Don't Eat the Foliage - Part 2
Outside the tent, Buba and Megan got their first real look at the world around them. Tents of varying shapes and sizes lined the perimeter of a large circle. Small pits of fire dotted the inner circle at random intervals, while a large pit burned strong in the dead center. Average people similar to the three roamed around the area. It was vast in size but still small enough to view fully from one position. Stands and carts were set up all over the place with people selling items, offering services, and who knows what else.
They glanced over a small family and watched them in silence. The father, dressed in ragged clothes with dust literally falling off whenever he moved, spoke quietly to the mother as she tried to clean the dirt off the child's face. The daughter argued the point that the faces of her parents were dirtier than her face. A short look around told Buba and Megan this was the norm.
Slowly wandering through the crowds with Megan, Buba tried to put the scene into some kind of prospective but he really couldn't. He'd never witnessed anything of the likes of what he was seeing now. Things were unreal to him but he could plainly see that they were real and happening before his very eyes. Determination set in and he was prepared to try and deal with this as best as he could.
Coming up along side a wooden cart filled with strange and unusual objects, Buba pulled Megan to a halt and they had a look. An old woman stood beside the cart and smiled, revealing the last few teeth she had remaining. "See anything yous like?" She asked in a cracked voice. Before they could answer, she yammered on. "Say, those there are some queer clothes yousa wearing. How abouts a trade? Foreign items are me speesheality."
Buba smiled at the woman before continuing to browse. Megan idly noted to nobody in particular. "I doubt we have the kind of currency they use around here anyway." She picked up a small wooden box that fit nicely in the palm of her hand. It was fairly plain, void of any kind of markings.
While she slowly turned it around, the woman cackled. "Yes, dearie. That you want. Trust an old bag when she says there's something very queer but interesting that comes with that little jewel."
"Like what?" Megan asked.
The old woman threw her head back, cackling with glee. "Trade fer it and yous'll see. It's definitely worth it! Let me tells ya."
Buba took a few steps along the cart, away from the woman. The cackling was a bit unnerving to him. As he did so, he spotted something leaning up against the cart.
Megan quirked a brow at the woman. "What do you want?" She didn't really buy into the story, but what harm was there in humoring an old lady?
"That's a fine bracelet yous gots on."
Of course, Megan knew she didn't have a bracelet on. She was going to inform the lady she was mistaken, when she looked down at her wrist and discovered her watch. It was broken and had been since before they left the bookstore. She hadn't been home to drop it off. So, she shrugged and removed the watch. The old lady took it with her bony fingers and another cackle escaped. "Good trade. Enjoy."
"What's this?" Buba asked as he lifted what clearly was a guitar. "Look here, Megan."
She slipped the box into her pocket, then turned to Buba. The sight of the guitar made her frown. "That can't be here."
"I know." He said, then looked to the old lady. "Where'd you get this, ma'am?"
"Heys now! I gots that fairly. Rules is rules. All possessions become the property of the first person to claim them whens a person dies and I claimed it first." The old woman inched toward Buba, narrowing her eyes. "Gimmie."
"Dies?" Megan frowned. "Oh, no."
"What is it?" Buba asked, handing the guitar to the woman.
"Adara, the woman I talked to earlier, said there had been others. Others that they'd mistaken for the supposed prophesized people that we are."
The old woman's eyes sprung open as if she'd just died. "Wait, wait, wait! Yous the ones? Fer real this time? Oh my. Here, here." She quickly shoved the guitar back into Buba's hands. "Fer free. Alls yers!"
"Why?" Buba asked. He really had no need for it, but knew someone that might enjoy it.
"Yers the ones that are changing everything. It's the least an old hag like me can do fer yas. Take it! A gift." She then turned, pulled her cane off the side of the cart, and hobbled away faster than might be expected. They lost sight of her in the mass of people in a matter of seconds.
"How strange." Buba noted as he wrapped the guitar strap around his shoulder and let the instrument come to rest against his back.
"Very." Megan mumbled to herself, her thoughts preoccupied. She didn't like the ladies reaction to that particular bit of news. "Buba, let's keep this prophecy stuff to ourselves."
"Okay." He said as they started off again.
They strolled around the compound for a few more minutes, then decided it was time to head back to the tent. The sun was just starting to ease its way behind the mountains that filled the horizon in the distance. Dinner would be served soon, and they were sure Brand was ready to eat.
Brand sat up, alone in the tent, and frowned. "Dammit."
Had he just imagined the disappointment that practically erupted out of Buba? He doubted it. While Buba was a great, kind, gentle giant of a man, Brand could never feel like he wasn't letting him down with every action he made in his life. Sure he wasn't a model citizen. Hell, he wasn't even the best of people at times, but Brand knew there had to be something inside him that he could use to make Buba see there was hope. Of course, he thought he could just be overreacting as well but what are the chances of that?
He stood and straightened out his clothes, ran his hand through his hair, then set off for the exit. Things didn't go as planned though. Without paying much attention to his path, he didn't see the cloaked figure standing just inside the tent; he ran right into her and flew back to the ground with a thud. The cloaked figure just stood there as if nothing had happened.
When he looked up, it only took him two seconds to recognize the cloak. His eyes shot open, "You!" he shouted. "You're from the store! What!" He was on his feet in a flash, charging the mysterious figure. "What did you..."
Before he could finish, the hood fell and Adara's features were revealed for the first time to him. He froze in place, staring in awe. She exposed a delicate hand from within the confines of its glove while mumbling low in a foreign tongue.
Unable to move, Brand did the next best thing; he stood there and watched. Slowly, Adara's hand started to glow. At first the color was blue, but within seconds it turned into a pulsating pattern of alternating reds, greens, blues, and whites.
"Remember..." She said in a whisper that carried all the way to Brand's ears. Then, she stepped toward him and reached out, placing her palm against Brand's forehead while her fingers curved along the contours of his scalp.
Brand's head become one with the pulsating lights.
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