stables, Sioned busied herself collecting hazelnuts at the cuff of the Tywyll. Bryngaer was well north of her, and it would take about two hours to get back home. She knew it was a ‘busy’ job to keep her from doing anything stupid, and she didn’t know what to think of that. Either way, hazelnuts were her favorite.
A feeling of someone near made her shiver. She scanned the dusk scene of the deep and dark forest, her heart pounding against her chest.
“It’s just the wildlife,” she mumbled to herself, shifting her basket on her forearm. “I’m simply paranoid.”
Nevertheless, that rustling behind her glade sounded very much like a person crunching through the foliage.
“Easy,” she whispered to herself. “Just a… a deer. Yes, it’s a deer, stupid Sioned. Relax, now.”
“I’m not a deer.”
She gasped and her heart stopped. Protector, if you’re up there, guide me now.
That familiar stranger from the stables appeared, this time looking at her gently. “Helô,” he said with a nod. “Lovely night.”
Sioned clutched her basket tighter.
The man walked closer. “You’re Sioned Cadwallader, correct?”
Why does you know my name? She held her breath, hoping she would disappear. “Aye.”
“I’m Breixo.” He smiled, but it was not a warm kind. It was gentle, like it was unpracticed and sad. “I’ve seen you around.”
“Oh?” Sioned stuttered. “Why are you here?”
Breixo shrugged. “I don’t know. Why are you?”
Sioned straightened. “I’m doing the very important job of fetching some hazelnuts for the people of Caer Bryngaer.” Of course, it didn’t sound important at all. She sighed and looked down at her shoes. “To be honest, the milkmaids just don’t want me around right now.”
He stared her straight in the eye and squinted. Suddenly she could hardly feel her basket in her hands. What was he doing to her? His gaze was mesmerizing.
“The milkmaids don’t trust you to do one thing right. No one does. Your father, the gods protect his soul, died and left you no inheritance. Your mother squandered what little money the two of you had left to drown her sorrows, and you found yourself at the dispense of the stables. You have to support your own mother now, and you’re desperate to find yourself a husband, so that you can escape the world that is your life.”
Sioned felt as if someone had punched her in the stomach. Tears clouded her vision. How did this man know so much about her? She was fearful and broken. She never wanted to remember that.
“And,” Breixo continued, “the servants find you too incompetent to pay you enough. Your mother is in good health because of you, but you, you have to eat the scraps off her plate. She eats to her content while you watch her hungrily. If you feed yourself first, your mother will punish you. You’re starving every morning when you come to work and you’re starving when you cry yourself to sleep.”
Sioned sobbed. “Stop it, stop it now!” she shrieked, falling to her knees. “What do you want with me?”
“I want to help you,” Breixo answered innocently, crouching to reach eye contact. He looked sincere and soft. “You don’t deserve any of that. Your mother treats you like a slave. I should know.”
Sioned gazed into his eyes. Was his hurt from years treated like cattle, something to be bought, sold, and slaughtered as saw fit? His pain was deeply burned in his deep brown eyes. The overwhelming feeling of anguish and sympathy for the man made her sob harder.
“You can’t help me,” Sioned said sourly. “I’m bound to live with my mother until she dies!”
Breixo shrugged. “Or you can come with me and help me.” He gazed into her eyes. “I need your help, Sioned.” He reached out for her hand. “Please, Sioned. I need you.”
Someone needs me, she thought. That’s impossible, no one needs me. They’re all better off when I’m not around them. Everyone knows that. I- I know that.
“Don’t listen to your thoughts, Sioned.” Breixo’s voice became more and more desperate. “We need to go. Then you won’t be treated like a slave. Wouldn’t that be better?”
“I can’t… I’m far from the person you need.” She blinked away tears.
“No, you’re not,” Breixo held her face in both his hands. “You can help me. I need you.”
Hearing him say, ‘need, need, I need, we need’ was desperation pounding in her head. She needed to escape from her mother. She needed to get away from the stables. She needed to free herself. She needed Breixo as much as he said he needed her.
“Please, Sioned,” pleaded Breixo helplessly. “You’re a hope I have.”
She cocked her head. “What do I need to do?”
Breixo had to hide a smile as he parted from her and sighed. She was so completely gullible, she would listen to Alllisan Alththaeban - Serpent’s Tongue - a basic hypnosis. It took little energy, for it took no concentration to be desperate. Serpent’s Tongue affected broken souls the best, for their desperation was riled by the hypnotist’s own. So, Breixo pinpointed Sioned from the stables and followed her closely. He knew enough to attack her, then strike with Serpent’s Tongue. That was why it worked so quickly. Every word he said was so strategically placed, that not even Chance could compare with an Udaen hypnotist.
Ah, Chance, now I know how you feel being the smart one.
“It will be hard,” he stated, turning back to her, “but I know a beautiful, strong woman like yourself can do it.”
Flattery was the next step.
Sioned nodded slowly. “And?”
“I need you to find out what you can about the Palace and the actions of the queen through your status as a Keep servant.”
She frowned. “You want me to spy? On the queen?”
“Please, Sioned,” Breixo thickened his voice with tears he summoned. “They’ll find me and take me back to all those dreadful places if you don’t agree!” He allowed the fake tears to fall and he made himself sob uncontrollably. “You don’t… know what it’s like… to be on a slave ship, to be whipped for every movement you make… it’s hell on the face of the Earth!”
“It’s all right, Breixo,” cooed Sioned, tenderly resting an arm on his shoulders. “You’re safe with me. I’ll do whatever you ask.”
Perfect, he thought, calming himself. “It’s all to be careful, Sioned,” he explained. “The queen is secretly still running the slave company underground. I barely escaped a few weeks ago. I only want to save my brethren from being treated like things all their lives.”
She nodded with a shy smile. “You’re honorable, Breixo. Very, very honorable.”
Breixo sighed shakily. “We have work to do.”
I really didn't like Brexo when I wrote this.