Tales of the Kirgeur

By the Bluedragon


We woke that morning to a welcome sight. Iolaine had awakened before us and had fetched food from downstairs. He was currently sitting in a chair polishing our boots.

"Greet the day, Torienne and Salenia. I have food and drink waiting. Anything else you require?" He seemed proud of his accomplishments.

"None, Iolaine, but our gratitude for the meal." Sal pulled on her pants and inspected the food. "Any nuts in this?"

"Not that I have seen, jesisenia." He did not realize his mistake. Sal did not correct it. She was too busy filling her plate.

I joined her at the table after pulling on more clothing. The food was good. We would miss it on the journey to Marlkina. In truth, I would miss the food once I returned to my village.

"Tell me, Iolaine, can you cook?" I asked.

"Very well, jesisenia, I mean Torienne." This was welcome news. "I was a cook before I was traded to the innkeeper."

"Very good. Neither of us are able to do more than burn squirrels, you shall be our cook then." Sal decided at once. It was a problem neatly solved.

"Have you utensils then?" He looked eager. "In truth I love to cook, but the innkeeper here had servants for that already."

"Not yet, but we shall." I said. It was rare good fortune.

We had finished our meal when there was a knock at the door. Iolaine answered as we finished dressing. He spoke for several heartbeats with the person in the hall before closing the door and facing us.

"Your faelida asks you to meet him in the common room once you are finished with your meal." He informed us.

"Very well then shall we go?" I stood after sliding into my boots. They shone almost as bright as they did when I had them made. "Come Iolaine."

The three of us went to the common room. Iolaine shrunk into his self and his very walk became diffident. Johianei was waiting for us with two other servants. The three of them rose at our approach.

"I thought you had no servants?" Johianei asked when we were in conversational range.

"We bought Iolaine from the innkeeper last night. We have no cooking skills, and he is purported to be an excellent cook, faelida." I answered in character.

"Well, shall we to the market? I believe I promised a slave did I not?" Johianei ignored Iolaine's presence.

"You did faelida, and you have our gratitude." Sal responded.

We followed him into the bright sunlight. The street was almost empty. Sal and I walked two paces behind and on either side of Johianei. Iolaine and the other two servants walked five paces behind us. The other two were not introduced to us. They were a male and female. I guessed the female had only one service she provided. She had that attractive look.

We walked first to the slave market. The boy was still there, chained to the wagon. Out of habit, Sal and I looked for the others. They were nowhere to be seen.

"Have you chosen?" Johianei asked.

"Yes, faelida. We wish that one." I pointed out the Poulantie boy.

"Then that one it shall be." He went in search of the merchant. Sal and I remained in the background. We had no wish for an argument with the baderema.

In short order he returned with a different merchant. This one unlocked the wagon and handed the boy's chains to Johianei. He was also handed a key to those chains. The merchant expressed his gratitude and departed in search of another buyer.

"This belongs to you." Johianei passed the chain and key over to me.

"My gratitude, faelida." I bowed. Sal did as well.

"You should clothe him." He suggested. "We shall go look at the beast market before returning to the inn."

"Shall we come with you, faelida?" Sal followed her script.

"No, clothe the boy. I shall be fine with only these two. We shall need horses for them. You should make your preparations for our departure. We shall leave after the morning meal, but we can discuss it in detail if you consent to dine with me this evening in my rooms."

"Yes faelida." I answered. At least we were not to be put to work immediately. All in all, the market was fairly safe. The only danger consisted of sneak thieves and bag snatchers.

We watched Johianei and his two servants depart to the beast market. After they were out of sight, we pointed ourselves in the direction of the fabric section. Iolaine regained his confidence.

"My gratitude, jesisenias, I shall depart now." The boy pulled against his chain.

"On the contrary, boy. You shall accompany us to Marlkina. Have you a name?" Sal asked him.

"I am called Sevianth." He puffed out his chest. I could tell already that he was a headstrong youngster.

"Well met Sevianth, now I am going to unlock you if you pledge to stay with us. We shall return you to your village, but you must pledge to obey us." Sal dangled the key in front of him. "We had a previous agreement as well."

