Chapter 29

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When Leithan woke up, everything was quiet. No more tam-tams, no more laughter or conversations. Just a peaceful hush, and some distant birdsong.

Sunlight spilled through the room from the hut's windows, creating strange patterns across wooden boards as it filtered past the trinkets woven in the stringy curtain.

He was alone.

Next to him, on the nightstand, was laid a platter that made his stomach growl and his heart dance. Leftovers from yesterday's feast, perhaps. Fruit slices, cold meat, smoked fish, clusters of roasted nuts, and a glass of water.

Leithan sat up, propped against the pillow and the wall, and, steadying the platter atop his thighs, devoured all the food. Then he drank all the water, wishing he had coffee too.

He was left craving more – he would've sold his soul for a hearty slice of Mori's freshly baked bread – but he wasn't about to complain.

Then he set the empty platter on the nightstand, swung his black-clad legs off the mattress and leapt up. He ventured out of the small room, through the curtain – annoyed when a decorative seashell scraped his arm.

Seeing Teshin seated at the table, Leith said, "You were right. Those things are a health hazard."

Teshin didn't respond. Leithan frowned, approaching. In the center of the room, the stove was cold, but there was a pot of water with pieces of darkis root swimming in it. As if Tesh had wanted to make tea but had forgotten to light the fire underneath.

Leithan figured that was for the best – the weather felt too hot and humid for tea-drinking right now.

He strolled to the table, and rested his hands on the back of the unused chair. Teshin was oddly motionless in the other chair, and seemed to be completely spacing out.

"Tesh," Leithan said.

Nothing.

"Stop that. You're freaking me out," Leithan told him.

Still no reaction.

Leithan threw glances at both windows. He didn't see anyone, just trees and other huts. The fire was long-dead, and the compound seemed asleep.

He brought his gaze back to Teshin. He still wasn't moving, but Leith did see him blink once, which was reassuring, he supposed.

Teshin was still in that shorts-and-no-shirt combo. Sunlight gave a warm, luminous glow to the matching colors of priyon designs, shrix-dyed leather cord around his neck, and Teshin's hair. His eyes, though, normally bright and expressive, looked scary-blank.

Void. Like there was nothing behind them.

Leithan shivered despite the warmth. He called Teshin's name again, swung a hand in front of his eyes, felt a bit silly doing it. Especially since it didn't work. Leithan drew back, puzzled. And a bit spooked.

After everything he's done for me, I can't just leave him like this.

Nor did he want to. Leith had no idea how to help, though.

Side effects.

Teshin had been saying something about tuly's side effects, last night.

Is this what he was talking about?

Leithan glanced over, without much conviction, at the klar shelves, at all the bowls, jars and boxes. All unidentified, of course. The perks of not having a written language, Leith thought, irritated.

Anything I'd give him could just make things worse. I don't know enough about this.

He didn't know anything, in fact.

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