Temur felt an arm nudge his side, breaking him out of his nap. “Hm, what?” he asked, but the other guard simply pointed down the moonlit road. There, not far distant, he spied a lone traveller in a long cloak, walking towards Keystone’s gate. The stranger rode no horse and carried no pack, but simply walked with a long, steady stride.
“He’s coming from the east road,” Temur observed.
“I know that,” his partner replied. “I can see. Do you think it’s a Scale?”
“He doesn’t look like one,” Temur observed. “Too tall, not wide enough. Besides, there’s no tail.”
“But he’s coming from the east.”
The reminder sent a chill down Temur’s spine. He nodded. “I’ll head down to inspect him,” he said as he strapped on his sword. He walked down the long stairway within the tower, descending the spiraling steps with care. Soon enough, he reached the gatehouse, where he stopped for a moment to catch his breath. As he leaned over, a gloved hand pushed itself into his view, holding four golden coins. Temur’s eyes widened, and he jumped backwards in surprise. The stranger stood taller than he had anticipated, an entire head over Temur’s not-diminutive six feet. Temur could hear nothing from the stranger, not even a breath or the clink of metal.
“Ah,” Temur stuttered, and glanced at the gold again. The stranger’s hood was drawn completely over his head, obscuring his face from view. “S-strange time to enter, yes? Where do you come from?”
The hooded figure remained still, holding out his open palm. Temur looked at it, as wide as his entire head, then looked at the stranger, then back at the gold. He nodded, carefully took the coins, and walked back up the stairway. After a stopping several times on the way up, he slumped down into his chair at the top of the gate, wheezing noisily.
“Who was that?” the other guard asked.
“Nobody,” Temur responded between breaths. He slid two of the coins across the table. The guard shrugged and stuffed them into a purse at his belt.
“It’s just one man,” Temur mused aloud. “He won’t cause any trouble.”
Below them, the cloaked man strode carefully through streets, throwing up small clouds of dust as his cloak whispered over the ground. The orange glow of firelight from the windows on either side of him filled the chill night with a warm presence, one which he drank in gratefully and quickly he passed. The small groups of people wandering about eyed him warily, but none stopped to accost him. Otherwise, Keystone remained quiet and still.
Beneath the hood, dark and beady eyes scanned the stone-sided buildings. His ears strained for any sign of his quarry, and when a peal of laughter sound from around the corner, accompanied by the low voices of singing men, the stranger hurried towards the source. The heavy cloak barely stirred as he turned sharply, weaving between houses expertly, guiding himself by the light of the moon and the drunken hymn. Before long, the alleyways emptied into a wide road lined by establishments marked with signs, most of which still held candlelight within. One in particular caught the stranger’s attention: a squat, two-story building filled with light, out of which poured sounds of merriment. The painted sign in front of it proclaimed “BUKING STALION” in bold letters over a carved horse.
The stranger skulked backwards into the darkness of the side street, watching the tavern’s door. A woman stood outside, dressed in simple clothing. She spoke something to most men who passed her which did not catch the stranger’s ears, but he guessed it must have been a grave insult, for most men spat upon her, laughed, or shouted.
As the minutes passed, most of the tavern’s occupants filed out into the night. The girl spoke to none of them, but leaned against the wall with her head down. Even so, the memory of insult lingered, and the men accosted her drunkenly as they stumbled away. Eventually, a heavily-muscled man in a rough and stained tunic strutted out of the tavern. Seeing the girl, his face grew dark instantly. The man screamed at her incoherently and swung his arms about until the girl had fled down the street. “Nobody here needs your ‘help’, whore!” he shouted after her.
The stranger emerged from his hiding spot in the darkness, causing the man across the street to jump in surprise. “Apologies for the ruckus, sir!” the man called out, bowing extravagantly. “Come in, sit by the fire and warm yourself.”
The stranger’s hood regarded the man for some moments before turning and heading down the street. The man stood there, shocked. When the stranger had disappeared out of earshot, the man scowled at spat in his direction, then returned to the tavern.
The stranger found her in a side street between two crumbling shacks. She sat with head bowed and knees close to her chest, rocking gently as she sobbed in long, hacking bouts. Like a shadow, the tall figure kneeled next to her quietly. He fished within his cloak and pulled out six golden coins, which he tapped against the girl’s frame. She jumped instinctively, slapping at his arm.