"I remember." He did not seem happy about the situation.

"Good, we have need of you and you have need of us. Now pledge." I persisted.

"In haneithea." He placed his fist over his heart and bowed.

"Accepted. Iolaine, keep watch over the young one." Sal commanded. "It is your duty to train him properly."

"Yes jesisenia." Iolaine did not look pleased with the circumstances.

We unlocked the boy's chains and headed to the clothiers. Iolaine kept close watch on the boy as we walked. We headed into the ready-made clothing section of the fabric market. Neither Sal nor I could sew well.

The boy's humor was restored with proper clothing. As a Poulantie he was unaccustomed to a simple waistcloth. We quickly restored him to more modest attire. Though as he was a servant, we were advised by Iolaine to buy conservative, long lasting clothing. There were no silks or other fine fabrics permitted to slaves. We also were required to pierce his left ear. It was the mark of servitude. We allowed Iolaine to chose a new ring for his ear. The old one was a distasteful reminder of the innkeeper's son. He chose well, and chose a matching one for the boy.

I volunteered to return the boy and our purchases to the inn. Sal and Iolaine remained to purchase utensils and other items we would need for travel. The boy was much pleased with the prospect of the journey, the promise of food and rest, and the offer of a horse. He was so pleased he accompanied me readily.

I showed him to the room and asked Roshimama to order us a tray of food. It was close to midday and we were hungered. Sevianth exclaimed with delight at the wonders of the room. His view of Creasinda had been from the wagon's perspective. He was searching through the graseleth wardrobe when Sal and Iolaine returned.

"I have ordered dinner, it should be delivered directly." I informed them. "After the meal, can you show Sevianth the bath, Iolaine?"

"Yes, Torienne. I feel the need for one myself." He bowed. "It would be a good time to impress some manners on the boy."

"You are a good man, Iolaine." Sal clapped him on the back and set the packages they had brought with them on the bed. "It shall take forever to pack."

"It was simpler when we were traveling alone." I agreed. The packages did appear to be rather large.

"Aight it was." Sal agreed.

"Food is here." Sevianth jumped from his seat and ran to the door. Sal caught him half way there.

"You have much to learn, young one." She held him back as Iolaine answered the door.

I had ordered much food. It seemed as if all four of us had poundage to regain. We sat at the table with laden plates. Iolaine had made as if to eat elsewhere, but we bid him stay. We had to remind him that we did not stand on convention. As long as we were within a private area, we were to treat one another as equals. Except for the boy, he had to learn to respect his elders. It was the way of all our peoples.

After the meal, Iolaine took Sevianth to the bathing room reserved for servants. The boy was encrusted with dirt so much that we could not tell the color of his hair. As most boys of his seasons, he was not happy with cleanliness. I almost pitied Iolaine. Perhaps I would have had I not been glad of his presence. I had no desire to bathe the boy myself.

Sal and I sent the remainder of our clothing to the laundress. We paid two silvers more than required for quick service. The servant at the laundry promised to deliver the clothing after the evening meal. We were pleased with the arrangement.

"Shall we bathe now?" I asked my partner as we returned to the room.

"No, let us wait until we have finished with the evening meal and our packing. Where did you put the saddlebags?" She asked.

"In that massive wardrobe." I answered. I began sorting the purchases into piles.

"I did not realize we had amassed so much." Sal commented as she laid the saddlebags on the bed.

We packed our clothing in our own saddlebags. Surprisingly it all fit. I had forgotten how large my new saddlebags were. We left Iolaine's clothing for him to pack when he returned, and put Sevianth's in one of the extra saddlebags. The other supplies went into the remaining containers. We were grateful we had saved the horses, but we regretted leaving the saddles. As it was, one horse would merely be a pack beast. Not everything would fit in the saddlebags.

"We should return to the market and buy two saddles." I told Sal as we finished packing our bags.

"It is unfortunate that we left the ones the horses were wearing, but they were marked." Sal agreed. "We should ask the stable boys if they have extra, perhaps someone left one or two as payment."

"Good thinking. How much coinage have you?" I asked as I emptied my purse on the table.

