Alibaba faded back into the shadows behind a wagon on the edge of camp, leaning against a handy rock with a sigh of relief. He’d grabbed his portion of stew fast, meaning he hadn’t gotten more than half a bowl, but he had a few apples to go with it. Besides, he wasn’t all that hungry. He might not feel the heat like the rest of the caravan, but it seemed to suck a lot of the appetite out of him anyway.
It was weird, though. Usually if it was hot enough to kill hunger, it left people tired to the bone. Like the rest of the caravan was tired.
I’m not tired.
Not as tired as he should be. More like he’d just spent the morning walking, instead of all the blazing day and well after sunset.
The stars are beautiful out here.
The Straw Thief’s Way spread a brilliant belt of stars leading south, all the way to Balbadd and beyond. With a map of wells and the stars, he could always find the way home.
Of course, if he mentioned the Straw Thief’s Way to the people he was traveling with, at least half of them would look at him as if he’d lost his mind. To the northern Oasis Cities, that was the Dragon’s Tail, flung into the stars by their ancient hero who’d defeated the Great Dragon.
In Imuchakk, it’s the Birds’ Path, Alibaba thought, sweeping his gaze across that arc of starry blue. Heliohapt, the Pool of Cow’s Milk. Reim, the Rock’s Nursing. In Partevia, the Silver River.
His tutors had made sure he knew them all. Because you couldn’t trade with people if you didn’t know them – and if what you knew still went wrong, a merchant had to be able to get back. For his family, and his people.
I wonder what it is in Sindria?
…I wonder what it is in Katarg. I never got the chance to ask Morgiana.
If I see her again, I will.