Whlana trotted a few steps behind Krajani, she was a bit satisfied that the man they had encountered was as charming and warm as Krajani, and these two had to put up with one another. She heard the voices of the other Albin behind her, mumbling. Although she couldn’t make out the words she could extract from the tone of their voices that they too were rather amused, although concerned.

Keeping a respectful distance Whlana observed the mysterious stranger and Krajani walk at the head of the expedition in complete silence. From time to time one of them threw a judging glance at the other. “Why are your people so distrustful of strangers who are not affiliated with the circle from whom you secluded yourselves?” Krajanis tone was stingy as she loojed up ahead with a proud expression. “We distrust anyone who is not a child of the sands or incapable of wizardry. Your lush environment has made you soft and weak, you lack strength.” Krajani made a disgruntled noise at his remarks. “You humans are have no true strength, needing rest every night, we have hardly rested since we entered this desert.”

Again both kept silent for a while. In tbe distance a range of rocks rose out of the desert against mornings silverlining at the horizon.

“I Bakir, son of Rafik, bring you these strangers!” the young man stood in front of a group of men in similar attire. After the expedition had reached the ridge he had hollered for the elders to assemble. From a cavern the men had emerged together with a dozen of curious other men, women and children. “They claim to seek the root of the sandtree!” a mumbling wave went through the group of elders. Krajani looked through the entirity of assembled. As far as she could tell, all of them were magic users. She didn’t want to know what happened with children who were born without the gift, but it also occurred to her that they might not have that sort of problem, since the ridge seemed to have the same propperties as the pyramid on Naga’na.

“What is their business with the sandtree root?” one of the elders spoke to Bakir, feeling belittled Krajani stepped up, explaining that they were sent to secure the root as the Sphinxes were returning.

Again mumbling arose amongst the elders, partly due to the explanation, mostly because they were unaccustomed to a woman speaking to them.

An outsider on top of that!

“You desert people can’t be seriously that narrow minded! The fate of our world, inckuding your refuge, depends on the root being found and combined with the burning eye to combat these creatures, and you are seriously insulted because a stranger, a female stranger speaks to you?” Bakir stared at Krajani with disgust and anger.

“Be silent!” he hissed through his teeth.

“Bakir!” an elder had stepped towards the young man. “These strangers are unfamiliar to our customs.” The man with the long grey beard had kind eyes, that looked at the young man with patience. Nodding, as a pupil nods to his teacher, Bakir calmed himself.