305 The Salute of a Stranger
*Eldovian Era 1713, 11th day of the 4th month*
"It truly baffles me how impossibly stupid the lot of you have evidently become!"
Even Aegin felt a tiny, almost imperceptible flinch at the rage of the Red-Eye's Chieftain. He'd never admit to it though, and anyone who dared bring it up was tempting death.
"You tried to face the Sand Devils! Alone! Without any clue as to how to beat them!" the Chieftain continued.
The Chieftain's eyes swung at Sevis, and his son's mouth snapped shut before he continued to look at the ground in guilt.
"I do not care for the advantages you thought you possessed due to Aegin's path. The fact is that you did not know for sure he could do anything to help, and the fact that he has returned with meat enough to feed the village in a grand feast lasting three nights tells me that there was nothing he could do short of distracting them long enough for you to get away!"
Aegin bit his tongue in order to hold back a protest. This encounter had deeply wounded his pride as a Warrior and as a Vampire. He didn't need somebody to rub it in his face like this.
Rima's head snapped up in response, eyes expectant though fearful.
"Surely you were against this? Surely you should have talked them out of it. You seemed like a sensible child, and have been nothing but obedient and kind in your time here with us. You too Tigin!"
Tigin glanced up in acknowledgement, then back down again, "Sorry, Sir, I-"
"Apologies are not what I want!" snapped the Chieftain.
Tigin and Rima flinched back, but quickly regained their posture. Aegin huffed, then looked up, "We get it already".
The Chieftain turned on Aegin, "Do you? Because I would have thought you would at least be cautious after all you have been through".
Aegin frowned, then caught Cara's look to the side. The woman had a loose tongue clearly. The Betrayal wounded him more than he expected.
"My past has both nothing and everything to do with why I insisted on carrying out this plan," Aegin snapped back.
The Chieftain clearly did not wish to be talked back to at such a time, but Aegin stepped forward anyway, shaking off Sevis' attempt to stop him.
"For the past week, I've found more than twenty bodies mutilated up and down the border of the Sand Dunes. Unlike the night I found your son and his companions, it was too later for them. Still, behaviour like that made me wonder if it was truly the work of animals or spirits, or something more. It turns out I was right to be curious about such a thing," Aegin said.
He looked over the eyes of the elders, "Someone North-West of your Territory has a Djinn at their command, and they are using it to eradicate trespassers, soon, I have no doubt they may see it's effectiveness and wish to expand. That is the threat you face. A Djinn".
"North-West," Cara uttered, "That is Black Sands Territory".
Rima froze, and the rest of the room stilled with her as a mark of unease swept through them.
After a moment, the Chieftain, in a tone that was grave rather than angry, turned to Aegin, "You are sure?"
"Positive," Aegin said, "The Sand Devils were puppets, that is why they cannot be killed. As for my suspicion that it is a Djinn…from what Cara has told me, it seems unlikely to be anything else".
The room seemed to weigh his words, then unanimously turn to the Chieftain for his decision.
The Chieftain sighed, "Your discovery has no doubt given us some amount of warning, so we can at least be grateful for that. However, it does not excuse the danger you put yourselves in to get it. You need to be smarter".
No, Aegin thought. He needed to be stronger.
*Eldovian Era 1713, 14th day of the 4th month*
The Chieftain had sent messengers to the nearby tribes, warning them of his suspicion and to not send parties towards the Sand Dunes that border the Black Sands' lands. It seemed however, that some had interpreted this early warning as an invitation.
There were several wondering groups, some Tribes and some not, that had come to the Red-Eyed Snake Tribe seeking shelter, information or protection, some all three.
Aegin could not offer them, not as he was. So, despite his anger at her sharing his stories with the Chieftain, Aegin found himself sitting with Cara once more one evening.
"I told you those things in confidence-"
"And it is my obligation to tell my Chieftain information that could prevent catastrophe or save his people. You may be welcomed here, Aegin, but that does not make us forget that you quite capable of killing us. You are a stranger, and strangers need to be known to no longer be strangers," said Cara.
Aegin, grumbling because he could not find fault in her reasoning, found himself glancing over at the latest party of refugees that had arrived.
"Will he take them all in?" asked Aegin.
Cara glanced over, "The Chieftain is kind, but he is also realistic. If he takes them all in, he will be seen as amassing a force comparable to Black Sands, and with a Djinn at their backs, the last thing we need to be seen as is a threat".
Aegin sighed, his gaze landing a teenage boy who sat off to the side, warming his hands by a fire. He seemed alone despite the fact that he had arrived with a group. And he was doing too little to help the others. Were there many who wondered alone in the Hava Rastellan? From what Aegin had heard he didn't think so.
He was about to turn to Cara and ask when the boy's gaze moved up to meet his own. Aegin sat up straight, his red eyes meeting eerie blue.
The boy grinned.