“Is there anything I need to know before I meet them?” he asked. “Anything that will keep them from eating me?”
Trent frowned. “You don’t have to worry about being eaten, but there are some courtesies, and a few safety measures. Renden and the others will make sure they feed before we arrive, which decreases our risk. Still, it’s best to avoid anything that makes your heart pound.” He gave a wry chuckle. “I’m told it’s a bit like waving food in front of a dog. They can’t really read your mind, no matter what the rumors say, but they are very good at reading your expression and body, so don’t do anything that might look … aggressive.” He paused. “Oh, and try not to meet their gaze.”
Trent shrugged. “One of their abilities is compulsion. If they capture your gaze, they can compel you to do what they want. Most vayash moru won’t use their ability except to protect themselves, but it’s best to avoid the situation.”
Trent turned the cart up a dirt path, and not long after, a couple of modest wooden houses came into view. Behind the houses was a barn and a fenced yard for sheep and goats, along with a large plowed field. Off to one side was a blacksmith’s forge. The smell of charcoal wafted on the night air, and the glow from the furnace made Jonmarc think of home. He swallowed hard, and tried to focus on the task at hand.
“We’re here,” Trent said.
The night was quiet as Trent stopped the wagon. They were in a clearing in the center of a small group of homes. The windows in several of the homes were dark, while a few glowed with lamplight, and the forge’s glow kept the area from being too dark to navigate. No one was in sight. Yet Jonmarc knew they were not alone. The hair on the back of his neck stood up with the clear sense that they were being watched, and on a primal level, he knew the watchers were predators.
Trent seemed to sense his nervousness. “Do what I do,” he murmured. Trent swung down from the driver’s seat and walked around to the front of the cart, holding the reins loosely in one hand, his other hand open and slightly away from the sword at his side. Jonmarc did the same.
“It’s Trent,” he told the darkness. “I’ve brought a helper. We’re here to see Renden and Eli.”
For a moment, nothing stirred. There was a movement of air, a rustling noise, and suddenly a man stood in front of them. Jonmarc jumped, and the man smiled, showing just the tips of his elongated eye teeth.
“Good to see you, Trent,” the man said. He was lanky and loose-limbed like a farm boy, with dark, short-cropped hair that stood out in a cowlick on top. In face and manner, Jonmarc guessed his age to be early twenties, but then he met the man’s eyes and revised that number to be significantly higher. The man was very pale, making his dark eyes even more prominent. He wore a leather shirt with sleeves that fell to below the elbow, and had leather riding chaps over his trews and high boots. The stranger returned his gaze directly, with an intent look as if he meant to ask a question. Jonmarc felt his skin prickle, and looked away.
“Interesting,” the man murmured. He turned his attention back to Trent. “Who did you bring us?”