Without everything that happened to Ailin, though Ferin was watching over her all the time that it happened.
Our tribe is growing. I really think it deserves to be called that, now that we’ve conquered another group of Khas and added half a dozen men to our strength. Not an unmixed blessing, because we lost Batuldzi in the fight.
It’s strange, though, these four women want to be become fighters, have been training as fighters, and have become quite good, too. But losing one of them makes me think we should perhaps keep them back. What’s the use of finding the king if all the women who want to find him are dead? On the other hand, what’s the use of finding that king if, after all, all those women are dependent on their protectors. It’s a tough question, and I’m not sure I’ve got the answer.
It happened yesterday. We had been trekking over the plains for a couple of weeks since the mice, and hadn’t encountered any people whatsoever. So when Fikmet found fresh camel tracks, we were a bit wary.
Ailin looked around with semsin that evening, and found about ten people camping out in the vicinity. We decided to spy them out, sending out Bayat and Sepideh.
That was a mistake: we hadn’t counted on there being a mage in the camp, and the mage spotted Bayat and grabbed him with his filthy tricks. Sepideh came running and warned us, and we stormed the camp. If we hadn’t sent Bayat, but someone who wasn’t gifted, who knows what might have happened? Maybe nobody would have died.
But there it was, Bayat was caught, and Ailin and I went for the mage and the captain, while the rest of our tribe went for the soldiers.
It was a confusing fight, it was already getting darker. We managed to kill the mage, but it was touch and go, since he was strong enough to hold Bayat and Ailin at the same time. We don’t know how they do it, but determined to figure it out.
We had some more wounded, the others had some more dead, apart from the mage, and of course our Batuldzi. For the funeral, we dug a deep pit and filled it with dry grass, all the brushwood we could find, dung and then heaped the bodies in there, all of them, then set fire to the pyre.
Apparently Ailin and I were now the unquestioned leaders, so it was up to us to say the prayers for the dead. Tough luck for the Khas: we said the Invocation to Naigha in Ilaini then in Khas on all sides of the pyre, more we couldn’t do.
Apparently there are long dirges that need to be sung, stories told of the heroic deeds of the fallen — but nobody present could do that, so we didn’t.
We did take the conquered Khas into our tribe — six men, a woman and their captain. Their captain was wounded but had survived, and he submitted to me. Though he told me that he just might challenge me, later on! I gave them the ground rules of life with us, viz. keep your hands of any woman who doesn’t want you, everyone fights and teaches each other and we have a break on the day of Anshen.
They were a bit surprised, I guess, but their woman was really happy to be her own woman. They came from Solay, actually, and had fought in the final siege — having been beyond the mountains will have shown them that there are other ways of living together than the Khas way, in any case.
Not that all Khas are the same, apparently. The newcomers, I still don’t have all their names, had tents that were much more practical than ours: just three long stakes with some leather wrapped around. I didn’t seen any protecting snakes or owls, but I might have missed those.
It’s probably good that we have some more fighters in our little tribe, especially when we get nearer to the King’s court, where our new people were going as well.
But next time we come across another tribe, I’m going to take four soldiers and investigate myself. No more pussy-footing but a reconnaissance-in-force.