Carnivores of Darkness and Light: Journeys of the Catechist, Book 1 by Alan Dean Foster

By his side Simna was silent for some time, until the ship’s bell rang three times to announce the serving of the midday meal. “Perhaps it does not, Etjole, but you can’t deny that it makes you something more than an ordinary man.”

Removing his arms from the rail, Ehomba straightened. “Not something more, friend Simna. Not something more.”

“Well then, bruther—something other. No, don’t try to explain it to me. Not now.” The swordsman grinned broadly. “Some days you talk like the most ignorant backcountry bumpkin I ever met, and other times I can’t make up or down of your manner of speaking, much less what you’re actually saying. Are you genius or imbecile? Idiot simpleton or sorcerer supreme? For the life of me, I can’t decide.”

His tall friend smiled gently. “Perhaps I am a genius imbecile. Or idiot adept.”

Simna ibn Sind shook his head slowly as he rested a comradely hand on his companion’s shoulder, having to reach high to do so. “Time enough yet to descry the truth. Doesn’t matter one way or the other so long as there’s treasure in it. Now come, and let’s have something to eat. I’ll wager you could use a drink.”

Pushing out his chin, Ehomba rubbed appraisingly at his neck. “To tell you the truth, my throat is a little sore.”

* * * *

So it was that Ehomba the Catechist and his ill-matched companions came safely to the great harbor city of Lybondai, which lies on the silver coast of the kingdom of Premmois, beneath the perpetually snow-capped Mountains of Nerimabmeleh. There they discovered that in so worldly and cosmopolitan a community not even an Ahlitah was cause for much comment, and their presence among thousands of other travelers from all over the known world went largely unremarked.

All this was consoling to Etjole Ehomba, who was very tired. But being interested in everything, and everything in which he presently found himself being subsumed in newness, he found that he was able to lift his spirits by the asking of questions, a habit too deeply ingrained in him and too much a part of him to break even in unfamiliar surroundings.

Exasperated by his companion’s continual querying of every other individual they encountered, Simna finally blurted, “Etjole, must you know everything?”

“Yes,” his friend responded without hesitation.

“Must there be an answer to everything?”

The herdsman looked at him as guilelessly and openly as it was possible for one person to look at another. “Of course there must be, Simna. To everything. Otherwise, why would I be here? Or you, or Ahlitah, or anyone else? Why would I be looking to find a Visioness Themaryl, or chancing the wrath of this Hymneth the Possessed? Why would—”

“I’m sorry I asked.” Ignoring the bustle and noise of the tavern in which they were presently tarrying, the swordsman buried his face in the simple ceramic goblet before him. “Shut up and finish your drink.” At their feet, curled up tight beneath the table, Ahlitah stretched, extended enormous curved claws, yawned, and slipped indifferently back to sleep.

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Categories: Alan Dean Foster