Star Dreamer

Chapter XXX: Hour of the Living, Hour of the Dead

[Laurelyn]

The twilight that had lain her misty cloak over the Dun and the surrounding countryside was lit by hundreds of torches that marked the tent encampments. All of the wounded, both Hillrover and McLenan, had been carried out, and settled in the two nearby caves that had been the McLenan hiding places before the battle. Maybe not the most conducive of places for wounded men, but better than the makeshift tents, since there had not been enough true tents to go around and the temperatures were cold.

Amongst the tents Laurelyn was doing what she could to tidy herself for the ceremonies. The kegs of water (declared untainted by Naomha’s bards) had been taken to the wounded, so there was none to bathe in, and she was loath to change to clean clothes till she bathed. And with only one really functional arm – her other shoulder stiffening while she slept next to Thomis – she was no mood to try to comb her tangle of auburn hair; all she could do was tie it back with a ribbon. As she worked she glanced over to where the horses were tied and remembered young Cerson’s comment that he’d been wounded trying to get her thrice-damned horse – it seemed that Beast was just irritated enough by the night’s events to sink her teeth into the first poor soul who laid hands upon her. Luckily for Cerson he was a fast lad and had only gotten a scraped hand.

Laurelyn turned at the sound of Thomis’s approach and smiled when she said, “It hardly seems like we slept for four hours – feels like only about five minutes.” Five minutes or four hours – it had been a wonderfully strange experience; for though she had been exhausted Laurelyn had been very aware of laying in Thomis’s arms with two thoughts continuously running through her mind – “he’s my husband” and “we’re alive.”

[Thomis]

“Perhaps we will have more rest in Morrow’s Hold,” Thomis suggested, his own tone expressing his own skepticism at that. Even if another bar brawl did not fall upon them, as had happened to him, Drywen and Allenel in their first visit to the seaside smuggling village, he knew that there would be much to do in reacquainting himself with the maternal side of Laurelyn’s family. And much explaining to the matriarch.

[Laurelyn]

Around them others were stirring and preparing to join Acair and Bheag, and the Bards at the Dun gate. All of the dead had now been lain within, and what supplies would be needed had been removed, and after the ceremonies the Dun of Br’on would be sealed forever.

Thomis and Laurelyn walked together – to stand behind Acair at the ruined gates. Where Toisich would have stood as Chief of the McLenans Bheag waited, looking tired and grim. And Laurelyn wondered if Toisich’s absence was by choice – not that she really cared; he had been one of the fomentors who had brought this down on all of their heads. A man of greed and vengeance, who had led his kin to their deaths. At the signal from the two High Bards the processional filed in and formed an outer circle around the bardic circle – and at the center of the inner circle was a blazing fire.

There were no bodies to be seen in the courtyard – all of them now lay within the Dun itself, though the doors were still open. And after glancing around Laurelyn saw why the tomb had not yet been sealed – Seol, Warpiper of the Hillrover Clan – was to be carried in with honor; his bones had been lain on a tartan covered litter, along with a fine sword.

[Maeve]

To one side, near the back, Maeve shifted from one foot to another – still with only one shoe – and gingerly touched one fingertip to the side of her nose. The swelling had started to go down a bit, she thought as she crossed her eyes to look at the purple skin at the front of her face. Staying focused on her nose was one way to keep from thinking about all the bodies inside the Dun, and how there were MacRories and Calhouns somewhere in this crowd, or whether she should feel guilty for not being worried about where Rue had gotten to (Fionn, mercifully, had not bothered her to feed the babe), or how the serving girl Beud might be faring.

So many tartans. McLenan, Hillrover, MacRorie, and the one she herself had worn at one time, her father’s Calhoun green and gold. She half-expected to catch a sight of the Fhaolain pattern, still draped over Daron Innes’ shoulders. Had Fionn simply forgotten to ask for it back? Maeve wondered. Had he deliberately forgotten to ask for it back? Niall had never even offered to give Maeve the smallest scrap of his clan badge, though Donal had been extremely pleased at the thought of her wearing the MacRorie …

Maeve touched her nose again, letting the brief twinge of pain distract her from where that train of thought would go. And kept silent, as the piper’s bones were carried forward.

