Red Dawn in Morning
by Fur and Fantasy
PG-13 for Violence
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

Yasmi al Hawa ducked for cover as a hail of arrows rained on the crew of her zaruq, the Gull. The Qudran warship that was chasing them was closing dangerously fast; already grappling lines were being hurled onto the ship, and soon the Caliph's mamluks, slave-soldiers, would be upon them. She had used every spell Qefni could fetch for her already, to give them every edge imaginable, but they hadn't been enough.

Even now, the little gen was searching desperately for a spell to get them out of this once and for all, even if it meant leaving the Gull behind.

"Haku the swift and free," the Vixen prayed quietly, "I will not be taken prisoner by those dogs of the Caliph." She drew her jambiya, the long, curved dagger glittering dangerously as the mamluks began to climb across to the Gull. Casim, the captain, was ordering the crew to hack as many of the grapples as they could free, and was working with them to try and buy them all a little more time. They were all counting on her.

And she was counting on a flighty, over-worked genie to bring back exactly what they all needed, and fast.

She only hoped the Jackal she worked for had a plan in case things went as they all-too-often did.

An arrow whizzed by her long, pointed ears, pinning itself into the mast behind her, and she moved quickly to hide behind a barrel of stolen cargo. Damn the Qudrani, every one of them! Not a one of the fleet's Tigers cared for their freedom, and they would take it from every member of her crew, every one of her friends, given the chance. She tightened her grip on her dagger.

She didn't really stand a chance in a fight against the trained soldiers, but she'd be damned if she gave up without making the victory a costly one.

"Wise and honorable Mistress, I return!" Qefni said triumphantly, springing up out of the ocean next to the zaruq. She looked over at the miniscule, sea-green Fox, her eyes gleaming. His tone meant only one thing; that he'd been successful in finding what she needed. And just in time too! The mamluks were swarming onto the Gull, and the sounds of battle were far too close for comfort.

"Quickly Qefni, the spell!" She demanded.

"Better than a spell, Mistress!" He grinned, as the water next to the Gull started to boil. "I have brought us aid to save us from the forces of the Caliph!" Behind him, a full marid, a noble of the genies of the sea, rose up from the ocean. Despite having just come from the depths, there was no sign that her pearl-white fur was in the least damp, her garments perfectly placed on the Tigress body she had chosen for this appearance. Yasmi's eyes went wide.

"Be chesm!" She whispered. Of all the times Qefni could choose to become ambitious!

"Oh great and powerful marid," she said, bowing swiftly. "Wise and virtuous mistress of the oceans! I apologize for any inconvenience Qefni may have caused you…." The last time he'd brought a marid back, least of all a noble, was when he'd managed to upset it by "borrowing" a healing spell for her to use. She could only imagine what he'd done to bring this one back!

"No inconvenience," the marid chuckled. "You and he have done our court favors in the past, mortal, and so the Padishah has decided we are to aid you in this little encounter." Yasmi's heart leapt into her throat, both in concern for her crew, and in joy. If the Tigress was going to fight on their side, then the battle could truly be won!

But if she raised a storm to sink the Qudran ships, it could well take the Gull to the bottom of the sea with them.

"My friends and I send our gratitude to the Pasha of Corals, and will bring her great treasures if we survive this battle through her aid," the Vixen promised.

"That depends on you, tiny one. The Padishah has declared that I am to grant you a single wish, to be used as you desire. Choose wisely."

Yasmi's blood ran cold, her mind running quickly. The smirk on the Tigress' lips said that she had best choose very wisely, but the mamluks and sounds of battle behind her said that she had little time to do so. A part of her was tempted to decline the offer… but that would not only be suicide for leaving them to face the Qudrani, but also for refusing the freely offered aid of the Padishah of the marid.

Freely offered aid that would surely be twisted to amuse said Padishah.

If she wished for "the crew" to be saved, then she would have to specify which crew. Further, even if she said the crew of the Gull, then would the mamluks already there "accidentally" be brought along? And where to be taken? They could be whisked off to the Citadel of Ten Thousand Pearls itself, never again to see the surface of the ocean.

She heard a cry of pain behind her, and turned, watching as another of her crewmates was felled by one of the mamluks. No more time; every delay was another moment one of her friends could be killed. Another moment closer to being caught by these slaves and taken back to join their ranks.

Shikal, her winged cat, flew up to her with a panicked mewl of distress. She caught him, cradling him close to her chest so a stray arrow couldn't injure him. Enough delay; she had to make her wish now!

"I wish that my friends and I be taken far beyond the reach of the Qudrani!" She blurted out. Even as the words left her lips, she knew they were the wrong ones. In fifteen years of dealing with genies, she had never worded any request, command, or wish so loosely, and for good reason! A wish as unclear as that….

"Hearing and obeying, with sweetness and light," the Tigress said sweetly, grinning mischievously. Swiftly, she leapt aboard the Gull, the ship plummeting into the ocean as though the water had been replaced by air. Yasmi cried out in alarm, her worst fears confirmed - death would be as far beyond Qudran reach as possible. Still, the magic of the noble kept her from trying to escape, and water flooded onto the deck, rushing into her lungs.

A few of the crew managed to get free, swimming for the surface, and the mamluks tried to escape, their armor carrying them down, rather than up. Yasmi's last conscious thought, before blackness claimed her, was one of grim satisfaction that, at least, she would take some of the slave-soldiers with her into the beyond.

Hot, seawater soaked fur.

Gulls squawking as they wheeled overhead.

The cold nose of and small, soft paw of her pet, Shikal.

Qefni's quiet grumbling.

Could it possibly be that the marid who had granted her wish had sent her someplace reasonable, had granted her wish as intended?

If so, she would owe Qefni, and the marid, quite a gift of gratitude. She only hoped that the rest of the crew was safe as well.

Opening her eyes slowly out of respect for the bright sun she could feel on her cheek, Yasmi took in the pink sand that was so fine it felt like silk under her hands. Her heart sank at the beautiful vista.


No such luck.

On the up side, no one was trying to kill her either.

Qefni ... he might not be so lucky, in a few minutes.

"Where are we?" She asked the tiny blue Fox and stroked Shikal's head softly while the tiny winged cat huddling up close to her and looked around at their alien surroundings.

"Far away from the Qudrani." He answered hesitantly. "Safe though. And you've got all your stuff."

"How far?" She asked patiently. "I can tell this is not Hawa, nor any other coast of Zakhara I have ever seen."

She did have to admit though; it was uncharacteristically "generous" of her "benefactor" to leave her with the clothes and gear she had been wearing, given the wording of her wish.

"Um, how do you say ... another plane?" He danced in place uneasily.

"Another...." Yasmi's mouth went dry, and she looked around her at their lush tropical surroundings, considering them in a new light. Clearly, she had not been taken to the realm of the marid, or any of the other genies.

"As far from the reach of the...." She repeated the final, fatal words of her wish quietly, her eyes wide. "Be chesm," she murmured softly. "What of Casim, and the others?"

"I don't know, Mistress." The Maridan admitted, his small, sea-green-blue fox form pacing uncomfortably in place on the rosy sand.

"I just hope they didn't drown," the Sha'ir murmured, shifting gingerly to sit, coaxing Shikal up into her arms, trying to rub the worst of the sea-water out of his fur. Once the winged cat was dry, she could see about finding somewhere to dry her own clothes and fur out.

"I expect so, Mistress." He nodded uneasily, and then looked up and around. "At least this world is rather pleasant so far. Fresh air, open sea, much coral and pearls."

"Can you still search for spells for me, Qefni? Not right now, but in general ... have we been sent somewhere you can't return home from?"

"Yes," he nodded easily. "The Qudra can not go there, so I can still get spells for you."

"And, unless I'm wrong, we're not in a desert anymore," Yasmi nodded, looking around with a bit of a frown at the lush vegetation that even the seashore couldn't account for. "I wonder if there are people anywhere nearby. I know you've been put to a lot of work already, Qefni, but if you could take a look, it would be appreciated. And stay out of sight!" She added quickly.

"Why?" The little sea genie whined.

"Because if we're not in Zakhara anymore," she explained patiently, "any locals might not realize you're a sweet little gen, and mistake you for a monster. Or dinner. And even if they didn't, what would I do if some wizard tried binding you? In a strange land, only the clothes on my back and Shikal for company, no magic, no true friends to speak with?"

"Oh," he paused, thinking it over a bit even though there wasn't any real doubt he'd comply. "I guess that makes sense. This gen is no one's dinner." He nodded and vanished from sight with a swirl of sea-spray left to fall on the rosy pink sand.

There were mages who thought the sha'ir were insane, pandering to their gen's quirks as much as they did. She knew better though; a little flattery made any task easier. Gens might only be small genies, but they held their pride as valuable as any other.

"Now we hope that he hurries back," she mused, setting Shikal down so the winged cat could groom himself. Looking around cautiously, she considered the risks of undressing and sun-drying her fur. She could have sent Qefni off for a spell to accomplish the same thing, perhaps, but she didn't want to overdo things.

Especially not after the battle earlier.

The beach itself was clean and smooth, devoid of footprints she could recognize or any signs of habitation beyond the sea birds wheeling and squawking above.

She shrugged a bit; the birds wouldn't care, and if anybody happened by she'd try to explain.

Assuming she could.

If Fate was with her here, Qefni would be back in time to fetch a translation spell if she needed one. If Midani was spoken here, she'd be shocked beyond words.

She removed her vest, soaked through by her trip under the ocean, and sat it down on the rosy sand to dry in the sun. Her sail-cloth slacks joined it, along with the embroidered sash she wore, her jambiya still hanging from it.

Soon, the rest of her clothes were drying, and she tucked her tail between her legs for at least a hint of modesty, taking her jambiya and laying down on her front, concealing the blade beneath her crossed arms. If somebody did happen along and decide that she would be an easy victim, she'd be ready for them.

