He rubbed at the tarnished edge of it, a slight frown marring his face. She had this tucked away all along? He ran his thumb along the inscription. It didn’t make any sense. Not that he couldn’t read the inscription…but what was she doing with it? Why?
He turned the medallion around with his fingers, following the inscription of the six elements. Light, fire, earth, shadow, water, air…combining in the middle to form the final symbol for unity…distinctly Arashanti. He turned it around to find the inscription on the other side defaced. Istkashar. He fought the impulse to fling it away in superstitious fear.
“What was that?”
He jumped and thought about shoving the medallion back into her capsized sack as she walked up behind him. “Your bag fell over…” He continued to stare at the medallion as she walked around him to scoop her belongings back into the sack. “Where did you get this?”
She looked up and stared at it awhile before meeting his eyes. “Found it.” She shrugged and looked back down to finish filling her bag. “Why, is it yours?”
“No…” He watched her focus on the last items and then sit heavily on the fallen tree trunk, her hair a bedraggled mess.
She pulled the binding in her hair out to smooth it all back into a pony tail once more. “What is it?”
“It is…a medallion. They are given only to the vishni.”
“Our…priests…? But this one…” He held the defaced side toward her. “Was branded with istkashar. It is the worst sort of shame for our people.”
“So the vishni that lost this was shamed?”
“Vishna is one, and yes. I only know of one vishna cast out in shame.” He watched her carefully. “They tell stories of her to keep children behaved.”
She frowned hard at their tiny fire. “What’d she do?”
“Do you not first want to know if she’s still around to reclaim this?” He held it up by the chain, watching her eyes raise to the partially twirling metal.
“Is she?” She looked back down again.
“You know she is not. Who gave this to you?”
“I found it.” She glared at him and he tossed it lightly toward her hands. He grabbed his own pack and walked away, leaving her scrambling behind him.
“Hey! You said you’d help me get out of here.” He could hear her clambering around in the jungle brush behind him.
“You are good at finding things, you do not need my help.”
“You’re serious?! You–” Her words ended in a heap of noise and a grunt. “Dammit.”
He set his jaw and kept going.
“Fine! You hear me!? I didn’t find it!” Startled birds scattered noisily at the shout.
He stopped to let her catch up, though he cursed himself inwardly. With that medallion…he should not be helping her. “Where did you get it.” He repeated himself firmly.
She moved around to stand in front of him. “Don’t leave…please?” She put a hand to his chest and he backed away. “Sorry.” She withdrew her hand. “Someone gave it to me…in a dream. He asked for help. When I woke up, I found it in my hand.”
He found himself unable to speak at first. She dreamt of someone pleading for help only to wake and find Nisnivani’s medallion in her hands?
She sighed at his silence. “I really did find it. Out here. In your damned jungle. Are you satisfied now? Will you still take me back with you?””
“Throw it away.”