The girl looked up at him. Her eyes widened, and her mouth stood agape. “Who are you?” she asked.
The stranger did not respond, but merely picked up the coins where they had fallen and proffered them to the girl again. Wiping away her tears with one arm, the girl peered at the coins through reddened eyes. His gold glinted in the evening light, like a small mound of fire bathed in ice. The girl looked up at him again, shaking her head vigorously as she locked eyes with the darkness within his hood.
“It’s too much, sir,” she muttered hastily. “Please, I can’t-”
He grabbed the girl’s thin wrist gently, turning her palm up. With a cascade of flickering moonlight, they plinked into her hand one by one. The stranger slowly closed her fingers about the coins, then let go. The girl’s arm trembled. Her small chest heaved with every breath, and starlight reflected in fresh tears upon her cheeks.
“Fine,” she whimpered. “Just follow me.”
Rising on shaky legs, they walked through Keystone’s narrow alleyways. Only silence passed between them until they had come to a cluster of rugged stone walls. “In here,” the girl remarked as she ducked through a thin cloth. The stranger followed, but had to bend low to enter. Inside, moonlight filtered between the smattering of straw which remained above them. The stranger looked about until the girl coughed.
“It’s not very much,” she explained, looking up at him, “but you won’t need to be standing for long.” She smiled weakly at him, but the stranger did not move. “Should we start, then?”
No response. She paused for a moment, frowning, then reached behind her. Her dress grew slack, and she gave him a coy smile. She began to tease the dress from her shoulders, twirling about as she did so. The stranger followed suit, and removed his hood. When the girl turned back around to face him, she screamed. She backed away to the far side of the hovel until her bare back bumped against the rough wall, arms crossed against her chest. The stranger crouched low, peered around quickly, and put a long clawed finger to his lipless jaws. Her scream echoed about the empty streets, but no calls answered it.
Minutes passed in silence. The girls’s eyes darted about the shack and her whole frame shook, but her eyes kept returning to the only exit and the jet-black creature which stood there. When he did not move, the girl finally spoke. “You’re a Scale,” she said simply.
“Can you speak?”
“Yes,” the creature responded smoothly.
“What do you want?” she asked quickly. “I don’t have anything you can take any more, I’m not powerful or anything, I’m nobody! I mean it, please! Don’t take me away!” Tears began to stream down her face.
The tall Scale sat down where he was. He folded long, plated arms over his crossed legs. “I will not hurt you,” he whispered. “I do not bring harm.”
The girl drew in a few ragged breaths. Her choked sniffling was the only sound in the room for some time before she recovered enough to ask “Then what are you doing here?”
“I heard that man say that you were to give help. I need help, and so I found you.”
The girl shook her head in confusion. “But I’m not… I mean, I’m a…” she stared at him, bewildered, from what he could tell. “You didn’t want a whore, then?” Whatever that word meant, she spat it out disdainfully.
“I do not know. Are you a ‘whore’?”
“I-” the girl began to say. She frowned, bowing her head. “No, I’m not.”
“Ah. I am sorry to confuse you. Where can I find one, if they are the ones who sell help?”
The girl raised her eyebrows at him. “You really don’t know what a whore is, do you?” The Scale shook his long head. “Well, there aren’t any around here. You’ll have to go further west to find those kinds of people.”
“Please help me, then. I need a person to help me. Do you offer your help to sell?”
“But what do you need help with?”
“I am on a journey,” the Scale explained. “I go west to find a dragon.”
The girl frowned at him. “There aren’t any dragons any more,” she said flatly. “You know that. There haven’t been any for hundreds of years. Not here, anyways. Why do you think you’re going to find one in the west?”
The Scale considered her. “We had heard that one had come, had made itself known. Have you not heard?”
“No,” the girl answered, shaking her head. “And if you go west, you will be killed. You don’t fit in. You’re-” the girl thought for a moment, then gestured widely to him. “You’re a Scale!”
He nodded. “I know. That is why I need a whore: to guide me.”
“N-no,” the girl stuttered. “You don’t need a whore; you need a guide, a person to speak for you. If you open your mouth, people will know.”
“I see. Will you be my guide, then? I can pay. I have very much gold.” To prove his point, the Scale patted the pouch at his side, which jingled enticingly.
She peered at him, swapping between the pouch at his side and his slitted yellow eyes.“I don’t know.”
“Ah. You have people to care for. You have a life to live here. I understand.”
