meetings - Chapter 1

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meetings

by shambala-dancer

Libraries: Adventure, Fantasy, General, Original Fiction, Series

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tanye meets rishi and they hang out.

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Chapter 1, meet in the town

She had traveled up through the forests, miles and miles through the forests. The scent of the trees had changed, the leaves had changed, every essence of the forest changed as she travelled north. And one morning, as she shouldered her bags and prepared for another full day of traveling under the canopy, the forest ended. The trees halted, their roots grasping no further. There were shrubs and new strange plants, cacti. Tanye had heard about their benefits from her master, Samsara, but she had never encountered one herself. Another day into the journey and even the shrubs had shriveled. Before her stretched an endless ocean of sand, windswept and moving in currents. Ever changing, she could tell just by watching the horizon for a moment. Getting lost in there would prove to be deadly, but her goal was in the center of it. Her goal was a rumored town called Midras that had flourished around an ancient lake in the middle of the desert. She had never seen it, most people hadn’t. Not unless they had been born there, and most people who had been born there never set foot out of the place. She prepared to proceed into the desert, not knowing what to expect.

Tanye had located the horse just as Samsara instructed her. He had been waiting for her among a cluster of large boulders, resting in the shade by a picturesque little pool of clear water, the source of which was unclear. She spent a while talking with him, stroking his mane, and allowing him to become comfortable with her. The sun was still new in the sky, barely rising above the eastern horizon. Plenty of time to make good distance on the trail. She took time to replenish her own waterskins and loaded her packs onto the horse and they were off into the desert. The desert sun was unrelenting and harsher then Tanye had known was possible. She was used to the translucent overlay of the forest canopy. Here, the hot white sun seemed to glare from all directions, even below. The horse was a bit difficult, constantly wanting to take his own way, but Tanye kept them on a course plotted with the sun.

“Where did Samsara find you?” Tanye mused out loud to the horse as they traversed the landscape. The earth seemed to morph in the heat. At times, oceans of sand would rise to the east or west. Tanye’s waterskins began to run dry much sooner then she anticipated, but the horse would always wander against her lead to stumble upon a muddy water hole or dried stream bed with just enough water left to sooth them both. Her forest skills were of no use to her here, but Samsara had taught her a broad spectrum of survival techniques, most of which Tanye hoped she would not have to employ (thanks to the horse’s uncanny ability to take her off course at just the proper place and time). She stroked his mane as they walked and kept her cloak’s hood over her face. It was too heavy for this heat, but it was thick enough to keep the sun from burning.

Tanye welcomed the night with relief, though she knew the desert would take on a whole new character that was just as feisty as its high-noon counterpart. Anything was better than the glare of the sun and the sweat, the wheezing of the horse, and her own blurring vision. As the sun set, she stopped to draw up a tidy campsite. She draped the reigns of her horse over the arm of a large cactus, not sure if she should fear of him running off or getting spooked in the night. She thought not, but it was best to be safe. As the sun slowly sank, the entire sound and feel of the desert changed like the exhaling of a great breath of life. Once the small fire was crackling, Tanye had started to feel more at home. The chill of the air and the sound of predators and prey all around her began to sooth the open wound of the desert-day, where everything struggled to survive. The horse lay down beside her and she rested her hand on his head.

“You’re a good horse… I wish I knew your name…”

She did not look forward to saddling up for the morning. Her original plan of continuing into the night did not seem possible. Her body was much too exhausted. Waking up before the sun would have to do. “Wake me up when the North Star is there-“she pointed to the sky, “okay? Then we’ll still have a few hours of cool twilight to put some miles behind us.” She smiled at the horse, who she did not really expect to complete the task. She sighed and fell into a difficult sleep.

But the horse woke her up with a nuzzle to the face just as the stars reached the place she had specified. A stroke of luck, and not the first. Not an hour after they set off, Tanye saw the faint flicker of the lamps of Midras on the horizon. She breathed a sigh of relief. She would be there by noon, before the hottest part of the day. Her task was almost complete. She was almost a ranger.

