A strange meeting

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"¡David!"

The accent was not the same as it would have been from home, but it was still very welcome. He knew Huksonjo was pleased to see him. His thoughts turned back to the highway thief. Why was Huksonjo in the company of such a man? Images of the dead guards and the preceding fight returned.

While he was still trying to make sense of the meeting, Huksonjo ordered the two men behind David to untie him. While they did that he asked in his own language, "¿How have you been?"

David muttered "good" only because he had no idea how to express what he was really thinking at that moment. The two men behind him disappeared back into the forest.

Huksonjo gave an explanation to the others which seemed to pique their interest. When he was done, the thief, who appeared to be the leader, brought the conversation back to its original purpose and hurried through a couple questions.

When he was done, he turned and disappeared into the forest. The others followed and Huksonjo motioned for David to come along.

A couple minutes later they emerged into a larger clearing that was nearly filled with men. David noted with only mild surprise that a couple giants were present also. The leader raised his voice and addressed everyone while those who had been in the former meeting dispersed into the crowd. David found a place on the side of the clearing where he could stay out of the way.

The speech was some sort of instruction and, like everything else spoken in Runasimi, most of it evaded David's understanding. He waited semi-impatiently for it to be over.

David estimated that there were nearly 400 men present. Almost all of them wore swords and traveler's cloaks.

When questions were allowed at the end, some of the men proved to be almost as long-winded as the speaker. The dialog crept on and David realized that he was becoming very hungry.

Almost half of the men left as soon as the large meeting adjourned. The others gathered together into smaller groups discussing, joking, and laughing with each other. Huksonjo made his way over to David and said something. David was just about to ask him to repeat it when somebody else called for Huksonjo's attention. David guessed it had meant that he had not been forgotten, so he did his best to wait patiently and silence all the questions still in his mind.

Finally the crowd dwindled down to a couple dozen men, and David made his way to where Huksonjo was speaking earnestly with a man several years older than himself. He smiled quickly at David but continued the conversation.

David hated being reliant on others and the current situation caused him to feel like such a nuisance. It was one thing to be waiting for somebody else when you had other things you could do. It was something else entirely when the situation left you completely helpless. He would go crazy from the questions that the morning had raised if he left, and he had a good chance of still being lost. If he stayed there was nothing to do except try to decode the conversation.

It was almost noon before Huksonjo was free from his other obligations. He issued the now-familiar command, "Hakuyá" and took David to a pair of pavilions in yet another clearing. There, spread out on the tables, lay more food than David had seen since entering this land. It had been prepared for the leaders.

Over lunch, David did his best to communicate his questions about the speaker and how he had killed two soldiers. How could this man in front of him, a soldier, bear to meet with the thief? Huksonjo nodded with a grim look on his face, but didn't answer immediately. Instead, he changed the topic to talk about Sumailla until he had finished eating.

David wasn't interested so he didn't seek any clarification for what was said. He thought that, ironically, she might be made a widow by the very man that Huksonjo was consorting with. He now wasn't sure how much he trusted the man's judgment.

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