Mariqah ignored the rest of the day's commotion. The amount of objections and bewilderments and curses all flew passed her like hot wind in her ears, as she did what she meant to - and that was to send half the army to Normandy, to safety. After some fuss and arguing, she managed to send them out with a good soldier leading them. The spoils from her adventures in the West Indies had also arrived, and she decided to divide the wealth between the remaining half of the army - and it seemed to quieten most of the belligerent rabble. The man who'd brought the spoils - one Mr Adrian Schneider, who was an ex-pirate-hunter (and also an ex-pirate before that) - was given a uniform and food, as Mariqah had promised him.
Khadir kept his distance from her, but was soothed with his share of wealth. Deep down, he knew that Mariqah had never meant to abandon them and that her departure was caused by a disturbance in her soul - but he wasn't finished being upset with her. So he kept away. Mariqah ate alone that night, sitting in a lonely corner in the mess hall - looking through long-ignored letters, pleas and complaints. She sighed as she read the many words, but her mind was distracted and so she failed to understand most of what she was reading. She put the letters down and rubbed her forehead, continuing to pick at her food. Someone decided to sit in front of her.
"Want me to chew your food for you?" he asked. Laughter rang around them.
Mariqah looked at him. Pushed her platter towards him, "If you wanted second helpings, all you had to do was ask," she said.
"Fuck you," Noel said, with narrowed eyes, tossing her platter away.
Mariqah didn't flinch as the sauce splashed onto her. She didn't look at him and muttered, "You were the one that offered to chew my food."
Noel scoffed, "Haven't changed in the slightest, have you?" he said, lips curling into a snarl, "Where've you sent the lads off to, eh? To die?"
Mariqah casually wiped off the sauce from her clothes with a towel that was beside her, "With all due respect, Noel," she said and looked at him, "You're mercenaries. You signed up to die."
"And you're going to be the one standing by and weeping on our bodies?" Noel asked.
"I hope not," Mariqah murmured, "I was actually hoping that I'd be the first to fall. Maybe then you wouldn't resent me so much," she stood up and looked at her clothes, muttering, "Oil-based... oh, well, wasn't very hungry anyway," she took off her sleeveless green doublet and took it over to the fire and dumped it there. Mariqah sat down and watched it burn, prodding it with a stick every now and then. She also took the hat from her head and tossed it in the famished flames. She would adorn her military garb and never forsake it again. The mess-hall was silent as she burned the clothes. They didn't understand why, and thought it peculiar. Most of them probably wrote of the act as anger Mariqah transferred on her clothes that she meant to show Noel.
Mariqah stood, not wanting to waste more of her time, and glanced over at Noel, "Whatever the fate of your brothers who journey to Normandy, believe me: they're a damn sight safer than any of us here in Masyaf are."
"That a threat?" Noel jeered, as she began to walk away, "Will you have me flayed for my insolence?"
"It's a warning," Mariqah said, "But I suppose it hardly matters what I say. All of you seem loathe to hear me."
She made her way passed her soldiers, heading for the exit - where Khadir waited for her with arms crossed and face set.
"Going to bed?" Khadir asked her.
Mariqah didn't look at him. She found it hard to look at anyone here, "Are you planning to stab me in it?" she asked.
Khadir frowned, feeling a little guilty, "Mariqah..."
She raised a hand, not wanting to hear it, "I'm going up to the mountain," she said.
"At this time? In this darkness?" Khadir asked.
"Well..." Mariqah murmured, and shrugged.
Khadir blocked her path. Her sadness awoke some brotherly instinct in him to pity her, "It's dangerous," he said.
Mariqah looked at him, glaring at him with eyes dampened with angry tears, "I'm not welcome here," she sniffed, her lips turned in a tight scowl. She shoved him out of the way, "So I will go to the mountain where I will be more welcome. Nothing can kill me there because they despise me for running from a thing that torments my soul."
"Mariqah... Mariqah, no-one here is set on killing you. We are sore. That is all," Khadir tried to assure her.
Mariqah turned her face away, shutting her eyes and allowing the tears to stream down her face, "I doubt they would agree with you," she said, nodding at the horde that was eating silently, "I'll see you in the morning if I last the night."
Khadir grabbed her arm, "Mariqah, don't do this!"
"You don't own me!" she barked, "None of you own me! I hadn't realised that I had to take your permission, and the permission of soldiers that piss their breeches at my scowl, if I seek to do as I bloody-well please! Now, let go of me."
"Let me go!" Mariqah shrieked, "If I die, I die well - out of reach from you helpless idiots! And you can all die here like you chose to. If I live..." she breathed through her nostrils and repeated herself, "I'll see you in the morning if I last the night."