                    ***

 

 

Now she rested outside the inn, not looking forward to the difficult journey back to the forest, her home. She felt she was needed there, but there was something about the odd little oasis. She felt that her goal had not yet been entirely accomplished. She had decided to stay another night, though she questioned her instinct for it. Samsara had told her about the inn in Midras, and how Oringo, the inn-keeper, was an old friend of hers. Tanye felt welcomed, and even sensed that the people were happy to see her though she had no idea why. She chalked it up to mere excitement, excitement that an outsider had visited the town (not many dared to brave the desert). There was something familiar here. The people spoke another language, a tongue she had never heard. Rare and beautiful, a gem in the desert. The structures of the town were modest but served their purpose perfectly. The walls of the houses were made of mud bricks that seemed to absorb the heat and the floors were lined with baked tiles that held the cool of the shade. Everything was as simple as it could be, yet honed to perfection. The tools and the processes were both self sufficient and beautiful, like they had existed in this same exact way for thousands of years. Tanye sighed as she watched a few of the townspeople pass by. They did not look at her with the disdain and judgment she sensed in the major cities. This place was different.

The inn was situated by the center of the village, which was marked by a popular and large stone well. The bustling and commotion around the well had awoken her before the sun, and it had not died down all day. Men, women, and children were constantly lowering and raising the many buckets that were attached to a lattice above the well. It was perfectly designed to accommodate everyone. A few people walked by, seeming to be in a hurry. A group of children ran through the square, laughing and chattering excitedly. Tanye wished she could understand them, but the language was like nothing she had ever studied. A group of people seemed to be gathering at the northern entrance of the town. Tanye squinted in the bright sun. A horse was coming with a rider. Her hand instinctually found the handle of one of her swords. No one else had a horse in this town and there had been enough excitement generated by her own appearance with one of the majestic animals. She didn’t know what to think, but she kept a sharp eye on the approaching rider. She could tell from where she sat that the horse was deep brown and its coat shimmered, healthy and robust. The rider was clad in robes and wrapped garments, similar to the style that was common to the townspeople. She watched as the horse and rider slowed and trotted among the gathering people, who were generously offering water. They all seemed to know each other. The children were excited. Tanye let her hand return to her lap, sensing no danger from this new arrival. Her eyes stayed on him.

Other people in the town kept their distance from the rider, not willing to approach. They still expressed interest in him, however, and their noses poked out from behind their work. The inn-keeper, Oringo, stepped out into the shade beside her. An overhanging tent of woven palm fronds extended the shady spot, and a few wooden boxes were set up as tables. The inn itself was only a two-room structure, but what it lacked in privacy it made up for with comfort. Oringo squinted at the people and the horse as he set down a bowl of water for Tanye.

“Thank you,” Tanye said, despite the fact that their languages shared not a similar word. Oringo replied with what she assumed was a polite “you’re welcome.” It sounded close enough, and the tone of his voice seemed to express it. He straightened the cloth hat he was wearing and continued to stare in the direction of the commotion. Tanye sipped the clear water and watched him. Her keen interest in the situation caused her to forget the language barrier,” Who is that?”

Oringo looked at her, and she felt slightly embarrassed. She nodded her head toward the people and Oringo’s expression affirmed that he understood. His face beamed with pride as he said “Friend.” Tanye smiled and nodded, supposing this was as much information as she was going to get. An innate curiosity was pawing at her, however, and she leaned back in her wooden stool and continued watching the people. She was surprised as she saw Oringo raise his arm, and the rider looked directly at him and waved in return. She sat up in her stool and suddenly felt as though his eyes were on hers, locked. He was too far away to tell if he was actually looking at her, but she felt suddenly anxious as the rider began to approach them. Oringo started talking, and he called into the inn for his wife, Alhea. He was speaking quickly, and she was replying. Pots were knocking together and sheep were baying. Tanye continued to watch the rider approach. He jumped off of his horse, which was without saddle or supplies, and left it with the children who were gathered around it, petting it and running around in awe. He didn’t seem worried about it, neither did the horse.

Tanye sat up straight, suddenly sensing that her attention was being beckoned. She watched the rider approach but tried to appear as if she wasn’t paying attention. He looked at her as he passed, giving up a smile. She stared at him uncertainly, but the oddly sublime moment was jostled loose as Oringo barreled out of the inn door. The two men embraced each other and starting talking in familiar tones. Tanye leaned back in her stool again, feeling slightly relieved. She had always considered herself a person who read into things too much. She shook her head and exhaled a sigh, reaching for the water bowl. It was probably time to start heading back South, there was nothing more to see here, and her final test had been completed…

“Good to see you, Tanye.”

