“Rather surprised you’ll be coming with us,” said Gwydd, walking alongside Abbé Rondel. “Sort of figured you’d be staying back at the abbey.”
“Oh, no,” answered the Abbé
with a satisfied nod. “I’ve a great deal of business in Tremisona. Someone must handle selling our goats, after all.” He glanced at one of the goatherds. “Step lively, Brother Philaster.”
Gwydd looked at the Abbé
in surprise. “Those guys are monks?”
“The Small Abbey of Secret Wisdom is an active order,” noted Rondel. “We seek Mother Night in this world She has made through doing.” He chuckled. “And we’re too poor to employ others to herd our goats for us. So you see, it’s a perfect solution.”
“I wonder if your brothers think that,” said Gwydd quietly.
“I worked the herds, same as them, when I was younger,” replied the Abbé
. “And when I pass, one of them will stand in my place.”
“I hope for you sake one of them doesn’t decide he’d prefer your job,” said Gwydd,
Rondel laughed at that. “Rest assured, I’m sturdier than I look.”
Gwydd gave a cynical snort. “I’ve heard that from more dead men than you’d care to know.”
“You talking about that creepy scratchy breath thing they usually do if they’re dying slow?” said Faileuba as she approached.
“The death rattle,” noted Meliadus.
Faileuba turned to her partner. “No kidding!” She gave a laugh. “You know, I’d heard the term, but I’d never connected it to that thing! It’s quite appropriate!” She shuddered. “It is creepy as hell though.”
“Still better than that other thing,” noted Meliadus.
“Holdfast, why do you have to keep talking about the creepy parts of our job…” groaned Faileuba.
“It’s my nature, Fai,” he replied with a shrug. He looked at Gwydd. “How’d we wind up talking about corpses? I think I missed that.”
Gwydd gestured to Rondel. “I was just commenting on our employer’s self-confidence in his longevity.”
“Yes,” stated the Abbé
. “After warning me to be wary of my underlings making a power play.”
Faileuba’s face lit up. “Ah! One of those jobs!” She turned and looked over the goatherds. “What’s the name of the shifty-looking one? The one standing on the far right, near the beech tree?”
“That’s an ash,” stated Meliadus.
“Let’s just split the difference, and call it a big tree,” muttered Faileuba.
“The Brother is Macsen, and the tree is most definitely an ash,” stated Rondel.
“Whatever. He’s a sneaky bastard, and he’s your man,” declared Faileuba. She shook her fist at the young man. “You hear that, Macsen? We’re on to you!”
The man stared at her nervousness. Rondel coughed. “I believe I need to go… calm the poor boy down.”
Gwydd watched the Abbé
dart away, and then turned his partner. “You… really aren’t taking this seriously at all, are you?”
“Nah,” said Faileuba. “It’s a bunch of goats, Palepole. I’m not particularly worried about scaring off any amorous mountain boys.” She gave a dismissive wave. “I mean--how bad could they be?”