Stranger Chapter 2: Questions

"I'm where?" she asked again, her voice tensing with strain.

"You're in the Midlands," Tao answered again.

Ciara took a deep breath before she started to hyperventilate. Apparently she wasn't on planet Earth anymore, she was a geography major and she knew her stuff, she had never heard of any place called the Midlands before.

"So what is this first aid you spoke of?" asked Tao.

His questioned startled her a little, it broke her out of her panic as she tried to think of an answer that would satisfy the young man.

"Well…umm…it's what you…umm…you do first aid before a healer can look at them. It's like if you fell and broke your arm, I would apply first aid to stabilize the arm until we could get you to a healer to set it."

Tao's eyes went wide with wonder.

"How would you do it? Stabilize an arm I mean," he asked with great enthusiasm.

She looked to Dar as if to ask 'Does he do this all the time?', before answering.

"Well, you'd get two sticks long enough for the person's arm and you'd take some cloth and wrap the sticks to the sides of the arm so it doesn't move before tying the cloth to the body."

"And how does it work to stabilize it. I'm wondering how two sticks can do such an important job. I mean…"

"Tao," Dar interrupted, "I think you're overwhelming her."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I'm just so interested in learning and figuring out new things about the world."

Ciara smiled.

"That's fine."

She looked around and realized something, she had no idea where she was or how she was going to return. She didn't know her way around here, she would need a guide and these guys were as good as any.

"Do you mind if I travel with you? I don't really know where I am."

Dar smiled and nodded.

"Sure."

As they were moving on the tiger Ciara saw earlier, Ruh, stepped in front of her, following Dar. She stopped right in her tracks. Tao and Dar looked at her.

"Ruh won't hurt you, he knows you're a friend," said Dar.

"Where I come from, tigers aren't known for being friendly."

Against her better instincts she walked on, keeping a close eye on the tiger. Dar walked on ahead while Tao and Ciara walked behind.

"You said 'my world' before. Am I to assume that this isn't the world you are from?" asked Tao.

"I am assuming that, it doesn't seem to surprise you."

"There is much here that is magical, it's not practical but its what happens. Getting someone from another world here isn't that strange."

"When I get home, no one's going to believe me when I say I visited another world."

"What is your world like?" asked Tao.

"It's not like here at all, at least that's what I can assume from the way you're dressed. From what I can tell, this world is still mainly based around stone and bone tools is that correct?"

Tao nodded and stayed quiet.

"Then my world would be a stretch for you to imagine. I am sure I could tell you a lot about my world but nothing you would hear from me will help you here, if anything you have more to teach me than I you."

That seemed to quiet Tao as they continued to walk. It was strange being here and Ciara was not comfortable with it at all. If anything she just wanted to run and hope that she was able to get home somehow, but her sense told her to stay with Tao and Dar. They were guides in this world and she would need them if she wanted to survive.

They walked for the rest of the day, Tao asking questions and Ciara answering some of them. Others she didn't say much and Tao quieted for a while knowing he was going a little too far. Dar was the one who stopped to set up camp. Ciara was grateful because she was getting winded, she was an avid hiker but with the terrain they were walking and the pace Dar set she was beginning to tire. Tao and Dar built a fire and Ciara helped where she could. Once the fire was crackling with life they all sat around it. Ruh, who had disappeared while they were walking all of a sudden came out of the bushes behind Ciara. She shot to her feet in surprise. Dar and Tao could only chuckle at her. Just because Dar and Tao were okay with Ruh didn't mean she was going to be okay with him for a while. Dar looked at Ruh, right in the eyes, it appeared as if they were having a conversation. Ciara got the chills up her spine as they were looking at each other, a tickle in her mind is how she would describe it. But the feeling soon passed and Ruh settled where Ciara just sat. She reclined where she was, staying as far away from the striped large cat as possible. Tao dug into his pack and pulled out a bit of what looked like camping gear and vegetables. He poured water from the gourd on his shoulder into a bowl like object and then put it over the fire. As the water heated he began to cut the vegetables as best he could.

"Here," said Ciara, "Let me."

He handed over the platter with the vegetables and knife he was using but she handed the knife right back, she was going to use hers. She dug into her pocket and pulled out her pocket knife. She learned her lesson when she had been lost in the woods for a week and a half with nothing but her bag and some rope. She unfolded the blade and began to chop up the vegetables. Tao was immediately by her side examining the blade.

"What is that?" he asked.

"It's a utility tool, it has a lot of different tools that I might need."

"It's so shiny, what is it made out of?" he asked.

"We would call it steel. You might understand it as metal or ore from the ground melted and shaped into a tool."

"I don't think I've ever seen this before have you Dar?" asked Tao.

The man shook his head as he watched Tao and Ciara. When she was done she cleaned the knife before putting it in her bag. She screamed in surprised though when two furry heads poked out from inside her bag. Dar and Tao couldn't stop laughing.

"Kodo, Podo that's where you two were hiding," said Dar.

The two little ferrets squeaked before going over to Dar.

"Sorry," Dar said, "They're curious little creatures. Hey, what's that you've got in your mouth Kodo."

Ciara looked closer and noticed it was a cashew. She looked in her bag and sure enough her trail mix had been opened. She chuckled and pulled out the bag.

"Would you like some?" she asked the other ferret.

The little creature straight over to her and took the nut out of her hand before looking in the plastic bag and going for a chunk of chocolate. She stopped him before he got too far.

"Oh, no, you can't have that," she said.

"What it is?" asked Tao.

"It's chocolate and its harmful to animals but we can eat it. Here try some."

She handed both Dar and Tao a piece of chocolate which they popped into their mouths.

"It's sweet and bitter at the same time," said Tao, "it's delicious. What else is in there?"

"Nuts and dried fruit," she answered.

She gave Kodo and Podo both a raisin before putting the bag back.

After they all ate Dar and Tao lay against some tree trunks to sleep. Ciara though couldn't. Her mind was filled with thoughts of how she had gotten to where she was and how she was going to get back. How was she going to fit into this world if she couldn't get back and what would her parents and friends think when she didn't return. She let her mind wander not bothering to calm her thoughts. When suddenly she heard a noise in the forest beyond the light of their fire.

Standing she looked around for a place to hide. She decided her best position would be in the tree above her. Grabbing her knife out of her bag she climbed the tree and perched on a branch and waited. She could see something moving just beyond the ring of trees they were sleeping in. Then she saw another and another and realized they were men, and they were armed, and they were coming right for the camp and a sleeping Tao and Dar.