Beauty blooms in the darkest places.
After deciding to remain behind in the bath-house when Jin and Amit go to have dinner, Mara tries to calm her mind and consider the events of the previous day. The hot springs make the experience that much easier and successful, until she is interrupted by a somewhat worried young guard, having brought her clean clothes. He introduces himself as Aman, but Mara refuses to reciprocate, simply mentioning that she is most often called “Girl”. The two share a few words about the hot springs, then the guard leaves Mara to finish up. As she comes out of the baths, they engage into a conversation. Mara learns that the young man is training to become both a soldier, and an explorer. He offers to show her around, and leads her, after several corridors and a heated argument with some gate guards, to an interesting sight, a garden in the middle of the earth. Aman introduces the various types of mushrooms in the garden, making conversation as he does so, which Mara takes as flirting. She confronts him with this in a slightly joking manner, which seems to fluster the young man. He explains that courtship is not like that in the Stonefast, and then bluntly asks her if she’d like to spend the night with him. After a moment’s consideration, Mara decides that she’d like that. Before drifting off to sleep, she says a single word, her name.
In the morning, she awakes in the garden, after dreaming of the luck lizards she’d learned about the previous day. Aman explains that they are late for the questioning, and they rush to the judgement hall. Along the way he explains that due to the tardiness, he will offer to translate in Amit’s place. They reach the judge, and the questioning begins, Mara being instructed not to hold back the truth, as the judge will most certainly know. She explains to the judge the same things she’d told the Captain, and Aman seems a bit overzealous in his retelling, taking liberties that slightly bother the judge. By the time the questioning is over, the judge offers Mara an opportunity: to help lead some people back to the tunnels where she found the lost expedition. In return, she would receive the necessary lodgings, food and supplies, and even a second-class citizenship in the Stonefast. Not knowing much about the ways of the world in general, Mara asks that she be allowed to confer with her companions, which the judge rejects. Mara later finds out that this is likely why Jin and Amit were removed from the Garrison that same morning as well. Eventually the questioning is over, and Mara finds herself outside the judgement hall once again with Aman.