The scouts returned in the afternoon, after Tiernan had returned to his tent. After the camp had woken and tumbled into motion and slowly clicked into order. After Tiernan had wandered between the tent lines to see where he was needed and lent a shoulder to shove what needed an extra push into place. After Aled had led what was left of Vardeck’s guard around to the other side of the camp and settled them into extra tents. After two of them had stumbled to the physiker’s half awake, with Aled between them.
Tiernan was tired, every ache from the battle sunk deep into him in the quiet.
Doersa lifted the flap of his tent and he lifted his head, pulling in a breath. Putting on something closer to a smile. Jessik followed Deorsa inside. There was dust on her coat and leather oil on her hands from gripping the reins of her horse.
“You’re back sooner than I expected,” Tiernan said carefully. It was possible that she had not gone north to the villages herself. She had a number who answered to her.
Jessik only smiled thinly. “I’m sorry,” she said. “It just doesn’t take that long to bring back bad news.”
“They don’t have any extras for us,” Tiernan guessed. He rested his elbows on his knees, drawing another breath. He was ready to start calculating their other options as she shook her head.
“Officially, they do not,” Jessik told him. “Which is to say that their mayors, their wardens, every man in town with any power, is afraid of you. King Madden isn’t your friend anymore, and they know it. They don’t like a foreign army camped so close to them.”
Tiernan hesitated. “Officially?”
Jessik’s smile stretched and sharpened. She eyed the ground ruefully. “Other men in town are afraid of you as well. So afraid, they’ll sell you what they have. Just so you won’t take it.”
Tiernan shook his head, dropped his gaze to the ground as well.
“Excellent,” Deorsa said. “Just what we wanted.”
“They won’t be able to give us everything we need that way,” Tiernan said.
Deorsa shrugged with one shoulder, allowing that there was some truth in that.
“I have friends here,” Tiernan said. “They’re a little farther away, but I can get us the supplies we need.”
“I had some, too,” Deorsa said. She waited for Tiernan to look up at her, to find her with her arms crossed carefully over her chest. “I doubt they would give us much more than a glance the other way at this point.”
Tiernan held her eye. “That’s their right. And if they want to glance the other way and leave some of their storehouses unguarded for a night, that might be all we need.”
Deorsa laughed quietly.