It was nearly fifteen miles further down the road when the party came across a few outlying farmsteads. As they approached the first of these, they passed a man dressed in the Ralulee fashion and wearing a red fez. He was leading a donkey on which rode a veiled woman carrying an infant child. The couple gave the travellers a gesture of greeting. Star returned the greeting and uttered an appropriate salutation in the Ralulee tongue. This was met with smiles and a similar salutation.
An additional two miles brought a village into view. It had sprung up at the intersection of their road and the main road to Southgate in League Town. At the crossroads itself, was a small inn, and as the day was coming to an end, the party began to discuss whether they should stop there. It was named the “Il Iimu” in reference to the famous battle of the First Dunes War.
The decision was quickly made for them. On seeing camels coming up the street, the landlord, a gruff looking man of about sixty, stepped out onto the porch with his arms crossed across his chest. As the companions paused outside the establishment, he said matter of factly, “Its bad enov to ‘ave em livin in the village, but I ain’t goin to ave one ov em under me ruv,” giving a nod towards Star. He then stepped back into the inn, and loudly closed the door.
At this, a passer by, an olive complexioned man in a turban said kindly, “It is not much, but you are most welcome to spend the night in the warmth of my barn.” The party graciously accepted the offer and were led to a farmstead on the League Town side of the village.
The barn was spacious, and being still early in the winter fully stocked with warm hay. As they got themselves settled in, the man and a boy of about thirteen arrived with a large platter of roasted goat.
“Please, my friends, make yourselves comfortable and if there is anything I can help with in my humble means, please let me know,” he said. Then bowing, he retired to the farm house.
After the tasty meal, and a good night’s sleep, the party again began to prepare for the road. Not before leaving a walnut sized ruby behind on the platter, however.
Taking to the road again they began their journey to League Town’s southern gate.
“Should we stay at The Rose?” Maya asked, “I really don’t want to answer any questions at The League.”
“It’s too spread out, and now we have even more to keep an eye on,” Thilda reminded.
“There is “The Oasis,” Wilberta suggested. “It is basic, and is even more Ralulee than The League is. The circus never stayed there, but it might be an option.”
It was agreed that when they arrived at the city, that Star and Maya would go and check it out while the others waited at the gate. It wasn’t far from Southgate, and they could always seek shelter outside of the walls if they had to.
When they arrived at the gate, the two scouts found their way to the brightly coloured “Oasis.” The inn was down a long alley to the east of the gate, and while only two stories it did have its own stables, and theirs would not be the only camels to be tended there. It had a fountain in the middle of the main reception, and elaborate tiles decorated both the floors and the walls.
“Salaam,” they were greeted by Mustafa the proprietor. “Welcome to The Oasis.”
“Do you have lodgings for six sisters and our brother?” Star asked in Ralulee.
“Of course, of course,” Mustafa replied.
“We have several beasts as well,” Maya said in the common tongue.
“We have the finest of facilities,” he said; though Maya looked a little doubtful as she glanced out into the stable yard from an arched window.
Twenty minutes later the band was leading their pack animals into that very yard. The landlord looked a little confused over the dissimilarity of the “sisters,” but was nevertheless welcoming. It was only when Seymour entered that his smile faltered.
“Il Washa,” one of his porters said in astonishment, as the giant man entered.
“Beasts indeed,” Mustafa said under his breath, before recovering his smile and showing the party to their rooms. This time the women would use three bedchambers, and with some measure of irony, Seymour would again sleep in the stables where he could watch the party’s belongings.