Chapter 71

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Behind the spear was a short, athletic woman, a few years older than Leithan. Instead of a tunic, tight shorts and sleeveless shirt hugged her fit but curvy figure. She had the most common Yoxai coloring – tan skin, hazel eyes, light brown hair, with bright green feathers tied to her wavy strands. Her shaipi's pendant was a long claw – of what animal, Leith didn't know.

"It's fine." He raised his hands in the air. "I'm Yoxai. At least, half of me is."

She narrowed her eyes, not yanking her spear back. If anything, it inched closer, down to his throat now. He experienced a not-so-fun flashback of Mikai doing the same.

Leithan wondered if he should just run away.

But then you won't know whether Tesh is okay.

A cold fist closed on his heart at the thought. Leithan stayed put.

"Clan leader!" she abruptly shouted, her voice harsh. It made Leithan wince; she sounded like a furious teacher yelling at a misbehaving student. "We have a spy over here!"

A sudden hush rippled among the clan, interspersed by whispers and questioning voices, and finally the combined rustling and thudding of people getting up and footfalls approaching. Another spear-wielder circled around Leithan to bracket him.

Leithan ignored him, looking up as Pranv Kalira stomped over to the hut and stopped beside the young woman. Next to her clan leader, she appeared very short.

Standing behind Pranv and to the side was Nix. He stared at Leithan for a moment with an unreadable expression, then looked away. He crossed his arms, his jaw clenched tight.

He has that look whenever he feels guilty about something.

Everyone crept closer curiously, or as close as they could anyway. Xefen, though, stood back. Leithan could see his face if he craned his neck a bit. Xefen didn't seem too perturbed that his speech had been interrupted. Actually, he seemed intrigued. His expression reminded Leith of Tesh, in that moment. Which filtered fresh ache into his heart.

"Good work, Beilin," Pranv told the young woman.

Beilin gave her clan leader a nod. Her spear remained level with Leithan's throat.

Slanting a harsh gaze to Leithan, Pranv asked, "What are you doing here?"

Leithan went with the most believable lie he could think of, "I came here to see your son, actually."

Nix looked up at that. But Leithan kept his gaze on Pranv, lifting his chin, like he had nothing to hide.

"I mean, I saw that something important was clearly going on," Leithan explained. "So I didn't want to interrupt."

Pranv crossed his arms over his broad chest, making Leithan think that Nix had evidently got his mannerisms from his father.

"How much did you hear?" Pranv asked, his lips forming a thin line, almost invisible amidst a thick brown beard.

"Not much," Leithan said. "I just got here."

"Don't take me for an idiot. Truth is, kid," Pranv said with a short sigh, "doesn't matter how much you heard. It's still too much. You may be Kovishi's son, but you live with them. You'll never be one of us."

Leithan tried to think of something to say, but his mind came up blank.

Pranv sighed again. He seemed tired, and maybe annoyed at more than just Leithan being here. It was a hunch, but, for the clan leader, it couldn't have been easy dealing with the whole Xefen thing, with all the twists and turns of the legendary leader apparently returned from death itself.

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