It was dark. It was also raining – again; a fine drizzle that made the fire beneath the smoke-hole sputter occasionally as drips fell into it, and magnified the noises of the beasts outside as they munched on the grass to leeward of the tent.
Mishaar glanced over to where the youngest Children lay curled together under a collection of hides, and smiled.
"The Southern Children sleep like that, too," he remarked to no-one in particular. "The edges of the desert can be very cold at night." He refilled his pipe with weed from a small pouch at his belt, pulling a burning twig from the fire to light it, and leaned his back against the centre pole of the tent. "My thanks for your hospitality. I only wish I could stay longer."
Sherath opened his eyes sleepily and looked at Mishaar. "Our home is yours," he said. "Whenever you wish to share it. And however temporary it may be. You're leaving on the dusk tide tomorrow?"
"Yes. All being well. I should be home in about three weeks."
"They'll be watching for you," said Nemeth. "The Sea-Elves will be before you with the news."
"True," replied Mishaar sleepily, offering his pipe to Nemeth.
There was quiet for a few minutes.
"What is this?" asked Nemeth eventually, handing the pipe back to Mishaar.
"Southern mountain weed, in part."
"Hmmm. Reminiscent of Shenwaith's pipeweed. Better taste, though." – Any chance of you bringing some more over, son of my mother's people?
– I could get to Tashik by midwinter. And it is also useful medicinally. Sherath?
– Yes, I was listening.
– You're not asleep, then, said Nemeth.
– All but. How useful medicinally, Mishaar?
– More predictable than valerian. Less sleepy. And not addictive.
– Very similar to Shenwaith's pipeweed, then, commented Sherath, his Voice drowsy. Do you have enough to leave some with me? It could prove useful for treating any wound that doesn't require the total sleep of dozewort. Particularly on the packbeasts.
– I have more on the ship. Legend has it that Miirshekaar's Beastmaster was the first to feed it to animals that didn't respond to other methods – often when they'd been mishandled earlier. You can keep what I have here.
– Thank you. Domina?
– She's out to the wide, Sherath, said Nemeth. As is everyone else. Go to sleep, Brother. There was just a trace of Command in his Voice.
Sherath's eyebrows lifted momentarily, and he smiled. – Hmm. Don't try that one too often. Nemeth grinned at him. Sherath's breathing gradually slowed.
Nemeth lay back, resting his head on one arm and reaching the other out lazily for Mishaar's pipe.
"So tell me, Mishaar."
Mishaar grinned. "What else? There's a host of things I could tell you, Nemeth Nehhuare's son. Do you remember how beautiful your mother was?"
– I remember. Nemeth flashed a mental picture across to Mishaar. You knew her? He handed the pipe back.
Mishaar rummaged in his pack and brought out two pipes. – Here, have a couple of my spares. I did know Nehhuare. Before Shithri came South, I was there. She went with him not long after she Journeyed, you know. She was very like Shiffih, as a young Child. There's not much of your sire in Shiffih. She'd be nothing unusual in the South – nor you, apart from your eyes. You're like your grandsire was as a youngster. He had a nose like a hawk, too – but you have the eyes to go with it.
YOU ARE READING
The Unknown Quest (Book One of The Horns of Elfland)Fantasy
Thousands of years ago, one of Sherath's distant ancestors refused to take on a quest. The task has to be done - it's vitally important - but nobody knows exactly what it is. Their race is dying out, and time is running out; and until Sherath comes...