‘Take me with you,’ she said.
‘Why?’ He looked down at the woman standing in the sodden field, half-covered in mud and a basket at her feet. The basket contained a bare handful of root vegetables, too muddy and scrawny for him to identify what they were.
‘I could keep you warm at night.’
A couple of the other women, bent double over their own baskets in the field a few strides away, laughed without looking up.
‘How old are you?’ He had been about to remount, but he held the reins ready in his hand, wiping the rain from his hair with the other.
‘You’d be a camp follower … a soldier’s whore?’ He half-smiled.
She looked around, behind her. ‘It has to be better than this.’
He nodded. There had been a time when he’d been a farmer… for a while, before the barbarians came from their strange sea-monster boats in the night. ‘You don’t know anything about me.’
She nodded this time. ‘I like what I see.’
‘What you saw, you mean?’ He turned his head towards the spindly tree he’d just pissed against.
She smiled showing white strong teeth. ‘And that too.’ She took a step towards him. ‘I’d treat you right… if you treat me right. That’s all I ask.’
He shrugged and hauled himself up on his horse. He looked down at her as she too looked down, at the mud in defeat.
He held out his hand. ‘Come on, then.’
She took his hand, he hauled her up behind him and off they rode.