East (Chapter One, page 1 of 19)

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The next several hours occurred in a flurry of activity that rendered me a speechless observer. Where there had been an army on horseback, suddenly tents began springing up in every direction, as if growing out of the steppe like fat mushrooms. I was too cold to do more than huddle and shiver next to the horse brought to me. I was dizzy from traveling and in no shape to ride, so I stood by the animal and struggled not to freeze to death while the camp took shape.

The Mongol warriors moved with quick discipline and barely spoke above a whisper. Their communication among one another was nothing short of baffling: hand signals, grunts, and orders given in the forms of poems or chants. The thump of drums filled the air, coordinating their movements. Their commander remained near me, and I was ringed by warriors that towered over the rest of the men who were closer to my size.

"What was it like to be cast from the sky, Goddess?" the commander asked me.

"I am not a goddess," I said through chattering teeth.

"The Eternal Blue Sky sends a great gift, goddess or woman. Father Sky does indeed bless us," he said, unconcerned. "You fell from the moon to light our path." He pointed to the thumbnail moon above. "If Goddess does not please you, then do you object to Moonbeam?"

I shook my head. It sounded like a total flower child name from the seventies. Moonbeam was pretty, and I was too cold to correct him and provide my real name.

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