Chapter 21Where They Get Wet

The baths in my room were, as such, not that surprising. They were the common wooden baths that were stored on the same floor. And hot water wasn't that troublesome to obtain either. But, considering she did two, she must have started almost immediately after we left the room. So she had a key, from one of the masters, and knew I had a companion, even though I never had a servant before. Another thing that occurred to me is that she looked somewhat older than the average maids in the castle. Older than me, in fact. So either she had been a maid for someone specific for very long or she had been rented from outside the castle. All these quick thoughts led me to ask my first question to her where her answer would, hopefully, answer more than one question.

"Hello, why did you set up two?"

She blinked, a little surprised with the question. "Master asked me to set up a bath for you. But as I came up here, I saw you two leave the room together, talking. I assumed your servant would wish a bath as well."

Alright, that answered two questions, that left the two other important ones. "So, who are you and who is your master?"

She curtsied a little. "My apologies, I am Esmeralda and unfortunately my Master wishes to remain unknown."

Deirdre stepped forward. "He ordered you to prepare a bath?"

Esmeralda nodded. "And deliver the clothes, yes."

Deirdre surprised me a little by walking around the baths to the bed and looking at the clothes. "These are expensive. Not a usual gift. It appears you have a secret friend, Taran."

I smiled. "Apparently. At least the timing is perfect."

Deirdre nodded. She looked at the maid for a moment as if she wanted to say something, but stopped herself. Her eyes then darted to me and I, kind of, understood what she wanted to say.

"Esmeralda, please leave the room."

The maid looked slightly surprised but nodded. "I will wait outside, if you're done, please call for me and I will clean these up." She then left politely, closing the door behind her.

Deirdre spoke as soon as she left. "You have no idea who sent her, do you?"

I shook my head. "It's not sir Brandt, he already gave me that sword and knife. And... I don't know, I can't think of any Master that would do this."

She looked thoughtful. "Well, these are quite expensive, so whoever sent these didn't do it for no reason."

I nodded. "I really don't know though."

She smiled and shrugged. "Ah well, let's enjoy the baths before they cool down."

I looked at her with wonder. "There's not much room for a modesty screen though, and I don't think there is one nearby."

She giggled a little. "It's fine. We'll see more of each other anyway and I'm not that shy." Then, to my enormous surprise, she just started undressing unceremoniously.

It was so tempting to keep staring at her, but I managed to get my mind into gear to move as well. I walked to the bed, automatically turning my back to Deirdre, and started undressing myself as well. It was very difficult to not imagine everything happening behind me, the rustling of clothes, the sound of water, the soft breathing. I really had to force myself to undress myself, calming myself down. I removed all my clothes and, while I was doing so, let go of the whole situation, relaxing quite a bit. I felt comfortable with my body, most of the time, as there had little chance to bathe on your own in all my years here. With a small sigh I turned around and walked into the bath. Deirdre only glanced at me shortly when I turned but politely looked away when I stepped into the tub. The water really was nice and warm, a lovely feeling against my skin. Even if it wasn't big enough to lay in, but still, the enveloping heat silenced my thoughts. Only part of me was still worried about the whole situation. Would this count as a bribe?

"The water is really nice." I smiled.

Deirdre nodded. "It is." She blushed a little with the whole situation but rested her head on the tub with a smile.

The next words escaped from my lips, I wasn't quite sure if it was the water or the moment but it felt like something that was right to say. But... As the words did escape from my lips, I immediately felt a blush rising from the water to my face.

"I like having you near."

So stupid! How could I have said something like that. To myself it sounded horribly trite. I was half expecting her to burst out in laughter, yet when I looked at her, she just appeared vaguely amused. She closed her eyes and breathed out slowly, speaking some simple words that had me blushing even more.

"So do I."