by Mark Andron and Time Lady
Taygana doesn’t respond. Ayla murmurs an incantation. The princess closes her eyes. Ayla lays her down on the futon, then pulls up the blanket and tucks the princess in. “The spell will allow her a dreamless night’s sleep,” whispers Ayla, not wishing to disturb Taygana.
“Good. I think she deserves it.”
“We all should get some sleep. Tomorrow will be another long day in the saddle.”
“I think that after this, that maybe we should consider sleeping a while longer before heading out.”
“We shall see,” says Ayla, who returns to her sleeping area.
Toran looks down at Taygana, not wanting to go anywhere. Keisai, however, as other things in mind. “She is all right now, Toran. Do not worry about her so much.” Toran looks back. “I’m... just making sure for myself that ... she won’t ...” He gets up and walks back over to his sleeping area, and tries to get back to sleep again.
In her own sleeping area, Ayla can not help but wonder at what dream could have disturbed Taygana so violently. She would have to talk to the princess in the morning.
Eventually, morning does come for the four, Toran opens his eyes with ease, sleep not coming to take him away to dreams. He listens to Keisai’s quiet snoring, taking some minor solace that at least someone is able to rest normally during this time. The princess remains in her dreamless sleep, due to Ayla’s spell. Ayla herself awakes and stretches. Toran slowly sits up, a grim look carved into his face. He looks around, his eyes lingering on Taygana’s body. He rubs his eyes, and then looks again. She still sleeps, in a false tranquillity.
Ayla kneels next to the princess, watching her sleep. “Ah, Taygana,” she thinks, “I wish you would accept what destiny has wrought. You were born to unite two kingdoms, yet you still fight it. Why, child?”
Toran manages to pull himself onto his feet, and then walk over to Taygana, eventually kneeling beside Ayla. His eyes do not leave Taygana’s body for a moment. “Leave her be for now, Ayla. This is a hard journey, and she needs all the peace she can get.”
“As much as I would like to allow her to sleep, it can not be for long,” whispers Ayla. “We must reach the great temple before the gates are locked at nightfall.”
“At least let us get everything prepared for departure before you wake her. Give her that much, at least.”
Ayla nods. “And what of your comrade?”
“He,” he smiles, “can be awakened at anytime now.”
“Perhaps you should see to him, then we may finish our preparations.”
Toran nods, and then walks over to Keisai’s sleeping area. Keisai is still lying there, his extremities thrown everywhere, and the quiet snoring still carrying on. Toran hovers over him for a moment, then bends down and gently shakes him. His eyelids flutter momentarily, and then his eyes focus on Toran. “Already?”
“Yes. Come now, we must be ready to leave before Taygana awakens.” Keisai shakes his head.
“Fine. Whatever. I’ll be there momentarily.”
Ayla bustles about, obtaining fresh provisions for the journey from shops in the village. Toran, and eventually Keisai, check upon their equipment, including their weapons. They do so outside so as to not disturb Taygana. As he is tightening his bowstring, Keisai becomes a bit more vocal. “Tell me, what in Pharangese’s name could produce a scream like hers last night?”
Toran looks down at the ground for a moment. “A fear...of the end of a journey.”
Keisai raises an eyebrow. “Excuse me? Could you be less cryptic?” Toran says nothing.
Meanwhile, Ayla stops to thank the elder for the use of the guest hut for the night. She returns to the warriors, a basket of food for the next leg of the journey in her hand.
“We’re almost through here. We still have to check on the horses, and someone has to check on Taygana and her belongings,” says Keisai almost cheerfully, as he slings his bow about his shoulders.
“I will ensure the princess is ready,” returns Ayla.
“Keisai, go get the horses. I will stay here... to make sure nothing happens.” Keisai looks at Toran oddly, but shrugs and walks off.
Ayla quickly and quietly packs the princess’ belongings, except for her brush and a fresh kimono. She pours some water into a bowl on a nightstand. Turning to the princess, Ayla mutters a brief incantation. Taygana’s eyes flutter open. Confused, she sits up and looks around. “Good morning, your highness,” says Ayla.
“G-good morning,” returns Taygana, as the memories of the previous evening return.
Unable to stand outside any longer, Toran walks into the hut, and sees Taygana awake. He hesitates to say anything with Ayla around, preferring to look into her eyes instead. Finally, the words stammer out of his mouth. “Good morning, milady. How are you feeling?”
Taygana manages a smile. “Better” Yet Toran can see dark circles under her eyes, attesting to a sleepless night.
