"Retep!" someone called out.
Retep and Astra both looked in the direction of the cry. Approaching them were three children. The eldest appeared to be about the same age as Retep and thus in her mid to late teens. She was carrying a bow and had a quiver of arrows slung over her shoulder. Next to her was a boy in his early teens carrying a sword. The remaining child, a girl, was the youngest of the three.
"It's my brother and sisters," Retep told Astra, a happy smile on his face.
"Looks like you didn't need that stupid riddle to find them after all," Astra observed.
Astra was a little surprised to see that, though the siblings were evidently relieved and delighted to have been reunited, there was no hugging between them. She did not realise that such behaviour would have been seen as over-emotional by the boys at least, a legacy of their upbringing in wartime England.
After the initial greetings were over, the elder girl said: "Who's your new friend, Retep?"
"Is it a lion or a lioness?" the younger girl asked. "It has a mane but it also has bosoms."
"Sshh, Ycul," the elder girl said. "It's rude to make personal remarks."
"That's all right," Astra said. "I am neither a lion nor a lioness, just a woman who has acquired a rather unconventional fur coat, in that I can't take it off. I told Nalsa that I was cold, and he magicked it up for me."
Ycul's face lit up. "You've met Nalsa? Is he nearby? Please will you tell me what happened?"
"All in good time, Ycul," Retep told her. "Though I must give you the glad tidings that Sidaj is dead. I'll tell you more in a moment, but first I ought to introduce everyone. Astra, these are my brother Dnumde and my sisters Nasus and Ycul. Everyone, this is Astra."
"What a strange name," Ycul remarked. "Are you sure that it shouldn't be Artsa?"
"Quite sure," Astra said. "I'm pleased to meet you all. I'm glad to see that you're a warrior, Nasus. I've discovered that many cultures have the strange idea that women shouldn't fight."
3/21/2011 1:17:23 PM
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