Chapter 15

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Lamech stayed with Zaaron and his men, traveling with them as they led us through the hills toward their village. He fit in well, and I often heard him laughing with the men. Zaaron sent out scouts at the front and the rear of our large party, and Kenai called ours in with a call our men used often, the shrill call of the margay.

The margay was a small wildcat that lived in our forests. It was beautiful and small with large eyes and spots like a leopard, but could be quite dangerous when threatened. My brothers and Keturah's brothers had been using this call for many years. I didn't know who had started using it first, but it was one of the many things our families had in common.

Eliza, Isabel, and I had fallen a distance behind the men by mid-afternoon. I knew that during the past weeks our men had been taking a slower pace to accommodate the women in our band—particularly Keturah—but I realized now just how much slower they had been traveling. Zaaron set a much more strenuous pace.

"Are you tiring?"

It took me a few moments to realize that the man who had drawn up near us was speaking to me. I turned to see the one Zaaron had called Tecumeni walking steadily just behind my left shoulder. He was moving silently, and I wondered how long he had been there without me sensing him.

"Oh!" I said, unable to hide my surprise. "No." I glanced at the other girls who were just as startled as I was. "Well, to admit to weakness, yes, a little. It's been a very long journey."

"Does your husband push you hard?"

Was he asking if Lamech hit me? I was frustrated that I understood Tecumeni's words but did not quite grasp his full meaning.

"He is not my husband," I said, sidestepping what I did not understand.

Tecumeni smiled. "Nor is he your betrothed."

I frowned. "Yes he is."

He gazed at me for a moment. "Okay," he said, but his skepticism was one thing I did understand. After a moment he said, "Introduce me to your friends."

I remembered how Lamech had denied friendship with these Nephites. But I had clearly been talking with Izz and Eliza all afternoon, and I had no way of knowing how much Tecumeni had seen—probably all of it—so I said, "This is Isabel." I nearly added, "my sister," but stopped myself in time by biting my lip. "And this is Eliza."

Surprising me, he raised a hand and nodded politely to them both. "Tell them hello," he said.

"You may tell them." I laughed nervously. "They can both understand a simple greeting."

He turned back to them and said, "Shalal, I am Tecumeni."

They both smiled at him and greeted him back in his own language. They glanced at each other and cast me identical knowing smiles. I couldn't help blushing.

"He's cute," said Isabel. "Too bad you're betrothed."

"Maybe he'll fight Lamech for you," Eliza said, smothering a giggle.

"Eliza! Izz! Don't even say such things."

I turned back to Tecumeni, embarrassed. He looked at me expectantly for a moment, and when I didn't offer any information, he asked, "What did they say?"

"They said it was nice to meet you." Then I bit my lip to keep from laughing at the absurd lie. When I looked away from Tecumeni, I caught Zeke's worried frown. Tecumeni caught it too.

"What's his problem?" Tecumeni asked offhandedly, not seeming particularly interested in what might be upsetting a Nephite.

"He is Zeke. Eliza's husband. I doubt he likes you flirting with his wife."

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