After a moment to consider your response, you place your hand into his and allow him to lead you through the crowds to a large deep red tent. It’s one of only a few already set up and around it you see many more armed and topless men facing outwards like silent sentinels.
As you draw closer, two of the otherwise unmoving men part and pull open a flap. Your rescuer leads you inside and a small swishing noise lets you know the gap has been closed after you.
Inside feels warmer than outside. A small fire burns merrily in the middle, the thin wisps of smoke drifting up to a small hole in the very centre of the canvas. Spread around this in a circle are many cushioned areas and further back again a large bed with netted curtains drawn around it, and several low tables with cushions for kneeling in front of. Each table has food, cosmetics or jewellery laid out on it, similar to the gifts you have already.
“All this is yours, Angel,” he says, disturbing you from your inspection of it all. “Come, sit, and let us eat.”
Never letting go of your hand he moves with you to the centre and motions for you to sit on a collection of large blue cushions. As soon as you are comfortable he settles down beside you, his skin almost touching yours. Given that there are so many other places to sit you, this seems strange but until you know more you cannot say if it is normal behaviour or not.
Within seconds of sitting, the tent flaps open again and the same female servants as before come rushing in, each carrying platters of food. The smell of roasted meat and other foods you don’t recognise fills the tent as they come towards you. Once the food is placed within reaching distance around you, everyone but one girl leaves. She stands off to one side, a bowl in her hands.
“Try this,” Temullgei says as he lifts the nearest platter and presents it to you. An almost blackened meat sits in a thick mush of something that smells sweet. You hesitate a moment unsure about using your fingers before you take the plunge and lift a small piece to your lips.
The taste of apple and chargrilled pork fills your mouth. While you chew he gazes at you, his eyes searching your face for a reaction. You smile, not sure what else to do while you’re eating. He takes your gesture in the affirmative and takes a handful of the meat as well. His hunger is evident as he barely chews before he swallows, but he doesn’t take any more until you do.
The same ritual of him following your lead is passed through several more times as he offers you the other dishes. You try everything at least once, although some of the fruit dishes are too tart for your likes. Most of the platters are meats, but one tastes a lot like a sort of sweet potato. At no point were you given utensils so by the time you have filled your stomach you have sticky fingers and aren’t sure where to place them.
“Done?” he asks when you shake your head at the next platter he offers you.
“Yes, thank you.”
Leaning back a little he says something to the girl at the side. She gets up and brings the bowl she’s been holding the entire time over to you. As she kneels he says another few curt words you don’t understand. In response she hands him the bowl and gets back up.
With the bowl of what looks like water between you, he takes your hands and washes them for you. His hands feel rough to yours but every motion is gentle and deliberate. The water is cool, but not too cold.
Once he’s done, he quickly scrubs his own. Just as he finishes the girl hands him a cloth and he dries your hands as gently as he washed them, caressing each finger with the soft material. When both of you are clean and dry the girl comes forward again and takes the bowl and cloth. With a small bow she hurries from the tent, leaving you alone with the clan leader.
“Drink?” he asks as he gets up from beside you.
“Yes, please,” you reply. Not sure what you’ll be given but aware of how little you’ve drunk the last few days. You watch him as he pours two chalices of a liquid you can’t see from a pitcher standing on one of the small tables nearby.
He hands you your drink as he comes back and retakes his position at your side. While staring at you he waits. It occurs to you that he might be waiting for you to drink first, just as he’d eaten after you had, so you lift the chalice to your lips and taste the red liquid. You’re pleased to find it’s a wine that tastes sweet and refreshing.
As you suspected he now drinks and almost downs his entire chalice. Silence falls between you and you fidget awkwardly. After a little longer your mind picks up on something you can say.
“Thank you for finding me,” you say and notice he’s still staring at you.
“Do not thank me. I came as soon as I knew.” He smiles again. “An Angel such as yourself is important to our people. My tribe will take you back to our home city. There you will be safe, at least for some time.”
You nod, not sure what to reply to this statement. Although he is being kind and courteous so far, you know so little about him and his people that you worry about saying something wrong.
“I must say, I am honoured to have found you. And relieved. If one of the other Khaads had got to you,” he looks away and shakes his head, before continuing. “I offer you my protection, Angel. My tribe and I will keep you from harm, at the sake of our own lives if it comes to it.”
“Thank you,” you reply.
He lifts his hand and strokes a stray strand of your hair away from your face, before pulling back and frowning.
“Forgive me. I… I shouldn’t have touched you.” He gets up and bows. “I will let you rest now, Angel. I hope I can receive the honour of your company again soon.”
Without waiting for you to reply, he hurries from the tent. You watch him go and frown once you’re alone. A minute later the same girl who gave you food and clothes when you were found comes in and bows. Behind her several more servants come and take away all the left over food while she opens the curtains on your bed and pulls back the blankets. Afterwards she bows again and hurries after the retreating servants.
You’re alone again and you suspect the maid was hinting you should go to bed, but you’re not sure what you want to do. You feel tired but you’ve learnt very little about the people you’re with and even less about how you got here and why you’re thought of as an Angel.
What do you do?
Go to bed.
Leave the tent and try to find Temullgei to ask a few questions
Leave the tent and take a look around.
Stay in the tent and investigate its contents.
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