“I brought your pack,” came Oscar’s voice.
Nasan reached out and found it in the dark. It was torn all down one side, but all its contents were still there. Her hand ran into the broken halves of the spear on the ground next to it.
“You carried that? You’re a quarter my size!”
His silence was a yes.
She realized she ought to be grateful to the bird, but she wasn’t sure what to say. Instead of answering she got the firesticks out of the sack. She grudgingly opened up a fire khipu, just a little bit, enough to let out a spark. The firestick kindled and caught fire.
It didn’t provide much light, not nearly as good as the light khipu, but the dried and compressed horse dung of the firestick would burn slower. This one should last her for about an hour.
She wrapped herself up in the square of tent canvas and huddled next to it. The flames licked at the brick-shaped chunk without giving much heat.
“Would you like some–” She caught herself. “Do you eat?”
“A little, yes.”
“Would you like some barley paste?” she said, by way of an apology.
The bird hopped over to her, and she fished around in the pack for the paste. Her hand ran into the glider’s egg. For a moment, she paused. No, she’d save that for eating later. Barley this time.
She peeled back the cloth wrapping and broke a chunk off for the bird. It – he – held it under a claw and pecked at it politely. She ate, too.
“Dunno what I’m going to do when it runs out,” she said. “I never thought this would happen to me. Running out of food before I do water.”
And she had her arm to worry about. It still throbbed, and it still wouldn’t move. And where the heck was she?
“You don’t know my name, do you?” she said suddenly.
The bird blustered.
“I can tell, you keep calling me girl-child.” She kicked the sack away. “For another thing, what’s all this about my destiny?”
And then something very peculiar happened to Oscar. He seemed to be fighting with something invisible. He wriggled his head, as if to shake it free of a net, and squinted – was that supposed to be a grimace?
“I can’t tell you,” he said finally, panting.
She raised an eyebrow.
“It’s against the rules,” he said. “I’m under these rules for … reasons that I can’t talk about, either. I can give hints, though.”
“Oh, isn’t that lovely?” She rolled her eyes over the barley paste.
“You’re going to be doing something very important. It has to do with the fate of this world.” The best part was that Oscar looked utterly serious as he said it.
“Keep on telling me that, witch-spirit. Maybe once I figure out what you are, I’ll get some more answers.” She pulled the canvas around her and gingerly lowered herself down. “Until then, good night.”
Then, on second thought, she levered herself up a little. “One other thing, bird. My name’s Nasan. It means ‘life.’ I don’t have a clan name anymore.”
It was satisfying just to see the bird look at her with its beak half open. She rolled over and closed her eyes.