Once washed, Kid’s hair proved to be the promised white-blond and almost seemed to glow in the low light of the cottage fires. What also now showed were the bruises and scars on his too-thin arms and legs.
Nora had come up with a men’s shirt, supplemented with a blanket Alec somehow managed to wrap and drape into a vague approximation of a toga, but warmer.
He scampered into the kitchen as soon as he was set free and scrambled onto the bench at the table in the centre of the room.
Nora looked over at him, “When was the last time you ate?”
“Captain Alec gave me some bread when he told me to stay hiding in the cave. I ate it slowly because sometimes when I don’t eat for long times, the food doesn’t always like to stay in my stomach.”
Nora gave a strained smile, “That’s very sensible. I have some bread, some meat and cheese, and vegetable soup. I would be good to have just a little bit of each and to eat them slowly as well.”
Nathan spoke up at Kid’s sad expression, “Remember, you only have a few hours till breakfast and that time’s just for sleeping, no running around. When you’re at Nora’s you eat several meals a day.”
Kid’s face brightened at the thought of such bounty and set to with carefully small bites and pauses.
“Bring him a treat when you come out tomorrow. Nothing rich, but he could do with something sweet as well as the simpler fare I’ll build him up on.”
“On that note Kid, we need to get back to the castle before we’re missed. Are you okay to stay here and eat more food and sleep?”
“You’ll come back?”
“I will be back tomorrow afternoon.”
“Okay, Nora’s nice, but you have to come back.”
“And bring The Lady.”
“That might be a little more difficult We’ll talk about it another time.”
Kid pouted, “That means no. I want to tell her she’ll be alright and we can hide together and play games.”
“It means not right now but maybe and you should finish your dinner.”
Nora accompanied them to the door, “He’s very trusting.”
“I think his talent is very good at picking up intent, and he’s learned to listen to it.”
“Fortunate. Speaking as a healer, I wanted to warn you, he’s likely to get quite ill in the next few days. Purely a reaction to all the things he’s been through, combined with system weakness from lack of food and sleep. He’s finally feeling safe enough to relax and his body is probably going to crash to try and get some decent healing in.”
“Is there anything you need us to bring?”
“Clothes eventually. His own food pouch and water bottle. People who’ve been frequently deprived of food will often hoard it when it’s available, just in case. Knowing he’s allowed, and has a place to keep and access food at any time will be a help in the next little while I think.”
Nathan shook his head as they re-saddled the horses, “I saw the kid’s legs Alec. Even putting aside stumbles in the caverns, I don’t like to think about what he might have been through.”
“We’ll get to the bottom of it. More of your spy stuff my friend. Although it seems the rumours that got us sent here aren’t as baseless as I’d hoped.”
“I don’t recall us being sent so much as you announcing we were going.”
“Same end result and this way I have more control.”
“When did you turn into a politician?”
“I didn’t. Military strategy isn’t just for the battle field you know. In fact it’s far more effective when deployed before a battlefield is needed.”
They headed into the late evening forest and back to the castle.