I blinked as the gardener pulled me upright, away from the Barbarian's warmth. I shivered and wrapped my arms around myself, barely noticing the throb in my ankle. The ludicrous idea that I should host Barbarians should never have occurred to the High Precept. Memories like that, memories that felt real enough to taste shouldn't happen to me. Maybe it hadn't been a memory but a fantasy. Of course that must have been it. I'd been an ambassador over a century ago. Everyone from that visit would be dead and buried by now. That knowledge should have filled me with satisfaction, but instead my heart throbbed with pain. The barbarians were many things; long lived wasn’t one of them.
“Lady Perr?” the Barbarian said, reaching for me with his sun darkened hands.
I took a breath that sounded more like a gasp, glad for the pain that shot through my ankle when it touched the ground. I trembled as I leaned heavily on the gardener. Who had told him my name?
“Welcome to the House of Perr, Belthaar. Pardon my clumsiness.” I hobbled off, but not quickly enough to miss the look of puzzlement and slight anger cross his face.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in the kitchen with my ankle wrapped and iced, no break, only a sprain, that the garden took my hand in his, squeezing my fingers painfully until I looked up at him.
"You called him Belthaar. Are you familiar with the Barbarian?"
I quickly shook my head, frowning to myself. "Of course not. All the Barbarians I knew would be dead by now. Why are you crushing my fingers?" I asked, looking closely at him. He seemed so familiar. A name trembled on the tip of my tongue before he relaxed his grip and turned away.
I frowned down at my bare foot, smeared with the brown potion the gardener had applied to my nearly blue pale skin. I touched the stuff, feeling the coarsely crushed herbs, grainy in my fingers. His dark skin had been close to that hue. The warm color matched his warm skin. Maybe if I painted myself pink or orange, I wouldn't be so cold all the time. Why had I called him Belthaar? It seemed a strangely elemental name for a Barbarian.Maybe I'd only imagined the dusky smell of Cimmaron.