[Laurelyn]

Once the circles were closed Naomha’s voice was joined with the voice of the McLenan High Bard, and all of their entourage; their words carrying the power of the clans’ grief in the death of the kin, and their pride in the sacrifices of the warriors, with the naming of each fallen man and woman. All around the circle the surviving warriors beat their shields in rhythm and let loose howls of grief. Again the Dun was filled with a cacophony, but not one of war, but of sorrow given voice.

Then there was silence, which was so sudden that it seemed to fill the Dun with its own eerie presence. And it was within that silence that the honor guard lifted the litter with the Warpiper’s bones and followed the two High Bards, along with Acair and Bheag, into the Dun.

As Laurelyn watched the processional enter the black tomb she was grateful that her presence wasn’t required – she had no desire to ever see the Dun again.

Long moments passed before the processional re-emerged; Acair and Bheag leading everyone, except the bards, out of the shattered gates. Leaving the Bards to close the inner doors and cast their incantations, which would bind the Dun in eternal rest. As they left the courtyard Laurelyn would have sworn she feel the stone reverberate with a piper’s well-played lament.

With the ceremonies nearly at the end Laurelyn braced herself for a long evening. The warriors would hold their own versions of a wake, and she knew she needed to start discussing travel plans with her companions. She looked over at Thomis and said, “You realize that we’re not yet safe from an evening of wedding revelries?” For though there was grieving to be done she knew that many knew that she and her friends would be soon leaving, and would not miss the chance to drink toasts to the new bride and groom.

[Enris]

The ceremony had been powerful and stirring. It was good to see that these clansmen honored their dead soldiers in this way; he could understand how they felt. Less reasonable was the closing of the Dun; it was a strong fortification, with likely strategic value. Still, there was no point in bringing the issue up – but he would keep in mind that it was here,.

It was through the veil of such thoughts that he heard Laurelyn and Thomis discussing wedding revelries. He had thought they were rather close… so, they had just been married. But, hadn’t Thomis been associated with those who were opposed to Seldez? He wasn’t exactly sure – it had been quite a while – but he would exercise due caution so as not to be misled!

Enris approached Laurelyn and Thomis, smiled broadly, and commented “It sounds as if you have married, Laurelyn. Congratulations! Did you make your vows recently?”

[Thomis]

Vows? Thomis almost asked aloud, for the thought of vows brought to his mind the oaths he had made to Mesani I’Se and her grandson. But others had been taken, with Laurelyn, before her father and the High Bard Naomha. Ones that lay as lightly, and more welcome.

[Laurelyn]

Laurelyn chuckled, smiled at Thomis, and answered good-naturedly enough, “We were handfasted about two minutes before all the Hells broke loose.” Her brow furrowed slightly as a realization dawned on her, and she she shook her head, “Make that twice – though I’m not sure I want to explain to my mother that we were handfasted by Uncle Seol – whose been dead well-nigh a hundred years.”

But for all her good-humor the storyteller hadn’t forgotten who she was talking with, nor forgotten how thorough a Seldez “investigator” could be. And she wondered how much Enris knew of Thomis.

“What are your plans now?” she asked.

[Enris]

Enris sighed and replied, “I’m really not sure. I had hoped to bring something – anything – glorious back to Seldez. Something appropriately honorable, perhaps distinguish myself with some great deed. Perhaps a way to bring the teachings of Vactor Adelu to others?” He looked at Laurelyn as if seeking a suggestion.

[Thomis]

As if Laurelyn would not gladly send the man on his way, Thomis mused to himself. Enris, as personable as he was, already had shown himself as thoroughly fanatical … At least here, he did not have behind him the weight of the Seldez military. In this instance, Laurelyn would not find herself standing alone among the vipers.

[Enris]

“I am, clearly, a stranger in these lands. Yet you have family of long standing, and seem to know the area well. Do you suppose there is anyone – anywhere – that could give me further information?”

[Laurelyn]

For a moment Laurelyn had the fleeting nightmare of Enris and Measail getting drunk and having a long philosophical discussion – and Measail was just enough of a fanatic in his own right to buy into some of Adelu’s theories! (The only passing softness she had ever seen in the old clansman was his regret that Teth’s body couldn’t be found for proper honors.) All of which led Laurelyn to the conclusion that her Da had his hands full enough without a Seldez officer about, or Measail sinking his teeth into some new politics. Particularly one that would advocate a return strike on the McLenans.

