Messengers

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David dropped the bucket and looked first at one moon and then at the other. There were definitely two of them because they were in different phases. He scrutinized the sky for any constellation that he might know, but deep down he had to admit that this was a different world than his own.

The generosity of the evening meal was forgotten as he was reminded about his need to find Mark and a way home. This was going to be infinitely more complicated than he had first thought and the idea of facing it alone was discouraging.

He was still standing there when Huksonjo found him. He had changed out of his uniform some time earlier but didn't look any less impressive. Mark pointed at the two moons, then counted two on his fingers. Huksonjo nodded in a confused way until Mark pointed to himself and then indicated that there was only one where he came from.

Huksonjo laughed as if it were a joke. He picked up the water bucket and filled it in the stream. As he turned to head back to his house, he called for David to follow him.

When he returned, he gave a short explanation to Sumailla. After the dishes were cleaned up, they stretched out on some hay to sleep. Huksonjo had had to find more to make a small bed for David. The guest forced himself to sleep that night. He knew the morning would require it.

At dawn they were all up again. Huksonjo had to replace the night guard, but was leaving David in town. David, for his part, had planned to stay away from Sumailla because Mark would have gotten on to him about what he called "appearances." He was a guest in their house and didn't want to abuse their hospitality.

David started to wander toward the town common but Huksonjo had left instructions behind with his wife. She called David's name and motioned for him to follow her. They threaded their way through the streets and in to the back room of a small store. Sumailla had David wait while she disappeared to the front. The shelves along the walls were covered with jars that held odd plants and other items. Small piles of scrolls occupied whatever space the jars left.

David's wonder that they had glass but not books was cut short by Sumailla entering the room again with an older man. He looked David over then talked to Sumailla while poking David occasionally.

"Look, would you quit poking me?"

In answer to that, the man shooed Sumailla back out then introduced himself as Runtu. Huksonjo's wife had already said his own name, so David just waited for Runtu to begin. He did presently with a piece from a blank scroll and lots of hand motions.

As the day unfolded, David learned a few more words. The language was called Runasimi, and Runtu enjoyed explaining that it was really two words. "Runa" indicated the people; "simi" was how they spoke.

David was also poked several more times. It seemed that Runtu collected stories and was the unofficial town historian. Sumailla was his daughter so she and Huksonjo had heard many of the tales. One of the old stories was of a trader's adventures in bartering with strange other worlds. It had to do with a mysterious well nearby which the king, a man named Mallqu, had recently taken an interest in. Most of the people only considered it to be a bedtime story.

It was Huksonjo that came to get David just before sunset. He thanked Runtu with "pachi." That night was very similar to the night before. Runtu had warned him not to talk very much about where he was from. His ability to speak the language was only just beginning anyway, so he listened to the other two and tried to understand what was said.

The next day he went back to talk with Runtu again. Sumailla's father had been up late trying to remember anything else that might explain how David arrived in this land which he called "Hatucha," or grandmother. He grew tired quickly, so David left to explore the town.

The people were friendly but reserved, and he didn't have any money to spend anyway. Several of the townsfolk did attempt conversations with him, but his lack of understanding caused longer and longer silences to creep into each conversation.

He found a tree near the creek where he could sit and think things over. He found it difficult to expect Mark to know he was in this village.

Just a short while later he saw Huksonjo walking around the houses, but instead of going to his own he walked over to the shade of the tree. He let a couple minutes go by before he spoke, but when he did David only understood a few of the words. The meaning was understood despite that handicap.

They had sent a messenger to a central outpost about the dead guard. The leaders there wanted to question him as a witness, so the messenger had been sent back with two other guards. They were to return with David.

David sat for a moment trying to decide if he should go. The presence of more guards left a bad feeling in his stomach. Mark had rubbed off on him a little about distrusting anything government-created. He decided that he had been treated well so far, so he stood and called for Huksonjo to follow him.

Mark's bush knife was behind a pile of wood that Huksonjo was going to use for a second room but it couldn't stay there. David handed it to him and did his best to explain that there was another person like himself. He also left the second walking stick to indicate to Mark that he should try to follow if he got this far.

After putting the bush knife inside the house, Huksonjo ushered David back to the guard outpost. Because of its small size, the place seemed to be swarming with people in uniforms. A lot of talking occurred before they were finally off.

David understood little but thought he heard something about Mallqu. He wondered if somebody thought he might be connected with the well or if that was simply a reference to the army.

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