Oh. And tomorrow is my birthday.
Anyhoo...now that Paks is cleared and safely hospitalized, they're going to intervew Stephi, the guy who might have been drugged into hurting her. He testifies that he was brought ale while he was arranging for the return of a captian--something he actually wanted, because the Duke in charge of the company is apparently also in charge of a first rate brewery. He was brought more ale than he liked, so he saved some of it and drank the rest. About an hour later, he felt very irritable and then blacked out until he woke up back in the infirmary.
They test the ale he saved, and the tanker he drank out of, and don't find anything. He then adds that he also stored a love potion in his saddle bags.
He continues that it's a really basic potion that folk can get anywhere, but they all go trudging off to check his saddlebags anyway. They find the flask of saved ale mostly empty, and the potion bottle completely empty and stinking to high heaven of something Stephi doesn't remember buying. The ale flask is also full of the stuff. But he doesn't remember drinking from the flask, which means everything is still very fucking confused. He gets carted off to the jail cells on his and his captians own insistance because, drugs or not, he did something really, really terrible and can't escape it.
Stephi thought a moment. "Well—" he looked embarrassed. "I do have a— sort of a— a love potion. I got it from an old granny down the other side of Vérella. But— there's not much to it, sir, really, and besides, I didn't take it..."
The POV switches back to Paks just long enough for the council to make sure she wasn't raped. She wasn't penetrated. Switch back to the council.
"I hope so. She's a good one, Kolya— almost as good as who she looks like— Tamarrion— if nothing goes wrong."
Kolya looked thoughtful. "Does she? I couldn't tell, with all those bruises. You know you can't protect the good ones, Stammel; it ruins them in the long run." "I know. But this kind of thing—"
"If she's that good it won't stop her. Nothing stopped Tamarrion. Wait and see— I'd best go."
And this is your first clue (if the shit-tastic events preceeding this chapter weren't, anyway) that Something Is Up with the Company. But this has a LOOOOOOOOOOOoooooOOOOOONG ass payoff so just chalk this up for future reference and move on.
Chapter six opens with the punishment of Korryn, his buddy Jens, and Stephi.
A heavy timbered framework on a low platform was centered before them; on the right stood the witnesses, and on the left was a quartet of guards near a smoking brazier one holding a straight razor, and one a whip. Paks recognized the dark guard who had held her. She looked at the razor and whip, and shivered.
This does not bode well for Korryn the shithead. The charges are read out, Jens is to be whipped and shaved, Korryn is to be shaved everywhere, whipped forty times, and then branded and kicked out of the Duke's territory. And no, we haven't met the Duke yet. Jens is punished first:
"One," said Captain Valichi. The whip smacked against his back; Paks saw his face twist in pain . "Two." Another smack. He gave a strangled cry . "Three. Four." The captain paused. "Sergeant Stammel— do you want the parting blow?"
"No, sir. Not for this one."
Then it's Korryn's turn. He's beaten bloody well past the point where Paks can watch--because remember, she was told that she would be punished this way for picking the fight with Stephi--and then this happens:
Paks watched, fascinated and horrified, as he braced himself and gave Korryn five powerful blows. Korryn's body jerked, and he gave a last scream and fainted. Stammel ran his hand down Korryn's back and returned to his unit, holding his bloody hand out . He faced Paks, and touched it to her forehead as her eyes widened in shock. "By this blood your injury is avenged," he said, and took up his position again.Yeah. It ain't safe here, kids.
Then the Captian sits Paks down for a little chat. She's done nothing wrong, though he does recommend she learn what her curses mean before she calls somebody names. He asks her if she wants to stay in the company; she does. And then he lets Stephi come in to apologize to Paks in person.
I don't like this part. Paks doesn't like this part. But she agrees to let him apologize because she feels it is the right thing to do. It's short. He apologizes. She accepts no blame. Then he's shipped off to their main offices for trial by the Duke and both he and Korryn are pretty much out of the story either permanently or for a good long while.
Paks rejoins the company. She's still too hurt for weapons drills, but she marches and does the chores, and almost everybody avoids her.
One of the female soldiers, Barryani, begins badgering Paks about how she would have handled the rape attempt--mostly by talking about the number of ways she would have injured Stephi, or Korryn, or both.
"You should have poked an eye out," she began one afternoon, as they walked back to the main stronghold with a load of firewood.
Paks shook her head. "I was trying to get away."
"That's stupid . Anyone can get mauled trying to get away . Attack on your own. If you'd gotten an eye—"
"I'd have been in worse trouble, Barra." Paks checked the mule she was leading, and shoved one length of wood back into place.This conversation continues, with Paks saying less and less, until one of the other characters tells Barra to put a sock in it, and the conversation shifts back over to a discussion of Gods and Saints and faith.
"No. I thought Falk was a sort of saint, like Gird."
"Saints!" snorted Barra from Vik's other side.
"He is," said Vik seriously. "And Barra— I wouldn't scoff at them. Maybe they're far above us—but they have power."
"The gods have power," said Barra. "I'm not like Effa— I don't believe that men become gods when they die. And I'd rather be alive anyway."
Anyhoo, Paks's group is then taken to the Duke's East, a section of the territory where one of the minister/judges from Paks's trial lives with her apple orchards. Her name is Kolya, and while Paks is at the orchard helping with the harvest, she overhears Kolya talking about that Tammarion person:
"— wouldn't have happened like that at all," she heard Stammel say. "She would have made sure first, before she called for a ban."
Kolya snorted . "In her day, you'd never have brought back someone like Korryn at all, would you?"
"No— you're right about that. But things are different." Paks saw his head shake, far below, then he peered up to see that she was working. She wondered if the mysterious Tamarrion had been a sergeant— even a captain— but something in their tone kept her from asking.Eventually Paks earns her way up to guard duty, and her commanders begin educating them in terms of tactics and whatnot. The training on mounted tactics is amusing. They're taught on mules who rather like to kick. Eventually she notices that anyone who wants to leave is allowed to; no muss, no fuss, no questions. You want out? Here's your pay, there's the gate. Bye. Stammal explains that it's because they want people who want to be there, who are smart enough to avoid serious injury, who have the guts to stay after something like Korryn's punishment. They want dependable people who want to fight, because those dependable people are probably all that's going to keep each other alive. Paks looks around at her friends and realizes that some of them are probably going to die the first time they go into battle, and that their deaths might be her fault...
And the chapter ends with a hint that the next chapter is probably going to be that first campaign.