Mixail nodded. "Indeed. This is the estate of Lady Inditrude, my employer and your new owner." The look on his face was sardonic.
Falni eyed him, suspicious. She could not find a way to to express what she wondering, not to him. How could she say she thought she detected some amusement in his attitude toward his employer, and that it was not complimentary?
"I had better put you back into restraints," he said. "Oh no, you don't." She backed away, turned and run. Fleet as she was, she felt Mixail catch up to her and trip her with the end of his staff. She flew forward onto her belly on the narrow path. He landed on top of her. She struggled, but he was stronger and heavier than he had seemed. He managed to get the rope from his belt and wrapped around her wrists.
"You bastard!" she cried as he pulled her to her feet.
"Oh I am a bastard, am I? Any other man would have done a lot worse than trip you."
"Why don't you just let me go?" she demanded.
"And what do I tell the lady? That i spent all her gold on those two sorry excuses for men?" His smile was wry.
Falni stuck her chin up in the air. "I shall tell her you abused me on the road here?"
He chuckled. "I look forward to seeing her reaction... and then yours when she tells you how unlikely that would be."
She glared at him. "And why would that be?"
He leaned to her ear and whispered, "I don't care for women."
She stared at him until his meaning broke through. "Oh. I see. That's how you knew about that big handsome slave the noblewoman bought... did you know him?"
He shook his head. "I just know the type."
She couldn't help herself. She chuckled. "Oh my, won't she be unhappy..." She gave Mixail a quizzical look. "What will she do to him, once she knows?"
His look was not so cheerful now. "I'd rather not think about it."
He pulled Falni along after him as they approached the buildings of Lady Ingitrude's estate. Much like other wealthy person's steadings, Falni saw the one long low house surrounded by numerous smaller more utilitarian buildings. The house stood out not only because of its size but also its construction. It was wood planks instead of wattle and daub, and the roof was sod instead of thatch. It was far more like the buildings she knew from Jarlsfjord than in Críslicland. It seemed less rectangular than her own childhood home, so she was not surprised when the steward led Mixail and his human purchases into a small hall with doors leading to each of the outer wings. She guessed, and she was not mistaken, that one door led to kitchen, store rooms, work rooms, and servants quarters, and the other to the family's quarters.
The steward was a squat bearded man with what appeared a permanent scowl. "Lord, they stink. Take them back outside."
Two men servants came forward and started to lead Falni awa with the two male slaves. "No, not her," Mixail protested. "The Lady will want to see her right away."
Falni eyed him, wondering why he held her apart.
"What is so special about this one?" a female voice called from one of the doorways.
Mxail doffed his cap and bowed low. "My lady, she is too talented to work outside. I bought her to work in the house."
Hearing a "harrumph" from behind the lady, Falni peered into the dimness to see an older woman in servants' clothing glaring at her.
"Be silent, Hulda," Ingitrude snapped. To Mixail she said, "As you well know, young man, I have all the household help I need. What are these vaunted talents, anyway."
Falni spoke up. "My lady, I was kidnapped. My husband and his friends will..."
Her words were cut off by a blow from the scowling steward. "Quiet, slave!"
Ingitrude looked askance at the Breton. "Of course she was kidnapped. Who volunteers to be enslaved.? What is this about a husband and friends? Is someone going to come looking for her? I don't need that sort of trouble."
Mixail became apologetic. "She has been spouting this nonsense throughout the journey. The slavemaster swore he bought her from a pirate who said he got her in a raid on another steading.. she was a slave there too." Je indicated her torn clothing. "You can see from her clothing that though torn and dirty now, it was once well made and embellished. She is a talented needlewoman."
Another blow but off Falni's attempt to explain that someone else made her garb and decorated it. Mixail leaned to her ear and whispered, "Shut up, you stupid bitch. If she thinks you are talented, she will treat you better."
"What did you just say to her?" Ingitrude asked him.
Mixail answered without hesitation, "That she would get more of the same as she got on the journey if she did not hold her tongue.
Ingitrude laughed. "She doesn't look like she was beaten any time in the past couple of weeks. And I know you did not have your way with her. So I can't imagine what she has to be afraid of." She came forward to examine the Norsewoman. Ingitrude was taller than she, about fifteen years her senior, but a handsome woman nonetheless. She was obviously very wealthy. Falni pulled back when the woman started to poke and prod her like a prize calf. "Feisty little one, isn't she?" She turned to her steward. "Hruadlund, take her to the women's quarters and keep her tied up. She can calm down there."
The man grabbed Falni and dragged her out the door just as the mistress of the estate asked Mixail how much gold he had spent on the slaves. She did not hear the Breton's answer, but she did hear Ingitrude's angry scolds in response.