Tanye choked on her water and turned. The two men were already being hurried inside by Alhea, but the rider glanced at her and smiled again. She felt overwhelmed by the desire to bust into the inn and demand an explanation for how he knew her name, and to at least learn his. But she remained where she was, uncertain if she had heard correctly but continuing to listen to the excited chatter from inside the inn. She listened to the deep voice she had discerned as the voice of the rider. He and Oringo spoke naturally and seemingly about many things. Tanye pretended not to listen as she leaned back against the wall and tried to get into a convenient eavesdropping position. But she was no rogue, and her intentions were far too obvious. The rider’s voice was distinct from the others, and it floated out the door directly into her ear.

“What kind of fool eavesdrops on a conversation she can’t even understand?”

Tanye froze and looked around. She felt like a complete idiot, but she continued to hesitate. She finally stood up and looked through the inn door, but did not enter.

“Were you talking to me?”

“Who else speaks this language, here, with the name Tanye?”

She looked around as if to see if there was anyone else to fit the description, and proceeded to feel like a fool all over again as the rider let out a genuine laugh. Tanye felt her face burning with embarrassment and she looked back out toward his horse, which was still supplying ample affection to the excited children. She was waiting for the rider to speak again, but the native conversation in the inn had resumed. Her curiosity was unable to be restrained, however, and she broke into the conversation.

“Excuse me, but how do you know me?”

“It’s always about you, isn’t it?”

Tanye felt taken aback, and she stood up straight as if to counter the demoralizing words.

“What are you talking about? You don’t know me.”

“You just asked how I know you. I told you.”

Tanye was looking at the back of his head, which was covered by a long cloth wrap, tied at the top with a strip of blue linen. Alhea was busily beginning to prepare a meal, and Oringo was seated across from the man. Oringo was looking at her, apparently not surprised by the conversation she and his friend were holding in a foreign tongue. No one seemed surprised at all, except for Tanye, and she didn’t enjoy having the disadvantage. Still, she felt no fear of the situation. Only strangeness.

“Well, who are you?”

The rider turned in his chair, and his face was wearing a surprisingly soft and friendly expression.

“Why so stoic?” He asked. His eyes glinted. His accent was strange, but that did not surprise her. He turned back to Oringo, who seemed to be waiting, and grasped the cup of wine that Alhea had placed in front of him. Tanye vaguely noticed that a third cup had been placed in front of a third chair. The rider nodded to it,” Sit here.”

Tanye was tired of embarrassing herself and as she had not yet sensed any danger, she disarmed her caution and sat down with them. The vantage point from inside the cool, shady room was preferable. She could clearly see that the rider was not armed, despite his loose and potentially concealing robes. Around his neck was a myriad of trinkets tied to strings, wooden beads, beads made of dried beans, carved pendants, and keys. They made a comforting sound as he moved about. He didn't look particularly strong, but his eyes were a different story. She wanted to look into them, but she felt strange about it. He seemed to notice this, but said nothing.

“As I said before, it’s good to see you.”

“But how-- do you know my master? Samsara? Or are you some kind of…" She trailed off, weary of the direction that her words had started to take. The rider nodded his head, but it seemed to be in response to something in his own mind, not to anything Tanye had said. He picked up his cup and so did Oringo.

“First…” He nodded toward the cup in front of Tanye. Tanye took it, and prepared herself to drink it despite years of training that told her never to drink from a strange cup. She had been prepared for many situations, but this one didn’t seem to fall into any of the neat categories she had created in her mind. Alhea paused what she was doing and rushed over to the table. She had her own cup and seemed impatient for the men to get on with it. Oringo laughed under his breath and she shot him a hot glance, muttering something. The rider was strangely quiet, having no remark. Then he spoke in their language, and they listened intently. Tanye was still, waiting. He turned to her and repeated, for her benefit,” To your unending strength of mind and spirit. May it surpass all the trials of the world of Ariale.”

They drank from their cups, and Tanye drank as well. The wine was warm and reminded her of vinegar. It wasn’t the most pleasant tasting thing, but she politely kept from making any kind of physical response. The men drained their cups and tapped them on the table three times. Alhea did not drain hers, but she tapped it gently three times. Then she turned quickly back to her work as if nothing had happened. Tanye tapped her own cup awkwardly. There was a moment of silence, and then she looked up.

“If I may ask, what is your name? Who are you? And how do you know me?” She laid the questions out on the table as if they were food, and the rider looked intently at the tabletop. He analyzed the table with his eyes, studying nothing. He furrowed his brow. Then, with an almost shrug-like ambivalence, he leaned back in his chair. Tanye waited for him to speak.

“Alright, I’ve decided you can ask.”