In time the warmth and her physical and mental exhaustion conspired with Shikal's purring warmth at her side to drift her eyes closed and her most of the way into the deep rest she needed so badly.

"Mistress?" Qefni's voice was uncertain of waking her with his news.

"What is it?" She murmured as she reluctantly tried to wake up. She hadn't meant to fall asleep, but once she had, she didn't want to go to the work of getting up again.

"I found people, Mistress. Wolves," he reported quickly. "Not dressed as anything I have heard of."

"How far away?" She rolled to her side, quickly thinking of what to do. If they were close, she'd have to dress again, dry clothes or not.

And whether or not her fur was beginning to crust up at the tips with salt. She only hoped they were friendly, if they were close.

And, just maybe, willing to help her find a bathhouse, if they existed here.

"A three day walk for you, Mistress, I think."

"What is the terrain like?" She asked, thinking about it. "Are there roads, streams, or just more sand?"

"All of them," he looked a little confused.

Yasmi shook her head, scolding herself mentally. Slower, slower. Here she was, the time she needed her wits about her most, and she was forgetting everything she'd learned about being a sha'ir.

"You think it's a three-day walk for me. Does it seem to be as hard a trip as it would be to walk through the desert, or is there more to find, to live off the land rather than off magic?"

"Oh, living off the land will be simple, Mistress." He perked up instantly. "It is simply some distance to the village I found."

"Very well," she nodded, smiling at him. "We'll start out this evening, once we've all had some time to rest. You've done a good job today, Qefni, even if your friend was a little ... overenthusiastic. If you'd like, see if you can find a piece of coral I can work with while we walk to the village, I'll make a present for you."

"Yes, Mistress!" The blue-green fox-form gen grinned widely and darted out into the crystal blue water.

She chuckled, watching him dive into the water. She lay back down, looking over at Shikal. Tonight, before they left, she'd let him hunt some of the seabirds for dinner. Given all the insanity they were likely to have to face, it would be best to let them have what comforts they could.

They'd probably be few and far between.

"Gotcha," Yasmi grinned as much in relief that she wouldn't have to share Shikal's seabird dinner as in anticipation for a fish dinner that her stomach considered long overdue. She maintained the minimal focus necessary to hold the spell she was using, pulling a fairly large, glittering specimen of... well, honestly, she wasn't entirely sure what to call the fish she'd found.

Still, it looked edible enough. Silver scales, not particularly different from what she'd seen in the oceans of Zakhara.

"Qefni, could you fetch me a spell to start a fire?" She asked, starting to clean the fish out. "We'll eat once it's cooked, then I'll get back to your carving once we're on the path to the village."

"At once, Mistress." He nodded and flicked off to collect the simplest of spells for her.

While he was gone, she cleaned and scaled the fish, burying the remains in the sand and spitting it on her jambiya. Just as she was ready for him, he returned with the spell, a tiny wisp of red energy.

"Thank you, Qefni," she smiled, taking the spell in her free hand, letting the magic flow into her mind. She became familiar with it, her lips working the words to the spell, slightly different from the ones she was used to. A small ball of flame formed in her hand, and she dropped it onto a small pile of tinder they'd gathered earlier. Soon, the fire was burning, and she was cooking their dinner.

Shikal sniffed the air and mewed for his portion as the fragrance of roasting fish filled the air of the beach. A fine seabird meal in his stomach or not, the winged cat would never pass up fish.

"Just you wait, you little glutton," she teased, turning the fish. When it was finally down, she ended the spell, laying the sizzling fish out on a bed of small leaves they'd collected along with the wood. She cut the fish apart, the portions for Shikal and Qefni much smaller than hers, but still fairly generous for the tiny Fox and winged cat who greedily and finished before she had even begun.

"We have no Fate but that we are given," she murmured in a soft prayer. "Praise to Haku and Fate for providing for us in these strange lands."

With that she made quick work of the flavorful meal and surrendered her leaves to Shikal's endless appetite.

It wasn't as good as the fine food Mamud, the cook on her old ship, put together, but it was passable, and fairly filling. Shikal and Qefni certainly seemed to like it well enough.

"We'd best get on our way," she said, licking the juices of their meal from the fingers of her right hand, cleaning her jambiya and putting it away. "Make it to that village you found as quickly as we can."

Shikal mewed and jumped up to her shoulder with a couple flaps of his brightly feathered wings and settled in for the trek in the dimming light of sunset.

When Yasmi looked up to scan for a moon phase she would have to see by, she blinked.

Two moons?

Both nearly full, which was good, but two?

What sort of world had she been dropped on?

When she managed to get home, she was going to bind that marid into a pearl for a thousand years!

If she managed to get home. With a slight, homesick sigh, Yasmi turned to Qefni.

"Which way is it to the village, Qefni, and the nearest path between here and there?"

"This way, Mistress." He told her easily, flitting northeast towards the lush jungle. She followed him, praying that he would remember she couldn't fly.

At least the land was beautiful to walk through, even if the lushness and exoticness put even the greatest shah's palace gardens to shame. Plants with leaves bigger than her seemed everywhere. The trees stood taller than any ship mast she'd ever seen. Insects, birds and flowers created a glittering kaleidoscope of jewel tones and intoxicatingly rich smells even before she reached the well-used animal path that Qefni had found.

"It is not much of a road, Mistress, but it leads to a larger one closer to the village."

She looked at the path, wondering just how large the animals that used it were. She hoped that, if they were still about, they were relatively harmless. She was in no mood to have to fight something tonight, especially in a jungle where most destructive spells could wreak mass destruction and be as dangerous to her as them.

"Did you see the beasts that use this road, Qefni?" She asked. Would they be anything like the animals near the Ruined Kingdoms in the stories?

"There are many prey species, large and small. Some predators, but none that seem to be particularly dangerous."

"I wonder if they fear people," she mused quietly to herself, looking around carefully. Between the moonlight and her own night-vision, she could see fairly well and spotted several tracks of different hoofed animals. A part of her wanted to make a light, make sure she could see as well as possible, but she quashed the urge. If she did that, then she could be seen from far, far farther off than she would be able to see herself; it was a chance she didn't want to take.

"I do not know, Mistress." Qefni answered the redundant question anyway. "They were not afraid of me."

"You are a wisp of the sea breeze to them, Qefni," she chuckled with a soft smile. "And small enough to be a curiosity if they saw you. I am at least a little larger than that. We'll have to see what happens, and hope that Fate is kind.

"Though, that said, if something does attack ... well, you might want to be ready to fetch an attack spell, preferably one that won't set the forest alight. I doubt it will be a problem though."

"No, Mistress, it will not be a problem at all. The kind I have seen would fall at a simple magic missile."

"I meant a problem with a fight starting," Yasmi chuckled slightly. "Though thank you for the assessment; it's good to know that what powers I can use here aren't likely to prove that much less useful than at home. Did you sense any other gen or genies while you were out and about?"

"No, Mistress." He shook his head lightly as he twisted acrobatically around the fragrant, lush foliage. "I sensed very little magic in use at all, though the land is rich with it."

"Odd," she frowned slightly. "Though I imagine it makes your job easier. Somehow, I think I should avoid telling the locals about Huzuz, if they ask what my homeland is like ...."

"I think so, Mistress." The little fox nodded quickly. "There is no need to stick that idea into their heads. One place where everyone is a mage is quite enough for the universe if you ask me."

"You exaggerate, Qefni, but point made," she chuckled. "If they don't use magic that often here, they really don't need to realize that there are vendors who deal in flying carpets in places with less magic available than there is here. Do you know if they tap into the magic of this land at all?"

"That I am quite sure of, Mistress." He nodded easily. "I sensed magical items in the village and several spell-casters. At least I think they were spell casters. They felt rather odd."

"Strange like the ajami, or stranger than that?" She asked, wondering what sort of odd mages there could be here.

She just hoped there weren't any groups like the Brotherhood.

Qefni thought about it for a while, and then nodded to himself. "Strange like the outlander mages."

"Did you spend enough time among them to judge if they follow anything that at least resembles the Law of the Loregiver?"

"I do not know, Mistress." He shook his head. "I was being discreet."

"We'll have to hope they do then. This will be much easier if we have at least a few laws in common."

"I thought we were wanted by the law?" He looked at her a little worriedly.

"Only an issue if I return to piracy," Yasmi pointed out. "Which I'm unlikely to do, without a crew or ship. I would just much rather find that I'm not expected to live like a Moralist, or spend my life in virtual slavery to some noble who decides to 'take pity' on the strange woman from another world."

"I do not know, Mistress." He admitted quietly.

"I understand, Qefni," she smiled at the tiny Fox. "I was just explaining why I was hoping they followed something like our laws, not complaining about your performance. You did exactly as I asked."

"Quite true," he nodded again and did a little swirling dance around a large tree that's foliage didn't even start for several times Yasmi's height. She watched him play, leaning against another tree and considering the piece of coral he'd selected before.

She'd managed to smooth out most of the sharp edges she wouldn't use... as long as he was going to play, she might as well work on it. The worst that happened was that it would be more than three days walk. So far, living off the land hadn't been unduly difficult, and to be honest, she could live with that.

She was focused on trimming one of the myriad branches when Shikal mewed in curiosity at something nearby. Her hands stilled, one of the carving tools in mid-scrape as she looked to try and see what the winged cat had. His eyes were much better in the dark than hers; she couldn't quite make anything out. She sniffed slightly, holding very still, hoping that he'd just spotted a rabbit or mouse.

The scent that drifted back made her nose twitch and body heat. It wasn't quite natural for all its exotic appeal ... It reminded her slightly of the perfumes she'd smelled in the pleasure houses back home.

Definitely not natural.

Curious, and gradually getting a little more turned on, she carefully started off the trail into the foliage to see what was going on. It was only a moment before the softest flute music reached her ears. Despite being sure it was nearby in the trees, even her sharp ears couldn't pinpoint the source.

