When Lee-Lack woke Yllyesh had already risen, leaving only a vague waft of bark and moss.
A pungent though not unpleasant smell was coming from the main room when the robber came down the stairs.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“And a good morning to you too,” the Mukthar said in a cheerful tone. “Indeed, it is a nice day.”
Lee-Lack growled something indistinct.
“I like something warm to drink with my breakfast,” Yllyesh said, unperturbed. He ladled something out of a pot on the stove into a beaker. “Here, have some warm wine with cloves and honey. It will chase the night chill from your bones, though I must admit most people drink it mainly in winter time.”
Although still early, it was already warm.
“Smells nice,” Lee-Lack said.
“The smell probably reminds you of clove cookies. Didn’t you say your grandmother liked baking sweet stuff?”
“I wish that had been her only pastime. Really, why couldn’t she bake, sew and keep a few chickens or so?”
“Because she was a fierce warrior woman. We Mukthars value them, at home as in battle alike.”
“If you say so.”
They ate in silence.
“I’m going to Dullcarry today. I know people there. Dependable people. They will look after the house during my absence,” Lee-Lack said after he had finished eating.
“Won’t they wonder where your grandmother is?”
“I’ll tell them she went to Dermolhea and never returned. They won’t ask for details, and I won’t offer any. The father used to be a member of the Renuvian Plains Robbers. When he died of an illness, I looked after his widow and her three young boys. It was too dangerous for her to stay in Mirkadesh, so I bought her a house and some land in Dullcarry. I say I bought it, but actually the money came from the treasury of the Renuvian Plains Robbers. I felt we should take care of our own. The oldest is a sturdy guy of eighteen now.”
“The main treasure may be lost, at least for the time being, but I have enough gold and precious stones stashed away nearby to last me a lifetime and then some. I needn’t disturb that secret hoard either. What I have in the house is more than enough for a trip to Tarbalainn.”
“Will they recognize you?” Yllyesh asked. “I mean, without your disguise.”
“I think so. Remember Ereon? The one who attacked me on the plains? I needed to tell him explicitly who I was, and even so it took a few moments, but eventually it came to him. Anyway, you just keep low while I’m away. I doubt you will see anyone”
Lee-Lack returned late in the afternoon. He had crossed almost half the clearing on his way to the house when Yllyesh appeared from the woods, carrying a bow and a full quiver of arrows.
“I was trying to shoot something for supper, but no luck,” he said when they met at the house.
“It’s just as likely you took cover, bow and all, just in case,” Lee-Lack thought. “You probably didn’t think that I would betray you, but you didn’t want to run any risk all the same. Very smart.”
The robber didn’t feel annoyed or wronged. On the contrary, if he had to take to the road with anyone at all in tow, he preferred his company to be alert and cautious.
“I bought bread, meat, and some vegetables from the widow,” Lee-Lack said, and he smiled at Yllyesh. “Well, I tried to but she refused to accept money from me. Asgall will arrive early tomorrow. As soon as he’s here and I’ve shown him around, we leave. I want to sleep in the Stone next evening.”
“A warm bath.” Yllyesh grinned.
Only a few months ago Lee-Lack would have been irritated by the shallow though innocent remark. Now, he grinned back. A slight feeling of annoyance got to him when he realized that he looked forward to sharing a tub again with the young Mukthar.