« on: April 20, 2014, 08:51:00 PM »
Conall seemed to catch her hint, though they were as different as night and day. He gestured to his men with a single hand again, and they dismounted from their horses, almost as one. He slid down from his horse with a fluid, supple motion, taking hold of his horse's reins to level the field, so to speak, offering their own trust in return for the clan's. "We are your guests for the night, and we will respect and honor your wishes, Liayna na'Kari," he replied, using her full name as she had used his.
She spoke a word in the tongue of the Wild Ones, and her clansmen and -women began to walk away as she turned back to their armored guests. "Then come, Conall Riordan," Liayna welcomed him, gesturing for him and his company to come with them. "Our camp is not far."
"Conall," he corrected, with a faint smile of his own, the first since arriving and meeting the small contingent, as he came up beside her, his horse following at his rear. "My friends call me Conall," he added, in way of explanation. At his back, the rest of his contingent mirrored their leader, following behind and leading their horses along with them. Some of them had started to talk quietly amongst themselves, but so far, none had uttered any complaint or challenge.
"I am not your friend, Conall Riordan," she told him, her smile secretive and whimsical, strangely infectious as she glanced up at him. "The Goddess knows what I am to you." Brown eyes flickered back toward the men and women who followed them, and her smile deepened. "But if you wish it, I will name you Conall. I am Liayna. Na'Kari is my ... title, I suppose you would call it. It means child of Kari. It names my family line, tells from whom I have come, nothing more."
"If I am not your friend, then what am I?" he asked, though it was true they had only just met and could not yet be called friends. Allies, perhaps, but not yet friends. "Riordan is my family name, as well. It was my father's name and his father's before him. Conall is the name given me at birth," he explained, hoping she'd see that they weren't so different after all, at least, in that regard.
She nodded, grateful for his explanation. His question, however, was not going to be answered in a way he was happy with. "What you are to me has been decided by the Goddess," she told him with a warm lilt to her voice as they passed between the trees, following the steps of her clan. "You will know when it is time to see." Ahead of them, grey granite rock rose between the trees - a hidden cache of caves and overhangs deep within this forest, concealed by brush. The nomads had raised simple shelters in front of the caves, nothing more than thick skins suspended high to give shade and cover to the furs that lay beneath. "The caves are yours to make use of as you wish," she told Conall, raising her voice for the benefit of his company. "We will not sleep in the heart of the earth."
He followed along beside her, arching a curious brow at her explanation, which, in truth, explained very little. It seemed she knew something he didn't, but, though curious, he thought it would be disrespectful to ask what that something might be. "We appreciate your hospitality, Liayna, and hope to return it when we reach the mountains." He waved a hand to the rebel contingent once again, and they moved past to the caves beyond the clan's camp. A woman came up and took charge of her leader's horse, giving the other woman a brief sidelong glance before joining the others.
Unlike Conall's company, no orders were given to the nomads, who simply moved to go about the business of preparing the meal for the night from the carcasses that lay by the firepits that peppered the ground. They didn't set any guards on their perimeter, but then, they didn't seem to make much sound at all, speaking quietly to one another in their own tongue as they settled to their business. Liayna met the sidelong glance of the woman who took the reins of Conall's horse, and held it, issuing an unspoken challenge with a knowing smirk. Then her eyes returned to the tall leader of the Arctran company, and her smile relaxed once more. "Before we reach your mountains, we will have shed blood together," she told him, with a confidence that could have been unnerving. "We will all be brothers and sisters in the Goddess then."
There went that single brow of his arching higher at what seemed like a prophecy to him and spoken with simple clarity and surety by a woman who hardly knew him. "Did your goddess tell you that, as well?" he asked, with no hint of malice or mocking in his voice, simple curiosity. He hardly noticed the exchange of glances between the two women, and if he had, he would have more than likely found it more amusing than worrying.
Liayna chuckled softly. "She sees all, but no," she assured him as she ducked beneath an overhanging skin, unslinging her bow and quiver from her back and waist to set them down. This was her sleeping place, it seemed. "There is a company of the false queen's men walking the wilds. They are seeking you out, Conall Riordan. We will help you kill them."
Conall followed her, ducking beneath the skin, realizing too late that this was her makeshift tent, her private quarters, so to speak, but he was already there, admitted without question or qualm, and it would be rude for him to reject that welcome. He watched with mild interest as she removed her weapons, though he did not do the same just yet. His sword would remain safely on his back until he decided it was time to remove it. "Me?" he asked, more surprised at her knowledge of this than at the fact that he might be a wanted man. All the rebels were wanted men, some with higher prices on their heads than others. "You are not interested in riches, then. You must know they would offer you a substantial reward for my capture." Whether or not he was testing her was uncertain. If she knew he was wanted by the queen's men, then she would already know of the reward. He guessed from what he'd seen already that the clan preferred a simple way of life that did not include such riches as the queen could offer.
"Their only reward to my people would be to try and slaughter us," Liayna told him pointedly. "The clans do not want a full war between our peoples. We only want the way of things restored." She settled down onto a handy rock, gesturing to another nearby. "Sit, if you have a wish to."
As Liam's appointed emissary and diplomat, he could not very well reject her offer, nor did he want to. Though he might not want to admit it, he found her intriguing and wanted to learn more, not only about her, but about her people and customs, as well. Was that not how someone made friends of a stranger? Though wary, he thought that if this was a trap, they would not have left her alone with him, nor would she had removed her weapons in his presence. "Do you mind if I make myself comfortable?" he asked, though she had already told him to do as much. It had been a long journey, and he was travel-weary.
She chuckled softly, lighting a small fire to chase away the chill of the darkening sky. "As comfortable as you can," she assured him. "I know most Arctrans are not comfortable in the wilds. I daresay even your camp in the mountains has a bed that is all yours, yes?"
"Not a bed such as is had in the city," he replied. Though she could not know it, he was not really accustomed to comfort; the wilderness suited him just fine. "There's freedom in the wilds. Peace and quiet," he told her as he unfastened the bindings that held his sword in place.