Fires of Azeroth
the trees for them that are proper to cut, for wood at need, so that the best trees live and they take the least shapely. This we do throughout Shathan, for their use and ours."
    "Like tenders of gardens," Vanye observed, amazed by such a thought, for in Andur, forested as it was, and even in Kursh, men cut where they would and the trees still outpaced them.
    "Aye," said Lellin, and seemed amused and pleased by such a thought. He patted the shadowy trunk of an old tree they passed in the gathering dusk. "We wander, but I have wandered more in this wood than in any other, and I daresay I know these trees as villagers know their goats. That old fellow has guided me since I was a boy and he was a little slimmer. Gardeners indeed! And if weeds spring up, why, we tend to that too."
    That, Vanye thought, had a chilling undertone to it, having nothing at all to do with trees.
    "It is coming time for camp," Morgaine said. "And have you a place in mind, Lellin?"
    "Carrhend. They will take us into their hall."
    "And shall we endanger another village? I would rather the woods than that."
    Lellin sketched a bow, a backward step as they walked. "I believe you would, my lady, but there is no need. Our horses will find us there in the morning, and everything there is quite secure. You will find folk there you know: some of the Mirrindim have elected to come to Carrhend for their safety, such as did not choose to stay by their own fields."
    Morgaine looked to Vanye, and he ventured no opinion, but he was privately glad when she accepted. More than two years he had spent under the open sky, but Mirrind had retaught him the luxuries he had put from his mind forever, being Morgaine's companion. In his mind was a strong memory of Mirrind's mornings, and fine hot bread and butter, so vivid he could taste it. He was, he thought, losing his keen edge. The Shathana style of travel seemed all too easy ... and yet they had covered much ground in the day's ride, and evaded some manner of trouble.
    Sezar turned up again in their path, walking with them in the gathering dark. Soon enough they saw the forest's edge and a broad expanse of fields. They skirted that open space, keeping within the forest shade, and came into Carrhend at the very last of the daylight.
    The village spilled out to meet them. "Sezar! Sezar!" the children cried with abandon, and they trooped round the khemeis and caught his hands and made much of him.
    "This is Sezar's village," Lellin said as they dismounted. "His parents and sister and four brothers live here, so you see we could not pass by this hospitality; I would not be forgiven."
    They had been maneuvered, but not to their hurt, and even Morgaine took it in good humor, smiling as the elders of Carrhend presented themselves. Three clans lived here: Salen, Eren, and Thesen . . , and Sezar, who was of clan Thesen, kissed his elders both, and then his parents, and his brothers and sister. There was not overmuch astonishment in this visit, as if it were a frequent thing; but Vanye felt for the young khemeis they took perforce into danger with them, and reckoned why he would have been anxious to make this particular stop on their way to Nehmin.
    Lellin also had his welcome with them. Neither young nor old had much awe of him. He took the hands of the kin of Sezar, and was kissed on the cheek by Sezar's mother, which gesture he repaid in kind.
    But suddenly there were the Mirrindim, spilling down the steps of the common-hall, as if they had waited on their hosts' courtesies. Now they came, Bythein and Bytheis, and the elders of Sersen and Melzen, and the young women . . . some of them running in their joy to greet them.
    There was Sin, among the other children. Vanye caught him up out of their midst and the boy grinned with delight when he lifted him up to Mai's back. Sin set himself astride and looked quite dazed when Vanye passed him up the reins ... but Mai was too tired to give him trouble and would not leave Siptah.

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