"I have two goldens, five silver and at least fifteen bronze." Sal answered. "We are still spending merchant gold."

"That we are. I have three goldens, two silver and twenty bronze." I put the coinage away. "After our servants return, though gods save me that sounds pompous, we shall inquire at the stables."

"You are right." Sal laughed. "Who would think two farm breed kirgeurs would have servants?"

"Certainly not I." I laughed as well. "What could be taking them so long?"

"My guess is Iolaine is attempting to resist drowning the boy. Perhaps we can run the stubborn streak from him lest he destroys our illusions." Sal was not pleased by his behavior anymore than I had been.

"We have a fortnight's ride to Marlkina to put it right. Though he has yet to tell us all he knows of our lost ones. Have you objections to physical discipline?" I asked.

"Are you going to tan him?" Sal laughed. "I have no objection. He may need a belt taken to him."

Iolaine opened the door then. He was dragging Sevianth behind him. Neither looked pleased with their situations. The boy was thrust into a chair while a very wet young man gave us a look of despair.

"Tell me, Iolaine, what happened?" Sal struggled not to laugh at the look on his face.

"Your boy decided to run through the common room with out dressing first. He had not even been fully cleansed, Salenia. I managed to drag him back and complete the bath, though he put forth such a fight it drowned our very clothing." Iolaine wiped his forehead with an already wet sleeve. "Your leave, Salenia, may I sit?"

"Please." Sal answered and waved him into a chair.

"Why do you not both go to the stables and inquire about saddles?" I asked. I had several younger brothers and sisters in my village. I knew how to discipline a youth. "I shall handle our boy."

"In truth, Tor?" Sal seemed surprised.

"Aight." I grinned. "Bring some ale upon your return."

"As you wish." Sal shrugged her shoulders and had Iolaine precede her into the hallway. She looked back over her shoulder as she pulled it to and grinned.

"Boy, come here." I called to him.

"I have a name." He protested.

"Nothen. You do not. Humans are named, as are horses. Wild beasts are not. You will be called boy until you behave as a human." I told him. He crossed his arms and sucked his lower lip. "Now, boy, you have not given your part of our agreement. Where are the maidens the slavers had taken from my village?"

"I shall not tell." He slouched in his chair.

"I shall make you tell if you do not volunteer the information. You know what Sal and I are do you not?"

"You are kirgeurs." He admitted reluctantly.

"Know you of kirgeurs? We are seen as cannibals, barbarians and ruthless warriors. You have heard that have you not?" I walked over to him.

"My father once said so." He was beginning to receive the point.

"Do you wish to see me angered?"

"Nothen." It was said in a small voice.

"Then do not look at me, for I am angered. Tell me of the maidens and accept your punishment, boy." I knelt in front of him.

"They were taken by the Jilhsaed's men upon our arrival in this territory. They are to be presented to the son on his festival. This much I know from another slave who knows the tongue. You are not going to hurt me are you?" He looked up at me with large eyes.

"When my eldest brother was in his eighth season, he let one of my father's favorite horses loose. After my father caught the beast, he took my brother into the stables and spoke with him. My brother could not sit for two days after." I stood and brought him with me. "In my village when a youngster disobeys he meets a belt in a painful location. Tell me, is it the same in Houcense?"

"Aight." He struggled to pull free. "I will be good, please do not do this."

"Oh, I know you will be good, and I shall do this." I had to firm my resolve. His pitiful look almost melted my temper.

I pulled a strap of leather from the packs on the bed. Sevianth squirmed in my grip, but I held him tight. I sat on the stone pallet and pulled him into my lap. He was wailing by this time. I used my arm to hold him in place and brought the strap down onto his bottom. I repeated the action seven more times as he screamed loud enough to raise the spirits of the departed. Fortunately no one came to see inquire about the ruckus.

"You shall sit there." I placed him on the stone pallet. There were still cushions on it, so it would not be too hard on his injured regions. "And you shall not move until we say you can. Understood?"

"Yes." He was still crying.

"What? You say yes, jesisenia when you answer me or Sal, understood?" It was harsh, but the boy had to learn.

