Alise ran quickly towards the nearest cook fire and helped herself to several skewers of meat. Zanna needed to eat, she could feel it. The woman’s hunger made her stomach ache. Then she turned back towards the queue, and plowed ahead into the mass of creatures, carrying the dripping skewers and hurrying toward the place where Zanna had fallen.
She found Zanna sitting on the ground, wrapped in feathers and already eating a skewer of meat. A kindly old beast stood by her, keeping watch over her. A grayish owl looked on from the beast’s back. Zanna was attracting attention already, Alise realized. Everyone has eyes around here, she thought. It’s a good thing they don’t know what they’re seeing.
“Here you go,” Alise announced to Zanna, an edge to her voice. She thrust the skewers of meat at Zanna.
Zanna looked up, and immediately smiled. She looked deeply into Alise’s eyes, which now shown in the dark. “Oh, hello,” she said, smiling. “Thank you. How did you know how hungry I am?” she laughed, taking the skewers. “Eat with me?” she asked.
“No,” Alise answered, but she crouched down next to Zanna. A few other creatures circled around them with their dinners, creating an impromptu picnic. Alise looked around, uncomfortable. Feeling out of control made her suspicious. And she was as hungry as Zanna, but she wouldn’t eat yet.
“Mikelo is searching for you,” she told Zanna. Zanna looked at her and raised her eyebrows in surprise. Her expression changed from hopeful to confused. Alise moved behind Zanna, reaching for her long dark hair. She began to braid it. “Why does he want you?” she asked Zanna, tugging on her hair.
“I don’t know,” a bit of fear crept into Zanna’s voice.
“You want to find him too, don’t you?” Alise continued the braid.
“Yes,” Zanna answered, nearly whispering. She had abandoned her meal.
Alise finished the braid and reached for a leather cord in her pocket. She wrapped the cord tightly around the older woman’s hair and knotted it. “I’m Alise. Mikelo sent me to get you. If you’re finished eating, then come,” Alise pulled the braid. “Let’s go to him.”
Zanna stood shakily on her injured ankle, bending to lift the heavy book. It would be difficult to carry. “May I take it?” she asked the llama, who nodded. She smiled a goodbye to him.
“Here,” Alise lifted the feathers and set them on Zanna’s shoulders. She doubted they would work but they would help the strange woman draw less attention. “This way,” she took Zanna’s hand, leading her back toward the trees, both walking now.