East (Chapter Five, page 2 of 13)

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He definitely had a way with words. I didn't notice my pain when he spoke. I was fascinated by his flowery explanation.

"Your eyes are of the sea, not the sky," Khulutei said as if proud of himself for figuring out the mystery of me. "I must tell my uncle." He rose and hurried away.

"Is it that important?" I asked The Persian, watching Khulutei's retreat.

"To them it is." There was mild humor in the response.

I returned my attention to the storyteller.

"I cannot explain your appearance or likeness or how you are the same now as reported many years before except that the one true God made it possible," he added. "It is their way, not ours."

"Will that get you in trouble?" I asked.

"No. I do not agree with many of the Empire's ways, but they do allow their people to worship what god or gods they please. In their capitols, the mosques of my god sit beside the churches of the Crusaders and the altars of the lotus worshippers. There is no common tongue or god to unite them. The Empire is held together by power, obedience and the wealth that trade along the Silk Route brings."

Even Carter's historical summaries paled when compared to the elegant yet simple views of The Persian.

"I heard what they planned to do to you," he added more quietly. "There is much barbarism to these people, despite all they have done to pacify and extend the trade routes."

"Yeah, there is," I agreed, thoughts on the battle in the city. "What makes you stay with them to document their history?"

"I am a scholar. My heart is in knowledge, in exploring the unknown." He offered a small smile. "I also defied my cousin, who is destined to be a prince ruler and am living in exile. The Empire does not discriminate. If you have a skill they value, they will adopt and reward you for service. There were no written records before the great Genghis, but the Empire wishes its history of taking over the world to be known forever. They value those who can write their stories."

I didn't expect the honest response. He was friendly, if a little reserved, which seemed pretty common for many of the people I'd met. As much as I didn't want a connection to anyone here, it was also nice to really talk to someone.

"My uncle requests you," Khulutei called to The Persian.

"Please excuse me," he said and stood. "God willing, we will speak again."

I watched him go, warmed some by the short talk with someone who appeared almost normal by my twenty first century standards.

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