When I woke up in the morning, it was to the sound of several hushed giggles. I sat up, startled by the change in surroundings, having forgotten where I’d been. There, outside the door of the house, were a group of girls, and again they were pointing and laughing at me. Loina brought me my clothes, and I was happy to have them back, I tell you! Not that I had anything to be ashamed of! It was for their sake!
Petton had already gone out, so I wandered around the town looking for him. I ran into Captain instead. I was in no mood to deal with him. Just seeing his face, well, you know what it is like when you are angry with someone. I had heard rumors that he was not treating Baruka well, but she was nowhere to be seen. Captain saw me, smiled, and waved. Can you believe that fool? I went right up to him and gave him a piece of my mind! I told him that he had better not lay a finger on Baruka if he knew what was good for him! That is about all I can remember because when I came too, I was back at Loina’s house!
Petton was there, holding a wet cloth over my left eye that smelled sweet. “Just stay still!” he hollered at me when I tried to get up. “You fully fool; you are lucky to be alive!”
“What happened?” I asked, but I sort of knew already. Petton then went on to explain that after running my mouth off, I challenged Captain to a fight. Then I just stood there like a fully full while he sucker-punched me in the face! You would think you’d see it coming, but no. It was like, POW! That is good technique! No grand movements; just strike! BAM! Then I hit the ground, and Petton had to drag my fully self back home.
Thanks to whatever that medicine was, my eye did not swell shut, but it hurt like nothing I had felt before. I was ready then to just go home. What was the point in staying? I mean, really? I had been pretending to be a mercenary this whole time, but all it had gotten me was a sore eye and humiliation. That’s the thing about it; I was a fake, and I knew it. When you are faking your life, it is exhausting. You wake up, and it is another day of pretending you know what you are doing, pretending you are confident, pretending that you fit in. My swollen eye was proof enough that I didn’t. I didn’t fit in. I was a fully loser, and I was ready to just start my trek back down the mountain alone. It didn’t even matter one way or the other if I made it or if I fell to my death; Made no difference at this point because I was done!
You would think Petton would have tried to stop me, but he didn’t! Some friend! He just told me that if I wanted to quit, I ought to get moving right away before Captain finished me off for good. Then he left without another word, and it was just Loina and me. She took that sweet smelling rag from me and dipped it in a bowl. Then she handed it back to me and said, “It was nice of you to try to help Baruka like that. You know, Captain has been telling everyone that they are married, but the way Baruka acts, I wonder if it is true.”
I was about to confirm that it was indeed false, but thinking better of it, I just muttered, “I wouldn’t know.”
“In a few days, the Elders will arrive from the other towns. They have been summoned to confirm the marriage and to place Captain in his rightful place among them. He speaks of a peace treaty between our people. If the Elders sense that he is lying, there could be many unpleasantries.”
“That is an understatement!” I thought to myself, but I just kept quiet because I did not want to get Captain in trouble.
“Tell me the truth, Jack,” she whispered. “Is Captain really who he says that he is? Is he truly Ramoth?”
I just about passed out again. “Ramoth?” I asked.
“Yes, he has dropped hints that he is Ramoth and that the peace treaty would spare us all!”
Now I knew that Ramoth was all the way back in Pent, probably having a nice drink in front of his fireplace, but I could not tell her that. I might have been mad at Captain, but I didn’t want to get my friends killed either. They must have misunderstood, so I said, “Well, Captain has the authority of Ramoth.”
Loina seemed pleased with that. She pushed me back down onto the mat I was lying on and begged, “Do not go! Stay here with me! Our people will be as one soon!”
I was not sure what to do, so I pretended to pass out, and I stayed like that until the morning!