The Last Ringbearer

The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Yeskov

Book: The Last Ringbearer by Kirill Yeskov Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kirill Yeskov
no more than drag wisps of sand along the ground, obliterating all tracks. The scout led his comrades west, to Morgai, hoping to meet nomadic Orocuens who would be bringing their cattle there to the spring pastures, and rest a little with one of his numerous relatives. They detoured to Eloar’s camp along the way and dug up the trophies that Tzerlag had been so far-sighted to hide back then. The scout used the opportunity to check on the Elf’s corpse and found it nearly fully mummified; isn’t it strange that neither carrion-eaters nor worms ever touch the Elvish dead – are they poisonous or something? …
    They started their quick march towards the mountains with the first light: to move during the day was to take a huge risk, but they had to use the short time they had when they did not have to worry about concealing their tracks. By the end of the second day the company got to the plateau, but Tzerlag had seen no nomads, and it was beginning to seriously worry him.
    The dale where they camped was green because a little but talkative spring lived there. It must have been lonely and now hurried to tell its unexpected guests all the news of its tiny world: spring is late this year, so the blue irises at the third bend are not in flower yet, but yesterday it had a visit from some gazelles it knew, an old male with a couple of females … one could listen to this quiet melodious murmur forever. Only a man who has spent weeks in the desert drinking nothing but bitter salty water at the bottom of cattle watering holes and meager drops of tasteless tzandoi distillate can appreciate what it means to immerse one’s face into living, running water. It can only be compared to the first touch of a lover after a very long separation; no wonder that the imagination of desert dwellers has not some pompous Crystal Palace of Delights at the center of its Paradise, but rather a small lake under a waterfall …
    Then they drank tea brewed to oily blackness, ceremoniously passing around their only nicked tea bowl somehow preserved by the sergeant through all the troubles (“Real Khandian work, I’ll have you know!”), and now Tzerlag was unhurriedly explaining to Tangorn that green tea has a multitude of virtues, whereas the question of whether it’s better than black tea is akin to the ridiculous one of whether one loves mother or father best – each has its time and place. For example, in the heat of midday … Haladdin was only half-listening to the discourse, just like he was listening to the murmuring of the brook behind large stones, experiencing marvelous moments of quiet happiness, kind of like … family happiness, perhaps?
    The fire, quickly burning down dry salsola roots (their gray trunks covered most of the nearby slope), cast a bright light on his comrades: the chiseled profile of the Gondorian turned towards the moon-like visage of the Orocuen, who resembled some placid Eastern deity. With a sudden heartache Haladdin realized that their strange fellowship was almost over – in only a few days their paths will diverge, probably forever. The baron, once his wound heals completely, will head to the Cirith Ungol pass – he decided to make his way to Prince Faramir in Ithilien – while the sergeant and he will have to decide what to do next.
    It was strange, but having gone through several potentially fatal adventures alongside Tangorn, they have not really found out anything about his previous life. (“Are you married, Baron?” – “Well, that’s a complicated question, can’t just answer yes or no.” “So where is your estate located?” – “I don’t think that’s important any more, no doubt it has been confiscated.”) Nevertheless, with every passing day Haladdin had more and more respect, if not quite love, for this slightly ironical man of few words. Looking at the baron, for the first time he could relate to the idea of ‘inborn nobility.’ Another quality he could sense in Tangorn was unusual for

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