“Princess,” says Ayla, “if you would ready yourself, we may break our fast and leave. I have laid out a fresh traveling kimono for you.” With that, Ayla shoos Toran out of the hut, to allow the princess privacy to change.
Toran waves her off. “I know full well,” he pauses, ever so briefly, “to respect a lady’s need for privacy, and I will go without trouble.” With that, he walks out to stand guard outside, to await Taygana’s exit.
Alone, Taygana is faced with the memories of the night before. Almost mechanically she washes her face and brushes her hair. The images of the dream, even in waking moments, are still terrible. When one is faced with images such as those, how can one enjoy the journey? she thinks.
Outside, Toran crouches down, picking up dirt in his hand and letting it run through his fingers. He knows what it is that troubles her, and yet does not know how to help her. And what they almost did last night... that worries him most of all. “A warrior is supposed to be above those things,” he tells himself. “A cat person warrior, anyway. But then, I’m not a true cat person, am I?” He shakes his head.
“But...,” Taygana thinks to herself, “what if everyone else is right? What if all of this is a creation of my mind? A manifestation of my anxiety over the marriage? Toran seems to be the only one I can talk to, yet he can do nothing.” She briefly closes her eyes. “Bastet and Misra, please guide me... show me what to do...”
There is a knock on the wall of the hut, and Toran’s voice echoes throughout almost immediately thereafter. “Milady, may I come in?”
“In a moment,” she replies, shedding her travel-stained kimono and replacing it with the clean one. A few moments later, she calls “Enter.”
Toran heed her command and enter the hut. He kneels down beside her. “I thought that you should know that ... the rest of us are almost prepared to leave.”
“I am aware of it.”
“And I thought.... I should check to see if you were ready to join us in breaking our fast yet.”
She nods. “I will be out in a moment.”
“Good.” He looks into her eyes, and finds that he cannot move them away from them.
Taygana feels the same strange feelings as she did the night before. Something draws her heart towards the half-breed warrior... something she can not explain. He finds himself physically drawn ever closer to her, without knowing why, and without questioning it. Taygana blinks uncertainly. An image flashes in her mind... one of her and Toran wrapped in a passionate embrace. The image disappears, but feels so right...
“Milady....” Her eyes, so wonderful. He is glad that the masking spell does not hide them. “Taygana...” They become larger, more detailed as his face moves closer to hers. “I...” His heart knows this is right.... Taygana bites her lower lip, uncertain of what to do next.
Toran stops. His mind has finally yelled out a resounding “NO”, drowning out the urges of his heart. He blinks for a moment, and then sharply stands up. “Forgive me, I... I know not what came over me.”
Understanding his feelings, Taygana simply nods. “Perhaps we will feel better once we break our fast.”
“Perhaps.” Toran extends his arm. “Come. The others will surely wonder what has happened if we do not go quickly.”
Nodding, Taygana takes Toran’s arm and allows herself to be escorted outside. “Come,” says Ayla. “The elder has invited us to break our fast with her.”
“Very well. It is the least we should do to thank her for her troubles.”
As soon as the horses are packed and ready, Ayla leads the party back to the hut where they first arrived. The elder steps out. “Please, enter,” she says politely.
Seeing that Toran already has Taygana by the arm, he offers his arm to Ayla before they enter. Ayla stares at him. “What, you take us to be uncivil?” he says. Saying nothing, Ayla lays her hand on Keisai’s arm, wondering about his sudden politeness. The four of them follow the elder and enter the hut. Keisai and Toran seat Ayla and Taygana before sitting down next to them.
“I hope you have enjoyed your stay in our village,” says the elder. “It is a shame your visit was so brief.”
“As much as we wish we did not have to,” Toran says, “we must leave.”
“I know. But perhaps you will visit again.” The elder looks at Toran appraisingly, then smiles. “I have a granddaughter about your age.”
Toran looks at the elder for a moment. “Well, I am sure she is a lovely woman, but...”
She sighs. “You still have time on your vows to Pharangese. I figured as much. Perhaps when your term of service is over. I have several granddaughters.” Toran says nothing in response. Rather, his head droops slightly.
Breakfast is over with quickly. Ayla chats with the elder. Taygana and Toran are lost in their own thoughts. Keisai notices some of the elder’s granddaughters staring at him. Not wanting to be rude, Keisai waves at the granddaughters, who start giggling. Ayla elbows him in the ribs.