'*Qefni," she called to him mentally. "I'm sorry to interrupt you, but we have company. I would like to know where they are, if you could find them for me? Invisibly, preferably.*'

'*At once, Mistress.*' He darted into the trees without any of her hindrances of form of senses, following the trail of light magic to its source. '*He's a Fox!*'

'*Local?*' She asked as her ears perked up in interest. Clearly, at the very least, Wolves weren't the only civilized people here. '*Which way?*'

'*Up.*' Qefni snickered. '*And I guess he's local. He's not dressed like the Wolves, but it's not like anything I've seen either.*'

'*Why not call out to him? I think he already has one going. He'd definitely looking at you.*'

'*Well, good to know I'm not just interrupting a private party,*' she chuckled slightly. '*I still want the translation spell, just in case,*' she told Qefni.

"Saheeda!" She called out in clear Midani, hoping his spell would be effective. "Es salaam alekum."

"Greetings, beautiful." A clear male voice, light and playful in the nature of most Vulpine, called back down with a rustle of huge leaves. "My playing was appealing, then?"

"It was," she smiled, looking up towards where she thought he was. "Might I see my company? I wasn't expecting any of the two-legged sort for some time yet."

"Coming," he chuckled a long moment before his lean, red-furred form dropped in front of her with a grace that was both natural and magical. His dress of soft white robes was ornamented with glittering stones and jewelry in a clear display of wealth very much at odds with what Qefni had told her of the Wolves nearby. "I am Ry'Shyn of Akkad. Who might you be?"

"Yasmi of Hawa," she smiled, taking in his appearance both subtly, and appraisingly. He was definitely the source of the enticing scent. "What are you doing so far from civilization, alone no less?"

"Relieving boredom." He chuckled and leaned back against the tree, making no secret of his appraising looking over of her. "There is not much for me to do back home and an absolute dearth of interesting mates."

"Mates?" She asked, a bit of a smirk flashing across her muzzle. "You certainly aren't afraid to be bold. A pleasant change from some of the nobles I've met."

"No I'm not," he flashed a grin in reply. "Though it is the unfortunate truth. I like a little spirit and talent in anyone I'm considering, and I sure as blazes don't find it at home."

"Which would be where?" She asked curiously. "I doubt you come from the village I was traveling to. For one thing, you're no Wolf."

"And for two, I just told you I'm not local." He smirked back. "Akkad is across the middle sea."

"I'm not particularly familiar with where different cities are," she admitted with a chuckle. "I am distinctly not local, I'm afraid."

"I kind of figured that," Ry'Shyn chuckled and licked his slender muzzle. "Even before your language was the dead giveaway. You really don't look like you belong in this world."

"And where do I look like I belong?" Yasmi asked with an amused tone. He was definitely interesting, she had to admit that. Mate material though? She'd have to find out exactly what that meant in this world, before deciding that.

"Nowhere anyone I've heard of has been in thrice-living memory."

"Would you believe me if I told you I was sent here against my will, and have no way to return home?"

This might be able to help her quite a bit. If he knew of a safe place to return, at the very least, she could send Qefni for a spell to return them to his home.

"The first part, I don't see why not. The second ... well, where there is a will, there is a way."

"It's a long story, but the way is beyond what I could conjure even back home," she admitted. "I am a sha'ir, a fairly powerful one at that, but no spell at my disposal is powerful enough to undo the magic that brought us here."

"Sha'ir do not grow more powerful with experience?" He looked at her curiously.

"Oh we do, but in ways that I doubt apply here," she tried to explain. Suddenly, with a small burst of bubbles near her shoulder, Qefni returned.

"Mistress, I've found the spell ... you... oops." He said sheepishly, looking at the Fox in front of his mistress with wide eyes, realizing he'd just teleported in when all his orders lately had told him to try and be discrete.

Oh well. Maybe he'd take it well?

"Two familiars?" Ry'Shyn cocked his head slightly to study the strange blue fox floating between them. "Or is the feline a pet?"

"Shikal's a pet, yes," Yasmi nodded quickly. "Ry'Shyn, this is Qefni, my gen. Like a familiar, but also friend and valued assistant."

"Are all gen like him, or is he a special one like familiars are to their kind?" He continued to study the small blue-green vulpine creature floating in the air with spell-magic in his hands. "Does he usually get your spells for you like that?"

"I like to think he's special among gen," she smiled, reaching up to take the spell from the gen, letting it flow into her mind for later use if necessary. "He's relatively well behaved, friendly, and doesn't argue nearly as much as some do. As for what he does though, that's more normal.

"This is why a sha'ir's magic doesn't become that much stronger as they practice. We work with genies, spirits from my home world, more than with spells. Without Qefni, I would be little better off than a farmer who's spent some time in the local militia. With him, I can sometimes cast spells most true wizards with my experience are barely beginning to crave for themselves. It has its drawbacks though, many of which I'm beginning to feel rather pointedly. Perhaps Fate has decided that I need to tame my hubris," she chuckled weakly.

"Possibly," He continued to study Qefni curiously. "So, Qefni, what benefit do you receive from this arrangement?"

"Presents, mostly," he giggled. "What does any laborer get for their work? And I have a Mistress who isn't as abusive as some can be. Best of all, with time, I may be chosen to become a full Marid. Of the ways to rise among the genie, this is one of the easier ones. Besides, you heard her; what would she ever do without me?"

Yasmi closed her eyes in a silent entreaty for Ry'Shyn to break Qefni's stride before he really got into it; if he was given the chance to really start bragging, they could be there until the seas turned to sand.

"So you advance among your kind by assisting someone with talent that doesn't learn to use it on their own?" He cocked his head a bit more, his ears flicked forward at a concept that was clearly rather hard for him to wrap his bright mind around.

"Excuse me?" Yasmi protested, looking at him with a frown. Qefni was frowning as well, though clearly for a different reason.

"Well ... I suppose you might say that. But her talent is different from a true wizard's. Her skill for working with genies is far greater than her magical talent could ever be."

"Thank you ... I think," the Vixen murmured quietly. After all, her 'skill' with genies had gotten her here in the first place.

"Then your magic ability is very different from those I have heard of," Ry'Shyn nodded thoughtfully. "Closer to a Beastmaster than a Mage."

"A Beastmaster?" She asked him, cocking her head curiously.

"A Beastmaster?" Qefni echoed, his turn to sound indignant. "Genies are not beasts! Why -"

"He didn't mean it as an insult, Qefni, nor to suggest that I am one," Yasmi said soothingly. "He was merely making a comparison. Besides, you know as well as I that I have no way of forcing a genie to behave against its will, short of using a trap to bind one. I suspect his Beastmasters have a little more control than that."

"I did not mean to insult either of you," Ry'Shyn bowed slightly to the pair. "The Beastmasters we have have a similar arrangement to you. It is closer to a partnership than the subservient arrangement of mage and familiar. Each side gains things from the other."

"And in that, you're quite accurate," Yasmi smiled. "For one thing, unlike a familiar, a gen can choose to leave a truly abusive master. It is a rare thing, but it has happened before."

"Most of those masters end up working in the smelters in the City of Brass," Qefni grinned darkly. "They seem prone to choosing the children of the efreet for their slaves."

"How does that happen?" Ry'Shyn asked uncertainly.

"What part of it?" Yasmi asked. "Their choices, or what ends up getting them taken to serve the genies, rather than the other way around?"

"All of it?" He replied.

"Well, we choose our gen based on personal preferences," she explained. "A wise sha'ir finds one who suits her personality, or what she does. I chose a maridan because Hawa is a port town, and I spent a great deal of time at sea. Evil-minded masters often choose efreetikin or daolanin. The efreet and dao are both of a darker bent, especially the efreet. Marid are merely ... capricious. Which is why I'm here, though that's another story.

"As for how a master can end up being the servant to their gen," Qefni continued, "we serve our masters willingly, and endure many hardships for them, but when our masters become cruel and ungrateful, both we and our cousins have the power to make them regret doing so.

"Most masters learn their lessons when their gen stop doing their jobs," Yasmi nodded. "But the stories of cruel masters taken by the efreet to learn their lessons as slaves in the forges and smelters of the City of Brass are far too common for most sha'ir's tastes. So we do our best to treat our gens well, cater to their quirks a bit. They're worth it."

"It sounds like a dangerous way to power," Ry'Shyn said softly. "A poor choice ... can you make a gen you do not get along with go away before they imprison you?" He focused on Yasmi.

"Yes, though it rarely happens," she nodded. "A poor choice, that is. Even if you might have been better off with a different type, there is usually one you can get along with. The bargain between mortals and genies that led to the sha'ir keeps the genies from trying to entrap one, unless they actively do something to deserve it."

"So this is a serious, long term political arrangement as much as it is between two individuals."

"Ever since the time of the first Grand Caliph," she nodded. "The first sha'ir as well. It's a popular story, though a rawun could tell it far better than I."

"Not everyone can be a good storyteller," he chuckled easily. "You can still get the basics across."

"Would you like to hear it here, or somewhere a little more comfortable?" She asked, looking around at the jungle. "Do you have a camp near here?"

"Yes, yes, where are my manners?" Ry'Shyn chuckled and motioned her towards the ocean. "Come share my fire tonight to trade stories and the safety of the light."

"I should be the one apologizing," she smiled, following him threw the undergrowth towards the saltier air. "I don't mean to take advantage of your hospitality; I'm just not sure how safe it is to be telling stories in the middle of a jungle neither of us is used to."

"I am keeping you from your travel," he smiled back easily. "It is the least I should offer in exchange for your stories and company."

"And I thank you kindly for it," she smiled. Hopefully hospitality was at least almost as important here as it was back home. "Though I hope you'll be willing to share the same with me; I know little of this land."

"It would be my pleasure, if you would share my fire for a few days." He smiled back at her. "I have a spare bedroll you and your companions are welcome to."

"Thank you," she nodded with a smile. "Though Qefni won't require that much space; he returns to his home plane to sleep. It will be good to have something other than warm sand to sleep on."

