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  1. chapter twenty-four: the serpent in the oasis....

    My heart was heavy when the high-priest came to us. His face was stern, austere. In a flash of inspiration, I beseeched him to permit me to address the tribe before the verdict was given. To my relief, he acceded. Prepared with some minor magical oratory enhancement to aid me, which I felt safe in using, as it did not directly affect any of the tribal members I addressed, I stood and presented myself. I drew upon my memories of my early life with my first-kin, and guessed at customs that we would ...
  2. chapter twenty-three: promises, promises....

    The wind never ceases. It gentles from time to time, but is a constant presence. It looks over my shoulder as I write, it swirls around Arielle as she stands watch, it enters and leaves my sleeping companions, and surely it hounds the footsteps of the stranger who sought to offer our heart's desire. My fasting gnaws at my middle, resolutely ignored. Doubts prey upon my mind. Yet within this sandstorm of half-seen movements, there is a core of certainty.

    I had promised the high-priest ...
  3. chapter twenty-two: too many secrets.... (or, dead women still tell tales!)

    The following morning saw us heading for the rock outcroppings that form the windbreak that protects the oasis. I found it interesting that none of the shelters have been erected near the cave opening. The inside is cooler than the outside, but as we penetrate deeper into the cavern, the air grows curiously warm. At the second turn, Pik stopped momentarily, and pointed to a hollow in the floor. Later I spoke with him and confirmed my suspicion. According to the lore of my first-kin, that is where ...
  4. chapter twenty-one: an amulet of destiny's past....

    It has been an interesting experience teaching those who have so long been our teachers in the ways and customs of the strange lands in which Pik and I have wandered. Now that we are home in the desert, we have had to think carefully and explain things which to us, are first-nature. How to find water, how to conserve water, how to dress, how to shelter, and so forth. All new experiences for our clutch-family. We traveled in easy steps, helping accustom our new family to the rigors of desert travel. ...
  5. chapter twenty: sidetreks.... (or, over an hundred and twenty years old, and i still can't drink, drive, or vote!)

    It is the dusk of Fireday, 7th month of the Year of the Emberhound. We travel in the cool of the dusk and dawn. As we leave my tribal homeland, I reflect upon the events of the last month. We sent messages to the Duke, upraising him of the finishing events, and our suspicions and intentions. We retained the peculiar enchanted chain, and sent our information by secured courier.

    We had decided not to take the overland route. In the heat of summer, this would be most difficult for our ...