Keisai glares at her, his eyes saying, “What did I do wrong?”
She whispers to him “Should one of these maidens choose to challenge you, and should you win, you would be obligated to become her husband. Such are the laws of the amazons.” The light of revelation hits Keisai’s eyes with a blinding fury, and he pays heed to the granddaughters looking at him. Ayla returns to her conversation, leaving Keisai to smolder in irritation.
Toran finally looks up and at those around him before standing up. “If you will all excuse me, I would like to make sure that all is ready before we depart.” Ayla and the elder nod. As Toran leaves, Ayla glances at Taygana. She notices that the princess’ appetite seems to have returned. Taygana looks up form the remnants of her meal, and notices Ayla looking at her. She manages to form a grin, which seems to content Ayla before she returns to talking to the elder further.
“Our forecasters affirm that the weather will be clear the rest of your journey,” comments the elder.
“That is good,” returns Ayla. The girls turn to each other and giggle, then smile at Keisai.
Upon hearing the giggle, Keisai stands. “If I may, I will go to assist Toran. I believe that he may need my assistance in a few things.”
Ayla nods. “We will join you shortly.”
Once outside, Keisai runs directly to Toran. “Pharangese preserve us, those women are trouble.”
Toran looks at him. “Who, Ayla and Taygana?”
“No, the villagers. I think they wanted to make a husband out of me.” Toran smiles, but only briefly.
“Just consider it one of the hazards you must face as a warrior. Now come, there are still things to do before Ayla drags us further on our trek.”
“Fine. What do you want me to do?” Toran tosses a large bundle of a multitudes of objects. “Strap that to the horses. They might be needed if the trip to the Temple of Bastet takes longer.” Toran walks off, smiling, letting only the sound of Keisai collapsing from the massive weight he was handed.
Ayla joins them, followed by Taygana. “Is everything in order?” asks the enchantress.
“Almost. Keisai has a few things still to pack, but then we will be off.”
Ayla nods. Taygana stares off into the distance. Toran walks over to Taygana. “Is something wrong, milady?” he whispers.
“No, but thank you for your concern,” she whispers back.
“As you wish.” Toran walks off, following the cursing of Keisai for the little joke that he had done. As soon as Keisai and Toran are finished with the horses, Toran helps Taygana mount her steed. The others follow suit.
“Well then, Ayla, shall you lead us to the temple, or would you rather I take the lead again.” Keisai grins as he sees Ayla shudder slightly.
“Are you certain you can maintain your seat today,” she snaps, eyes blazing.
“Just watch me,” Keisai sneers in return before he snaps the reigns of his horse and rides off.
Ayla glares at Keisai, then turns to Toran and Taygana. “Come, before his impetuousness lands him in trouble,” she says, spurring on her horse.
Toran shakes his head and snickers. “I think Keisai has found his calling.”
“Annoying Ayla?” asks the princess innocently. She and Toran follow the others.
“Knowing Pharangese, I would say so.” Instead of taking the rear as he did the last time, he rides alongside Taygana.
Shaking her head, Taygana looks ahead. “He’d best beware, lest he spend the rest of the journey as a toad.”
“She won’t do that.”
“You don’t know Ayla that well, do you?” asks Taygana with a smile. She spurs her horse on to catch up to the others.
“I don’t think that she’s the kind of woman to trust only one person to guard your body,” he mutters before trying to catch up to her.
Along the route, Ayla calls for a brief rest to water the horses and stretch their legs. There she removes the disguise spell from Taygana. “You will not need to use the disguise at the great temple,” says Ayla. “No one there would break a vow of secrecy sworn to the Goddess herself.”
Keisai readily leaps off his horse. Toran is much slower in getting off, but he promptly assists Taygana in dismounting her horse. Nodding her thanks, Taygana is aware that Toran’s hands are slow to leave her hips. She looks into his eyes. Toran cannot help but stare back. He fights the urge to try anything more in the presence of Ayla and Keisai, albeit with great difficulty. They are startled by the horse, who thirstily moves toward the stream for a drink.
“I think I had better get that milady.” Reluctantly, he lets go to chase after the horse.
Nodding, Taygana watches Toran as he attempts to grab her horse’s reins. After a brisk walk, he reaches out and snares the reins with his fingertips. Upon feeling them, he pulls back on them while planting his feet on the ground. The horse jerks its head briefly before coming to a stop. He walks over in front of it, gently patting its head. He looks back to check on Taygana. Finding Toran’s chase amusing, Taygana sits on the ground watching him.
