Tamuna reached out into the darkness and found her arms tangled in something thick and woolly. Her eyes snapped open, but a wave of disorientation and nausea made it difficult to tell which way was up and which was down. Before she could take stock of her surroundings, though, hands held her down and a warm, wet towel was draped over her forehead.
“What… where…” she stammered, then blinked and looked up at the people standing above her. Almost immediately, she recognized Aunt Sopiko, her habitually stern expression softened by deep concern. The sight of a familiar face calmed Tamuna considerably.
“Tamuna!” said Sopiko. “You’re awake now, I see. Are you all right?”
“I think so,” said Tamuna. She tried to sit up, but her arms were weak and she soon collapsed back against the pillow.
“There now—give her something to drink,” came a voice from off to her right. A sheepskin flask was pressed to her lips, and a spurt of deliciously cool water dribbled into her mouth. She swallowed, coughed, and reached up to take hold of the flask herself. As she drank, her strength slowly returned.
Where am I? she wondered. It didn’t take long to recognize that she was back in the tavern, lying on her aunt’s bed in the master bedroom. A crowd of strangers had gathered around her, many of them dressed in the same gold-embroidered tunic that the traveler had been wearing. The sun was already shining through the western window, indicating that it was almost evening.
She coughed and put the flask aside. “How long has it been since—”
“Almost a full day,” said her aunt. “And we’ve been so worried, we closed the tavern to tend to you.” She held out a spoonful of porridge and all but forced it down Tamuna’s throat. “No more questions—now you must eat.”
Tamuna almost choked on the first spoonful, but soon forced it down. Her aunt had mixed some raisins in, which meant she was more concerned than angry. Still, Tamuna couldn’t help but chide herself. A full day—that was a lot of lost business. With the sun already setting, there was no chance they’d be up and open again in time for the evening. The bar would be empty tonight, and it was her fault.
But if that was true, who were all these strangers?
She scanned the room between spoonfuls of porridge until her eyes finally fell on the silver-haired traveler. He stood by the door, his arms folded and a look of deep solemnity across his face. Her eyes strayed to the wall behind his back and the dull green emerald that sat just above his left shoulder. With a start, she recognized the corded hilt of the sword Imeris, with the emerald set squarely in the pommel. For a fleeting instance, she saw the face of the young man from the vision.
“Imeris?” she said, reaching out with her hand. Instantly, the room fell silent.
“What was that?” her aunt asked. “Never mind. Don’t overexert yourself.”
“Hold on,” said the old traveler, stepping forward. He looked Tamuna straight in the eye as he unstrapped the scabbard and held it up before her.
“Are you speaking of this?”