After the fight, I was a bit shaken up. But as the air cleared, I couldn’t help but laugh. I don’t know what came over me, but Mhorik looked at me with puzzlement. I just looked at him and couldn’t stop laughing. I took a big, loud gasp of breath and that got Mhorik to laughing, too. We fell to the ground, holding our sides as we laughed and laughed for what seemed like a very long time. We both sat there, panting for breath. Later he explained that laughing was a common reaction after times of extreme danger, and I’ve found that to be true many times since then.

With the questions in my mind put to rest for a time, we continued on as we had before. Mhorik and I talked at length about magic. He gave me a few more lessons, and I kept practicing them during our walk. I even started to use the energy rune carved into my arm so long ago, finally understanding what it meant after seeing Mhorik’s lightning display. The days flew by as we traveled along, and I settled into a rhythm. I didn’t notice the aches and pains so much any more, and even started sleeping as easily under the stars as I did back home in the hut.

We had stopped to gather up some more fresh water when a stranger stepped out. He had a spear in his hand, but didn’t carry it threateningly. The spearhead glittered in the sunlight, made of pure shaped flint. The figure said something that didn’t sound quite right to my ears, and Mhorik said something back.

“What’s going on?”

Mhorik gave me a quick look and went back to talking. The conversation got animated, with the stranger waving his spear around not exactly in a threatening manner, but not entirely friendly, either. He pointed to the distance and waved to follow him.

We walked for a while before I spoke up again. “What is this, Master?”

“This person is from a wandering tribe. Their wizard has left, probably to the convocation, and he says the elder has a problem that only a wizard can handle. He was very insistent that we come along with him.”

“His words don’t sound right.”

“He speaks a different tongue than we do. Related, but not quite the same.”

“You mean, he speaks like a Kobold?” I said with a grin. The green skins were known for their gibbering and grunting that seemed to be their language.

“I wouldn’t say that, exactly,” Mhorik said, giving me a scolding look. “I speak the language, just be on good behavior.”

We walked away from the sea that had been our frequent companion since we had left the village. We went around a couple of hills and saw a small group of tents with a large fire burning in the middle. Spears were planted in the ground around the encampment, and several people were busy with daily life as we entered.

Now that I knew what to listen for, I could almost understand the language. Our guide said a few words that sounded like “old father in sleeping skin” and pointed to the large tent. Mhorik beckoned me toward him and walked to the entrance.

The inside was dark, hot, and smelly. The elder was an ancient man, covered in tattered furs in the corner. He blinked at the light streaming in from the flap and yelled something obviously unkind.

“Hunter talked old father has thorns,” It sounded like Mhorik said, speaking the other language. He stroked his beard thoughfully, waiting for the elder to speak.

“I have dry wizard smell,” the old man mumbled.

“No smell. What thorns when no smell?” Mhorik responded.

“White stones are hurt thorn, must be wizard smell!” The old man nearly shouted with his hoarse voice.

Turning from the old man and looking at me, Mhorik whispered, “Get out the numbing bark you packed,” then turned and yelled something out the door i didn’t hear. I unpacked a lot of items and found the long pieces of bark we sometimes hold against wounds when casting a numbing spell.

Mhorik took his ritual knife from its sheathe and sliced off a few pieces. A woman came in with a bowl of very hot water and put it down near Mhorik. He dropped the pieces of bark into the water. Mhorik gave me a warning look and I sat silently.

A low chant came from Mhorik’s lips, but he was saying nonsense. It didn’t even sound like the strange language this tribe spoke. He weaved a small amount of magic, summoning a few glowing motes of fire and let them burn out. Continuing for a while longer, the brew cooled down and Mhorik picked it, gave it to the elder, and mimicked drinking it. The old man looked at the bowl, then tipped it back gently and slurped up the water but left the piece of bark. Mhorik pointed to the bark and mimicked a chewing motion. With obvious hesitation, the old man finally did as instructed.

“Stay food and see when I eat,” the demanding elder said as he waved us away. Mhorik got up and I followed.

“What was that about smells?” I asked when we were away from the tent.

“He thinks he was cursed by a wizard. He wanted me to remove the curse.”

“Was he?”

“No, he just had an ache in his mouth. The numbing bark should make him feel better. But, he doesn’t want us to leave until he can eat tonight. Get comfortable.”

We found a place near the fire to sit and we watched the tribe wind down for the night. A large slab of meat had been placed near the fire, and it was cooking to sizzling perfection. After eating the dried food we packed, I was eager for some real food for a change.

When the meat was taken off the fire, the old man was escorted out of the tent by two younger women. They sat him down and he mumbled something and pointed to the whole tribe. A slice of meat was cut off and served to him in a worn wooden bowl. He picked up the meat, and looked at it with trepidation.

I held my breath as he took a cautious bite….


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