Matt didn’t understand that last comment but wasn’t sure he was supposed to. His body was still throbbing with pain but he didn’t think he was injured. More than anything, that was what made him doubt he was awake. Beyond the strange place with the strange people and their strange language, beyond even the strange experience with the water, it was the lack of injuries after his tumble from that cliff that convinced him this all could not be real. Perhaps this was what dreams were like for the comatose.
Whatever was happening, communication was possible. This tall lady with her dark grey skill and raven black hair had learned his name and shared her own. At least he thought she gave “Sock-whey” as her name. It was time to expand his vocabulary.
He looked at Sagwi and said as a question,
She smiled and nodded. He pointed to himself again.
He pointed to his bed.
Sagwi looked as if she was catching on and said,
He repeated it with her approval and then held up the skin wrap on the pallet and said,
She gave a short laugh and then walked over to his side. She pointed at the pallet beneath the wrap and then at the wrap itself.
Matt pointed at each naming it in turn as Sagwi nodded vigorously. Matt pointed to his shirt, she named it and when he repeated her, there was a giggle from just outside the tent.
Sagwi’s shadow should have been asleep long ago but it did not surprise her when the boy revealed himself through laughter.
“Come in Tochu. We know you’re there.”
A small head meekly poked itself through the opening. He looked at Sagwi and then when he saw Mathu his eyes got as big as saucers. He had the same black eyes, flecked with violet, as did Shontu and Sagwi.
Reluctantly he shuffled the rest of his body through the entrance. Once fully inside the tent, he held himself ready to bolt at a moment’s notice.
“Tell him your name.”
Tochu obeyed and introduced himself. Mathu smiled and repeated the boys name before offering his own.
“Mathu speaks but he doesn’t use words.
“He has a different way. The sounds he makes mean something to him but nothing to us. I think he can learn to speak and what you heard, what you were laughing at when you were eavesdropping rather than sleeping like a good boy, was his first lesson. When I point something out, he can learn that word. Tomorrow I will need your help to teach him.”
“But tomorrow we go to war!”
“The men go to war. I don’t. You are too young yet.”
“I want to go with them.”
“I doubt your father will let you. If he knows you are sneaking about tonight, I am sure he will make you stay.”
“You won’t tell him will you?”
“That you will have to find out tomorrow. Now off you go.”
Tochu groaned and was about to say something more. Instead he ducked his way out of the tent just ahead of Sagwi’s playful swat that would have landed on the back of his head. Once he was gone Sagwi turned back to her guest. Again he shrugged his shoulders with his palms out. She guessed he meant something by that motion, but there was no way yet to find out what.
Mathu started to speak but his voice cracked and he fell into a fit of coughing. He looked up at Sagwi making the motion of drinking from the cup.
Mathu repeated her then said it in his own language.
More quickly than last time, when Matt said the word, steam appeared and coalesced into a globule of floating water. As surprised as he was, a thud drew his attention to Sagwi. She had feinted dead away. When he rose from his bed, his arm brushed against the floating water and it splashed on his arm and shirt. There was another pallet on the other side of the large tent and Matt gently placed her into it. Once he settled her in, Matt returned to his own bed.
Almost quicker than sight another ball of water formed and floated in front of his face. He started to position his mouth below it when the water seemed to move of its own accord and burst on his lips. This intrigued him.
Another even larger ball formed. Matt opened his mouth and with only his thoughts tried to move it in. It made it most of the way there but still burst on contact and more than half the water didn’t make it in.
“Not very effective. I wonder what else I can do.”
He thought of fire but a vision of the entire tent up in flames tempered his enthusiasm. For about two hours he continued to experiment with creating and moving water before exhaustion drove him to sleep. Despite the soaking wet clothes and blanket and the muddy ground, Matt slept like a baby.