The girl stretched out her legs in front of her, placing her head upon her knees. When she failed to speak, the Scale plodded over carefully and sat beside her. He noticed her back heaving slowly. “You are crying again,” he observed. “I am sorry.”
“It’s not you,” she coughed. “I’m sorry, I j-just can’t stop.”
They sat together in silence. The girl cried, and the Scale watched implacably. Eventually, she looked at the Scale. He felt her eyes peering into his own. “I guess I’ll just go to sleep, then.” She said. “You can stay here, for tonight.”
“You will not be my guide, then?”
“I can’t. You should just go back east; there’s nothing for you in the west.” She laid down upon the straw mat, her naked back facing him. “There’s nothing for anyone out there,” he heard her mumble.
The Scale hung his head, and looked out the window at the moon above. It gave off no warmth, but the sight entranced him. He pulled out a small knuckle-bone and turned it in his fingers, feeling the engravings upon it and muttering to himself. He repeated one word several times, barely audible: “Whore.” He turned to face the girl again after pondering for some time, and found that she had rolled over at some point. Her eyes locked with his own, and he watched as stars flickered within them, their reflections dancing within the deep brown pools. The Scale stared, fixated.
“What is it?” the girl asked, breaking him out of his reverie.
“What is a whore?”
The girl opened her mouth for a moment. Her lips pursed, and her eyebrows wrinkled. “You really don’t know?” she asked. He shook his head. She sighed, and stared at him for a few seconds before responding. “A whore is… a whore is a woman who sells herself. To men, that is.”
“Ah. Are you sure you are not a whore, then? You were trying to sell yourself to the men at the tavern, were you not?”
The girl’s face flushed, her cheeks turning a darker shade of brown, and she turned her eyes away from the Scale. “I- I was trying to. But it didn’t work; everybody here is still old-fashioned. All I got was ridicule. When you came up and offered six pieces of gold, I grew a bit worried. I’d heard stories of rich men paying girls like that, and it was always for horrible things. You scared me, but I needed that money.”
“I am sorry,” the Scale said quietly. “I did not want to scare anyone. It is why I wear this. I only want a guide to help me go west, and then I would leave.”
The girl looked at him again, and they locked eyes for a moment. “Is going west so important to you?” she asked. Her gaze did not waver.
Though he didn’t know why, the Scale reveled in her eyes once again. He could see them now, not a simple brown, but filled with ridges of darker shades and nearly orange streaks running along their edges. “It is very important. To me and to my tribe.”
Her eyes seemed so warm, like baked earth. “Are you able to be trusted?”
He hesitated for a moment, then spoke. “We are dying. Slowly, our people are all dying. The magic of the earth is going away, and without it we cannot be reborn. A dragon in the west would mean that magic is returning, and we would be strong again. We would have purpose, and we would not sit and guard old ruins any longer. Even if the rumor we have heard is not true, we must see for ourselves; for if it is true, our tribe will not die.”
“But you’re a horde!” the girl exclaimed, surprised. “There’re thousands of you! You’re all over the East! Dont you just… make more? You’ve got to have women, don’t you? And what does magic have to do with it?”
The Scale cocked his head at her. “There are many of us, but our numbers are not so great any more. Without strong magic in the soil, we need more than our own remains to be reborn. But why do you speak of our females? They are reborn just as we are.”
“Reborn? What do you mean?”
The Scale paused. “It is... difficult to tell.” he said slowly. Her eyes questioned him. He tore himself away from their depths, looking at the rest of her. She lay on her side, still uncovered. Her delicate, earthy skin had the tone of soft leather, and her two breasts clung tightly to her like morning dew. She seemed so relaxed, so trusting of him.
His jaws moved, and more secrets poured from his mouth. “A Scale is not born,” he explained. “The first of us was a claw from a great dragon, planted in the ground. The claw broke into many pieces, and the pieces grew into us. We crawled from the earth and served our masters for many years, far away in Terethia.”
“What’s Terethia like?” she queried.
“I do not know. I was formed from a dead Scale planted in the earth. I woke up ten years before now. I have never seen my home, only listened to the stories.”
“Tell me some of the stories.”
The Scale obliged. He recounted the far-off legends to the girl in broken speech, telling of distant empires and legacies beyond her ken. Through it all, the girl lay transfixed. No military mind had she, and no devious thoughts of betrayal crossed her face, only curiosity. When the Scale had finished, he slouched slightly.