"Yes jesisenia." He may have said it in a grudging tone, but at the least he did say it.

He was still sitting on the stone pallet when Sal and Iolaine returned. I had been able to sharpen my sword and polish my daggers in piece. He soon cried himself to sleep. I was grateful. My head was starting to hurt from trying to watch him and finish my duties.

"Well done, Tor, we heard his wailing outside the inn." Sal did not look upset. Iolaine looked almost cheerful over the matter.

"Find you saddles?" I asked as Iolaine poured three mugs of ale.

"We were able to buy one from the inn, we had to return to the market for the other. The boy should fit in the saddle we bought for him." Sal still looked pleased. "We were able to get a good price for it as well. Our companion is quite the bargain hunter."

"Nothen, Salenia, it was merely fortune." He made light of his bartering skills.

"What did you say to the boy?" Sal asked.

"Until he acts as if he were human, he has no name." I told her. "This is wonderful ale. Marlkina will be hard pressed to find its equal." I turned the conversation. I would tell her the rest during our bath.

"That is also true, perhaps though we shall find better. It shall be an interesting journey regardless." Sal finished her mug and poured another round. "Iolaine, you have saddlebags on the stone pallet for your belongings."

"My gratitude for it all, jesisenias. I owe you both a great debt." We could tell he was earnest. It showed in his face and eyes.

"There is none needed." I told him. I knew that he would not believe me so I did not press the point. "Shall we take the boy to the common area, or confine ourselves here for another meal?"

"I do not trust him in public." Sal answered. "I shall ask for a meal while you and Iolaine continue readying us for our journey."

"Agreed."

I sealed our packs when she left. I kept the leather strap I had used on the boy tied to my belt. I felt it would remind him of the consequences of bad behavior. I also felt I would have need for it again. It would not hurt to keep it close to hand.

"I intercepted a servant with our clothing." Sal announced as she opened the door. It must have been difficult with her hands full. Iolaine and I took the packages from her.

"Horse towels." I laughed as I shook our clothing from the large, coarse wrappings.

"It seems that way." She laughed as well. "The meal should be here shortly. I ordered it before I found our clothing."

"Very nice." The clothing had an airy smell to it. It was pleasant. I had packed my kirgeur clothing and the other outfit in one part, but placed the new attire in the other. Sal did the same.

After the meal, Iolaine remained to watch the boy. We had awakened him and made him eat. Iolaine latched the door behind us and promised to begin the boy's lessons in proper behavior. We had to meet our new faelida and plan our journey.

Johianei was waiting for us at a table when we went downstairs. His servants were not in sight. However, he was sitting with an attractive tavern wench. To her dismay, he dismissed her when he noticed us.

"Faelida." We greeted him as we sat down.

"Glad am I to see you." He had been drinking heavily. We could smell the ale on him.

"We need to discuss the journey on the morrow." Sal spoke a little slower than normal.

"Right you are. You have never been to Marlkina?"

"No, faelida, we have not." I answered. "It appears to be a fortnight's ride from here."

"That is at a good pace with no bandit attacks." He waved over another wench. "We need more ale."

"Bandit attacks faelida?" Sal asked. No one had told us of bandits.

"Bandits are common in this area, but I have much faith in you two. Have you a map?"

"We have, faelida." I answered.

"Good, I shall leave you to plot the course. I am not in condition at the moment, and have been promised a private bath. We shall speak of Marlkina in our camps. I shall tell you what to expect then." He turned his attention back to his ale.

"Yes faelida. We shall meet you on the morrow after the morning meal." I told him. I had doubts of our ability to keep him from harm. Then again, I reasoned it could have been the ale that made him seem absent minded.

"Did the boy tell you what he knew of our lost ones?" Sal asked as we rested in the second pool. Neither of us wished to speak of Johianei.

"He did under the impression I would spare the strap." I grinned. "They were purchased by the Jilhsaed's men for Soliumant's festival. They are to be presented to him and he is to choose one for his harem. Apparently it is a gift from the slavers."

"Ah, that is going to be a problem." Sal echoed my thoughts again. "At the least we have connections to the palace through Johianei. As body guards we should be able to stay in his presence even in front of the Jilhsaed."

