definitely Igor, of that can be no doubt. But why doesn’t Dave have an understanding of the language like he did? Could it have been because he ran away from Igor? Hard to say for sure.

“I experienced the same thing when I went through the door to the interview,” he tells him. “The creature you met is an agent of a god in this world, he’s really not all that bad.” After taking a drink himself, he asks, “Then what happened?”

“What happened?” parrots Dave. “I ran and ran and ran hoping to find a way home. I eventually came to the edge of the forest and saw several people riding horses, as well as one man leading a team of horses pulling a covered wagon. Running out of the forest, I yelled to them and flagged them down.” A haunted look comes over him as his voice softens, “I thought they would help me. I was wrong.” Tears begin welling up in his eyes and a sob begins to escape him.

“They weren’t interested in helping me,” he says, eyes looking toward the floor. “When I came close to them, they began talking to me in a language I never heard before. I tried to tell them I was an American and that I spoke English, but they didn’t understand.”

James can see his emotions getting the better of him and says, “It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me anymore.”

“I need to,” he says as a tear runs down his cheek. “I was later to find out they were slavers, on a raid to take people so they could sell them at a slave market.”

“When one of them dismounted and drew a wicked looking knife, I knew I was in trouble and tried to get out of there. I turned and ran but was soon overtaken. I fought with them, but they overpowered me. They tied my hands behind my back and with their knives, cut my clothes off of me. Stripped naked, they hauled me up into the back of the wagon. Two other people were there, one was a young girl. I…” Overcome with emotion, he stops his narrative.

James lays a hand on his shoulder and says, “I understand. I’ve run across these slavers before and I know the kind of people they are. You needn’t tell me anymore than you feel you must.”

Dave brings his eyes up off the floor and gazes into his friend’s as a smile comes to him. “That first night was the worse. The things they did to that poor girl…” a shiver runs through him. “Anyway, we traveled for days. I gradually began to be able to understand basic commands. They captured several more, and when they had ten of us tied and naked in the back of the wagon, they made for the slave market.”

“We traveled for days and that covered wagon got extremely hot while the sun was beating down upon it. When we at last came to the slave market, we were separated and ushered into pens. I was there for three days before it became my turn up on the slave block.”

“My first master was none too pleased to discover I didn’t speak the language and beat me often. Within days, he sold me to another who treated me even worse. I longed to die, just to end the humiliation and agony which had become my life. But I simply couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

Lifting up his tunic, he shows James the patchwork of scars, the result of being beaten and tortured by his former owners. From neck to waist, he can see where his friend had been cut, burned and who knows what. Dave twists and he can see his back is even worse. “I’m sorry,” is all he can think to say at the horror his friend must have endured.

Replacing his tunic, he continues, “Finally I was sold to an inn and worked there until I heard him play ‘Home on the Range’. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing at first. Then something came over me and I had to reach him, to see if he was real. In the back of my mind I knew I would be facing a beating, but I couldn’t stop myself. I rushed through the crowd and made for the stage where he was playing. But I didn’t make it. They stopped me before I could reach him and dragged me out of there. I was beat to within an inch of my life.”

“As I lay there in my pen later that evening, pain throbbing in every part of my body, Perrilin came to me. You know the rest.”

Tears in his own eyes, James comes forward to give his friend a hug. “You’re safe now.” Glancing back to Perrilin, he says, “Thank you for bringing him here.”

“I take it you know him then?” asks Perrilin.

“All my life, he’s my best friend,” replies James.

“How did he come to be here?” Ceryn asks.

“I’ll tell you sometime, but right now I just want to get him back to The Ranch,” he says. “You’re both welcome to come too.”

Perrilin shakes his head and says, “I can’t. As much as I would like to find out more about this, I have an engagement that can’t be put off any longer.”

“I’ll come by in a few days,” Ceryn tells him.

Getting up, he brings Dave to his feet as well and says, “Thank you both again.” Leading Dave outside he says, “Let’s go.” He hears the other two get up and follow them outside.

Indicating one of the other horses, Perrilin says, “Your friend can have this one.”

“Thanks,” James says. Helping Dave onto the horse, he then mounts his own.

As they ride back to The Ranch, James glances over to his friend. Glad to have him with him again, yet saddened by all that’s happened to him. He may never know the extent of the pain he went through, and he’s not really sure he wants to.

After getting back onto the main road to Trendle, Dave breaks the silence and asks, “How have you been?”

“Not too bad,” James replies. “I have a place and some friends here. I’m sure you’ll fit in just fine.”

“I want to go home,” he says sadly.

“I know, I’d like to as well, but I’m afraid we’re stuck here,” he says. Feelings of guilt assail him as they reach the outskirts of Trendle. Where his friend has had the worse sort of experiences since coming to this world, he’s actually thrived. He comes to the conclusion he’ll put off telling him about his magical ability until it’s absolutely necessary. Not sure how he’ll react to that.

“This is the town of Trendle,” he tells Dave as they pass through. “Not much more than a farming community, but it’s a nice place to live. The people are good, if a bit stand offish at first. You’ll like it here.”

Dave looks around but makes no comment.

After leaving Trendle, they soon come to the lane leading to The Ranch. Devin has the duty of guarding the entrance today. When he sees James coming, he takes his horn and blows a single note.

James pauses upon reaching him and asks, “What was that for?”

“They wanted to know when you showed up,” he replies with a smile.

When he glances to Dave, James says, “This is my friend Dave. He doesn’t speak the language yet.”

Devin gives Dave a nod who nods in return.

Getting the horses moving again, they make their way down the lane to the house. Indicating the construction going on, James says, “I’m having a new house built as well as a few other buildings.”

“Doing well then?” Dave asks.

Sighing, James replies, “Yes, actually.” Almost everyone has come out to see what’s going on, they’re all anxious to find out what went on over at Ceryn’s.

A quiet muttering can be heard as they approach, many casting glances to Dave riding beside him. As he comes close, James says, “This is Dave, a friend from where I come from.” At that, he can see several of them react in surprise, the ones who know the full tale of his past. “He doesn’t speak the language yet, but I want each of you to treat him well.”

To Caleb, Illan says, “Take their horses.”

“Yes, sir,” he replies and steps up to take their reins as they dismount.

“Ezra has dinner ready for you,” Roland tells him. “When you have a minute, we need to go over a few things.” As James gives him a questioning look, he adds, “Nothing pressing.”

“Okay,” he says and then to Dave he asks, “Hungry?”

“You bet,” he replies.

Leading him through the front door, James takes him through to the kitchen where Ezra has two plates set out, each overflowing with food. Someone must’ve forewarned her about Dave, maybe saw them coming down the lane from the road.

As he sits down to eat, he can hear Illan from the other room telling everyone to go about their business and to leave him alone with his friend. Miko, Jiron and Roland join him at the table. After a brief round of introductions,

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