She gestured that Enris could walk with she and Thomis back to the main camp, and said, “About the only suggestion I could make is Morrow’s Hold – it’s the port town we’re heading for next.”

[Thomis]

Thomis fell into step beside Laurelyn, gladly turning his back on the sealed Dun (the colors would be dark here, and the threads a dirge, for many years he knew).

[Enris]

Enris nodded and continued “This Morrow’s Hold…being a seaport, perhaps some of the travelers would have an idea.” He wasn’t particularly hopeful, but had no better idea.”

[Laurelyn]

“Then you’d be more than welcome to travel along with us,” Laurelyn said, having long since come to the opinion that Thomis and she were destined to have an unusual gathering of traveling companions. None of them exactly meshed, or did in an odd ways, so Enris had as good a chance as any with the group. And for a split second she wondered if he too was going to be joining them on their quest for the Star Dreamer?

[Thomis]

The Oath-bound concealed any surprise he might have felt … which was not much. He had doubted Laurelyn would be willing to leave Enris to his own in the highlands … the Hillrovers and the McLenans would find it difficult enough to maintain a truce without the destabilizing influence Enris could be.

[Laurelyn]

They were beginning to make their way amongst the tents and campfires, and Laurelyn pondered her next statement. Somehow, due to Enris’s vocal enthusiasm, she suspected that he had been a newer officer, since the more senior ones she had met had had just as much conviction, but had carried it with more subtlety. And much as she disliked Seldez’s methods she did owe her survival in Chatteron to their troops, even if they had eventually lost the battle to the League. So she said, “Enris, a couple points about Morrow’s Hold… walk a bit carefully there. They aren’t big into discussing politics or governments – most of their attention has to be on surviving the sea’s moods, and bringing in a catch. And if they manage that then they celebrate hard to rejoice that the seas spared them one more day.”

This was as close as Laurelyn was going to come to telling of Morrow’s Hold’s fickle nature – a nature ruled by the sea and the dangers of being smugglers on the side. But she did add, “The reason I mention this is that the weather will play a large factor in who’s in port and what news you will be able to find. So you might be there for a while.”

[Enris]

He nodded and replied “Yes, I understand. And since we will be going to these different lands, perhaps it would be best if I adapted my clothing to what is worn locally. I believe you call these garments ‘tartans’? Do you suppose that there might be a way to obtain some clothing such as that?” After a short, embarrassed silence, he continued “I regret to say that the journey following you has been long, and I have only a single silver left. But, perhaps some of my magical skills could be used…?”

Enris continued “It will not be easy to fully adapt to the behavior of your people -I doubt that I could match the speech patterns and accents. But perhaps if I say little, I would bring little attention to myself. As the great leader says…” Enris caught himself, smiled, and continued “Do you suppose there might be a simple tartan I could obtain?”

[Laurelyn]

The smile that Laurelyn gave was an honest one, and she said, “I think we should be able to find you more discreet tunic and trousers. What my clansmen are wearing are actually called ‘kilts’ which are made from the patterned cloth called a ‘tartan.’” And I understand that wearing a kilt takes some getting used to for outlanders.”

As they tactfully dodged some well-meant offers of mead for the bride and groom Laurelyn added, “And you’ll find that the accents are less heavy in Morrow’s Hold – so you should have few problems on that front. They’re used to travelers coming through.”

Before Thomis and she got caught up in any celebrations Laurelyn asked around for the needed clothes, and a spare horse for the next day. She said, with a quiet smile, “Believe me, this is small pay for the healing spells you used this day.”

[Farrell]

“Aye to thet indeed,” Farrell MacRorie added, stopping by the three with a good-natured greeting to all of them. His earlier willingness to gift Laurelyn with the mage’s head on a spear had given way to a cautious, but easy-going, approach to the man, marked by a hearty slap on one shoulder in welcome. “Stay leung enou’ end we well have ye dancing reels in a kelt as levely as me daughter en hare skairts.” He lifted a full leather stein to his mouth, took a long draught, and then wiped the foam from his beard. “Aye, she’s a leuvely lass, Laurelyn Hillrover, as fair as Mairaid, end soon to peck a hendsome led to gie hare eun hend.”

