Desert Travelers V

continued from here


The sandstorm ended late in the afternoon. As he left Danu’s tent to return to his own, Marcus saw the desert sunset begin to paint the sky a multitude of colors. Around him, the others were digging out of their tents, checking on their animals and making ready for the night. Having been delayed for two days, some might wish to begin travelling at once, but the damage would have to be assessed before Danu would make a decision.

At his own tent, Marcus found all the servants well. The women were already beginning to prepare the evening meal, while the men checked on the supplies and animals.

“Will you dine here tonight, milord?” the maid called Emmaline asked after he had confirmed their health. They were stirring some concoction he could not easily identify over the fire outside the tent. It smelled delicious.

Danu had seemed pleased to dismiss him and not ordered his return, so Marcus felt safe in replying in the affirmative. “I think I’ll wash up and change clothes,” he added. “Could you ask Tim to bring me some water?”

“Yes milord, I’ll tell him now,” she said, passing the spoon to the second maid, named Anna.

His clothes being the same ones he’d slept in the night before, Marcus was glad to be rid of them, and disrobed immediately upon entering his tent. He shook them heartily to dislodge most of the sand, and then, when Tim entered the tent with a bucket of water, passed them on. “I don’t know yet if we’re going to be staying a day, but these could use a washing,” he said. “Put them wherever it is they need to go.”

“Yes milord,” Tim answered, exchanging the bucket for the laundry. “Do you want more water?”

“No, this will be good enough for now,” he answered. “There isn’t time for a full bath, just a washing up and a rest before dinner. Come and fetch me when they say it’s ready.”

Orders received, Tim bowed and left the tent. Marcus turned his attention to the bucket he carried. The water was warm, not from being heated but from sitting in the hot desert suns, even encased in barrels. He found some soap and contented himself with washing his face and hands, and then combed out his hair. It was long, grown past his ears, but he had neither the skill nor patience to give himself a haircut, and so left it alone for now. He changed into a relatively clean pair of breeches and tunic and decided to rest until dinner.

His own tent was much more sparsely furnished than Danu’s, with only a mattress on the floor for sleeping and a few pillows instead of a luxurious pile of cushions. He had his trunk, but it was filled with clothing and a few other items rather than expensive, well packaged wines. The mattress was easily large enough for two people, for his lady most often shared his tent when they were together; alone he could easily lie flat on his back and spread his limbs wide, which he did now.

“Ah, Miriam,” he mumbled aloud, for his mind had travelled to her. “I hope you know how to stay safe in sandstorms.” He shut his eyes, let his mind wander, listened to the silence now that the wind had faded, and began to drift into sleep.

He saw a castle, a massively large building in the midst of the desert. He saw a lady, dressed simply in a gown made of linen, perfect for traveling, a silken scarf wrapped over her head to protect her from the sun. She walked through sands – calm sands – leading a tall bird behind her. On the back of the bird rode two young females – he couldn’t tell if they were children or adults – dressed in plain linen shifts, with linen wrapped over their faces. His mind’s eye went to the woman’s face and saw that it was, indeed, Miriam. Her eyes bore into his mental vision, her expression determined and somewhat angry. He could guess why. If she had rescued slaves, she was most likely angry about their mistreatment. Her determination was an attempt to determine his location.

He opened his mind to her, let her sense him. And she opened her mind to him, and, although he had no map of the Desert and little knowledge of the territory, he knew now where she was, and how long it would take her to travel to him.

And he knew something else.

He awoke when Tim returned, gently shaking him to wake him. He sat upright at once, sweating in the heat.

“Are you well, milord?” Tim asked, worry in his voice.

“Yes,” Marcus said at once, although he did not feel well. “Is supper ready?”

“Aye,” Tim replied, “that’s why I’ve come to wake you.”

“Tell them to hold it,” he said, scrambling to his feet. “I need to see his highness first. We need to stay here a few more days.”

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