The oasis was large and the palms that surrounded it could be seen from quite a distance. The companions had made good time, and arrived in the late afternoon rather than in the evening, and they found the north side of the lake unoccupied, though there was clear evidence that others had recently been there to water both camels and horses.
The shade of the palms was welcomed by the party, and as soon as the animals were cooled and rubbed down they were allowed to drink. Further along the lake side Andrea and Wayne refilled the barrels and water skins, while Uran poured cool water over her head, and shoulders.
After a short rest camp was made among the trees, and a cook fire started. Arun, soon stripped down to his loincloth and went for a swim. Wayne, and Omar soon joined him, while Uran began to make a broth over the fire.
Meanwhile, Bryana sat alone taking in the beauty of the place, while Andrea and Maya attempted to console the still hurting Gwen.
“He’s selfish, Sweetie. He was in this for treasure, not for you,” Andi said.
“But he said, he loved me, and that he was coming to protect me,” Gwen sobbed.
“I really understand the love bit, but could you ever see him risking his life for anything other than himself?” Andi asked.
Gwen sobbed loudly, then said, “I know you’re right, but it hurts so bad.”
Maya put an arm around her, and mumbled some incomprehensible words. Gwen fell into a deep sleep. “I will take her watch,” Maya said.
The sun had begun to set, and a chill was starting to fall over the oasis.
Omar was the first to leave the lake and dry himself. “You should get out of the water,” he warned. “The temperature is going to drop off quickly, once night falls.”
The others came out of the lake and dressed, followed by the others.
“But it was so hot earlier,” Arun said.
“It’s the way of the desert,” Omar said. And it is a clear night, with a new moon. It is what my mother calls a ‘Goodnight Moon,’ as there is no light to disturb you.”
“We should gather more wood before it gets too dark,” Maya said as she covered Gwen with a blanket next to the wagon. Arun and Wayne complied and the watch rotation was worked out as the rest of the party sat around the fire sipping the broth.
All except Bryana and Omar settled for the night under the canopy which had been erected from the sides of the wagon. Each wrapped tightly against the chill of the “Goodnight Moon” evening.
“I am surprised your mum let you come?” Omar said to the girl as they settled into their watch.
“Lady Bright isn’t my mother,” Bryana responded. “She is my guardian.”
“Aren’t you named after her?” Omar asked a little confused. “Bryana – Breena?”
“No, I’m named after my father, Bryan,” the teenager replied. “Breena loves me like a daughter though, and she has trained me, and helped me master my talent.”
It then struck Omar how little any of the cousins knew about this girl they had always referred to as cousin. Yes, she was four years younger than the nearest of the kindred, and nearly eight younger than Wayne; and she had spent all of her time at the hospital and didn’t spend time at the Axes or the theatre. But, he had never realised that Breena, like Thilda had no children of her own.
“Do you talk to White Ones like Breena?” he asked.
“No, that is your Aunt Breena’s gift. I heal, and I can do it without potions or spells, though it really hurts me sometimes when I do it, so use herbs when I can,” Bryana said.
“How’s it hurt you?” Omar asked.
“The injuries or sickness moves into me, and the person is healed. But I get as weak as they were with the illness.”
“That doesn’t sound like much of a gift to me,” he said. “More like a curse.”
“It’s all in how you look at it,” she said with a smile. “Is it time to wake Wayne and Andrea yet?”