Chapter 19

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When Teshin woke up, it was not from sleep.

He sat on the floor in his hut, legs sprawled across the wooden boards, his back leaned against the wall, and he came to with a gasp.

But Teshin had this sneaking, uneasy feeling that his eyes had already been open, and it sent a chill down his spine.

He remembered leaving the cave late last night, climbing down Ashira's slope, trekking back to Clan of the Raven's compound, and finding his hut in the pre-dawn dark. He identified it thanks to having memorized its position to the fire.

Teshin also remembered drinking rainwater from the cask and trudging to the small back room, where a raised mattress and some blankets waited and beckoned, behind those curtains of feathers and seashells – which, no matter how much he thought about it, seemed a bizarre choice for curtain-making.

He even remembered dreaming.

They were the rough dreams, the sometimes too vivid for comfort images, the guilty, anguished, hopeless situations, the overall weird nightmares typical of klar-troubled sleep.

Mikai must've given him a powerful dosage of stimulating klar, some mixture, maybe a tincture she'd devised, to wake him up from the tuly coma. Which had clearly still been in his system when he'd lain down on that bed.

But Teshin didn't remember anything else. He couldn't recall waking up, walking to this room, or sitting here. Why would he sit here, on the floor instead of, say, a chair, only to stare into nothingness?

With vacant eyes, like Mikai last night.

You don't know that.

A voice in his mind, trying for reasonable and reassuring.

Failing.

Teshin brought his legs to his chest, slowly. They felt very stiff, and his bare feet were cold despite the comfortably warm weather. His toe nails were slightly blue. He closed his eyes and they burned, feeling dry and teary.

Spirits' sakes, so this is the consequence?

Something flashed across his thoughts, and it only lasted a split-second, but it struck him, got his eyes opening wide again as he tried to make sense of it.

A poignant sense of . . . otherness. A dissonance, echoing.

But it was gone too quickly. He frowned, wondering if it was from the dreams, or from . . . Or from whatever this had been, just now, as he'd sat there like a dead man.

The uneasiness in his gut told him he already knew the answer.

Still, Teshin got to his feet and shook off a shudder. Stretched his stiff limbs, ran his hands through his hair.

Outside, the celebration in his honor had started.

They were probably far into the day already. He heard the tam-tams, the talking, the laughing. He smelled the food, tried to recognize what it was – iguana meat, roasting over the fire, if he wasn't mistaken. His belly growled. Which made sense.

He stalked back to the other room to get properly dressed. They'd furnished a wooden dresser with plenty of items he might need.

All of this still felt . . . unreal.

Let's just . . . just go through the motions.

Teshin chose slim maroon shorts, cut-off above the knee, and a loose-fitting, lightly-colored shirt of uneven hues – it reminded him of a nekaida's fur. The collar was wide, but not so much that he couldn't still tuck his caiman's fang pendant underneath. He slipped his feet in leather strap sandals.

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