He returns his attention to the horse. “All right, all right, you’ll get your water. Just wait a bit, all right?” The horse seems to nod in understanding, and Toran takes it over to where the other horses are tied.
Meanwhile, Ayla sets out a spread of food, some brought from the Amazon village. Taygana surprisingly finds that she has something of an appetite as she helps herself to a meat filled bun.
Keisai looks at her in surprise for a moment. And then he looks back at an approaching Toran. “Did he do something?” he wonders. If Ayla noticed, she doesn’t comment. Instead she serves herself. Toran sits down next to the princess and looks at the food prepared for the group. He takes the largest piece of fruit he can find. Taygana feels a strange tingling at the nearness of Toran... the same thing she has felt each time he has either been in close proximity or looked at her. Toran wonders why it is that he must now struggle to control himself around Taygana. With her nearness, he wishes.... he shakes his head for a moment. He’s not sure what’s happening to him, and to her. Perhaps this is the one part of the journey Taygana looks forward to - the chance to go to the Great Temple of Bastet. There the Goddess would surely hear her prayers.
After finishing the fruit, Toran stands up. “If you will pardon me, I think I will take a brief stroll.” He thinks, “To stretch my legs and to make sense of what is happening....”
“Do not go too far,” comments Ayla. “We will be leaving soon.”
“I won’t.” He looks at Taygana for a moment, his eyes asking her if she would join him.
Briefly Taygana considers accompanying Toran. She glances at Ayla and decides otherwise. Toran walks off, leaving the three of them to finish the meal. Keisai looks at him, wishing to join him, but something tells him that it is not him that he wants around at the moment. Sighing, Taygana wishes she could go with him. Her mind flashes back to their contact the night before.
Away from the group, Toran kicks a rock away. “Pharangese preserve me, what am I doing?” he mutters. “Why is it now I act so strangely around her?” He looks back at the group for a moment. “I wished to see her happy. I wished to see her smile. Why is it now that I feel as though... I wish for something more?” He shakes his head. “Pharangese, if this is a test of yours.... I am afraid.... for I think I will fail.”
Taygana briefly closes her eyes. “Goddess, why do you torment me?” she thinks. “I am to marry one man, but I feel as though I am losing my heart to another, one who is unattainable. Why?”
Keisai thinks about saying something about getting Toran, but sees him coming his way back, noticing a somber mood on his face. “I suppose... we should be on our way now...” Ayla nods. Taygana glances at Toran as the enchantress disposes with the remains of the meal. Keisai goes to get the horses. Toran offers his arm to help Taygana up. Nodding her thanks, Taygana takes Toran’s hand. He helps her to her feet, but the touch of their hands lingers. She looks up at him, and notices the path of a falling tear along the side of his face. Sensing Keisai and Ayla’s attention is elsewhere, Taygana reaches up and brushes the tear away. “What troubles you, my warrior?” she asks quietly.
He wipes his face clean. “I feel....it goes against everything I know, but I...” He swallows hard. “I... I feel....” He turns his back to her, hiding his fists clenched in anguish. Taygana’s eyes widen. She wonders if Toran is experiencing the same feelings as she is. “I... I sought for you to be happy for once... but then the journey... or the gods...” Again he swallows.
“Everyone else seems to have their own priorities, and we two are only swept along according to their wishes.”
“Sailors on the seas of fate..... and I ... I ... Pharangese forgive me, but I wish no more.”
“I understand.... I....” Before Taygana can say anything else, she hears Ayla calling them.
“Go on, milady. I ... will be with you ... “ He pauses. His heart cries out ‘for eternity’, and he still knows not why. “... shortly.” Sighing, Taygana turns back towards Ayla, who waits impatiently. Toran shakes his head for a moment before heading over to join the others.
“Come,” says Ayla. “We must be at the temple before the gates close at sunset.”
Toran quickly mounts his horse, shortly followed by Keisai. He looks at Taygana, his eyes still showing the anguish he tried to express earlier. As they ride out, Ayla warns Keisai “Mind your manners in the great temple.”
“Believe it or not, either way I could care less, I have the utmost respect for the temples of the gods.”
“Then be sure you show it.”
Keisai snorts at her, sure of himself, and rides off.
“Young fool,” she mutters to herself. “I will be glad when the journey is over.”