“I already did.”

“That didn’t count. Ask again.”

Tanye was baffled, but she subdued her confusion and asked again,” What is your name?”

“Finally you ask! You are strange folk, from the south. Where are your manners?”

Tanye was about to speak, but he interjected,”Rishi is my name.”

She quickly searched her mind for mention of that name in her past, but she found nothing. Samsara had never mentioned him, though she had mentioned Oringo. Was he trustworthy? Rishi seemed to easily read the expression on Tanye’s face.

“You don’t know me. The only thing I know about you is that you are rude. Where does that leave us?” Rishi was completely relaxed, not an ounce of stress apparent on his face. Tanye appeared to be the opposite, completely uncertain of anything. She stared at him, he glanced at her. He and Oringo exchanged a few words as Tanye mulled over the situation in her head. Alhea refilled everyone’s cups, including Tanye’s, which she was less than thrilled about. The two men proceeded to drain their cups again but Tanye left hers on the table, not sure if she was being rude or not. No one said anything about it.

“I have no idea where that leaves us," she said.

“A perfect place to start, if you ask me. It’s wonderful, isn’t it? Realizing that you have no idea where you are or why!”

“I didn’t say all that. I just don’t know—“

“No, I did. I said all that.”

Tanye was feeling exasperated. This Rishi fellow didn’t seem to have a good grasp on the common language, or at least, not the nuances of tone and subtleties-

“You know, you aren’t very good at speaking your own native language.” Rishi casually observed. His eyes were drawn to Alhea as she brought a bowl of couscous to the table. He was immediately distracted and ignored Tanye’s protest. Oringo helped as Alhea brought more plates, and they started to argue benignly. Tanye stayed focused on Rishi, determined to get information out of him.

“I’ll try to speak plainly: How do you know who I am?”

“Don’t try to speak any specific way, just let the words come.” Rishi was half watching Alhea and Oringo, but his true attention was on Tanye’s words.

“That’s what I always do. I just want to know—“

“You kids... You are always looking for the shining future and never living in the day you’ve been given.”

“Look, I don’t need life lessons from you…”

“Of course not.”

Tanye signed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sound…”

“Like a fool?”

“I didn’t mean it. It’s just… I rarely meet people who know who I am. I have very few companions and I am not sure how to feel about this.”

“Good. It’s good not to be sure. But didn’t you think… if Oringo is friends with your master, and I am friends with Oringo…”Rishi grinned at her and picked up his cup again, which Alhea had refilled again. Tanye stopped counting how many times, aware that her own cup was sitting untouched.
               She was quiet. She didn’t care how simple the answer was, she just wanted it. She folded her arms and kept her eyes on Rishi. Alhea grabbed a piece of bread out of Oringo’s hands and placed it in a basket with a few other loaves. She set all of it out on the table: couscous, bread, and a plate of wonderful-looking meat. Tanye was determined to continue prying Rishi, but the food was better then she had seen in weeks. Rishi smiled.

“Sometimes you have to slow down and accept some hospitality. You won’t find better people than this. After all, they’ve welcomed you to their table while you’re wearing weapons and a hood!”

Tanye felt suddenly embarrassed that she still had her weapons on, but she made no move to remove them. Alhea proclaimed that dinner was served, or so Tanye assumed. Rishi and Oringo started to grab at it like they had never seen food before or never would again. Alhea smiled at Tanye and gestured for her to partake. Tanye nodded shyly. She used the wooden spoon set before her and started to fill her own bowl. The scent of the food was almost enough to make her forget about Rishi, but not quite. She waited as the three desert folk had a friendly conversation. Rishi seemed to be making a big deal about how good the food was, going on and on about it. Oringo’s mouth was entirely full, but he was attempting to join in the praise. Tanye wanted to say something, but she was uncertain of how to do it.

“Tell me, do you like it?” Rishi asked. He was eating, but he seemed equally watchful. Tanye nodded.

“Yes, I needed this. This is wonderful.”

Rishi seemed to repeat her response to Alhea, who looked very pleased and a bit smug. She began talking, her glance shifting between Tanye and Rishi. Rishi nodded.

“Alhea says she’s glad to hear it. She isn’t surprised, however. You southern folk don’t know how to really cook, despite all your fancy spices and ingredients.”

Tanye blinked, “she didn’t say that…”

“I never lie.”