"He can travel the planes, but can not bring you?" He glanced back at the unusual threesome.

"I'm far, far too large for him to carry," she chuckled. "Besides that, apparently the magic that brought us here also prevents any of us from returning to my home. His is a third world, separate from either of ours."

"And not somewhere you would wish to live, I expect."

"The last time she visited, she complained about it taking weeks for her fur to dry," Qefni giggled.

"That's saying yes," Yasmi chuckled. "I can survive there, but his realm is a world composed almost entirely of water."

Ry'Shyn shook his head. "The scholars back home would be very interested in talking to the two of you. It sounds as if you have a great deal of unique knowledge."

"You have no spirits here to tell you of the other worlds?" She asked curiously, cocking her head. It seemed odd, particularly as common as genies were in Zakhara.

"As far as anyone knows, there are no other worlds." He shook his head as they stepped into a clearing with a small stream running threw it and a camp for one with a fair sized tent, small fire and the trappings of a wealthy traveler accustomed to his comfort without lugging around too much. On the far side of the stream two long-legged lizard-beasts fit to ride were loosely tied. "Even travelers like you don't really challenge the idea. There is too much of the world that has never been traveled to discount 'from a distant land' as an explanation."

"Likely the explanation I will use," she nodded while he brought out two pillow rolls for them to sit on near the fire. "Though it is clear that there are others. I could likely prove it, just not in a way that would take me back to my own yet. Do you have creatures that grant wishes in these lands?"

"Wishes?" He looked up from settling on his pillow with a frown.

"That answers that question," she chuckled, settling down herself. "Full genies sometimes have the power to grant wishes," she explained. "Imagine a spell that can make anything you want to have happen, happen. There are some limitations, but very, very few."

"Sounds like a God." He looked at them warily.

"Hardly," Qefni said quickly. "The Gods are far more powerful than any Genie. The Great Padishah might be able to stand against one, but...."

"Genies also can't do so often," Yasmi explained. "Or for their own purposes. It's strange, not even the genies can really explain it, but even the greatest genies are bound by the will of the gods, who are themselves bound by Fate. However, outside of that ... well, that's why we're here, and can't return."

"I can't say anything like that exists in a land I know of."

"Consider yourself lucky," Yasmi chuckled darkly. "Though it means I may well need to find a new trade."

"Why?" He scrunched his fine brows. "Your gen can clearly still find spells for you."

"My spells I still have, and I'm grateful for that," she nodded. "But as I said, my greatest skills are not with magic, but with genie-kind, and dealing with them. I have a fairly good reputation; I've never imprisoned one for my own gain, always dealt fairly with them. I might simply focus on becoming a regular mage instead, or perhaps something else."

"Can I offer you refreshment?" Ry'Shyn leaned back to lounge by the small fire. "What kinds of spells and other skills do you have?"

"Thank you," she smiled gratefully. "Qefni can fetch me nearly any sort of magic, though certain spells are more difficult for him. It also means I'm slower than most mages. I can hold my own in a fight, especially if I know it's coming, but I'm no war-wizard, like some of the outlanders from home called themselves."

"What about divination or enchantment?" He asked curiously as a fine golden cup with appeared with fragrant cool fruit juice in it near her hand.

"There's a legal market for enchantment magic?" She asked dubiously, taking the glass and inhaling the fragrance.

"For custom magical items," he nodded, suspecting she thought he meant something else with his words. "It is not a common ability. One that is enough to bring a slave-born into the company of the Pharaoh as a respected artisan in time."

"Ah," she said, shaking her head. "When I hear of enchantments, it usually refers to enchanting a person, not an object, and usually to warp their mind somehow. I'm afraid those are beyond the ability of any sha'ir, without a full genie to help with the process. Divination I am quite capable of though."

He nodded thoughtfully. "Can you read or write?"

"In Midani, of course," she nodded easily. "Illiteracy is actually very uncommon in Zakhara, particularly in the major city-states."

"And you clearly have some survival skills," he added with a motion to the surrounding jungle and the nearby ocean. "It seems to be that you have a fair number of choices in respectable professions in most lands I know of."

"And less than respectable ones," she chuckled slightly with a nod. "But thank you; I don't doubt I'll be able to find some sort of job, just a question of what to do in the meantime. I doubt everybody's going to have a translation spell, and poor Qefni would be run ragged seeking out enough for me to use them until I learn the local tongue."

"Well, if you decide to accept the hospitality of any of the civilized kingdoms, that will not be a problem," Ry'Shyn said easily. "The priests have a process that teaches it quickly and allows you to communicate in the meantime."

"Is there some price for this?" She asked cautiously. "Priests have a habit of wanting conversion, if nothing more."

"You are expected to work for your keep if you cannot pay in gold or gems," he nodded. "We learned long ago that someone who can speak the language is much more likely to be a productive member of society. It is part of their duties from the King's Pact all the kingdoms signed generations ago. The priesthood must take in and educate all who ask for assistance, and any who are sent to them for it."

"They don't expect you to convert then?" She asked cautiously. She didn't think of herself as being that devout, honestly, but she did pray, as all Zakharans did, barring some good reason making it impossible.

What worried her was the thought of having to worship an unenlightened deity, even in name.

"It is illegal for them to demand it." He shook his head and took a sip of his juice. "With a penalty of expulsion from the priesthood and death. They can expound on the virtues of their favored deity and viewpoint all they want and honestly it is a good idea to not fight them too much on it if you are going to stick around, but we worship too many Gods in the kingdoms, many of them the same God under a different name. It is a central feature of the King's Pact to stop the arguing about names and exact abilities of the Gods when they really can do and be anything they want."

"Listening I can do," she smiled. "Especially if they don't mind a little good-natured debate. I have no quarrel with those who worship other deities, I've just met too many from other lands who felt that their faith was the only faith to trust strange priests without knowing their stance on it yet."

"I can't promise they'll all be willing to get into a debate, but many will be." He chuckled. "They are still people, each with their own temperament."

"Understood," she chuckled. "Only one place I've seen where I'd call the priests automatons, and that was far from here. Are you a particularly religious Fox, Ry'Shyn?"

"I guess that depends on the God in question." He chuckled lightly and sipped his juice. "I am not so devout that I joined the priesthood, but I have never failed to show my respect to them as I am expected either." He paused to hum thoughtfully over his drink for a moment. "I have done as they have asked of me and I have prospered."

"Your wealth is your own then?" She asked, her ears perking up a little. "Not yours by a wealthy family, but earned by your own labor?"

"A little of each," he admitted easily. "My family is wealthy and gave me a good start in life, but as a younger son of a younger sister, most of what I claim now is of my own doing.

"Better the man who wins the race with a head start, than one who wins it by starting across the finish line," she smiled. "Too many nobles who spend their lives little better than lap dogs, good to see one who's had to work for what he has."

"Yes, I know many of them," he nodded with a well-controlled sneer. "You won't find many Foxes like that. Even the ones that dedicate themselves to enjoying their wealth and position usually do something useful for society. It's part of what we are."

"That's a change I could definitely deal with," she smiled. "Too many nobles out there who are practically useless and too many places being run into the ground to serve their whims."

"It sounds as if you have kingdoms that can afford such complacency." Ry'Shyn shook his head and relaxed on his pillow lounge. "No land here would remain under its own rule long like that. If a successor did not remove them, another kingdom would."

"While the Grand Caliph's law prevents the city-states from fighting against each other," she nodded. "There have been rebellions, but it takes quite a bit to inspire them."

"So far I like our system better," he chuckled lightly. "We get better rulers out of it at least."

"Well, hardly every city is like that," she smiled. "Hawa, my city, is ruled by those with the skill to do so. Qudra is ruled by the highest ranking slave-warrior. It's mostly the outer provinces that are truly deranged or decadent. Why the Caliph puts up with them, I doubt even the gods know."

"Perhaps he has enough troubles of his own." Ry'Shyn suggested. "But it sounds as if all your lands answer to a single leader eventually."

"Yes, they do," she nodded. "All the lands of Zakhara pay tribute and offer fealty to the Grand Caliph, as a handful of outlander invaders have discovered. He's a good man, an adventurer in his youth. Even the genies offer him great respect, despite not being a sha'ir."

"That is a key difference here," he nodded to himself. "We have no highest of the high. Each kingdom is independent and its ruler answers to no one but their people and what pressure others leaders can give from their capitols. We keep each other fit and strong, though there have been few battles since the King's Pact was signed by every major kingdom and most of the small ones in my four-times-great-grandmother's time."

"Well, from what I have heard, there is no proof that such a system is sure guard against mad or decadent rulers; there are many tales of such from the outlands. It may be that your people simply govern their governors better."

"I expect that those kingdoms, and I am sure they exist, do not have a half dozen neighbors ready to crush them when they do so. I know of lands to the east and south than have hundreds of square miles for each person. It is an easy thing to be unaccountable when there are few but your own to account to."

"Or they're all too mad to hold the land they wrest from each other for long," she chuckled slightly. "From what I've heard, it wouldn't surprise me. Tales of mad rulers and madder wars have made me feel quite blessed to be raised in Zakhara."

"There are certainly worse places to be a Red Vixen," he nodded easily. "And I am sure there are better. It is the way all things are." Ry'Shyn grinned with a wink.

"Indeed," she chuckled with him. "This seems to be a nice enough place to be one though, at least so far. If nothing else, the land is not nearly as harsh as the deserts."

"Oh, very much so," he shuddered. "I've traveled two deserts. The people are nice enough, but the existence is not my idea of fun. I prefer a few less tress and rain than this, but the living is easy as long as you avoid all the poisonous things that thrive here."

"What is it like where you're from?" She asked him curiously.

"Akkad is a lush farming land that spans the length of the great Nineori River from its source at Lake Nineori-Si to where it spreads into a huge fan delta to empty into the Misathitan Sea."

"So plenty of green, with the added benefit of being able to see the sun during the day?" She guessed.

