Gypsum asked permission for the four of them to set up camp outside of town for a meal and then the two men would be on their way. Apatite would not hear of it. All four would be his guests for lunch. In payment the twins would recount all that they had seen and done since they left their home—and where was that by the way?
"No matter now! You can talk and eat at the same time and pitch your tents this evening on an excellent spot, soft and flat, on the other side of town. Then, if you insist, you can be off as early in the morning as you like."
Although still suspicious, the twins agreed. Judging from Apatite's size, the meal would be plentiful. Like young men everywhere and of any sentient species, they enjoyed over-eating once in a while. The twins had been subsisting on rations that barely fueled their efforts. The opportunity to take on a little extra should not be ignored.
So it was with mumbles and growls and supplemental gestures that Feldspar and Gypsum regaled Apatite and his huge family of their adventures since leaving Groakpod. "Huge family" was exceedingly accurate. Not only did over a dozen Riotori, from gray-haired to infant, attend the meal, eating and listening, but all of them showed the same tendency to size that apatite showed.
Gypsum was tempted to inquire about this feature, but his wish to be polite kept him silent.
Feldspar had no such reluctance.
"If I may be impolite, I would be interested in why you all have the appearance of being so well-fed. I noticed that the feature is not common among all in Rackarn, but certainly your family seems...blessed? or cursed? with a size we have never seen before."
"No offense is taken, since it is clear that none is meant. It is a family trait. As you can see, my father," and he indicated one of the older males at the table, "and even my grandfather," he indicated one of the three gray-haired family members, all quite wide of girth, "possess this feature. Even on rations close to starvation the girth seems to stay. While it hampers us a little in physical activities, we are all quite healthy.
"Also, in many of the villages and towns in this area, girth indicates being well-fed, which implies wealth of some kind. All of us, men and women, have no trouble finding mates within the surrounding forty miles."
Finally, as Shul began to flirt with the western horizon, the four newcomers were shown to the place to make their camp. Apatite escorted them and then, before leaving, offered a warning to the twins.
"You are big and strong young men. I know already that many of the women of age are considering you as potential mates. During the night they may come to your tents and offer themselves to you. If you do not wish to be tied to any of them, you must not yield to their temptations. If you do, you will be required to marry. They may even say to you that there will be no conditions, but that would be a lie. You must deny them and send them home. You need not be polite, but you must not touch them, either."
"But what if they lie to their parents, or others, and insist that we did what we did not?"
"They would never tell a lie like that."
"But you say they would lie to us!"
"Of course. You are strangers, and not a part of the village. Lying to you would be part of the strategy. But lying to any citizen of the village about something that important would be unthinkable!"
With that Apatite left them to pitch their tents. He gave a hearty wish to all four for a good night's sleep and ambled back to town.
The twins consulted, then set their tents so that the openings faced each other. That way they might be able to help each other to avoid the temptations that might visit during the night.
Pyrite found the situation rather amusing and set his own tent as far from the twins' as possible. Amethyst was feeling quite jealous and wanted to sleep close to the young men, to help chase away their visitors. Her father insisted, harshly when she protested, that she tent next to him.
As darkness settled upon them like a velvet sheet they all drifted quickly off to sleep.