 

***

Oringo was the one to clean up after the meal had been finished. Alhea retired to the back room of the inn, out of sight. Tanye glanced after her, wondering what she was doing. Her curiosity about the people here had been piqued after spending some time with them. Rishi had wandered outside after profusely thanking both Alhea and Oringo. Tanye followed him instinctually. The entire place seemed to shimmer as the afternoon sun slowly sank. The sky had taken on a soft, pink hue and the sand was pale and white. The hard bright edges that the sun had made in the heat of the day had all but vanished, leaving the soft curves of the sand dunes to rest. Tanye followed Rishi, who pulled a wooden box under the palm overhang and sat down. He had a leather sack in his lap and he was rummaging through it. Tanye drifted over to where he was. She still wasn’t entirely sure of his business, but she was beginning to count him as a friend rather than a threat. She wasn’t sure why, especially when she still hadn’t figured out what his role was in all of this. He glanced up at her and smiled as he noticed her keeping her distance.

“What is this pride of yours? You seemed so demure.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Sit over here. Stop pretending like you’re not interested in what I have to say.”

Tanye made her way over to him and pulled a box up to sit down. She still remained at a safe distance, but she was close enough to peer into his leather sack. She caught a glimpse of an apple, which he immediately lifted out of the sack and held out.

“Digo, come have this apple. I’ve been carrying it around forever…” he said. His horse appeared, almost magically. It startled Tanye as she had practically forgotten about him. He gracefully accepted the apple out of Rishi’s hand and nuzzled his master’s head. Rishi smiled and then looked up as he polished another apple, “Deuel!”

Once again, as if by magic, another horse appeared from somewhere behind them. Tanye immediately recognized it as the headstrong horse she had ridden through the desert. She had left him behind the inn. Deuel accepted the apple and nuzzled Rishi even more affectionately than Digo had. Tanye narrowed her eyes, feeling suddenly confused. Rishi reached up and rubbed Deuel’s mane.

“This is my horse, Deuel. He is one of the finest animals you will ever meet. I hope you had some good conversation while you had the chance.”

Tanye bit her lip. She felt cheated, though she wasn’t sure why. Rishi had hinted earlier that he barely had a role in her journey besides a friend in common.

“You lied to me.” She managed to say, watching as the horse and master communicated their happiness to see each other. Rishi’s head snapped up suddenly and his expression hardened, but his hands remained gentle on his horse’s face.

“Lied to you? I let you ride my best friend through the most dangerous stretch of land on this continent. Lied to you…” he spit out the last part almost vehemently. Tanye looked down at the dusty earth. She remained quiet for a while and didn’t look up, but she was aware of Rishi muttering faintly to his horse. She sighed.

“I’m sorry, again…”

“Apology accepted.”

Tanye looked at Rishi, who was looking at her. The anger was gone from his face and voice, but he seemed quieter than before. He patted Deuel and then made a faint sound as if to send the horse away. Deuel turned and wandered over to where Digo was hovering. Some townspeople were filling buckets with water and the horses were gathering around. Several children still hadn’t tired of playing with the horses. Rishi watched them absently, his hands still busy in his leather bag. He pulled out a pipe and continued in silence. Tanye watched him, looked over at the horses, and then leaned back against the mud-brick wall of the inn.

“The dusk of the desert is one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see, you know.”

“I believe you.”

“Thanks,” Rishi suppressed a mild laugh and shook his head, putting the tip of the long pipe in his mouth. Tanye took a deep breath, inhaling the fast-cooling air of the desert. She closed her eyes and listened, hearing the faint spark of a match, laughing children, talking people, and a sound she had seldom heard before: The wind on the dunes. It seemed to come from the ends of the earth, yet it did not sound hollow. It sounded wise. Wise wind. She smiled to herself.

“You should stop and think like that more often…” Rishi exhaled a cloud of smoke, which was immediately yet gently swept away by a breeze,” Everything has a story to tell if you will only listen.”

“I know. My master, Samsara, she’s been teaching me about everything…” Tanye had now resigned herself to staying over another night, so the urgency of the matter no longer plagued her. She felt almost relieved.

“I know. I can tell.”

“You can?”

“Of course. I’ve just been giving you a hard time. You deserve it, after all. And I mean that in the best possible way.”

“I deserve a hard time?”

Rishi smiled. They sat in silence for a while longer, each watching and listening to their surroundings. Rishi looked into the distance, out to the dunes. Tanye looked at the sky, which was now turning a deep purple. The stars would start to emerge soon.

