'How many of those gensaroots do we have left?'

A couple of weeks had passed since the first success of their most recent escapade, which Pharlenz had affectionately dubbed The Cloaked Claw. The two men had travelled by valley and gorge, living off the kind nature of others. The winter had not hit them as hard as they had thought and the journey north had been as pleasant as anything. The lands to the north of their home possessed such natural beauty, luscious greens and mountain ranges that pierced the sky, forcing their way beyond the clouds.

'Enough to make the winter and probably to get as far as where we want to be.'

'Not bad,' said Jorrah digging into his seventh sausage of the sitting.

The two brothers had been sitting fireside for the best part of an hour, enjoying the delicate spread of its comforting embrace. Night had set upon them. Despite being deep in the wilderness, the nighttime brought no signs of anything remotely dangerous. There was nothing to fear. Their path was as clear as day to them; all they needed was to tread lightly and not unturf sour feelings on the way. After all, a run in with town marshals would be devastating. As far as the brothers were concerned, no-one needed to read into their history.

The meat, freshly charred and sizzling loudly, gave off the most satisfying scent. It rode over the crisp night air and tugged seductively at their hungry nostrils.

'By Selenia, that old farmer was really something, eh?'

'You're telling me, my brother.'

'Never known a guy who cared more for his goat than his daughter.'

'Eh?' asked Jorrah, mid-gulp.

Pharlenz looked up at him in awe, almost losing a mouthful of goat meat. He let a grunt slip, showing his astonishment at Jorrah's lack of awareness. 'Did you not see, brother?'

'W-what?' he lowered his head. His neck was craned; he resented these lines of questions. 'What was there to see?'

'What was there to see!' Pharlenz — the taller and younger of the two — could barely contain himself. On this occasion, a small chunk of well-chewed goat fell out of his mouth and landed back onto his delicate, wooden plate. 'What was there not to see, is by far the better question!'

Jorrah rolled his eyes. A fire had been lit behind his brother's eyes. Whenever his emotions flared like this there were few people he had met that could come even close to being as impassioned as he.

'Well, to start with, his goats didn't lay on a bed of straw.'


'No, my brother! Something far softer…' Pharlenz afforded Jorrah a short moment to piece things together.

'…aaaaaand…' Jorrah flapped his open palms towards himself, trying to breathe in the smallest inkling of whatever Pharlenz had cognized.

'…aaaaaaaaaaaaand the daughter…' As often was the case, the patchiness of the response left Jorrah with very little as Pharlenz would never give him much to go by.

'And the daughter? And the daughter?! Are you seriously telling me that that is enough to go by?' Jorrah carelessly cast his plate between his legs; another meal had been conquered. He leaned back on his hands and tried to aligned himself with everything that had happened on the small goat farm not a day before. The sky was covered in a thick canopy of fleecy, grey cotton; it was moody and swirled in a way that threatened to open out into a pluvial temper any second. He wore his mind a little and then it came to him. 'The hair?'

Like clockwork, Pharlenz allowed the shortest smirk accompany the slightest nod. 'The hair.' he agreed.

Jorrah — despite beginning to feel the swelling warmth of pride within himself — couldn't help but slip a sigh through clenched teeth. That poor young thing he had seen for a split second, while she passed by the window. Nothing really stood out to him, but his brother's keen eye rarely missed a thing. 'Poor thing.' mumbled Jorrah in a choked disbelief. The words were almost lost in a release of hot air with such weight that it came out as easily as it would a burning hole in his throat.


'By the sky.' Jorrah said to himself under his breath.

Pharlenz rose to his feet and strode up a nearby hill. Embers fell from the end of his freshly-lit smoke. The golden specks pirouetted marvelously, lifted ever so softly by the light the northern wind; their glow dying out just before they could ever touch the ground. Staring in the direction of the next day's trail, he remained perched on the hill for quite some time. His silhouette looked more like an attent meerkat standing atop a small mound than a slender man appreciating the beauty of the wilderness underneath a moonless umbra. He was so far away that Jorrah barely heard him release his own disgust over the soft crepitations of the dying fire next to him.

'By the sodden, sodden sky.'

The words were cast out over The Rolling Wolds that lay before them; a whisper laced with weight. The air had most certainly left his body, but the memory — he could never free himself from that.