“What’s wrong?” the girl asked. “I promise, I won’t tell anyone!” She seemed almost worried.
“It is not you,” he replied, shaking his head. “It is hard to explain in your words. Telling you has reminded me of how important my journey is, and reminded me that I am a stranger in a land which does not want me. I am worried now.”
The girl sat up quickly. “You still need a guide, right?” He nodded. “I’ll go with you then! I know every city from here to Thengiron out west, and I can keep you out of trouble too! I promise I won’t burden you!”
“Did you not say that you could not come? Do you not have your own tribe to help?”
The girl’s eyes drooped. “Not here. I’m... not from Keystone.”
“The road will be hard,” he warned. “There will be danger.”
“Well, I have you to protect me!” she said with a wide smirk.
No, the Scale thought. “Very good,” he said. “You may come with me.” The girl smiled broadly, leaned forward, and embraced him.
“Thank you,” she said softly. He slowly put his arms around her in response. “You’re so warm,” she observed. They sat there, arms across each other and bodies pressed close together, for what felt to the Scale like an eternity. Unfortunately, it ended when the girl exclaimed “Oh!” and pushed off of him.
“I am Ytha, by the way. I haven’t chosen my second name yet. What am I supposed to call you?”
“We have no need of names,” the Scale explained. “We are each the same.”
The girl- Ytha- frowned. “But you’re not the same. You’re a lot taller than any other Scale I’ve seen, you’re much thinner, and you don’t have a tail. Shouldn’t you have a name?”
“If I am needed, the tribe need only ask where their Speaker is, and I am known well enough for them to find me.”
“So your name is Speaker?”
The Scale’s jaws twitched, as if to frown. “No. I am a remnant of Emperor Anakaras. I need no other name.”
“Oh. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say…”
“It is alright. You could not understand.”
Ytha squinted her eyes at him. “But I still need to be able to call you something, or you’ll stand out. What does a Speaker do, anyways?”
“I was the one who spoke to men when they came. I learned their tongue, and I talked to them to get things we needed.”
Ytha leaned against the wall, resting her cheek upon her fist. “What about Hatib?” she asked after a few minutes.
“I do not know that word.”
“It’s a shortening of ‘he speaks for us’.” Ytha explained. “I think it suits you.”
“Do names all have meanings?”
“Of course. Names are important to everybody else. They’re how you know each other, and they can say a lot about a person. It’s why I haven’t chosen my second name yet- I want to make sure I know who I am first.”
“Then what is the meaning of your first name?”
“It’s a word from across the sea, I think. I was told it means ‘river’ or ‘stream’, or just a flowing bunch of water.”
“It is very beautiful.”
Ytha’s face flushed. She looked down, but the Scale saw her concealing a smile. “Thank you,” was all she said.
“And I thank you. ‘Hatib’ will do. Now, rest. We must begin our journey early tomorrow.”
Ytha nodded, and lay down upon the straw mat. The Scale began to turn to face the window again, but he felt Ytha reach out a hand to him.
“Hatib? It’s very cold tonight, and I don’t have a blanket. Could you lie down with me?”
He nodded. “If that is what you wish.” He turned at the waist and pulled the cloak over them, then lay next to Ytha. She turned to him and placed her arms over his chest, hugging him tightly. Her head rested on his arm, and with no other place to put them, he wrapped his arms about her, brushing her braids aside.
His breath wafted over Ytha’s back, filling his nose with her scent. She smelled of dirt, grime, and the road, mostly, but underneath that stench he could detect traces of sea salt and spices. She must be filthy, he thought. He shifted slightly and turned his head to her, then snaked out his long tongue against her back. As soon as it touched her skin, he felt her recoil and gasp. Assuming that it was just the unfamiliar feeling of his tongue, he began to rake it across her back, scraping off what dirt he could. She began to tremble in his grasp.
“Is this painful?” he asked, worried.
“What are you doing?”
“Cleaning you. It should not take long.” His tongue continued its journeys across her skin, rubbing roughly across her lower back, twisting about her arm, and digging into a small navel in her stomach. As he worked, he could taste and smell her true scent more clearly now. She reminded him of a journey he had taken to the ocean once, where his tribe had speared fish and cooked them over a roaring fire. However, another odd smell began to fill the air, gradual and unnoticed before. He attempted to pinpoint what it could be, but as he searched his memory, nothing seemed even close to it. His tongue continued to work downwards, and he felt the strange scent growing stronger.
