"Yeah," Nix said, "same." Even though that wasn't the reason for his being still awake – at least not right now.

The thing was, they still didn't know what their course of action should be.

What their false-Xefen had done earlier today, that prank on the workers out in the forest, was pretty great, and they all thought it. Except it was still just a prank. How long before the workers came back?

Nix felt like, if this imposter had truly been on their side, he would've been honest. He would've told them the truth. Instead, he was fooling around with the half-Rengleam pretty boy.

Been there. Done that. It's over, now.

Maybe it was for the best.

"She's into you, you know," Kresh said, startling him.

Nix looked at him sideways, frowning. "What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about Koral, you moron," Kresh said. "Who else?"

"She's not into me, you fucking dumb ass. It's called friendship. Not that you'd know anything about it. Wait . . . were you spying on us?" Nix asked, annoyed.

Kresh shrugged. "If you want privacy, don't sit outside in the middle of the clan."

A silence fell over them.

Nix was trying to come up with new ways to tell Kresh he was a terrible person, when his voss-acute ears picked up on the telltale crunch of footfalls across forested ground.

This person wasn't trying to be discreet, either. He trudged heavily, stomping the ground – clumsy, or exhausted, maybe. It came from the eastern edge of the compound.

Kresh heard it too. He twisted in his seat, frowning gaze roaming the darkness.

"You look high as a kite," Kresh said, whispering. "What do you see?"

Having indeed smoked more voss than he cared to admit, Nix could discern shapes and colors, to an extent.

His hair color made him easy to identify.

"It's him," Nix told Kresh.

Their imposter made it to his hut, but it didn't look easy. Every step seemed laborious. Maybe he was drunk.

Nix frowned, watching intently from the distance.

When their false Xefen stepped inside his hut, he just . . . collapsed. At least that was what it looked like from where Nix sat.

His door was still open.

Nix got up like an uncoiled spring, and Kresh was right there beside him.

"What's he up to?" Kresh asked.

Nix shook his head. "I'm not sure. But something's wrong. I'm gonna go take a look."

He started forward, making his steps careful and quiet, like a hunter stalking prey. Kresh followed him.

Maybe he just had too much to drink . . . but, if not, then . . .

Kresh was thinking it too. "Do you think it's happening again?" he asked as they prowled between silent huts. "What Etrikis told us about?"

"Maybe," Nix said, anticipation building up, making his heart race. Then, he hushed, "Be quiet."

They approached.

Once they got close enough, they peered through the open door. Kresh probably couldn't see much, but Nix saw him.

He was sprawled across the floor, body twisted, contorted like he was in pain. His eyes squeezed shut and both hands held his head like he was afraid it would burst if he let go. He let out a noise that was pure suffering, somewhere between a groan and moan.

Nix's first instinct was to help. It came from deep down – a place that didn't require thinking. The Zei Yelta had this rule. The gut instincts should come first, should always be given the most importance – then the heart's emotions, and then, in last, the mind.

But Kresh stopped Nix, a firm hand gripping his arm, holding him back. "Wait!"

So, they waited, standing on the threshold . . . awkwardly.

They didn't have to wait long.

It happened just like Etrikis had described. After what seemed like an excruciating headache, the imposter's body went limp. He still had his eyes open, though they were lidded. This was what freaked Nix the most. It looked like he was dead.

Holding his breath, Nix crept closer. He checked the pulse at his wrist. It was slow to come, and faint, but Nix felt it. He nodded at Kresh.

With the shaman, they had already discussed what they would do if this happened again. They knew they might not get another chance like this.

Also, they had already agreed not to involve Steba and Koral.

"I'll get some rope," Kresh said as Nix got back up from his crouch. "You get the shaman."

Nix nodded as they stepped out of the hut together.

"Get something to cover his eyes too. Just freaks me out that they're open like that."

Kresh nodded. Before he went, he seemed to think of something. "Oh and tell Etrikis to bring me some crins. I'm strong enough to carry him. But up the mountain, I'll need a boost."

"Got it," Nix said.

And they parted, streaking away across the compound in opposite directions. Heart slamming against his chest, Nix hurried over to Etrikis' house. Breathing in the crisp air, Nix could sense that dawn would soon be here.

Etrikis opened after the second round of knocks. He was in a robe, sleepy but alert.

"It's happened," Nix told him. "He's in that state again, like you said. Completely out."

Etrikis' pale eyes widened, and he nodded urgently.

"Let's hurry," Etrikis said. "We don't know how much time we have."

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