East (Chapter Five, page 1 of 13)

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The day passed more slowly than I wanted. It didn't help that whatever drug they gave me wore off around mid-afternoon. Pain kept me from the amount of thinking I needed to do and instead, I floated in a rather miserable place. Chaghan kept his word and had Tomeid bring me candles and milk. Without him present most of the day, I was able to sit and meditate or nap away the pain and worry.

I was alone until sometime around sunset, when Chaghan returned with his commanders and several others for another feast around the fire in the middle of the mushroom tent.

Tomeid brought me more … milk. No food, just lukewarm, thick milk. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't a pizza either. After a day in a pain-filled haze, I straightened to listen to the men talking for clues about where I could go or anything else that might help me.

"Goddess, if I may disturb you." Batu's cousin spoke as he approached.

I opened my eyes and gazed up at him.

Taking the acknowledgement as permission, he sat down in front of me, accompanied by a man dressed much as Mahmood had been.

"This is The Persian," he said and indicated the dark-skinned stranger with one hand. "He is related by marriage to the royalty of the Golden Horde."

"It is a pleasure," the Persian said and bowed his head, one hand going to his heart. He was around my age with solemn features - but a gleam in his eyes that warned me he was more than he let on. "Khulutei has told me you are divine among his people." He appeared curious, willing to meet my gaze where Mahmood and the Arab merchant I first met weren't. "You came from the moon?"

I glanced at Khulutei, sensing I wasn't able to tell anyone the truth about me. "He is a scholar and a storyteller," Batu's cousin explained. "He travels the Empire to record events."

In a world without internet, Khulutei sounded like the closest thing they had to a blogger.

"Not from the moon exactly," I said. "But I am from a different place."

"What is it like?" The Persian asked. "Plains? Desert?"

"From near the ocean," I replied, mind on my home in southern California.

"A sea," Khulutei repeated. "Better than the moon."

I raised an eyebrow in puzzlement.

"The sea and moon are feminine," The Persian explained. "When you fell from the sky, they thought the moon sent you to guide them the way it lights their path at night. They call this guidance the White Path, for the moon will show them the way with her white light when the night is too dark to navigate. The sea and water are equally sacred, the blood and essence of the living earth. They will associate you with both now, I believe."

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