“If you do not mind,” he stated, “I must clean your lower half.” Ytha did not respond, but she seemed to be breathing heavily now. He could feel her heart racing against him before she pulled away from him and lay on her back. In the darkness, he could see her eyes only as completely black specks against her darkening face. He turned his body about and rose up over her, straddling her face with his legs. His head leaned downward and his tongue flicked out across the outer edge of her leg, moving downwards. The dirt here was clumped and fresh; she had been on the road, he knew, and recently. As his tongue weaved between her toes and across the sole of Ytha’s feet, he felt new calluses there, soft and flexible still. He would either have to accustom her to walking or get her a horse.
His tongue continued upwards along her inner thigh. He could smell the thing, whatever it was, growing closer. Though he did not know why, it excited him, and he felt his breath coming in short bursts. Ytha, too, must have smelled it, for she squirmed underneath him. As his tongue rubbed across the gap between her legs, Ytha yelped, and the Scale could feel a pulsing within his head. This spot was filled with dirt and covered in some sort of slime which exuded the exotic smell. It tasted slightly metallic, and the Scale lapped eagerly at it to clean it away. Ytha, underneath him, continued to writhe on the ground, but he paid her no mind. His attentions were entirely focused upon this new taste, which continuously streamed from a crack between Ytha’s legs.
“Hatib,” he heard a voice call from far away. His mind cleared somewhat, and he turned his head to see Ytha underneath his body. She was staring at something between his legs, from what he could tell: two long, thin rods covered in a mucus which dripped onto her breasts.
“What are those?” he asked through the haze. Ytha gave him another one of her strange looks.
“You really, honestly, don’t know?”
“You’ve never seen them before?”
“There is only my waste-thing there,” he explained. “Where did these rods come from?”
In response, Ytha reached up and ran a finger across the length of one of the rods. A surge of pleasure shot up and down the Scale’s body, and he hissed low and quick. “What did you do?” he asked Ytha when the feeling had passed.
“This is your manhood, Hatib. It’s a tool in mating, usually. But this is so different-” Her hand went up again, and she stroked the other shaft, sending sparks flying through the Scale’s body and causing his legs to twitch beneath him. “But then, you’ve never really seen one.”
“Am I to stay like this forever?” The Scale asked frantically.
Ytha frowned and shifted back slightly. “I think that it just goes away after a while for most men.” She stared curiously at his rods as they pulsed heavily, secreting a clear ooze from their tips. “But I don’t know what will happen with you.”
“I cannot sleep like this!” the Scale huffed.
Enna frowned and bit her lower lip. “There is one thing we could try.” Slowly, she extended her arm towards the shafts. The back of her hand brushed against the leftmost rod, causing it to jump. “You came from the earth, not any woman, and so did all of your brothers.” Her delicate fingers wrapped themselves around the tip of one shaft. “You’re probably the first Scale in history to have felt this.” Ytha stroked her hand along the length of the swollen rod, and the Scale felt his knees buckle in response. A new sensation filled his mind as she worked. He panted heavily, feeling spasms of pleasure run up and down the shaft and along his back.
The Scale’s entire body suddenly tensed, his legs shaking uncontrollably. A stream of fluid shot out from both of the rods extending out of him, covering Ytha and filling the air with another new scent. The Scale’s mind burst with color, his body trembled with excitement, stars flew before his eyes, and he could feel himself rumbling and growling.
The Scale opened his eyes- he did not realize that he had closed them- and he looked up to see Ytha leaning over him. She was covered in long lines of some sort of white goo which contrasted sharply with her dark skin. She smelled like him, for some reason. He drew in a long breath. “What did you do?”
“Sorry, Hatib; I didn’t know that would happen. You climaxed, then just fell over. It’s completely normal, aside from the fainting. Are you okay?”
The Scale breathed in again, tasting the smell of Ytha mixed with his own scent. He flexed his body all over, feeling for any injury, but nothing obvious was out of place. He felt something twitch between his legs, and Ytha jumped.
“I guess that wasn’t enough,” Ytha said, turning behind her.
“What do you mean?”
Ytha lifted herself, straddling the Scale, and he saw the rods sticking straight up underneath her. He groaned. “Will they never go down again?” he lamented.
