Just before the evening meal, Egeria heard an equis neigh. Radan opened the door, shouted a greeting and ran into the yard. “Jetan, come to the house. Why did you take so long to reach the farm?”
Egeria watched the men. The newcomer’s green eyes shone with laughter. His light red hair hung in a braid to the middle of his back.
“Been busy. Stopped here and there to earn coins by tending beasts.” He pointed to the equis. “This beauty was a gift from the Thamaturg after I treated his favorite mare. I’ve coins aplenty.”
Radan laughed. “For poor boys we’ve prospered. Look at my farm and house. Makes Pa’s look like nothing to brag about. There’s an orchard and a woodlot across the road that’s mine, too. Trag, take his equis.”
They brushed past Egeria. Their faces showed they shared a heritage, but the younger man was taller and leaner. He moved with a lithe grace. His eyes held none of the anger that smoldered in his brother’s eyes.
“Set a second place,” Radan ordered. “Jetan comes to stay a bit. Tave, fetch the jug of fermenti and move your things into Trag’s room.”
Malara offered hot herb-scented cloths. The man washed and sat at the table.
“My thanks, lady,” Jetan said.
Radan punched his brother’s shoulder. “No thanks needed. She does what is right to honor a guest. Have you grown soft since I last saw you?”
Jetan shook his head. “Just using the manners Ma taught us.”
“The family? Have they recovered from the earth shakes?”
“Last I heard. Not been home for more than a year. Ma was ailing. Pa beat her bad when the last born was a girl. Couldn’t help her so I left. I won’t go back.”
Radan poured fermenti into two small cups. “Neither will I. We’re best gone. Nothing for us there.” He touched his cup to Jetan’s. “You can find a place here. Lots of families need a man with coins to pay their taxes.”
Egeria placed a platter of fried pullet and hearth-roasted taters on the table. Radan gestured to Malara. “She’s first woman of my court. Carries my quickened seed.” He pulled her onto his lap. “Next week I’ll go to
and fetch a second woman.”
Jetan pointed to Egeria. “And her?”
Radan snorted. “Moon-touched. Locals believe to bed her will bring ill luck. Don’t want to stir them so I leave her alone.”
Jetan lifted a piece of pullet from the plate. Moon-touched? He could swear he’d seen awareness in her blue eyes. His gaze followed her movements at the hearth and his body heated with thoughts of plowing her. If he could win her, there would be no thoughts of sharing with Radan. Where did she sleep? Though if she was proscribed, he’d have to be wary. “Maybe I should visit the pens. Been near three months without a woman.”
Radan shook his head. “One of us must stay and I’ve a great need to get away. Since taking the farm at harvest, I’ve been no further than the village. Spend some days here and see if there’s a woman on one of the nearby farms you fancy.”
Jetan’s gaze drifted to Egeria. She walked like a filly newly come into season. Moon-touched? Maybe and maybe not.