"Yes," he nodded. "There are areas of jungle around Nineori-Si, but little of it along the river where we farm and fish. The Nineori provides the richest farmland in the known world with the yearly floods. It is a truly spectacular sight when the waters come and then leave the rich brown mud that sustains more than half the world's population."

"You have a wealthy land indeed," she said, her eyes widening a bit in surprise. "Wouldn't a land like this offer more though?"

"Surprisingly not. Jungle land is very rich, but when you take down the jungle to create a farm all the soil blows away and it is rarely suitable to even sustain goats, much less cattle or people."

"Then the people here live off what their land provides, or is the village near here outside the jungle?" She glanced up at Qefni for a possible explanation.

"The land and the sea," Ry'Shyn nodded. "While the two great kingdoms and their handful of cities are far from primitive, the majority of the population and the villages might as well be living in prehistoric times."

"Do they trade with the cities?" Yasmi asked.

"A little with their cities, who then trade with us. Directly, only when some crazy outlander comes to them directly." He cracked a grin at her. "If you survive it, you can make quite a profit with it."

"They're not fond of outsiders?" She asked. "Or is it just a difficult journey?"

"For the first timer here, it's a very difficult journey, even with a good guide." He nodded. "The land is as dangerous as it is beautiful and lush."

"But if that journey could be shortened, or even eliminated, it would be an excellent opportunity?" This had potential; not only could it be lucrative, but offer her some of the thrill she might miss by leaving piracy behind.

"It already is," Ry'Shyn grinned. "But shortening the journey would certainly make it far more so."

"What sort of things are best worth trading in the area?" She asked. "Small things; gems, metals, easily moved artwork?"

"Now, now, I what kind of businessman would I be if I gave away the best trade secrets I have to a stranger?" He smirked playfully at her. "I'm all for being friendly, but you are asking a bit much of a bare acquaintance."

"An excellent point," she chuckled. "Though perhaps an eventual partnership wouldn't be out of the question?"

"Perhaps," he raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "What do you propose for one?"

"I have magic that can move myself, and small amounts of objects in my possession, great distances without having to cross the space in between. I wouldn't want to move directly from the village square to a market, of course; it would upset people no end, I'm sure. But if I had seen the place I was going to be going to before, knew that it was safe to move to, a trip that might take months could be completed in a matter of days at most. Of course, how much I could move is severely limited; myself and perhaps three other well-built men, in size."

"Someplace safe... like a home or small warehouse?" He leaned foreword, clearly interested in this ability.

"Yes," she nodded. "Some place that I can see, make sure I wouldn't be appearing in the middle of a table or chair. Unfortunately, I'm not much of a businesswoman. Unlike many members of the crew on my ship, I didn't rely on being able to sell even a small cargo at the next port, but rather on being able to claim a share of the ship's profits, as the chief mage on board the vessel."

"So your proposition, in simplest form, is to provide quick and safe transportation of my goods, in exchange for a share of the profits?"

"In it's simplest form, yes," she nodded. "At first, at least. Eventually, I may prefer to go into business for myself, at least in part, but that would be some time down the line, I'm sure."

"What do you need to make this trip?" Ry'Shyn asked intently. "How safe is it for you and the goods?"

"I would need to see both locations, study them in some level of detail. I would need Qefni to fetch the spell, and the time to cast it, on each end. The greatest risk is that he might not be able to fetch the spell, in which case I would have to send him back for a different version, less powerful, but as long as I have been to the destination before, know where I'm going, it shouldn't be too much riskier as long as it is within range."

"How likely is the preferred spell to be unavailable?"

"No more often than every other day, likely less often than that. And as Qefni learns where to look to find it regularly, it becomes easier for him. But even in a worst-case scenario, I would imagine that with the right cargo, two 'shipments' a week could be remarkably worthwhile."

"My dear, with the right cargo, even at the weight and size restrictions you have indicated, once a moon would be extremely profitable. It is nearly a year's journey, a full turn of the seasons, to gather goods to load my ships and sail back home. Two or three shipments a week ... we could corner several markets that don't even exist yet."

"I take it you're interested then?" She smiled.

"If you can do as you claim, I am definitely interested in a partnership." He nodded and relaxed into a lounge again. "Though between your ambitions to go on your own and the value of what we are discussing, I do insist that a contract be written and signed before we exchange many more details. It does sound as if this first trip must be done by conventional means."

"Of course," she nodded easily. "Though after I understand the language well enough to understand the details of the contract. And yes, it likely would. At least part of the way."

"Then you will see much of this world before we reach my home." Ry'Shyn smiled and lifted his golden cup in a toast. "To clear skies and a profitable journey."

"May Fate smile upon us both," she smiled back, raising her own cup and drinking deeply of its lightly sweet contents with him.

Yasmi lay awake on Ry'Shyn's spare bedroll, listening to the sounds of the jungle around her. Animals hunting, traveling, mating ... their calls were an unusual melody. She was used to the sounds of Hawa, or the sounds of the sea, both a far, far different set of noises to fall to sleep by.

Not that she was likely to do that for some time, after her lengthy nap after arriving. Sleep appealed, but she had too much to think about, and just a little too much energy to devote to that thinking. She stroked Shikal's back idly, trying to focus on one thing at a time.

They wouldn't be back in regular civilization any time soon, from the sound of it. She hoped this all worked out. If they weren't careful about how they managed this operation, unless the cities in this world were quite different from those of Zakhara, they could well be turned into smugglers by this. She'd have to make sure they handled any difficulties there.

A number of large animals plodded by the tent, barely a full foot away from her. A part of her marveled at the animals being so calmly accepting of the alien addition to their environment. She could only guess that Foxes didn't hunt around here, assuming anybody did. With the nearest village three days walk away, it could be that they didn't range this far, given how rich the land was in terms of animals to hunt and plants to gather.

Sometimes she almost expected one of them to walk into the tent with them, idly curious about what the strange smells were.

She wondered what Ry'Shyn would do, if that were to happen. The noble was already sound asleep, himself; apparently, he was much more used to the sounds around him.

She should follow his example; stop worrying about the animal noises, and just get to sleep. It would be a long day ahead of her.

Sighing, she turned over, closing her eyes. Shikal snuggled up next to her, his feathered wings folded close to his dark-furred body, and soon the two of them both went back to sleep.

"Good morning, Yasmi." The perky male voice from the night before greeted her less than awake brain and even less awake body as the pre-dawn light caressed her fur from the open tent flap with the fragrant scent of a hot, spicy drink warming to full strength outside.

"They haven't even called the first prayer yet," she muttered, reluctantly rousing to the feel of the silky bottom of the tent beneath her bedroll. Everything that had happened the night and day before started coming back to her, her mind waking up far faster than her body was.

"First prayer?" He asked over his shoulder from near the small day fire.

"Except for priests and people working in the market stalls, most people aren't up before the call to morning prayer," she explained, groaning as she stretched out again and sat up.

"You do not eat or dress before you have your first public prayer?"

"We dress and wash," she nodded, "but prayer is more often private, unless you're going to the temples. If you've done that, you'll have been up long before, but most people don't bother."

"Oh," he nodded. "It is not how we typically do things. When would you normally rise?"

"Shortly after dawn. Not too long from now, but after yesterday I'm a little off yet."

"You are welcome to rest longer if you wish." He offered easily. "There is little that needs to be done in such a hurry."

"No, it will give me time to wash before dawn," she said, shaking her head. "If you don't mind?"

"Of course not," Ry'Shyn chuckled. "How much privacy do you wish?"

"Not much," she chuckled, getting to her feet and stepping out of the tent. "I mostly need to wash my hands. I could probably use a bath too, but there'll be time for that later, once I'm awake enough not to drown while I'm taking it."

"A wise choice," he nodded with an amused smile. "There is soapsand and a hand towel in the blue bag next to the entrance."

"Thank you," she nodded, taking the bag by her feet and walking to the stream and washed her hands quickly before returning to the small day fire and the fragrant and very different smelling hot drink Ry'Shyn had made for them.

"It is called hot chocolate." He smiled and handed a thinly pounded golden mug to her. "It is quite unique and from this land."

She sniffed it carefully, unsure of what was in it. She was used to coffee; this smelled quite different though. Perhaps it was the local equivalent when it was available?

She took a tentative sip, coughing at the powerful flavor.

"It's different," she said diplomatically.

"Too spicy or just too strange?" He asked softly.

"Very different from most things I've tasted," she admitted. "It's not your fault, just a taste I haven't acquired yet."

"Would juice, or tea perhaps, be more to your liking this morning?"

"Either, whichever is less trouble for you. I'm sorry, it's not bad it all. Just unusual."

"It's all right," Ry'Shyn smiled and took her mug, setting next to his before flicking his wrist and fingers to produce a new one for her. This one full of the juice they had shared last night.

"Thank you," she smiled, taking the mug and sipping the contents. "Is that cocoa commonplace, or something more unique to these lands at this point?"

"It is unique to the local area," he chuckled. "And you must be of some rank to have access to the drink. The beans it is created from are used as a form of money here."

"A form of barter?"

"Not really. More like the ultimate indulgence for the rich. Drinking your money. The lower ranks are not allowed to drink it, even if they have enough beans to create it."

"The nobility finally found a way that was more opulent than jewelry," she chuckled, shaking her head slightly. "I have to admit, that is a sign of wealth I've never seen before."

"How many places do you know of that even can?" He raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Edible money is far from a normal thing around here."

"Very few, if any," she chuckled. "Though there are some of the islands where they come close. Certain commodities that are so valuable to the locals that they're virtually interchangeable with dinari."

He considered her for a moment, then held up his golden mug. "How many dinari would you say this is worth?"

"The raw gold, or the workmanship as well?" She asked.

"Each, if you know that." He nodded. "It'll help me translate currency for you until you are more accustomed to the various forms around here."

"That would be helpful," she nodded, thinking and looking at her mug as she sipped the juice inside. "I'm not entirely sure about the mug itself, workmanship and all. The raw materials though would probably be enough weight to make up...." She considered it, remembering how much it weighed empty the night before. "Roughly ten dinar."