“They go down eventually,” Ytha said soothingly, “but I hear that if men don’t get a release, they can get hurt.”
“And how do I get this release?”
Ytha bit her lip and smiled at him in the moonlit room. “There is one more thing we could try.” She reached down and gripped the Scale gingerly, causing him to twitch slightly. Ytha began to lower herself, guiding one of the shafts to the slit between her legs.
“I don’t see how crushing it will help,” the Scale quipped.
Ytha hung there above him, then looked him in the eyes. He could feel her heartbeat thumping along with his own, their breaths drawing together. “Hatib?” she asked.
“What is it?”
Ytha leaned downward carefully, using one hand to steady herself on his chest. “Kiss me.” Her lips planted themselves upon the tip of his snout.
Ytha pushed herself up again and huffed. “Just stick your tongue in my mouth and follow your instincts.” She leaned forward again, opening her mouth over his own.
“I will do as you ask, Ytha.”
Hatib’s tongue flicked out over Ytha’s lips, then coiled into her mouth. She sucked on its rough surface, and twirled her own tongue about his. As he pondered Ytha’s sweetness, he felt a pressure against his rods, then an engulfing sensation, as if they were being squeezed tightly. Hatib hissed as the pressure moved downward, and he heard Ytha whimper against him. Slowly, inch by inch, the warm, wet sensation spread throughout his loins as Ytha took him inwards. She would stop for a time, catch her breath, then continue, until finally he felt her hips rest upon her own. She lay on his chest, sweating and panting. He felt his rods, one within Ytha who pulsed along its length, and one pressed between them.
“We are one now,” Ytha said huskily.
Hatib lay beneath her in ecstasy. His mind swirled with the new sensations, feeling his own members jerking with each movement Ytha made. Ytha began to move back upwards, slowly. He could feel a sucking sensation against his rod, and he could hear Ytha making low moaning sounds.
Hatib rolled his head in pleasure, only just noticing a red haze filling his vision. His body grew hot, and his heart began to race within his chest. He felt Ytha reach his tip, then begin to descend again. She is too slow, he thought. Hatib didn’t know where the thought had come from, but he growled low and sat up suddenly, grabbing Ytha by her waist.
“Hatib?” she yelped, but he ignored her. The Scale pushed her over, sprawling Ytha upon her back, and began to thrust rapidly in and out of her slit. Ytha screamed softly and began to pant as the Scale shoved all of his eight inches into her. He began to relish the loud squelching and sucking sounds which she made, and barely noticed when she convulsed underneath him and tightened about the shaft inside of her, continuing to pound in and out of her with unrelenting speed. Ytha was screaming freely now, but not in fear. At the edge of his hearing, the Scale could barely make out cries of “More!” and “Harder!”, which he graciously obliged.
A pressure began to build within him, at the base of his rods, and the Scale grunted savagely. With one final push, he stabbed into Ytha and felt hot fluid pour into Ytha’s stomach as more of the stuff spewed over her front out of his freely swinging shaft. She moaned, and he could feel her channel pulsing rapidly around him again.
As the flow of fluid subsided, Hatib felt his senses return to him. Ytha lay on the floor, covered in his juices, panting and moaning. Hatib pulled himself out of her, noticing his rods beginning to soften, and leaned over her. “Are you alright, Ytha?”
“I’m fine,” she gasped.
“I am sorry. I do not know what happened to me. I will leave now, that I may not hurt you again.” Hatib began to rise, but Ytha quickly reached up and grabbed onto his arm.
“No!” she exclaimed. “Please, stay.”
Hatib shook his head. “I cannot. What you have shown me made me lose control of my own self. I cannot let that happen again.”
“Hatib, I’m fine, really! You didn’t hurt me at all, see?” Ytha turned her side to him and pointed at her waist.
“There is nothing there.”
“Yes, you see? Even in whatever state you were in, you made sure not to hurt me. You kept your claws back, even if you did grip me a bit tightly.”
“Then you do not fear me?”
Ytha smiled, and pulled on Hatib’s arm, sitting him next to her. “No. Hatib, I…” he saw her smile break as she looked away for a moment, then return when she faced him. “I’m not afraid of you. Just get some rest; we’ll leave town in the morning.”
Hatib nodded. “Thank you. Thank you, Ytha. It is good not to be feared.” Hatib quickly cleaned Ytha again, and the pair rested warmly beneath the moon’s cold rays.