"It is true. Though if we do not get the boy in line, we will not be welcome anywhere." They would not take us for true if we could not even handle a small boy.

"As you have stated it is a long journey to Marlkina. Perhaps with your strap and the three of us we can change his attitude. How was that?"

"It was not the easiest thing I have ever done." I told her the truth. "He begged me not to do it, and I almost gave in. I know now how my father must have felt when he disciplined us."

"I can picture it. You did the right thing, Torienne. He needs to learn respect and manners or he will shatter all our plans." She was serious. "We can think on it on the morrow. For now we should rest. Our dreaming was scant last evening."

"In truth, hopefully we will be undisturbed this night."

The gods did not honor our wish. Once again, we were awakened long before the sun's rise. Sevianth was using my mother's sword to test the ring of the graseleth. Sal made it to the strap before I could roll out of bed.

"Just what, pray tell, were you doing?" She grabbed him by the arm. I grabbed my mother's sword from his hand.

"Swords are not toys, boy." I was greatly angered.

"I liked the way it sounded." He tried to excuse his actions. It did not work.

"Did you not learn anything this afternoon?" Sal was just as angered. I spared a glance at Iolaine. He was in the same state.

"Yes jesisenia." It was apparently the only thing he had learned.

"Tor, may I use your strap?" Sal asked in a calm tone. She held up the object.

"Aight. You may." I grinned. "I shall return to bed then."

"As shall I." Iolaine stretched back out on the sleeping pallet.

I buried my head in the pillow. It was not enough to drown out the boy's crying. Sal was as ruthless as I had been. I could not hear what she told him, but he stopped his crying and laid back on the pallet we had made for him on the floor. I looked over when she slid into bed.

"Are you well?" I whispered as the moon reflected the tears on her cheeks.

"I see what you meant. I shall make my shehala the disciplinarian." She wiped her tears.

"I am sure it always hurts for those who care." I slid a little closer. "Though sometimes it is for the right reasons. We have to remember that." I laid my hand on her shoulder. "Now are you able to dream?"

"I think perhaps. My gratitude, Tor, you are a good friend." She reached up and squeezed the hand I had on her shoulder.

"As are you, Salenia. May your dreams be free of danger." I returned to my side of the bed. I laid awake for several hundred heartbeats before I was able to walk in dreams.

The boy was walking in dreams when I awoke. Sal and Iolaine were already dressed and waiting. One of them had a tray laden with food on the table. It had been the pleasing aroma of the meal that had captured my dream self and returned me to reality. The boy woke soon after.

After the meal Sal and I consulted the innkeeper while Iolaine and the boy took the saddlebags to the stables. Johianei had paid our bill and left word he would meet us at the stables. The innkeeper tendered his apologies again for the disturbance we had walked into nights ago. We accepted and made our way to the stables.

Iolaine had informed the stable hands who he was waiting for and they had brought out our horses. We walked up as he was attempting to saddle them. It was obvious he had never performed the act.

"It is like this." I claimed my saddle and called Kier to me. She nuzzled my neck as I put on her bridle. I laughed. She had missed me. She stood still as I put on her saddle and tightened it. Iolaine watched closely.

He was able to saddle and bridle his own horse after watching me. Sal only had to make minor adjustments to it. I saddled and bridled the boy's horse and tethered it to Kier's saddle. I placed the boy on his horse to keep him out of trouble. With the gelding tethered to Kier, I had no fear of disruptions.

Sal and I were loading the packages we could not fit into saddlebags on the remaining horse when Johianei met us. We had already placed our swords, bows and other weapons on our saddles. We had made sure they were within easy reach, those we did not wear of course. We never went unarmed.

"Shall we?" He waved over his two servants. They were leading three beautiful horses and a mule. The horses had been saddled and the mule was laden.

"Yes faelida." Sal and I saluted him. It was to be our first real day of employment.

We mounted our horses and headed from of the inn's yard. We rode in single file. I led the train, and Johianei's male servant guided the mule at the end. The horses were eager to move. Though in the heat, we took a slow pace. We had no desire to lose a horse to the climate. The mule would have held us back regardless.

