“So how is this supposed to work?”
The voice comes from behind him, low and scratchy and possibly amused.
“Fuck,” Clint says, ‘cos he’s struggled and he’s pulled and he’s pretty sure his wrists are bleeding and he’s got splinters from the gods-damned lightning-struck tree and he’s no closer to freeing himself than he was at midday.
The sun’s set now, almost entirely, just a wash of red and orange across the sky in the west and the darkness of the forest behind. Clint doesn’t give up easily, doesn’t give up basically ever unless all he’s giving up on himself, and his shoulders unknot and he slides down a little against the ropes, lets out a long breath and all his hopes with it.
“The village offers you tribute,” Clint says, flat and practiced. “And requests that you -”
“Yeah,” the voice says. “Heard it.”
He circles around from the left, looking at Clint curiously, and Clint was honestly expecting something a little more impressive. He’s solid-built, and his hair is long and untouched by bleaching with lime, and he has ashes smeared around his eyes so they look paler and bluer against it. He’s tall, but not tallest, he’s strong, but maybe not strongest. He’s silent, though, and that’s something that would impress, that would lend death’s favor in the forest.
“You’re not my usual type,” he says abruptly, and Clint shrugs.
“It’s been a tough winter,” he says.
“Ran out of virgins?”
“Ran out of a lot of things.”
“So they chose you.” His voice is flat, unimpressed, and Clint kinda bristles at it.
“I’m a prize, pal,” he says, and the guy doesn’t even have to say anything, just arches a cynical brow. Clint deflates again. “Yeah, okay, they kind of really hate me.”