"Is gold, such as this, a valuable metal?"

"Fairly, yes," she nodded. "A dinar is a coin of gold, roughly ten of them to the pound. Most business is done in smaller coins, or gems, depending on who is doing the buying."

"How much would a healthy, solid riding beast fetch?"

"Depending on how well you haggled, you could generally count on about fifty dinar for a good desert camel. A horse could usually fetch about half-again that much. Not that any noble would settle for either," she chuckled. "Of course, the whole thing hinges on convincing the seller that he wants to sell for what the animal's worth, rather than the price he'll first ask."

"Now that our worlds have in common." Ry'Shyn laughed brightly and grinned at her. "Are you awake enough to be hungry?"

"How long will breakfast take?" She asked with a chuckled, smiling back and finishing her juice.

"Just a few minutes to cut the fruit and bread." He told her easily. "Hot meals are not something I make often here."

"That I can definitely understand," she chuckled. "Though I hope you don't mind if I change that for dinner tonight, have Qefni fetch what's necessary. If you don't mind, I'll take the chance to perform my prayer while you get breakfast."

"My all means, to both." He nodded easily. "My first prayer of the day typically comes after I sit to eat but before anyone actually does."

"I hope you don't mind if I watch," she smiled, standing and setting her mug down. "I'll be back in a couple minutes."

"Not in the least. Giving thanks is meant to be in public." He nodded and turned to prepare the simple meal of moist, dense bread spiced with peppers and dried fruit and fresh fruit to eat.

Yasmi returned to the stream quickly, rinsing her hands off and turned towards the dawning sun. She prostrated herself, reflecting on what had happened the day before.

Could this be a punishment from Fate and the gods, for her years of piracy? Or perhaps a gift, of sorts, a way of achieving the ultimate freedom? Free from the laws of the Caliph, free from even the Law of the Loregiver, if she so wished it. If the local laws differ, who would know to correct her?

She would.

That answered that question. Even without the qadi to pass judgment, she would follow the Law, as well as she could. Perhaps doing so would allow her to return, some day. She stood again, offering her thanks to Haku and Fate once again, and returned to where Ry'Shyn had prepared breakfast.

"Thank you," she smiled and settled on the pillow he had set out for her near his by the spread of food on several large leaves.

"You are welcome, Yasmi." He smiled back. "Take a smaller leaf as a plate and eat what you want."

She did just that, holding the leaf in her left hand and eating with her right. The bread was an unusual flavor, spicy and filling.

"This is very good," she said with an appreciative smile. "Do you make it?"

"Not if I can help it," he chuckled. "It's the most common bread in these parts. Every village has some variant they are happy to trade for."

"No good asking for a recipe then," she chuckled. "Not that I'm a particularly good cook, of course. It's good that they're willing to trade food for other things."

"Like everywhere, unless they are starving, most people are happy to get what they want for what they have."

"Most people," she agreed with a smile. "And the ones that don't, you really don't want to visit, in my experience. Though they are often the more primitive areas. What do you trade to them, if you don't mind my asking?"

"It depends largely on what I'm bringing out," he chuckled. "Cacao beans and trading mantles are the cash of this land. Not many places out here use either. They are mostly for trading with other merchants, traders and in the big cities. Barter is the name of the game even in most big marketplaces, and that's anything they want and I have. Feathers, finished goods, clothing, obsidian, slaves, plants, animals ... nearly anything and everything."

"Are you finishing a trip then?" She asked. "Or not a trading trip this time? I notice you don't seem to have much to trade with here."

"I'm scouting new territory," he chuckled. "So I only bring a few examples of what I can bring if they are interested in seeing us for real. I do these every couple years. I'm near the end of it, and it's been a good trip."

"I take it they liked what you had to offer?" She asked with a chuckle. "So you've already been out for almost a year now?"

"Very much, and even better I found a couple excellent new feather and jewelry artists to add to my roster." He nodded, then shook his head. "But it doesn't take a year. These scouting trips only take a couple months each."

"Then the journeys you talked about last night were larger ones?" She asked curiously.

"Very," he nodded between bites of spicy bread of sweet fruit. "I trade around these lands for half a year or so, then load my ships to go home with exotic goods to trade there. That is a sea voyage of three moons if we make no more than the required stops. When I arrive home, I store the goods from here to be traded over the year I am gone by my partner there. The ships are loaded with the goods he acquired while I was gone and I come back here to begin again. I make one of these outings every other time I am here."

"I hope you have a trustworthy partner," she mused. "You spend much of your time on the road then?"

"He has not cheated me yet." Ry'Shyn nodded. "I enjoy the travel, he prefers to stay in a market and near home. I also have a much stronger talent for divination and language than he does. It's a big help out here where every village has it's own minor dialect."

"I'm certainly not going to complain," Yasmi chuckled. "It sounds like I'm much better off for having met you. Does he use magic as well?"

"Not his own," Ry'Shyn shook his head. "He has a few charms and such, but he has no talent for it."

"Definitely better that I met you then," she chuckled. "So you only get home a few months out of every year?"

"Generally," he nodded. "Sometimes I'll take a year or two off on one side of the water or the other, but I like the travel."

"I hope your mate does as well, once you take one," she smiled knowingly. "It can be quite awkward to be gone that long and have them left behind for any reason."

"I'm unlikely to take one who didn't while I still travel," he chuckled softly. "It is not as if Mother expects me to produce an heir for her. Though she'd be happy to arrange for a suitable mate that wouldn't mind me missing most of the time."

"An heir for her?" Yasmi asked curiously. "What about your father?"

"Inheritance is threw the maternal line." He explained with something of a bemused smile. "If I do not have a daughter who claims me and I accept to inherit my wealth, it will go to my mother and then to her daughters. After all, there is no real way to prove who sired someone. Your mother is very obvious."

"I am hardly going to complain that somebody finally realized that," she chuckled. "Also less likely to cause the issue of 'beloved though illegitimate heirs' popping up inconveniently. Though if women inherit, how do the men benefit from their families' wealth?"

"It is complicated, though not nearly as hard as the dress code here." Ry'Shyn laughed easily. "A husband will generally run the finances and property, but it actually belongs to the wife who inherited it and will be passed down to her daughters. The same works with titles that are inherited." He grinned and picked up a slice of the dark, dense bread and laid down in a lounge next to her. "Take the Pharaoh, our leader. Now the Pharaoh is traditionally a male, but the title itself is passed threw the female line. So it is not the Pharaoh's son that inherits, it is his wife's best daughter's best husband. And if his wife, who has the actual Pharaoh blood in her, did not give birth to a married daughter, then the next Pharaoh is his wife's mother's best daughter's chosen mate, as his wife is the one that actually inherited the title and without an heir it goes back to her mother and her heirs."

"And I thought inheritance was difficult in Zakhara," she chuckled, shaking her head and laying back next to him as she finished her own breakfast. "Now, it's becoming remarkably simple. What happens to you if your wife dies before you do, and her wealth goes to daughters, or even more distant relatives?"

"That depends on several things. What I bring into the marriage is still mine until I die, though it will go to her daughters that are legally mine. If you don't bring anything in, your daughters, your mother's family and your wife's family are expected to see you do not starve or go homeless. Assuming you do not have another wife in the mix. If an inheriting daughter does not have a husband, her father with generally manage things for her as he did for his wife. He can marry again. Also, if he has any useful skills, he can make his way as he did before he married. Many males end their days either in a daughter's household or go back to his mother's."

"So the net is there," she nodded. "Polygamy is acceptable here, as well as polyandry?"

"Yes," he nodded easily and licked the juice from a glistening red fruit slice before eating it. "It mostly has to do with being able to support it and making arrangements agreeable to all."

"How commonplace is it?" She asked curiously. She doubted it was as common as it was back home; he didn't have even a single wife yet, but he could be an exception. Still, with the focus on inheritance through the wife's family, it probably wasn't as big an issue to marry, as long as you had sisters and your mother was alive.

"In families with money, quite common," he nodded. "Most folks who can afford more than one mate choose to do so."

"That sounds normal enough," she chuckled. "Is it normal for the wealthy to wait until they find mates they'll be happy with here?"

"That depends a lot on the family, but generally not." He shrugged. "I have an understanding mother. Well, that and I'm not actually around much." He added with a chuckle.

"I've often wondered how many pirates and merchants were made by family that nags," she giggled. "Though it sounds like yours doesn't too often."

"A lot of that has to do with my family's wealth is from trading. She is quite proud her youngest son is so accomplished that he does not need to marry to make the family line proud." He cracked a mischievous grin. "And every year I continue that success makes me that much more eligible. She's starting to have dreams of a pup that marries into the royal family."

"Oh my," she chuckled. "You need to be a successful merchant for that here?"

"No, but it helps a lot if you are not already a Noble or powerfully gifted." He shook his head. "That I have some talent for magic helps too."

"Do they ever marry for attraction, or is it always more politically inclined?"

"Those of little consequence do, or the mate is put in the harem. Stuff like that. It really depends on both parties."

"A mate in the harem is less important than another?" She asked, cocking her head slightly. Of all the things that could be different, that would be an odd one.

"Very much so," he nodded. "But not all mates are in the harem when there is one. A husband or wife has legal standing as a person's partner. It provides a trail should inheritance have to pass threw a male descendant to find a related female. They also have the legal right to block another marriage, mating, harem or slave acquisition. It is a very serious thing to marry, especially the first time.

"A mate is similar, but does not have as much legal standing. They do not count for an inheritance path and cannot legally stop a mate from marring, but can stop the acquisition of a new mate, harem member or slave.

"Harem members come in three standings: Noble, Freeborn and Slaves. Each level can stop the acquisition of a lower rung to the harem, though not to all harems the person has if they are in separate cities."

"Rich nobles will frequently have one to three husbands or wives, a few mates and a harem or harems with members of all three kinds. Each has their rights, legal standing and practical standing."

