It was going to be repeated, she realized, for the rest of her life. Wherever she went, especially now that she was back in Greece, she would be questioned. So she had better get used to saying it out loud. A tear trickled down her cheek.
“She’s dead.” she muttered out loud to no one. She looked around at the doors in the fading light of day. Which one had the girl said? Did it really matter? She started to the left and opened the first door.

The room had a soft glow from candles and the last of the spring sun. She stepped inside, relieved to be away from the smell of the stairway. She looked around the room. It appeared to be some sort of drawing room or antechamber. She sniffed and wiped the tears from her eyes, her vision blurred.
A sudden motion told her she wasn’t alone. A woman appeared out of the bedroom, wearing a thin shift and carrying something in her hands, which she promptly dropped at the sight of Gabrielle.

Gabrielle stared dully at the woman. She appeared- shocked. Of course. Gabrielle was in the wrong room. She dropped her eyes.
“My mistake.” she choked out, and felt her stomach tighten for another heave. She groaned.
“Are you….are you hurt?” the shocked expression changed to one of concern. She crossed over to Gabrielle quickly, reached out, and then drew back.
“Sick.” the heaves would not be denied, and Gabrielle dropped the cape, clutching her stomach.
“Sit down.” the woman reached out and gracefully guided her to the floor. Gabrielle rocked forward, heaving air and blushing with embarrassment. Hands softly draped the cape back over her shoulders.
“What did you eat today?” a gentle voice floated from above her head.
There was a timid knock at the door, and the servant girl slid in. Her eyes widened at the sight on the floor.
“Oh miss, you shouldn’t be in here with her-” she started but was cut off by the woman.
“Stop it, you ignorant creature. If you were worth anything you would have brought her some peppermint tea already.” the woman snapped curtly at the girl at she took the washbowl from her hands.
“Now go make yourself useful and bring that tea.”
“The King won’t like this.” the girl whimpered.
“Then let him hang me. As I’m sure he’ll do anyway…now go!”
The girl fled the room, slamming the door.
“A rat on two legs, if I ever saw one.” she hissed under her breath at the door. She sat the washbowl down next to Gabrielle. Gabrielle drew herself up to a squat and looked at her.
“She’s human, you know. You should treat her like one.”
“Human, like you?” the woman’s voice was even, the anger gone.
“Like me. Thank you.” Gabrielle said as the woman handed her a wet cloth. They sat on the floor together, the woman wringing out the cloth for Gabrielle.
“I’m sorry to have disturbed you like this. I’ll go to my room as soon as…as soon as I know where it is. I forgot.” the warm cloth soothed her skin, and she rubbed her eyes with it. “By the way, my name is Gabrielle.”
“Dantien.” the voice was near her ear, and she felt another cloth sponging the sweat from the hair at her neck. “Gabrielle, you need a real bath…I don’t suppose you know where your clothes are either?”
Gabrielle took the cloth from her eyes. “In the stable with my horse, I imagine.”
Dantien dropped her cloth back into the washbowl and stood, her long hair cascading to one side as she shook her head. “I’ve got something you can wear. I’ll be right back.”
Gabrielle watched as Dantien went into the bedroom, noting bruises along the woman’s slender legs. Her hair was long and wavy, matching the dark timbre of her eyes. Dark eyes, dark like a strong ale…
Another knock at the door and the girl entered again, with a pot of tea on a tray. She sat it on the table and whispered to Gabrielle “You need to get out of here.”
Dantien appeared in the bedroom doorway and the girl drew back. Dantien looked calmly at the girl.
“Thank you for the tea.” she said, then looked at Gabrielle, who was smiling, and back to the girl, whose eyes had gotten even bigger.
“Oh, ah, you’re welcome.” the girl staggered backwards toward the door.
“Wait- I know this sounds silly- but…where’s my room?” asked Gabrielle.
“Right miss, it’s the third one in. I’ll be back in a bit with dinner.”
Gabrielle blanched. “No please, nothing for me.”
Dantien walked forward and stood next to Gabrielle, handing her a shift.
“I’ll take extra bread, in case she gets hungry later.” she nodded down to Gabrielle.
“Right then, extra bread.” the girl bowed out and closed the door quietly.
Dantien poured the tea and handed Gabrielle the cup. “Slow sips.”
Gabrielle sipped the tea, feeling it clear her nose which had stopped up from crying, and trickling into her stomach. So far, so good. Dantien pulled up a chair and sat next to her. She sighed.
“She’s right, you know. You need to get out of here.” she leaned forward, putting her face in her hands. “I don’t think I can stand another visit from Gareth.” she cleared her throat and straightened. “I’ll help you to your room as soon as your stomach settles a little.”
“Did Gareth…” Gabrielle’s voice faded as she looked at the dark bruises on Dantien’s legs.
“No, no, he wouldn’t be alive if he tried that.” the anger returned to her voice.
“Are you some sort of prisoner?”
“All my life….” it was said under her breath. Dantien turned away, then turned back and smiled. “That’s me feeling sorry for myself.” She abruptly stood and gathered up the cape and washbowl. “I’m taking these to your room.”
There was no time to argue, her movements were quick and she was out the door before Gabrielle could finish swallowing her tea. Gabrielle used the chair to pull herself to her feet. The tea had helped. She bent down to gather up the shift and was aware of a new scent, a soft, heavy, semi-sweet smell. She pulled the shift to her nose and sniffed. That was it, whatever it was. If she wasn’t so nauseated, it might have smelled good.
“Like it?” Dantien asked from the doorway.
“Oh- I – uh, I noticed this smell and...” Gabrielle felt herself blushing. “I don’t go around smelling people’s clothes, really.”
“It’s probably me.” Dantien held out her arm so that her wrist was under Gabrielle’s nose. The heat of her skin made the scent take on a new warmth that filled Gabrielle’s senses. Gabrielle shook her head and coughed.
“Sorry- now I’ve made your stomach worse. I wasn’t thinking.” Dantien moved closer and steadied her. “Here, I’ll help you to your room. Let me grab the teapot.” She held onto Gabrielle gently with one arm and stretched out the other to the table. They walked slowly out into the darkened hall, and Gabrielle snorted as the dankness of the stairway assaulted her nose, holding onto her stomach. Dantien’s hair wafted over her shoulder, tickling her.
“Your hair.” she started, then sneezed.
“My hair is all over the place, I swear it has wings sometimes.”
Dantien opened the door and they walked in, Gabrielle sliding into the first available chair, the shift wadded into her lap.
“Dantien, thank you for all your help this evening.”
“My pleasure, Gabrielle. Who knows, perhaps you’ll do the same for me one day. Goodnight.”