Chapter 77

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Amrin tasted like an odd mix of citrusy fruit and berry, and left a bittersweet aftertaste on his tongue.

Leithan washed it down with cask water, and waited.

He stuffed the klar stash back where he'd found it. In fact he replaced everything the way it was, all around the room. Mainly out of sheer boredom. Certainly not as a favor to Nix.

Then he waited some more, pacing.

When the door opened, he nearly jumped out of his skin. He expected either Nix, or the tall, imposing, bearded figure of his father Pranv.

Instead, Jenali walked in.

She closed the door, and cast her cunning hazel gaze over the room.

Her dark blonde hair was braided close to her head on one side, and down the other, the loose strands still bearing the feathers and beads from last night. She wore simple shorts and loose shirt, but somehow looked badass even so. Maybe it was the abstract priyon all across her exposed skin. Or just her stance, the way she carried herself, spine straight, chin high, knowing smile in the corner of her lips.

"I really need to help him decorate this place," Jenali commented as she paced, hand casually on her hip. "It's dreadfully boring."

"Tell me about it," Leithan agreed.

Jenali paused in the corner, running her finger down one shaded lantern.

"I suppose this isn't too bad," she said, tilting her head.

Leithan stepped closer to her, amused. "Actually, I got him to buy that."

With a little smile, she arched an eyebrow. "Well, you have a good eye."

Leithan smiled back. Crossing his arms, he paused a few feet away from her.

"I was expecting your yaklizi," Leithan admitted.

As she observed him, daylight spilled in from the window and caught her hair, making it tint gold and silver. Jenali definitely looked younger than her age, but her eyes had the permanent lines of someone who smiled a lot. Kovishi used to have those tiny lines too. As a result, Leith generally experienced this sort of instant liking for people who had them, and he sometimes wondered how often you had to smile in order to get those.

"Pranv is caught up with something right now." Jenali gave a dismissive flicker of her braceleted wrist. "But I wanted to check up on you, see how you were doing."

"Dying of boredom," Leithan said.

She smiled knowingly. "I'd assumed as much." She gestured at the square table. "Want to sit?"

He nodded, and as they sat together he caught Jenali's perfume – delicately sweet, like shrix blossoms.

The rise and fall of distant conversations drifted inside the room – the clan was fully awake, by now. And as a backdrop, the humming songs of the forest, which had been awake for much longer.

Jenali's smile grew fond as she said, "You look like Kovishi, do you know that? He was very handsome, and so are you."

Leithan was suddenly reminded of Nix's story. Jenali and Kovishi had been lovers, before. Before she chose Pranv. His heart leapt excitedly at the opportunity to talk about his father, he couldn't help it.

"I hope I can be as good a man as he was," Leithan told her, voice strangely heavy with emotion. Maybe it was the evident fondness in her glinting hazel eyes, as she leaned forward on the table.

"I'd say that's an admirable goal to set for yourself," she replied.

"Thank you," Leithan said with a small smile.

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