Gwendolyn walked down the stairs whistling cheerfully. Ben Braddock was sitting on the steps near the floor. "Had a pleasant half-hour?"
Gwen's eyes went wide. "That long?"
"Possibly longer," said Braddock, gesturing to a candle nearby. "I'm making a rough estimate."
"I heard about people who can do that," said Gwendolyn. "But I always thought they were a myth. Like cyclops, or those people who don't eat meat." She thought she detected a bit of amusement on Braddock's part, so she moved forward. "But, yes, yes, it waas quite pleasant. However long it was."
The bald man nodded. "Good. Now, we've got a small village with what I can only assume to be an intentionally indefensible position, so that your ancestors could raise it to the ground with no trouble if they decided to hold back taxes."
Gwen raised an eyebrow. "Have you been reading the Laodegan family chronicles?"
"Just a good guesser," said Braddock. "And the soldiers have returned--or some of them, at least. Now... we can probably hold this lot off for... well, a good long time. But others will come. And probably sooner than we'd like. Now, as Captain of the Scarlet Shrikes, I can help you prepare for that, but I will need you to help me help you. Is that clear?"
"Don't know, but it's not opaque," said Gwen.
The mercenary captain frowned. "I'll take that as a 'yes'. I have questions I'll want answered. To begin with..." He coughed. "What sort of shape is my lieutenant in?"
Gwendolyn blinked. "Captain Braddock, are you saying I strike you as some sort of man-devouring she-fiend who can ride a man to the brink of death? I, a Tintagelian lady of refinement?"
Braddock stood up and crossed his arms. "Do I have to say it?"
Gwendolyn bit her lip and looked away. "I have to say--that's kind of flattering. At least, to my mind..."