Meanwhile, Seleya’s day started on a very terrible note. She had one of her nightmares and woke up with her bed on fire. Keiy managed to rush outside and get some water before the flames could spread. She burnt most of the clothes she was wearing already and Keiy drenched her in water as well.
She was now standing in front of Keiy with her piercing brown eyes who was waiting for an explanation. They both stood in silence for about a minute, lying had never really been Seleya’s strong suit. Her brother was usually the one who got them out of sticky situations with his smooth talks and cunning smile.
“Seleya?” Keiy said bringing her back from thoughts of Suluvu.
“Where did you learn to create fire?” Keiy asked.
Seleya opened her mouth in protest but Keiy cut her off.
“Don’t try to deny it, I saw you. You looked like you were having a bad dream, tossing and turning on the bed. Next thing I know your hands light up in flames and the bed is on fire.”
“Are you sure I didn’t knock over a lamp?” Seleya asked, in a weak attempt to avoid the question.
“Nice try. No lamps were lit and before you ask, I was wide awake so I wasn’t seeing things.” Keiy answered.
She knew this was going to happen but a part of her wanted to believe that it was all a bad dream. Keiy was still staring at her from the other side of the room and now that she thought about it, this was the first time the girl wasn’t smiling since she met her yesterday.
“Listen, my parents are waiting outside for me to tell them why I carried four buckets of water into my room and not the bathroom which is outside. Now you have two options, you can tell me what is going on so I go outside to give them your ‘lamp story’; or you can stay quiet and I can tell them exactly what I saw.”
“Okay, okay, fine” She sighed.
“Do you want the long version or the short version?” Seleya asked, giving up.
“The long version, but first I need to give my parents the ‘lamp story’, give me a minute” Keiy said, dashing out.
She came back a few minutes later and sat on the floor waiting for Seleya to begin. Seleya took a deep breath and told Keiy everything that had happened since her sixteenth birthday. When she was done, she didn’t know whether she could trust Keiy or not but it felt good to finally say everything out loud.
“Wow.” Keiy said.
She didn’t have any words for Seleya and they both sat in silence for a bit.
“Well, the first step is for you to take a bath and wear some new clothes. Luckily, we are almost the same size.” Keiy finally said.
“You’re don’t seem to be shocked that my hands just burnt your bed” Seleya commented.
“Well, there are strange things in this world and let’s just say I’ve seen my fair share.” Keiy answered with a shrug.
Seleya took off what was left of her clothes, picked up a towel and was about to head for the bathroom when Keiy tapped her shoulder stopping her.
“Can I see the scar?” she asked.
Seleya nodded reluctantly but she still dropped the towel slightly to show the scar above her left breast.
Keiy studied it carefully.
“Can you describe the man your father told you to find here?” she asked again.
“Well, he wasn’t really clear. He only told me his name telling me never to mention it to anyone except the man, said the man looked a lot like him, the only difference being that this man is slim and fairly built. My dad is really built and huge.” Seleya said.
“That means the man would at least be quite tall.” Keiy asked.
“I guess so.” Seleya replied.
Keiy smiled again for the first time that morning.
“Okay, go have your bath. I think I know who you’re looking for.” she said.
An hour later, they were both out of the house after a little breakfast. Seleya and Keiy wore matching grey t-shirts with shorts and sandals. This kind of dressing was very different for Seleya who was used to wearing robes and gowns mostly except for times she was sparring with Suluvu which was actually forbidden in her tribe so it didn’t exactly count.
Keiy made some Sathi Cakes for her which seemed to like very much. As they walked through the town, Seleya could see just how different this place was compared to her tribe.
“What are the houses built out of?” she asked.
“Mostly sand” Keiy answered.
Seleya looked at her wide-eyed.
“Why are you so surprised?” Keiy asked.
“How did they make the sand so hard?” she asked.
Keiy suddenly stopped walking and stood to face Seleya. She then placed her hands on her shoulders and said,
“Okay, so the hardening of the sand is a town secret and you must swear never to mention it to anyone, promise?”
“I promise” Seleya said, swallowing hard.
Keiy’s expression turned blank. After a brief pause she finally said,
“I… have… no… clue” still with a straight face.
Seleya couldn’t help but giggle and give her a light punch.
“You’re annoying, do you know that?” Seleya asked.
“I’ve been told.” Keiy answered with one of her smiles walking ahead of her again.
Seleya still couldn’t get over the buildings. Back home, the best houses and buildings were made of wood and those who could not afford wood lived in clay houses with straw roofs or dry stems and leaves. The ground here didn’t look like it could grow anything and she had not seen any trees since she got here.
They walked until they got to the largest building Seleya had seen so far. Unlike all the other buildings that were mostly tall and slender, this building was not just tall but it was very wide as well. It looked very grand as well reminding her of her father’s quarters.
A strange fear suddenly sprang up in Seleya.
“Is she reporting me to the rulers here?” She thought to herself.
Finally mustering the courage to speak, she said,
“Keiy, who exactly are we here to see?”
“Don’t be afraid, your secret is safe with me” she said sensing her fear.
“The man you described sounds like someone who works in this building. Well he actually runs this building.”
“And what exactly is this building?” She asked.
“This is the Hall of Oquara, it’s basically the place where this town is run from” she replied.
“And you said the man runs this building?”
“Yes.” Keiy replied with a smug smile.
“So you’re saying he runs the town?"
“Exxx…actly.” She said snapping her fingers.
Seleya turned around started to walk back. Keiy grabbed her by the end of her shirt.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Back to where we just came from” Seleya replied.
“Why? We’ll just enter and hope he’s walking around or something so you can talk to him.” she said smugly.
“Hold on, have you ever entered the hall before?” Seleya asked.
“Of course I have” She said smiling.
“Although, the man we are looking for is usually with the council of elders and only a few people are allowed in there” she finished.
“Do these ‘few’ people include you?” Seleya asked.
“Of course not, you may not have noticed Seleya but I’m a teenager not an elder” she said sarcastically.
“So what exactly is your plan?? Please tell me you have a plan” Seleya asked although it sounded more like a prayer to the gods.
“Well, I was getting to that. If we don’t randomly find him strolling about then…”
“Then???” Seleya asked.
“Then…we sneak into the room where the council of elders meet” Keiy said, her eyes beaming with excitement.
“You’re joking right?” Seleya asked.
Keiy said nothing staring blankly into Seleya’s eyes.
“You have to be…wait, you’re serious??”
“Quite serious” Keiy answered.
“You want us to break in?” Seleya asked in shock.
“No no no…I want us to ‘sneak’ in.” Keiy said
“What’s the difference?” Seleya yelled.
“There’s a big difference, besides it may not come to that. We may just be lucky to find him walking about.” She said matter-of-factly.
“Come on, let’s go in” she said as she dragged Seleya towards the door.
“You’re insane, you know that right?” she said.
“Yeah, I’ve been told” Keiy said as she opened the door to the hall.