The Way of the Word

6. October 2010

The Gatherers – Chapter 17

“I need to change,” Bolwyn said as soon as the boat hit the shore. He leaped to the beach and carefully, using only his fingertips, held his pants from his backside. “I’m all wet. Yecch. I really need to get some dry pants on me right away, so if you’ll excuse me…” He dashed off to his hut.

“There’s one thing I don’t understand,” Ankhoro said. “I saw that monster eat some people I know… knew. Now you all say it wasn’t real. If it wasn’t real, it couldn’t have eaten those people. Or could it? But if it didn’t…”

Yanag put a finger across his lips.

“I get your point,” she said. “So shut up. Perhaps those people are hidden somewhere, and will return when this Terek leaves. Perhaps they were killed some other way. The good thing is, we’re warned now. If Bolwyn hadn’t been here to warn us, who knows what that Terek guy could do, with everyone believing he’s a hero. Now, we can be on our guard.”

“If anyone believes us,” Ghenni said. “We’re children, Yanag. Nobody believes children.”

Yanag considered this for a moment, then she nodded.

“You’re right. That means it’s up to us . I’ll tell Zoltan and Xulia.” She grinned crookedly. “I’d never’ve thought we’d ever have the same goals, you and we.”

“That’s for sure,” Ghenni laughed. She held out her hand. “Peace, then?”

Yanag looked at the hand but made no move to take it.

“Truce, anyway,” she said. “Peace… we’ll have to see.”

“Truce, then,” Ankhoro said before Ghenni could react. “That’s still an improvement.”

“I can second that,” Yanag said with a grin, taking Ghenni’s outstretched hand.

“If you can convince your friends,” Ghenni said. Yanag shrugged.

“Leave that to me.” She turned to look at Jamao’s hut. “So, what do we do next?”

“We need to find out what they’re up to,” Ghenni said. From the corner of her eye, she saw Ankhoro reach for his throat. She shook her head. Ankhoro saw her refusal, nodded and let his hand drop.

“I think you’d better go look for Zoltan and Xulia,” he said, “and let them in on our truce. I wouldn’t like it if they spoiled everything just because they didn’t know.”

“Good point,” Yanag said. “Let us know what you find out?”

“That’s what alliances are for,” Ghenni said. She grinned as Yanag ran off.

“She’s not at all like when she’s with the other two,” Ankhoro said, staring at the retreating form. Now that she had the time, Ghenni thought he had stared at Yanag quite intently throughout the conversation. The idea bothered her.

“Shows what the company you keep can do to you,” Ghenni said. “Come on, let’s get on with it.”

“Can we use the crystals now?” Ankhoro said. Ghenni shook her head no.

“We’re still too much in the open. Let’s hide in a bush somewhere, where nobody can see us.” She smiled. “Then we can use the crystals.”

Ankhoro looked around and pointed at a bush near the king’s hut.

“How about over there?”

They ran over and hid in the bushes. They produced their crystals and spoke the magic words that made them visible.

“I check on Bolwyn,” Ghenni said, “you spy on Terek.”

“I owe him my life,” Ankhoro said.

“Not if what Bolwyn said is right. And you saw it with your own eyes, didn’t you? It’s entirely possible that Terek sent the beast that almost killed you.” Ghenni considered the matter for a moment. “On the other hand, I wouldn’t put it past Bolwyn to conjure up a monster. In that case, Terek really did save everyone.” She shrugged. “That’s what we need to find out, don’t we?”

“I suppose,” Ankhoro said. He turned away from Ghenni and stared intently into his crystal. Ghenni watched him for a moment, then she concentrated on her crystal, willing it to show her Bolwyn.

It showed her Bolwyn, standing in his hut, already changed. Now that she tought of it, she felt lucky that she didn’t have to watch him get dressed. Now, if only she could hear what he was saying… She focused her concentration, but all she heard were the usual background noises. Could it be true? Could it be that chatty Bolwyn didn’t talk to himself ? Would wonders never cease?

She watched Bolwyn leave the hut. The crystal’s magic followed him, for which Ghenni gave silent thanks. Outside the hut, Bolwyn stopped and looked around. Not just right and laft, but also up and down. He scratched the back of his head. Then he shook his head and stalked off. It was easy to deduce that he was headed for Jamao’s hut.

“I think we’re about to find out what’s going on here,” Ghenni whispered.

“Glad one of us is getting somewhere,” Ankhoro said. “All I get is Terek preening.” He chuckled. “You should see Jamao. And Elomei. You’d almost think they met a messenger of Wakano.”

“Bolwyn’s reached Jamao’s hut. He’s…”

“…gone in. I’ve got him now.”

Ghenni glanced over at Ankhoro’s crystal. It showed the same scene as hers, only from a different point of view. She smiled at turned her attention back to her crystal, and the scene that unfolded inside it.

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