She absorbed all that he said, thinking it over, trying to remember it. She had a feeling that, on some level, it would come in very handy to remember.

"So intimacy outside of a marriage is commonplace, from the sound of it?"

"It's normal," he chuckled. "Those who can't attract a lover they want with their own skill often pay money or favors for it. Especially among the wealthy and Nobles it is common for a mother to hire specialists to teach her sons such skills to help them get a good wife. Some even have their daughters taught as well. With inheritance going through the female line, we have no such thing as an illegitimate child. She gave birth to the child, it is hers and her family's, whether or not she has taken a husband."

"How binding is a marriage then?" She asked a little dubiously. This could end up being a very awkward place to live, given her earlier decision.

"Either side can end it, though it is more difficult for a female to get rid of her husband than for a husband to leave his wife. It usually isn't bothered with though."

"That... will take some getting used to," she admitted. "Very, very different from how things are in Zakhara."

"What is the reasoning behind your ways?" He asked curiously.

"They actually have remarkably little to do with a legitimate heir, as far as I can tell," she chuckled. "Inheritance is often according to the deceased's wishes, rather than to birth order.

"To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. I suspect it might have had to do, at first, with making sure that if a woman conceived, she would not be without a means of support, and her child's father more likely known. But while marriage is often a binding arrangement, entered into for life, it's just as often a matter of convenience, of making a brief coupling a legal and socially acceptable affair. Adultery is a serious crime. A temporary marriage, even as short as a few hours, is not. It's unusual to many not from our lands, but an important part of our Law. "

Ry'Shyn frowned. "I think you use adultery differently than any land I know of. Here it is when you have sex with someone when such is at the direct forbiddance of one who can forbid it. It is a crime committed by married people."

"It is the phrase we use more commonly; 'amorous impropriety' might be a more accurate one, I suppose, but it's more awkward as well. It is not only against the Law of the Loregiver, but reflects poorly on the honor of the family in our lands. Often a crime punished by death or trial by ordeal, especially if one of the offenders is already married or betrothed."

"Lovely," he couldn't help but make a face. "What an utterly unpleasant way to live."

"It is a matter of honor," she shrugged slightly. "It pains the family greatly when it happens, but you are not raised in the Land of Fate without learning that law. And it hardly keeps us from our pleasure; as I said, it is hardly uncommon to marry briefly, or even to agree that the marriage is null after a certain period of time. It simply makes us think a bit longer before jumping into bed most of the time."

"What is a marriage ceremony in your land?"

"Anything from going to the qadi and having your marriage legally recognized, to the grand ceremonies of marriage for a noble," she chuckled. "Largely depends on how many marriages there have been already for both parties, and of what sort."

"And the cost for the ... qadi?"

"Judge, for a more familiar word," she explained easily. "Or any priest, honestly, though the qadi is the one most commonly called upon. The cost is typically negligible, a small donation to the church rather than a fee. A few bits is often sufficient, though a larger one is a good way to impress people. The fee paid to the bride or her family can be another issue, of course," she chuckled. "The bride price is usually fairly high, unless it's a marriage meant simply for mutual pleasure."

"Bride price?" He raised an eyebrow, momentarily distracted from his original focus.

"The wife doesn't often have property of her own in Zakhara," she explained, "not at first, at least. The bride price is a fee paid to her family, for the 'loss' of a daughter, or to the bride as property of her own, in case of divorce or the husband's death. There are dowries as well, can end up making the economics of marriage very difficult to explain, if not a merely symbolic exchange of goods."

"I think I can guess at most of it." He chuckled lightly. "You haven't seen complicated until you see some of the political marriages between Nobles of countries that have different inheritance laws."

"So they aren't fixed between the kingdoms here?" She asked. "It sounded like they were, before. But I can certainly imagine that they are; each side wants to be sure that they come out ahead in case of unfortunate 'accident.'"

"No, each kingdom has it's own laws and traditions, and many, like Anahuac, the land we are in have an official law but each region still maintain most of it's own traditions." Ry'Shyn shook his head. "The traveling I do is why I'm not particularly devout. I have seen and heard and experienced too much. Even more than the priests and nobles, I know where the laws and gods and customs came from before they were taking into our ways."

"You have seen them, and do not believe?" She asked curiously.

"I have seen them, yes," he nodded almost sadly. "I have seen that they all come from mortals, are warped and changed by mortals. I have traced down God after God and legend after legend and tradition after tradition. I have traced every single one back to a mortal of power or visitor such as yourself." He lifted his face a bit to smile at her. "But in all that, I have also come to understand their true purpose. They are there to give people purpose to their lives and a way to understand the world they cannot otherwise understand. To answer the unanswerable and give something to blame when things go wrong and something to celebrate with when they go well."

"Not all gods are like that," Yasmi said softly. "Perhaps not here, but they are real. Fate and gods alike do exist."

"As creatures of immense power, yes, they are very real." He nodded. "As anything like what most people believe they are or do, well, I haven't come across any hint that part is true."

"What do most people here believe they are or do?" She asked cautiously.

"Gods are what control the rain, fertility, disasters, fortune ... you name it, some God controls it."

"They do," she said again, closing her eyes. Every fiber of her being wanted to argue this with him, despite not being able to prove it. It probably wasn't as big an issue here... possibly... but it flew in the face of everything she'd been taught. "They walked the land of Zakhara, and of the continents beyond more recently. And they do control these things, we have seen it happen. Perhaps my world is unusual in this."

"You'll get along well here then," he nodded slightly. "Just learn the names they go by locally and you probably won't notice much difference in the right kingdom."

"What is the name of the wind god, in your land?" She asked after a quiet moment, forcing herself to let it rest, at least for now.

"In Akkad she is either Amaunet or he is Shu. Amaunet is a mother goddess, keeper of the life-bearing northern wind. Shu is the embodiment of the sky and thus controls the other winds. There are less well know ones as well if there is a particular aspect you mean."

"The wind and freedom alike, if there is such a god or goddess," she explained, thinking about it. "Or one of fate, if there is not, though one of fate, of course, would not need to be a god of the winds."

"Fate has no equivalent in Akkad," he shook his head. "It is in the hands of the Gods. All of them. Libertas is the goddess of Freedom. This world is far more specialized than yours from the sound of things."

"It sounds like it," she chuckled slightly. "In mine, there are many, many gods, but only a few major ones, the Enlightened gods. Our faith is bound by faith in Fate, and the Loregiver's law, more than in a given god or set of them."

"Just who, what, is Fate to you?"

"Fate is many things," she chuckled, thinking about it. "In our stories, Fate came to a young woman, gave her the Law of Enlightenment, chose her as her companion, the Loregiver.

"Fate, however, is also the force of destiny, the force that guides us through our lives. We have no fate but the fate we are given. And yet, it does not control us. Fate is our destination. The journey is largely up to us, though sometimes we are given several destinations along our journey.

"There's no easy way to explain it, and ask another Zakharan and you may well get another answer. But that is what Fate is to me... the beginning and the end of all things, the force that even the Gods must answer to, the law even They must follow in the end. And yet, despite all this, caring and gentle when Her anger is not roused."

"Okay," he nodded slightly. "What you seek no one has succeeded at here and few have tried."

"What I seek?" She asked. "What I seek in what?"

"Fate. A power that holds the very gods in its sway. That is a concept that does not exist here and has been taken badly the few times it has been suggested. No land, no kingdom, has such a thing in its view of reality."

"I'll keep it in mind," she said softly. "Not bring it up, if I can help it."

"I don't think that is likely a problem. Though not many will take it as seriously as you do."

"It's a very large part of who the Zakharans are," she tried to explain. "Separates us from the unenlightened of the outlands, raised us beyond being nothing more than petty, warring city-states. Much like the King's Pact you described, I suppose, blended with a religion that takes all of us through life, and brought an end to war between faiths."

"I'm not about to complain about something that works," he smiled easily. "Peace is good for trade."

"Especially when trade has to travel from one oasis to the next," she nodded. "And you have nomads in between who would normally raid a caravan without batting an eye."

"Not a problem I run across often," Ry'Shyn shook his head lightly. "Most caravans and traders have guards, but it's rarely an issue. But then when your average caravan has someone who can demolish small armies with a thought, raiding them tends to be a bad idea."

"Your war wizards have great power," she said appreciatively. "Few of ours are quite that strong."

"Another reason I have such difficulty believing in most Gods," he nodded. "I have seen, or can, do most of what has been described as proof of their godly status. It's not so easy to take calling lightning down on someone as proof of a God's anger when you can do it yourself and you know you are not one."

"Lightning is hardly the mark of a god," she agreed with a chuckle. "Even the nomads have mages who can do that, and far, far more."

"Now one of the few I've never figured out is this movement spell you have mentioned, and yet you have told me it is a spell and little more. Something that mortals are quite capable of with the talent and spell." He sighed lightly. "Do you want to know the truly sad part of all this? My loss of faith in Gods existing came out of a too-bright mind trying to prove they did. I was seeking evidence that couldn't be challenged by the nay-sayers that they are real."

"Perhaps one of these days, you'll find proof that they are again," she suggested. "Even priests have lost their faith before."

"Perhaps," he acquiesced. "It's not looking very likely anytime soon."

"Have you encountered prophets before?" She asked him gently. "Ones with spells that allowed them to speak with the gods?"

"Many, every last one has proven to be a fraud." Ry'Shyn shrugged. "Most don't even have spells, they just fake it to the ignorant masses, or are deluded themselves."

"That wouldn't likely help them," she admitted. "Especially as difficult as it is to find that type of magic. Qefni does not much like having to search for the magic the gods of my land control; sometimes, their servants come to ask why it is that a given spell is being stolen by my little hunter."

"That sounds as if it could be decidedly unpleasant if you do not talk you way out of it quickly."

"Definitely," she nodded. "Of course, it encourages the sha'ir to always have a very good reason to call for priestly magic. And to make sure you call for magic that the more reasonable deities provide."