Once outside the city walls, we rode as a group. Sal and I bracketed Johianei as Iolaine led the others. I did feel pity for him. He had never been on a horse before. Though he had enjoyed it at first, I knew he would be hard pressed not to complain before dusk.

As we rode, Johianei told us of Marlkina. It sounded too incredible to be real. He also told us of our duties. We were to guard his life and property. He owned the viniare rights, but he only collected revenue from it. He was of a rank where he did not actually work. Apparently he spent most of his days at the palace. It suited us perfectly. He was one of the Jilhsaed's advisors. We could not have planned it better.

"We should give them a rest." I called a halt to our progress. We had not seen a single tree. The landscape was nothing but sand. It was about to get tedious.

As everyone walked the stiffness from his or her legs, Sal and I consulted the map. We were traveling in the right direction. The map showed a stream a day's ride from Creasinda and we planned to make that our first camp. In truth, water was scarce and I planned to stop whenever we came across even the smallest stream. Sal agreed.

"How is the boy holding up?" I asked Iolaine.

"He seems to be fairing well despite his tender area, jesisenia." He tried not to grin.

"And you?" Sal asked as she joined us.

"I am well, though a bit sore, jesisenia." He was following the protocol we had set for our disguise. "Shall I retrieve the trail rations?"

"Please." I answered. Travel always made me hunger.

Johianei's female servant provided him with food, so we did not offer ours. The four of us ate in a rough circle. The boy appreciated standing. We could tell he was still sore, he continued to rub himself. We felt no pity for him.

As soon as we had finished, we were back on the horses. We rode in the same arrangement as before. Johianei was open to questions, and we plied him with many. We soon learned that it rained rarely, women had the status of their fathers and then their husbands as a general rule, and the festival should contain at least one tirgeaur hunt. We were gladdened by the news of the hunt. He also informed us that although female warriors were rare, they were not unheard of in this region. Apparently the Jilhsaed's favorite guard was female. She had died for him during an attack seasons prior to our arrival.

We had been progressing faster than I had reckoned. We reached the stream before dark. I called a halt regardless. I wished a bath and the stream looked inviting. Iolaine started a fire with the little brush available while Sal and I set our bedrolls near the fire. We had remembered to get ones for Sevianth and Iolaine, but left those for them to put where they would.

"Boy." I called him over. He was walking in small circles to ease the stiffness in his legs. "This is a sleeping roll. Place it close to one of ours, you shall help keep watch tonight." I decided I would watch with the boy so I could use the opportunity to teach him protocol.

"Yes jesisenia." He was still sullen. However, he did lay his bedroll next to mine.

"Fish?" Sal asked.

"Have you tongue to use as bait?" I teased her in our own language.

"Perhaps I shall use yours." She grinned. "We should be able to use trail meat. It should soften in water."

"We could forgo the string and toss them on shore." I grinned. I had not caught fish by hand since my youth.

"Like youngsters?" Sal grinned as well. "Agreed."

"Iolaine, do you know how to fish?" I asked him.

"No, jesisenia, I do not." He stood up.

"Then follow, remove your boots and bring the boy." Sal told him. "I shall inform faelida of dinner."

"Agreed. I shall show these two how to start."

I took my boots off and rolled my pants up to my knees. I made sure Sevianth and Iolaine did the same. Sal joined us as we were entering the water. I waited until she had removed her boots before showing the others how to choose places to seek fish. Iolaine was thrilled with this method. Even the boy showed signs of normalcy and seemed to enjoy it.

Johianei and his servants watched from the bank as Sal and I taught our "servants" to fish by hand. They were amused with our antics. Sal instructed Iolaine as I showed Sevianth. The first time he touched a fish he laughed and squealed. He also let it go. I laughed and showed him how to hold on to one. Soon we had several fish flopping on the bank.

We gathered the fish and showed Iolaine and the boy how to cleanse and filet them. Iolaine took over from there. He soon had fish frying in every available utensil. Johianei provided viniare and his female servant assisted Sal in hunting for edible roots. I left the boy to learn how to cook. He would learn better from Iolaine than from Sal or I.

