It was always there. It's just that I wasn't ready to see it before now.
Their room was serviceable, if dingy, with four small beds and a washstand. The innkeeper paused at the door. “Supper in the common room from sunset until the food runs out. No refunds for missed meals. Tub room's downstairs. First come, first served.”
As the man left, Fanussh smirked and said something in Tisree that made Zev laugh.
Lilliane cocked her head and Zev translated.
“It's an old proverb. Something like 'it looks like someone tracked sand in his jiir.'”
“We have a similar saying,” she said. “Except ours goes, 'Who took a piss in your tea?'”
“How could you tell?” Zev asked.
She snorted. “This from a man who drinks fermented mare's milk.” The memory of uluul nearly made her gag. But healer's tea--she would trade a purse full of silver coins for a cup right now. She sighed. Tisreen travelers wouldn't be drinking healer's tea and in the common room, she had to be Tisreen. The prospect of a hot bath was almost as enticing.
“I don't trust our host. Fanussh, stay here with Kirith and our things. I'll escort Lilliane to the tub room.”
“I think I can find it myself.” What was he going to do? Guard the door? She looked up and saw Kirith frowning at her.
“You are my wife and I will not leave you to wander alone in a stranger's home,” he said, eyes narrowed.
Lilliane would have scoffed at him had she not lived and traveled with this man for the past moon. She quelled her impulse toward anger. This wasn't about her, but about his fear for her.
“Alright, then. Let's go.”
Since they left the true desert behind, Zev had become more and more uneasy. She could see it in the tension of his muscles, the way his hand checked and rechecked the presence of his sword, and the arousal of all his senses. He walked close beside her, his right hand resting on the sword's hilt, his eyes scanning the dark corridor. She pushed out with her third-sight. There were other guests at the inn, all closeted in their rooms, and none especially angry or hostile. They were just people, with typical complaints. Hungry. Tired. Nothing to warrant Zev's watchfulness.
He took a position just outside the tub room as the attendant escorted her inside.
“I don't speak no Tisree, lady,” she said.
“I speak Rimlish,” Lilliane said.
“The water's almost hot.” There was a small planked tub in the center of the cramped room. Beside it, a large kettle hung from a frame suspended over a fire pit. “You can change there.” The woman jutted out her chin indicating a worn bench next to the tub. Several nails sticking out of the wall were the only hooks.
Lilliane thought of the tiled tub room in Resi's house and sighed. At least the water would be hot. She took off her cloak, but hesitated, her hands on the knot of her head scarf. There was no way to maintain the fiction of her Tisreen identity once her hair was exposed.
The attendant put on heavy lined gloved and positioned the kettle's spout over the tub. With an easy push, the kettle tipped and emptied its steamy water into the tub.
“What are you waiting for?” she asked. “We don't got all day.”
Lilliane shrugged. “Can I have privacy?”
“It don't matter to me none. Look--here's the drain. Don't be slopping water over the side.” The woman paused, looking into Lilliane's face. She went still, her face losing its disinterested mask. “You're no Tisreen. Not with them eyes.”
Lilliane sighed and turned away from the woman's stare.
The attendant pulled off Lilliane's head scarf and her voice hushed. “How old were you when they stole you?” she asked.