“You’ve been patient with me. I’ll stop torturing you,” Rishi finally said, biting down on his pipe and leaning forward. He rested his elbows on his knees and let his eyes fall onto Deuel, who was playing with a small girl by the well. Tanye’s ears perked and she sat forward as well.

“I know Samsara, yes. But I haven’t seen her in a very long time.”

“I knew it...”

“Of course, but don’t let that disenchant you.”

“I wasn’t disenchanted.”

“You were, a little,” Rishi inhaled deeply and closed his eyes, “There are powers beyond your knowledge working in your favor. But you won’t let them help you until you can explain it, eh?”

“That’s not true… I use my instincts all the time.”

“I know, and you are better at it then you think.”

Tanye was quiet, but she felt a bit of her singed pride cooling. Rishi resumed.

“No… I haven’t seen Samsara in a long time… How is she?”

“I saw her not two months ago, before setting off on my quest. She is doing fine from what I could see, but I don’t know long ago it was that you saw her.”

“A long time,” he seemed to be delving deep into his memories, and he spoke slowly.

“But you’ve spoken with her recently, perhaps by letter? She knew just where Deuel would be.”

“You don’t yet know the complexity of the power that has brought us to this juncture. But you would never believe me if I told you.”

Tanye folded her arms across her chest and looked at Rishi, who still seemed to be reliving some strange memories behind the gaze of his eyes. He didn’t seem to be looking at anything.

“Of course I’d believe you if you told me. I want to know everything.”

“Maybe some other time.”

“What other time?”

“You don’t trust me?”

“I just met you…”

Rishi snapped out of his gaze, and he sat back on the box. He looked at Tanye.

“You believe me, but you don’t trust me.”

“That just about sums it up.” Tanye was not ready to admit trust. Not to some mystery rider she had just met in a place completely foreign to her. Her instincts told her otherwise, but she had made that mistake before. Rishi didn’t seem surprised, but he didn’t seem happy about it. He reluctantly accepted it with a sigh.

“Never mind how my horse got into the middle of the desert, just where you needed it to be. And never mind that he saved your life. You would have died had it been some other horse, any horse aside from Deuel.”

“You can’t say that for sure…” Tanye felt suddenly weak. Something about Rishi’s sudden tone of voice was oppressive. She looked at the ground, reliving her journey with Deuel.

“Yes, I can say for sure. However, you cannot. I understand.”

Tanye did not feel compelled to argue about it. Something about the way Rishi spoke settled the matter immediately. There was nothing more to say, and as if he was punctuating the finality of his words, he snubbed out the embers of his pipe and put it back in the bag. At the faint snap of his fingers and a gesture with his hand, both of the horses trotted over to him. Tanye watched.

“You are good with animals.” She observed.

“No, you are wrong. They are good with me, don’t you see?”

Tanye tilted her head to the side.

“I suppose.”

“You suppose,” Rishi absently repeated her words, and then proceeded to quickly climb up onto Digo’s back. Tanye stood up, surprised by his sudden action.

“You’re leaving?”

“Of course. I’ve got work to do, you know.”

“What work?”

“I have many books to translate. Many scrolls to reveal the secrets of. There’s not much time to waste, these days.” He made yet another barely noticeable gesture and Deuel moved to Tanye’s side, “He’ll take you back, but he won’t help you as much this time. I told him not to.”

Rishi grinned at her. Tanye looked at Deuel, then back to Rishi.

“You have to leave now?”

“What’s this, you want me to stay? Or would you like to come with me?”

“No, it’s just… I don’t know…” Tanye felt foolish again.

“I’ll meet you again. Do you have any doubt about that?”

“I suppose not. You’re rather strange.”

“You have a gut feeling.” Digo turned around, but Rishi kept his eyes on Tanye.

“Yes…”

“That’s good enough for me. I believe you.”

They turned away from her then. Rishi said something to Digo in the language of the desert, and then looked long at Deuel. Then he turned and rode away, saying nothing more. Tanye sighed and crossed her arms again, resting her weight on one leg. She watched him ride north and he disappeared as quickly as he had come. Oringo came outside then, and stood beside her. She looked at him and smiled weakly. He nodded and said something. Tanye discerned Rishi’s name amidst the other flowing words. She still wasn’t sure who he was, but she knew she wouldn’t have much luck figuring it out, now. Oringo walked back to the inn, leaving her with her thoughts. Deuel nudged her, and she reached up to pet him.

“At least I’ll have more time with you. Maybe you can tell me something…”

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