Chapter Three

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Sherath sat on the top of the rocky outcrop, watching the sun rise.

Are you coming down, or shall I come up? asked Sienne's Voice.

Which would you rather? he answered.

What's the view like from up there? Sienne asked.

Pretty good.

– Then I'll come up. There was a pause of a few seconds. You must climb like a cat, said Sienne. Sherath smiled to himself.

Sienne's head and hands appeared over the edge of the outcrop, the gusty wind blowing her mane of dark curls around her face. She hauled herself up over the edge, sat beside Sherath, pulled a short strip of hide out from a pocket and bound it round her head in an attempt to tame the unruly hair.

"Did you get any sleep at all last night?" she asked him with a wry smile.

"Not much, granted," he said. "How awake are the rest of them?"

"Nemeth and Tarke are still dozing. Everyone else is up and about. Jevann wandered off somewhere by himself before I was up, and the little ones are still working on carting soil to the grave house. Louka and Jekavi are cooking breakfast."

"Now that does sound like a good idea," said Sherath, getting to his feet and stretching.

"You mean you dragged me all the way up here just so we could go back down again?" asked Sienne.

"Nobody dragged you, Little Sister," replied Sherath, holding a hand down to her to lift her back to her feet. "It was your choice, remember? What did you want me for – or did you just come up to admire the sunrise?"

"The little ones wanted to know whether we're moving on again today. They could do with a rest," Sienne added.

"And they sent you to ask me?" Sherath asked.

"Not exactly. They want to know; you don't always seem that approachable; I knew that they wanted to know, so here I am." She looked up into his face.

What's troubling you? she asked.

The idea that I could seem unapproachable, he said. That's not supposed to be the way it is. Do you ever feel like that about me?

– Not really. I came to find you, after all. It's not that you're 'unapproachable' – just that you're ... preoccupied, perhaps, is the right word.

– Preoccupied I can accept, said Sherath. But not to the extent that any of you would actually rather not come and find me if you need to speak to me. Just out of curiosity, how does Jevann seem to you all, at the moment?

– I can't answer for everyone, said Sienne with a laugh in her Voice. But 'preoccupied' sums him up pretty well, too. What exactly is going on?

– That could be exactly the question that's preoccupying both of us, answered Sherath with a grin.

Oh, very cryptic! said Sienne, scrambling backwards down the first part of the rocks. I warn you, though, it's getting to the stage where we all need some answers. Or, if not answers, at least to know what the questions are.

– That can certainly be arranged, said Sherath, climbing easily down behind her. But you may have to wait until Jevann reappears – in this instance I know rather less than he does.

***

Jevann looked across at Sherath. The smaller Children settled down into positions of alert anticipation.

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