Toran allows himself a brief smile upon hearing that. Taygana ignores the exchange between Ayla and Keisai. She wonders what could distress Toran so. Out of the corner of her eye she glances at him. She sees him droop his head while his right hand clutches at a pendant around his neck. Disturbed, she drops back a bit so her horse is neck and neck with his. “My warrior, what troubles you so? If my nightmares and brooding have worried you...”
He looks up, but straight ahead. “My lady... “ He sighs, then grins momentarily. “I wished to help you to smile, and now you try the same for me.” Taygana blushes slightly. “This journey...,” he begins, “things are happening that I could have never seen..... and I seem to have no control over it.... and that frightens me.”
“I know how it feels... to seem not to be in control.”
“I know.... “ He finally brings himself to look at Taygana. “Perhaps the gods are having a grand jest over what is happening to us.”
“Or perhaps they are angry because others act against their design.”
“Perhaps.” His heart is thumping hard with Taygana near, and with her caring about how they both feel. “Maybe they are cruel enough to do both.” Sadly she nods. “Come now, we must catch up to Keisai and Ayla. And maybe ... maybe things will be clearer to us once we reach the temple,” he says. Nodding, Taygana spurs her steed on. Toran waits until she is far enough ahead before he snaps the reins of his horse. The rest of the journey is uneventful, except for the occasional squabble between Keisai and Ayla.
By sundown, they stop on a ridge, and see the Great Temple of Bastet in the distance. Keisai’s eyes widen at the sight of it, uttering only the word “impressive” as he marvels at its intricate design.
“We must hurry,” says Ayla. “Before the gates are closed.”
Keisai pulls the reins of his horse and heads off, to be joined shortly by Ayla who keeps shaking her head. Toran does not move, though, rather he looks on. Taygana glances back at Toran before following the others. Toran looks on at the sun setting on the horizon, reveling as he did in his youth in the bright reds and oranges the sky turns. Such a wondrous sight, he thinks, and he remembers how it set him at ease. He touches his pendant, and realizes how little the sunset has helped. A moment later he rides off after the others.
The party’s horses draw close to a large, elaborate temple. Enormous marble statues of the goddess Bastet flank the gateway. The gilt roof of the temple glows in the sunset. “I have made prior arrangements with the high priestess, who alone is aware of our journey,” Ayla informs the others. “She assured me that, should we arrive in need of lodging, we would be allowed to remain the night.”
They pass through the gates. A female acolyte, followed by a female novice and two male novices, come to greet them. The acolyte steps forward. “Welcome travelers. I am Ti-Lin. Her worship, the high priestess, sends her greetings and invites you to pass the evening with her.”
“We are honored,” replies Ayla.
Ti-Lin gestures to the men with her, who come forward. “Your horses will be seen to. Please, come with us so that you may refresh yourselves from your long journey.”
Taygana dismounts. “Thank the Temple of Bastet for its kindness.”
Ayla, Toran, and Keisai also dismount. The male novices take the horses’ reins and lead them to the stables. Ti-Lin and the female novice lead the travelers to comfortable rooms. “Her worship has chosen these rooms for you,” says Ti-Lin. “Hot baths have already been drawn.” Each member of the party has been provided with their own room. “The high priestess invites you to share the evening meal with her tonight. She dines at the second set of bells after sunset. I will return to guide you to her private chambers.”
After thanking Ti-Lin, each member of the party retires to their assigned room. Taygana finds a clean, yet simple kimono laid out on a chair and several toiletries set on a dressing table. A large tub of steaming water sits in an alcove. She quickly undresses and eases herself into the hot water. The heat of the water eases her sore, tired body, but does nothing to comfort her troubled mind. After her bath, she quickly dries herself. The first set of bells have not yet rung. Taygana slips into the bed for a quick nap, enjoying the first true privacy she has had since leaving home. Only her body rests; her mind is filled with thoughts of Toran. She rises a few minutes after the first bells and dresses. By the time Ti-Lin returns, Taygana is ready.
Toran however is still ill at ease. Sitting in the bath drawn for him, his fingers play with the pendant around his neck, a pendant signifying his service to the goddess Pharangese and the vows he had taken in that service. He wishes he had someone to talk to, some one who could explain to him what has caused his soul to feel so divided. Even Keisai would do, he thinks, although he mentally snickers soon thereafter. Slouching slightly in the tub, he recalls how the Mother told him of his arrival at the temple of Pharangese. He thinks back through the years, of how almost every minute was spent learning Pharangese’s way, of passion and wisdom. He remembers the first time he saw a sunset; how fascinated he was with something outside of the temple and its teachings. And now...he wonders if that same fascination is happening all over again, or if it is something more...