"Priestly magic?" He looked at her with a bewildered expression. "Okay ... so your world has magic that only priests can cast ... but you can steal?"

"Qefni retrieves whatever magic he can find," she explained. "Priests cast the spells their gods allow them. Most who aren't priests can't cast them, because the gods won't give them the energy. Qefni 'steals' that magic from the gods and the servants responsible for distributing it, the same way that he finds other magic for me."

"You live in a very strange land indeed." Ry'Shyn shook his head. "While I have heard of lands where all priests were spellcasters, or all with spellcaster talent became priests, and numerous stories of various priests being given powerful gifts by their God, I have never heard of a land where priests could cast come spells and mages others that weren't known as mortal laws to keep the division in place."

"Strange perhaps," she admitted, "but true. No mage casts healing magic, that's the biggest division. Except for sha'irs and those mages with priestly training. There are limits on the combat magic priests have available as well, and it is not decreed by mortals."

He blinked a couple times. "No healing magic? That ... is just too strange. Healers are their own class in most lands, but everyone can learn the spells. They are very simple ones in general."

"The best explanation I've heard is that the gods felt that sort of magic was too dangerous to leave in the hands of any mortal who could wield it," she chuckled. "Which doesn't answer the question of why they left spells that could lay waste to an entire oasis in a matter of seconds, but it's what one priest told me. Usually, when somebody questions my use of healing magic, I really don't want to risk upsetting them by asking. Being smote as an 'upstart mortal' is not high on my list of things to do."

"Understandable." He nodded. "It still seems very strange."

"While the idea of somebody casting a healing spell and then turning around and wielding elemental sorcery with equal skill strikes me as being just as odd," she chuckled. "And I'm assuming that happens with at least some regularity, from the sound of it. I can't imagine any wizard who wouldn't want a healing spell or two on hand."

"Most do," he nodded. "Though few specialize in them that are not full Healers. There are more useful spells to know. The most potent of healing magic is so rarely needed."

"Very true," she nodded. "Or, when needed, safe to use," she added a little sadly.

"Safe?" He raised an eyebrow again. "Healing magic is not always safe in your land?"

"How powerful is the most potent healing magic you have here?" She asked.

"I've encountered magic that can bring back the recent dead. Those who perished within the last few hours."

"We have healing spells that are ... somewhat more potent than that," she explained softly. "And it can be very risky to use. Despite having the best intentions, you don't always get the soul back you expected. Especially if you're attempting the spell beyond the period it was meant to be used in," she added with a shudder.

"It sounds as if it is the usual risks of doing things beyond your ability or the spells parameters," Ry'Shyn said thoughtfully. "Sometimes it works. Usually it'll blow up in your face. I have heard of such spells and quests to retrieve a soul to live again, but I have not actually encountered anyone who has witnessed them."

"The fact that I had no business dealing with spells that powerful yet had something to do with it as well," she nodded. "But I got an answer for why they don't just try to resurrect anybody that day. Sometimes they don't want to come back, and when they don't, the spell doesn't always just fail to work."

"That fact I am quite familiar with." He chuckled ruefully. "Anytime you wield pure power it has its risks."

"It sounds like we've both had our magical mishaps," she sighed, shaking our head. "And yet, if somebody were to suggest we quit using it, we'd probably both beat them severely for it."

"Very much so," he laughed easily. "I don't know anyone who uses more than a trick or two that isn't the same."

"How common are mages here?" She asked after a small chuckle of her own. "And how organized?"

"What a question," Ry'Shyn chuckled. "That depends on the kingdom. Here in Anahuac it is very organized but rather rare. In Akkad magic is significantly more common but less organized. We have schools and such, but it is still largely a one on one system of apprenticeship."

"So guilds and brotherhoods are fairly rare, outside of the priesthood?" That would be a nice change, especially if the ones that were there were more reasonable.

"Here, they're everywhere. Back home, they're around, but they aren't in charge of anything."

"How strongly do most of them 'recruit' members?" She asked. "In case you're wondering, the reason I'm asking has to do with the major one back home. The Brotherhood of True Flame is virtually an assassin's organization, they actually have a group of Slayers, according to rumor. They're dedicated to wiping out basically every mage who isn't a member."

"Nothing like that has any power," he shook his head. "Some groups recruit more aggressively than others, but I am not aware of any that hold that kind of power. They would not be taken well by most, and retribution would be fast and bloody."

"I would hope so," she shuddered. "They're outlaws throughout Zakhara, but manage to stay underground enough that it's not worth the trouble for the authorities to deal with. Groups like them can make it very difficult to use magic. I'd just as soon not have to deal with people like them again."

"The other mages of your land do not hunt them down?"

"As much as we can," she shrugged slightly. "Unfortunately, they're all flame wizards, priests of Kossuth, and holy slayers. Masters of hiding and combat alike. You stamp them out in one place, you find that there are more elsewhere, and they're more than eager to avenge their comrades."

"Fanatics," he nodded. "They are always the most difficult to deal with, even the ones who mean well."

"And so few do," she agreed. "About the only way to get away from the fanatics in the Brotherhood is to go live under the ones in the Pantheon states, but that has its own problems. Namely, the fact that those zealots push the Law to the very limits."

"The letter of it instead of it's intent?"

"Neither," she muttered. "Their leaders seem to think they know the Law better than the Loregiver did. The one place in Zakhara where you may practice your faith only at your own risk, if it doesn't agree with the rulers. And their interpretation of it, I might add. I only went there once willingly, that was more than enough for me."

"And Fate does not challenge them?" He raised an eyebrow.

"As I said, Fate usually leaves mortals to find their own paths," she explained. "And the Laws they break, they have a web of 'justifications' for. The worst part is the way they interpret other laws so strictly. In some of the Pantheon states, looking appreciatively at somebody you're not married to can qualify as amorous impropriety, and heavy chadors are required garb for all women, so they don't 'tempt' the menfolk." She folded her ears back, wrinkling her nose distastefully.

"So if Fate does not enforce her own laws, what makes her different from any other deity that doesn't show up?"

"She doesn't enforce them directly, though she has 'shown up' before. Those who disobey Fate's law often succumb to the evil eye. The Pantheon states have found themselves sadly lacking in heirs, and having more and more trouble with the nomads lately. They argue that it's because Fate is turning against them for not being devout enough. Me... well, I agree, but I think the solution is somewhat different than what they do."

"In this too, our lands are similar," he nodded. "Only different names are used for what deity is responsible for events, political and natural."

"Different places, different beliefs and gods," she nodded. "Possibly even different rules; it's understandable. Even chance has its play in things; not all events, good or bad, are brought about by divine beings. Not that I expect you'll disagree with that," she chuckled slightly.

"No, can't say as I do." Ry'Shyn nodded and gave a slight stretch in place. "Have you had your fill?" He asked politely.

"Yes, thank you," she nodded. "You?"

"Yes," he nodded and stood easily. "It would be good to get moving. I do have to keep something of a schedule." He added with a teasing wink.

"Let's be on our way then," she chuckled, standing up as well. "Qefni, nap-time's over!" A tiny burst of bubbles by her shoulder heralded the sleepy-looking Fox's yawning arrival.

"Go back to sleep, Qefni." Ry'Shyn laughed. "We have to break camp and get the Equs loaded before we move out."

"Yes sir!" Qefni said quickly, disappearing again before Yasmi could tell him not to. The Vixen chuckled, shaking her head.

"He could have helped too. Ah well; where will I be most useful?"

"I'll remember that tomorrow." He chuckled and motioned her to the edge of camp. "Mostly just stay out of the way. I've invested wisely in travel equipment." He added and weaved a simple activation spell that set the camp into action folding itself up into small, neat bundles ready to be stored into the saddlebags that had been near the tent.

"Now that is a useful set of spells," she grinned.

"That they are," he nodded and moved to stow things away with well-practiced ease. "The second most valuable set of enchantments I ever invested in as a merchant."

"What would the first be?" She asked curiously.

"The 'Packs of Holding' I had commissioned for my first trip." He chuckled. "They cost more than most expected my first five years of profit would be, but they paid for themselves on the first stop, much less the first trip."

"I imagine they would," she laughed. "I'll bet there was a run on them after that."

"There would have been, if anyone knew how I got them," he winked. "I can't just give up such a profitable secret now can I?"

"I'm surprised your enchanter hasn't spread the word himself," she chuckled. "Is there anything I should know about the riding lizards you have here?" She asked, looking over at the spirited reptilian horses.

"They're carnivores, combat trained and quite loyal." He nodded and hopped over the creek to bring the pair over. "You'll be riding behind me, unless you'd prefer to walk."

"Behind you is fine," she nodded gratefully. "Honestly, I've never really learned to ride all that well. Worked on my sea legs instead."

"You'll be competent enough before you leave my company if you have any interest in it." Ry'Shyn grinned while he gave each beast a quick brushing of it's sleek black fur, glistening black scales and flowing mane, then went to work on saddling one. Then secured the large cargo pack to the other. "The sea legs will come in useful too on the voyage home."

"Let's see if I still have them by the time we get there," she winked, waiting for him to mount his riding lizard before carefully climbing up behind him.

"That we will," he nodded easily and relaxed into the familiar rolling gate of a mount he'd had most of his adult life. It would be an easy to day trip to the village, then he was going to cut this expedition short to get back home with this teleporter.

Red Dawn in Morning

PG-13 for Violence

101 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written October 14, 2004 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Al-Qadim (Furry), Sumur'th

Primary Races: Fox

Contents: Furry. Gen. Violence

Pairings: None

Blurb: Be careful when you make a Wish, especially when you are already in a life-or-death situation that's going badly. Such is a lesson the young Sha'ir Yasmi al Hawa learns when her Gen returns with a Mirid Prince in answer to her desperate need for help saving the ship she is on from the Qudran warship.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

Page Hit Count from November 30, 2004    1720