Not wasting time on trying to request a spoon or fork you pull your body into a semi-upright position and lift the wooden bowl to your chest. The oaty substance cools the burning skin as you scoop it up to your mouth. The first few mouthfuls barely register with your senses as you chew and swallow them as swiftly as you can, unable to slow even if you wished to.
By the time the bowl is half empty your stomach loosens its control of your pace and you give your mouth time to taste the substance. It has a similar texture to porridge, but more creamy, with a subtle after taste much like goat’s milk.
When you finally feel full you notice you’ve wiped the bowl clean, and you spend the next minute making sure you have every last morsel off your fingers. Satisfied, you sigh and lie back. It makes you feel a little better that you’re enclosed and no one saw the ungraceful eating, but you’re not sure you’d have cared even if someone had been able to see. One taste of the food had overridden everything but your survival instincts anyway.
The tent like structure domes above you and helps keep the worst of the sun off but you still feel hotter than you’re used to or comfortable with, but you can’t be bothered to move and try and remedy the situation. Now that your hunger is satisfied and you’re no longer in immediate danger your body lets you know it wants to rest by making it difficult to keep your eyes open. Combined with the gentle rocking that only lulls your senses further, you lose the battle and slip into a peaceful sleep.
Several hours later you wake to find the same brown woman sitting beside you. Your little tent is darker than it was and significantly cooler. It’s also stopped rocking back and forth, but you can still hear the sounds of people moving and talking outside. Your companion smiles at you and takes your arm to help you sit up.
As soon as you’re half-vertical she scoots around you and you feel her brushing your blonde hair. A moment later she braids it in one length down your back.
“Thank you,” you say when she finishes and comes back to your side. She just smiles and holds out what looks like folded clothing. Not knowing what else to do you take it. Before you can try and ask her anything she leaves again, pulling the flap shut behind you. You’re fairly sure you’ve been given the clothes to change into so you unfold them and find a single gown-like piece of clothing from a very light, almost see through material as well as a contrasting sash.
Hastily you pull off your top, trying not to irritate your burnt skin and wrap the gown around you, realising it only goes over one shoulder while the other is held in place with hooks attaching it to the top flap just underneath your armpit. The deep blue material would have looked good on you had the burning of your otherwise pale skin not been made more obvious by this change in clothing. You sigh as you remove your shoes, socks and jeans, and smooth down the skirt so you’re decent once again.
Not sure if the woman is going to come back, you move towards the flap and lift it to see out. Instantly she notices you and comes rushing over to help you out. Once you’re standing she takes the sash and wraps it around your waist, tying it in an elaborate bow at the back. While she fusses over your appearance you gaze at your surroundings.
Many men and women are scurrying here and there, erecting large tent structures that look a little like yurts. In pens here and there are many horses, far more than you’ve ever seen before. The sun is setting in the sky, casting an orange glow over everything and making the brown and grey canvases look alive with colour.
Everyone who notices you stares until you look in their direction, and then they glance away, seeming embarrassed and hurry about whatever activity you’d distracted them from. As soon as the woman is finished she pushes you back to sit in the opening of the litter. As you sit the dress lifts enough to reveal your feet. Within seconds she kneels in front of you and places a bowl of cool water at your feet. One by one she uses cloth to clean your feet and then another to dry them off before slipping them into matching shoes.
When she’s done she helps you stand again. You glance up to see the man who’d rescued you stride through the crowds. His eyes never leave you. Judging by the stern look on his face and the way everyone else scurries to get out of his way, he is the leader of these people. Behind him are several more men, but they hang back and allow him to dictate their path. All of them are topless, and tanned deep bronze colours and have the front and sides of their hair short with long braids down their backs, not too dissimilar from your own.
As the men get closer you notice women scurrying after as well, each of them carrying a package of some kind. When your rescuer reaches you he sinks down to one knee and bows before you, everyone else follows his example You gasp. The stern look on his face vanishes as he gets up and allows his eyes to look over you. For a moment no one says anything and an awkward silence develops.
“Forgive us, Angel. We came as fast as our horses could,” he says in his strange accent, his eyes still never leaving your face or body. You open and close your mouth, having no idea what to say in response. One by one the girls come forward and offer you the packages, opening up the plain cloths to reveal more clothing, clay jars that look like perfumes, jewellery and furs. No one else speaks until the gifts have all been laid at your feet.
“I hope they are to your liking, Angel. You’re the first… woman to ever arrive. We weren’t prepared.”
“They’re fine,” you reply, still overwhelmed.
“I am Temullgei Khaad, and these are my people.” he motions to the girls and men waiting with him, taking his eyes off you for a brief second. “My Gerd is being made available for you to use, another gift, Angel. If you are not too tired I wish to have your company during my night meal.”
He smiles and offers you his hand.
What do you do?
Decline his invitation and ask to rest for the night so you can find out more about these people before you interact with them socially.
Accept and ask lots of questions about where you are and why he keeps calling you Angel.
Accept and tell him everything you know in the hope he can help you get back home.
If you want to re-read part 1 it’s here.
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