Stepping out of the tub, he takes the nearest towel and wipes himself off. As he dresses for dinner, he pulls the pendant off his neck and over his head, then studies it intently. He then tosses it next to his sword. Somehow, wearing it right now just felt wrong to him. The first bell is rung, and soon Ti-Lin arrives to escort him, Taygana following her.
The party is escorted to a private room, where the high priestess of Bastet waits. The high priestess is a tall, stately woman. An Egyptian headdress, jeweled wide collar, and gold belt, passed on from the first high priestess to found the shrine, are the only adornments on the priestess’ white robe. The reddish-brown fur on the high priestess’s hands is speckled with gray. Her proud face also begins to betray the lines of age. The travelers bow to the priestess.
“Welcome travelers,” greets the high priestess. “Please, join me in the evening meal.”
“We are honored, your worship,” replies Ayla.
Three novices serve the food and drink. Taygana is silent throughout the meal. The high priestess converses with Toran and Keisai about various issues of the Temple of Pharangese, and with Ayla about the royal courts. From time to time, after making sure Ayla was embroiled in conversation, Taygana sneaks long glances at Toran. Her heart lurched each time. Once Toran glanced up and met the princess’ gaze. She froze, their eyes locked for a full minute, until Keisai distracted Toran with a comment. While Ayla seemed otherwise occupied in conversation, the high priestess didn’t miss a thing.
“How much longer do you expect to travel?” asks the high priestess.
“Should conditions remain as they have been, we should arrive at our destination in four days,” answers Ayla.
“I expect you will wish to depart early tomorrow, then.” says the high priestess. “I should not detain you from your rest. Your ward, Lady Ayla, appears ready to nod off.”
Taygana smiles weakly. “Thank you, your worship.”
The high priestess claps three times. “Ti-Lin will show you back to your rooms.” Ti-Lin appears. “If I do not see you on the morrow, then may Bastet protect you all on your journey.”
Ti-Lin guides the travelers to their rooms. Sitting before a mirror, Taygana pulls out the clasps from her hair, letting it tumble down to her waist. She takes a brush and begins on the long, pink curls. Her mind keeps wandering back to Toran. A knock at the door startles her.
“Princess?” says the high priestess. “Are you awake?”
Hearing the high priestess’ voice, Taygana jumps to her feet and quickly opens the door. She bows. “I am honored, your worship. Please, enter.”
“Thank you. I hope I did not disturb you.”
“Oh, no. I was simply brushing my hair. Is there something you wanted to discuss?” Taygana asks uncomfortably.
“Not I... but I felt that you had much on your mind that you may wish to talk about.”
Taygana meets the high priestess’ gaze. A tear rolls down the princess’ cheek, then a torrent lets loose as Taygana tells the high priestess about her feelings of her upcoming marriage, and about the king’s and Ayla’s refusals to change their minds. The high priestess cradles Taygana’s head like that of a small child in need of comfort. “It is all right child,” murmurs the high priestess.
Taygana’s tears slowly abate. She sits up. “Thank you, your worship.” She dabs at her eyes with a handkerchief. “I must appear so silly.”
“Not at all. There must be a reason your fears are so strong. There is one more thing I must know before I leave you.” She looks into Taygana’s reddened eyes. “What are your feelings towards the warrior Toran?”
Taygana blinks in surprise at the question. “I... I don’t know...” She looks down at her lap. “I... feel... drawn to him... deep within.” She places a hand on her heart. “In my heart, I feel a strong pulling... when we are apart, I ache... and I do not understand why. I know I only wish to be with him... yet we have only known each other barely three days...”
The high priestess stares at Taygana for a long moment. “There are other influences at work. I must meditate on the issue.”
“Thank you for speaking with me. But Ayla....”
The high priestess interrupts Taygana. “Anything said here is a trust between you and me.” The high priestess rises from her seat and departs, leaving Taygana alone with her thoughts.
Taygana’s sleep is restless. When she wakes the next morning, she feels as if she hadn’t slept at all. Ti-Lin informs the party that the high priestess is in her morning devotions. Breakfast is served the party in a small room. They return to their journey as soon as they have eaten and thanked the acolytes. The journey is like it had been the previous day- long, boring, and uncomfortable. They stop for an hour to eat and rest the horses, then continue at the same pace. Taygana’s heart is heavy as she rides. From time to time, she glances at Toran, wondering what his thoughts are.