[Laurelyn]

“Of that I would have no doubts,” Laurelyn said with an easy smile at Farrell, though she was a little in shock that time had flown so quickly and his daughter was no at marrigeable age. Which, of course, actually was only fifteen in the mountaings, but still…

Others came over to urge the bridal couple over to Acair’s fire, so Laurelyn put Enris in the care of a couple cousins, who would see to finding him some appropriate clothing.

As Laurelyn and Thomis were shown to Acair’s fire it became obvious that this was no small gathering – for many had come to the Chief’s campsite. Already one of the apprentice Bards was in full recitation – though there was no sign of Naomha – and several wineskins were going around. But despite the mob Laurelyn spotted her father and made her way to where he sat.

Acair smiled when he saw his daughter and her new husband approach, and gestured to seats of honor to his right. Bheag sat on his left. The Chief chuckled tiredly, looking as if he could use several nights sleep, and said, “I’m afraid that there will be no rest for while….”

“They need a few festivities,” Laurelyn added, knowing that by being both the Chief’s daughter, and married this day, that she had acquired the responsibility to give the clan a cause to celebrate. She gestured to Thomis, and said, “We were bracing ourselves for it.”

“But I think you’ll be forgiven,” Bheag added, “If you dose off after a while.” He too looked weary. Nor was he in an easy situation. He had seen to his men – who had no cause to celebrate anything except being alive – but he was also required to sit at the conqueror’s fire. Acair needed to make a clear sign that not only were the McLenans now under his protection while the two clans camped together, but that the Hillrovers were the winners this day. Bheag McLenan was well-aware that Acair could have easily ordered all of the McLenans put to death. So a seat at the Hillrover’s fire was small price to pay.

Laurelyn nodded and said, “I might be able to stave that off if I don’t have much wine.”


[In the caves – Deasgann and Beud]

In the depths of one of the caves, which was warmed by a decent fire, Deasgann came over to check on Beud. The girl had not stirred during the move, but fortunately she had not worsened either, and her mother wasn’t sure if it was the wound, Rudolopho’s spell, or the first sleep spell that bound her child. But if Beud was feeling no pain, and might even be getting the rest she needed to heal, her mother would make no complaint. She knew that soon the High Bards of both clans would begin the incantations to ease the passage of the dead and close the Dun, but she was too tired and eased her tired, and pregnant, body down so she could sit next to Beud. “I can pray for them just as well from here,” Deasgann murmured.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho noted Deasgann move over toward them and ease herself down to rest by Beud. Though the cold floor did not bother him in his current form, he knew that it would be hard on her. He got up, stretched his legs a bit, then moved over to where she sat. He looked at her for a moment to see if she had any objections to his presence. She didn’t seem to, so he sat down as close to her as he could, sharing the body warmth is fur afforded him. It felt strangely comforting that she was here. He put his head on her lap and continued to watch Beud.

[Deasgann]

With the warmth of the dog… or boy… against her side Deasgann had fallen into a restive dose. But a faint moan brought her instantly awake – to find Beud making small mewling sounds of pain as she returned to consciousness.

Frantic Deasgann shook Rudolpho and said, “Find a healer quickly, lad!”

[Rudolpho]

Though Rudolpho had woven a sympathetic spell to Beud that would slow the bleeding, he had not kept her asleep. It was the other spell that prevented her from waking. If she awoke now, his spell would keep her lethargic at best. He had also perked up his ears when Beud began to stir, but it was Deasgann’s frantic urging that prompted him to act. He jumped to his feet and raced out of the cave.

He wondered briefly about how best to find a healer. It would take him too long to find Keir even with his sense of smell. Outside the cave, the people were celebrating and there was a strong scent of ale and smoke from the campfires. He couldn’t afford to waste the time looking so he did the next best thing. He stood at the mouth of the cave and began to bark. He continued to scan the crowd for Keir as he did but barked loud enough to attract some attention from those who celebrated a short ways away.

[Fionn]

“Soft, boy, er ye’ll weck the dead.” That comment bought the Fhaolain more than one dark look from the Hillrovers around him, but Fionn was more than accustomed to dark looks. Maeve always had her fair share to toss in his direction, after all. He half-knelt by the dog’s side, looking more closely at his eyes in the torchlight. “Madadh,” he murmured, carefully running one hand from the top of his head and along his back. Not shifter’s blood, not fey, but something else. Like many who traveled with Laurelyn Hillrover.

