Salisir visited the palace this morning and returned with no good news. I would challenge him on the word he bears, but we have no other source by which to test it. We are truly and completely at the disadvantage and we have no choice but to trust him for the time being.

Fodafa has granted us passage into Motasta again, but we are not welcome in the palace. That may not change, Salisir says, until we have earned our way back in.

Dionus almost swept the building from its foundations at that. The fact that he kept his voice low made his anger all the more menacing. “We didn’t do anything wrong.”

“They didn’t,” Salisir gestured at the rest of us. “No. But as far as Fodafa is concerned, the faults of the individual lie with the tribe.”

I mentioned that platitudes weren’t helpful.

“How could they just kill him like that?” Dionus was fuming, his thoughts already returned to the young prostitute. “Not even a trial?”

“You’re in the jungle, boy,” Salisir said. “You should know by now it ain’t home. We do the same thing there anyways, just for different crimes.”

“It’s not a crime.”

“It is here,” Salisir shrugged. “Better get used to that. Find a girl and make pretend, or swear yourself to celibacy. You don’t have any other safe option while the leaves of the Nanten shade you from the sun.”

Dionus moved to the corner and sat with his head bowed. That didn’t keep Salisir from talking. “None of you are safe here. These people are your friends, but you don’t understand them. Assume that you will offend them, and do your best to learn so that you don’t wind up skewered like that boy.”

Balthandar asked Salisir what he could possibly want with us. He had made high claims regarding our usefulness; what were we here to do?

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Salisir smiled. That infuriating, arrogant, self-assured smile. “It’s like I said, be the pestle.”

We broke up for the evening then. Salisir won’t go into any great details about his plans with us. Inifra moved to the corner and took Dionus’ hands. She sat with him for a long while; just sitting, staring into his lowered forehead, eventually lowering hers until they touched. I think some small part of him mended tonight thanks to her. Another debt of mine to add to the many she already holds.

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“My people would not act so,” Inifra told me. “Right or wrong, what Dionus did does not deserve such hate.”

She asked what it was like where I was from, and I said it was as I had told Hembila. Men will want what they want, boy or girl, and it is expected that they will take it. It’s only thought unmanly to be passive. Still, it’s not ridiculed any more than the many odd couplings of men and women.

“The Batsu think like you do,” Inifra said. “So I am told. They would be much safer allies for Dionus.”

Another confirmation that we need to head east. Salisir will want us to accomplish something here near Motasta. I want to get as far from the city as we can. The longer we stay, the more likely Dionus becomes a target, and he stands out even more here than he did in the Old Empire. The Batsu held a natural pull for me already in their methods of warfare. If they can provide Dionus with protection, that gives me all the more reason to seek them out. Now to figure out how.

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