"Does everyone fish in that manner where you come from?" Johianei asked.

"No, faelida. It was a survival skill our instructor taught us in our youth so we would not injure ourselves with hooks and twine." It was almost accurate. My grandfather had taught me to fish in that manner. It was a favorite game of his.

"And you were teaching them that for future use?" He asked indicating the two by the fire with a nod of his head.

"Yes, faelida. It seemed a wise course of action." I was hoping it did not break protocol.

"Next time, would you mind teaching mine? I have never seen that technique performed before. It would be useful for them to know as well."

"I shall, faelida." I promised. It did not sit right with me that he did not even call his servants by name.

"My gratitude. I must say fresh fish would be more appeasing than trail food." He let his disgust for the hard cakes and dried meat show on his face.

"I could not agree more, faelida."

I turned back to check on the boy. He appeared to be listening intently to Iolaine. Sal had returned and placed the roots and other vegetation she had gathered on a rock by the fire. The female servant had gone to assist the other erect a tent. Apparently Johianei did not dream beneath the stars.

We ate in silence. Our faelida did not speak to servants. We had to follow his example while he was with us. His servants finished and took the dishes to the stream to wash. They even washed the utensils Iolaine had used to cook the meal. When they returned, they entered the tent and did not reappear.

"I am for bed. Peace be your dreaming." Johianei called as he entered his tent.

"And to yours, faelida." We called after him.

"I am for a swim." Sal stood. "You?"

"Aight. Iolaine, can you watch the boy while we bathe? You can bathe when we return."

"Yes, jesisenia."

"I think I shall sit watch with the boy if you sit with Iolaine." I told Sal as we undressed.

"Good plan. Perhaps I can teach him to read." Sal had finished shedding her clothes before me as usual. I watched her ease into the water. It was not deep enough for her to dive.

"That was part of my plan." I grinned at her as I entered the water. It felt wonderful and cool. "I shall see if I can hammer protocol into our young companion's head."

"You may need a hammer." Sal laughed. "I think I have the easier duty."

"You did not wish to be the disciplinarian." I replied without thinking of the context in which she had made that statement.

"That I did." She appeared not to put the two statements to comparison. "I almost pity you, but I am too grateful I do not have charge of him."

"I understand." I walked to the middle of the lake and suddenly discovered it was deeper than we had assumed.

Before I knew it, I was underwater completely and there was no bottom beneath my feet. I could not kick myself back to the surface. I reigned in my panic and tried to slice the water with my arms and use the motion to pull myself to the top. I could not swim well enough to make it before I needed air. My lungs felt as if they were on fire. Frantic, I hastened my motions until I felt a hand grab my hair. I let myself be pulled to the surface.

"Now may I teach you to swim?" Sal asked calmly when I had regained my breath and my footing. "Not tonight however, I think you are tired now. Are you unharmed?"

"I think I am." I took a deep breath. Sal had a real look of concern on her face. "My unending gratitude for saving my life."

"None needed." She waved away my thanks. "On the morrow if we find another stream or some other body of water, I shall teach you to swim."

"Will I or no?" I asked. We started to the shore.

"I would not like to repeat this night's averted disaster. You have no choice in the matter." Her stern tone convinced me.

"I agree regardless." I grinned to illustrate I was in perfect health and humor.

We were silent as we dressed. We found Iolaine watching the fire as the boy slept on his bedroll. I chuckled a bit when I saw he was dreaming on his stomach.

"Shall I wake him?" I asked Sal's opinion.

"Let him sleep. He can bathe in the morning. Now we shall take first watch, you should be more tired after your averted accident in the stream."

"My gratitude." I threw myself down on my bedroll. "Wake me when you are tired."

"Agreed."

I remained awake long enough to hear Sal warn Iolaine of the sharp drop off in the stream. He sounded relieved I had not met a watery death. In truth I was as well. It would not be the way a kirgeur should depart from this realm. Regardless of my scare, I fell deep into dreaming. I woke only when Sal shook me for my turn at watch.


[part 6]

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