[Outside – Daron]

Daron wandered around the campsite, keeping to the edge, consciously avoiding the people around her. A deathly chill permeated her bones, one that could not be warmed by any earthly fire. She fingered the tartan scarf – still draped from when Fionn placed it about her neck – with the air of someone seeing it for the first time. She supposed she should give it back to its rightful owner. But there was no rush…

The artist saw Death walk about the living that day. And she was its instrument, destroying those who stood against the Hillrovers as she protected Rue. She could not remember the first man’s face or name (did not want to remember) that she killed defending an infant that, while she held her, touched a chord in the artist’s heart, stirring a longing that she did not understand.

Yet Daron knew the image of the man’s violent demise at her hands, as well as the other deaths she had caused, would haunt her dreams for days to come. If not the rest of her life.

The artist wandered off towards the woods. She leaned against one of the trees, sliding down its length to the ground. Her emerald eyes, haunted by what she had seen, soon closed, and she drifted off into a fitful sleep.

[Luatha]

“A quiet night,” she murmured. A flicker of moonlight against the trunk, and between breaths she sat, one leg curled under and one pulled up, over which she draped her dark hair and leaned forward to study the face of the sleeping woman. About her, low against the ground, something silent and shadowed moved. “Nay,” Luatha said to it, one hand stroking over … fur? moss? in any event, something the same shade as her gown, silvered green. “He placed it ‘round her neck himself. Let her sleep … and let her wake.”

Luatha moved, to lean, on hands and knees, over the dreaming artist, black hair sweeping forward to brush over the other woman’s hands, where the fingers curled about the tartan. And in a glimmer of moonlight, she was gone.

[In the cave – Rudolpho]

Having attracted attention to himself, Rudolpho felt he could change back. Fionn might know what do. He affected the change and adjusted his clothing so that the shallow gash in his side wouldn’t show. “Fionn do you anything about healing? Beud is waking up and I don’t see Keir.” He steped aside from Fionn and shouted again “Is there a healer around?”

[Keir]

“Yes, yes I’m coming blast it!” Despite the return of one rabbit the healer was in a dour mood as he passed among his patients. The news that Laurelyn and Thomas had married on the sly without their friends – namely him – present had not set well. As much as he wished to celebrate he found himself huffing and snapping at everyone. Still, he patted Rudolpho’s shoulder as he moved by and knelt at Beud’s side. Noting the boy’s concerned look he spared him any casual barb.

Beud’s breathing was labored but her pulse, while yet slow, was not as thready as it had been. Lowering his head to her chest he couldn’t detect the soft periodic hiss of blood that had been there earlier. Whether it had healed sufficiently to withstand the full pressure of a restored heartbeat he wasn’t certain but her body was struggling against the spell. Sitting back on his heels he gave Rudolpho a stern but hopeful look. “Time to release her son, and pray.”

[Deasgann]

Beud’s mother moved aside to let Keir in and sat watching helplessly, hopefully, as the time came for Beud to be freed of all magics. In moments it would come time for the girl’s will to decide whether she would live or join her ancestors in the Halls of Glory. There was no doubt in Deasgann’s mind that her daughter had earned the right to sit with the warriors in the Eternal Halls, but she prayed to the ancient gods of stone and sea that Beud would stay and live out a full life.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho hid a wince as he turned back to look at Beud. He figured he should say something about his wound, but Beud’s condition was more serious. His could wait till later. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you and I guess I panicked a little.” He watched quietly as Keir looked her over. He resisted the impulse to ask if she would be okay. Keir finally answered, with a stern look. Rudolpho carefully pulled out the doll he had made of Beud from his pack. He looked at Beud for a moment then broke the spell that held her with a quick tug at the hair bound her to the doll. Under his breath he murmered “Please…”

[Beud]

With another small moan Beud began to regain consciousness – her eyelids starting to flutter open.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho continued to hold his breath as Beud woke up, not daring to exhale, thinking something might yet go wrong. His posture did ease a bit as he watched her wake, only to stiffen again. Not having to worry about Beud anymore, he became painfully aware of his own wound. He stifled a gasp and looked down. The fibers of his shirt were stuck to the dried blood on the wound. He would have to wash up later to get it loose. Maybe there would be a river or something. He covered his side with his arm so no one would see.

