The first time Teshi Arboros saw Alexandra, he thought he was looking upon an angel.

She was beautiful, in an exotic way. Teshi had never seen any woman like her before. She was slender but strong, like a willow tree, and tall (taller than any woman that Teshi had ever seen, almost his height) with cream-pale skin and long red hair. Her hair really was red, Teshi affirmed, red like strawberries and sunsets. And her eyes were red too, when she got close enough for him to tell, red like an expensive wine. She was wearing something simple, a long white dress or robe. He judged her to be several years older than him, a lad of seventeen.

But for all her looks, she acted like a child. When she walked her feet--which were bare, he realized--came down uncertainly on the grass as if she was not sure it would be there. She peered all about her like Teshi did his first time into the city, taking in everything new and wild and exciting.

When the ass brayed, the woman jumped. It looked as if she were about to fall, and Teshi dropped his pitchfork and ran to help her. But before he had taken two steps, he found that she was, impossibly, standing upright, looking perfectly fine. He could have sworn that she had overbalanced and had been about to fall.

He stopped, scratching his head, feeling a fool in the middle of the dusty country road.

"Um," the woman began. It looked as if she had just realized that Teshi was there. "Greetings to thee, goodman farmer. Prithee, whither dost my feet taketh me now?"

"Huh?" Teshi tried not to gape like her like a country dunce (though he was, he ruefully admitted, and how impressed could the woman be?). But very little that the woman had just said made sense to him.

The woman hesitated, then finally asked, "Where am I?"

"Oh!" That Teshi could understand. "You're outside of the village of Angoor, which is yonder down that way." He pointed down the road. "My aunt and uncle live there," he said helpfully. "But my mother, father, and sister live here on the farm."

The woman was quiet, as if digesting this. Teshi suddenly realized that he had probably said too much. He hoped he had not overwhelmed her.

"I. . . thank you," the woman said at last.

"Oh, you're welcome!" Teshi replied, a little too enthusiastically. "Um. My name is Teshi. Teshi Arboros. Pleased to meet you." And he stuck out one callused, dusty hand.

The woman started, just as she had when the ass brayed. But she put out her hand awkwardly in return, and Teshi shook it as firmly as he could without scaring her. He felt almost ashamed; her hand looked like a noblewoman's would, fine-fingered, the nails neat and short. But she did not seem to mind, although she looked a little stunned when he let go.

"What's your name?" he asked, when she did not seem to be forthcoming.

"Oh." It looked as if the idea of introducing herself had not even occurred to her. "My name--my name is--"

Whatever she said next, Teshi could not understand it. He wasn't even sure if his tongue could make such sounds. It didn't sound coarse or vulgar or nasty in any way, but it was just odd and guttural, with a rolled r's and perhaps an l in it somewhere. Since he could not pronounce it, he tried the closest approximation in his limited knowledge.

"Alexandra?" he repeated, uncertainly.

For the first time since he had met her, the woman smiled. Teshi felt something racing inside him, and he thought that he just had to see her smile again.

"Yes," she said. "Alexandra."



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