[Fionn]

Fionn waited, off to one side, as Keir tended to the girl. And only after Beud’s breathing had settled and it had become apparent – to everyone’s relief – that she had fallen into a normal doze did he move forward again to crouch by Rudolpho. “Time, I think, for ye to have yer own seen to,” he commented in a low voice, not looking towards the boy.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho glanced at Fionn, who looked straight on. “I’ll be fine. Keir’s busy right now. He needs to look after Beud. It’s not a bad cut, just have to wash it I think.” He tried to sound convincing, but wondered if Fionn was buying it. He didn’t think he was buying it.

[Fionn]

The highlander made no other comment as the Hortus finished tending to Beud, and waited until the small man announced, to everyone’s relief, that the girl seemed to be beyond danger and on her way to recovery. Only then did Fionn interrupt, softly, to point out that Rudolpho seemed to have his own injury. The very mention of the boy being hurt was enough to cause Deasgann and half a dozen other woman to descend on him, clucking to themselves and, for a few minutes at least, getting in Master Keir’s way. But they sorted themselves out quickly enough, and fetched clean water and fresh cloth to be used on the boy.

Fionn lingered only long enough to make sure Rudolpho would not protest … and to make sure that the injury was, indeed, something easily tended to. After that, he picked himself up to hunt out the woman who had kept Rue – a few minutes there only, to see the babe wrapped warmly and placed into a rough cradle fetched from the Dun before its closing. No reason to carry her away from the warmth, he knew, when this stranger would treat her more kindly than her own mother. The morning would be soon enough, to take her away from this Dun and on to Morrow’s Hold. And perhaps beyond, if Laurelyn Hillrover would have them.

[Rudolpho]

The young gypsy was very much relieved to hear that Beud would be fine. He was however surprised when Fionn brought him to the forefront. He didn’t have a chance to protest as the women began to inspect him tenderly and found his wound. They began to fuss over him, and he found that he truthfully didn’t mind the attention. He did not however show it. He put up a half-hearted attempt to avoid their probing hands, but there were too many of them to continue that very long.

They were eventually able to remove the tunic, which had now dried to the wound, and to clean it out. One of the women admonished him for allowing the wound to go untended for so long. “Yeung man, whet were ye thankin? Ded ye went enfection te set en?”

Rudolpho only looked down at his shoes and mutter a quiet “No ma’am. I didn’t think…” She cut him off with a short “Aye. Ye dedn’t” She ruffled his hair as she stepped aside to let Keir bind the wound. Rudolpho couldn’t help but notice the shambles his tunic was in as it lay at his feet.

[Keir]

The healer vainly tried to shoo the woman away and give him room as he wrapped Rudolpho’s side. He shook his head as he finally secured the bandage. “You’ve more guts than sense young man and you’re damned lucky they aren’t lying all over the courtyard in that blasted Dun.” The reproachful look he gave the lad only softened when he saw his eyes were still locked onto Beud. “Stay by her son, you’re probably the best medicine she could have right now.” he whispered with a wink.

[Beud]

“Mam?” Beud said in a tiny, raspy voice.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho smiled when he heard Beud speak. He grabbed a nearby skin and took it over to where she lay. “She’s busy right now. Have some water.” As she took a sip he smiled a little and said “Welcome back.”

[Beud]

Beud weakly returned his smile, and said, “I …dremt ye were a beg cet…...”

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho looked into her blue eyes and replied gravely “I was.” He smiled and continued, “and a bear and a bird too.” He paused as a thoughtful look came across his face and he looked down. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to stop that man from stabbing you. I told you I’d protect you and I let you down.”

[Beud/Deasgann]

Beud reached out and touched his hand, and said, “Et heppens…there wes blood ell ever the place …Ey am better eff then the ethers….E’m aleve.”

She looked up at him with complete confidence and said, “E’ve ne deubts thet ye seved me….”

Deasgann looked up from where she checked on another patient – to give the young ones time alone – and smiled.

[Rudolpho]

“I did what I could. I’m just glad that your…that you didn’t go away. I was so scared that you would get up and start walking around with a far away stare in your eyes. I don’t know if I could have taken that…” He trailed off and stared for a moment. Then, as he so often did, Rudolpho shook his head like a dog shaking off water and brightened. “But your here and you’re gonna get better and live a long, long time. I’m sure things are gonna get better for you since you warned the chief an all.”

[Beud]

Beud just smiled up at Rudolpho and fell back into a contented doze.

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