plenty of food and drink. Enjoy!”

Signaling the musicians to begin, he takes Sheila’s hand as they begin another round of dancing. This time, other couples join them.

James moves again to the side of the festivities since crowds make him nervous. He’s never been one who liked being around a lot of people. Taking his position on the fringe, he watches the dancers, including Miko whom Darria has dragged again to the dance floor.

As he enjoys the music and watches the dancers, he takes notice of two scruffy looking individuals moving along the outer edge of the crowd. Moving to intercept them, he makes his way through the crowd.

“Thought you guys would never make it back,” he says.

“You worry too much,” replies Jiron. Fifer just grins at him.

“Did you get them?” he asks.

Jiron pats a bulge in his tunic and gives him a nod. “We got plenty,” he says.

“I couldn’t believe how many there were,” exclaims Fifer. “I mean, you and Jiron told me, but I didn’t really believe. But then when we went into that cave, my god! There must be thousands more waiting to be harvested.”

When the messenger arrived with the news of Rylin and Sheila’s impending wedding, he decided this would be a good time to collect more of the gems from the cave in the Merchant’s Pass. Taking Jiron and Fifer with him, he sent them up the river shortly after arriving to try and find the entrance to the cave where the gems lay. Jiron was sure he could locate it, so he and Fifer went to search for it while he attended the festivities.

Jiron had taken several of the gems when they last passed through and had them appraised by Alexander back in Trendle. He told them that the gems were of good quality and highly sought after, especially by gem cutters. He informed them of one down in Bearn who would pay an honest price for the rough gems. James then secreted them in his stash in his room at The Ranch to await Delia’s caravan. If she were to sell them, it would draw less attention to him and his activities than if he did it himself.

Roland was glad to see the gems, their immediate problem for coins had been solved. If they made routine expeditions to gather more, then they would never again have to worry about money.

“You guys get cleaned up,” he tells them, “you’re pretty ripe.”

“Was planning to,” replies Jiron. “Just wanted to let you know we’re back.”

“Better hurry, the feast is going to start in a couple hours,” he says.

“Will do,” Jiron says as they begin heading away from the celebration and to the room he and Fifer are sharing while they’re in town. Shawna had agreed to put up James and Miko, but told him the other two would need to find an inn in town.

When the music stops, Miko hurries over to him and asks, “Was that Jiron and Fifer?”

Nodding, he answers, “Yeah.”

With a slightly disappointed look, he says, “Then we’ll be returning in the morning?”

“That’s right,” James tells him. “Go dance with her while you can.”

“You know it!” exclaims Miko as he makes a beeline for Darria. Shortly they’re back on the dance floor.

James sees Shawna standing off to one side talking with another of her trader peers and makes his way over to her. When she sees him coming, she says a few more words to her friend before disengaging and moving to meet him.

“Jiron and Fifer showed up so we’ll be leaving first thing in the morning,” he informs her.

“I understand,” she says. “We’re all glad you were able to make it.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it for anything,” he assures her. Unsure if whether or not it would be a breach of protocol, he extends his hand and asks, “Would you care to dance?”

A smile begins to spread across her face as she replies, “Yes, I would like that.”

As the musicians bring the current song to a close, he escorts her out to the dance floor. Rylin and Sheila see them coming and make room for them. Taking their places, all stand ready as the musicians begin another moderately quick song and the dancing commences.

The rest of the evening goes by quickly. The feast, the last in a long line of feasts they’ve attended throughout the celebration, is by far the grandest. Speeches are made and the festivities last far into the night. Before the feast actually begins, Fifer and Jiron make their appearance. Freshly cleaned, each is wearing a new outfit bought just for this occasion. Jiron is much more pleased with this attire than he had been with the one he wore back in Corillian at the ball celebrating Nate’s return to his family.

Throughout the night, Miko dances primarily with Darria though another girl somehow manages to get him out of her clutches briefly. By the end of the night, everyone is tired. The couple for whom this is for has long since retired, Rylin saying he was tired but no one believed him. Especially when he flashed them all a grin as he and his bride leave the hall.

James finally disengages Miko from his admirers and takes him up to their room on the second floor. “Made quite an impression didn’t you?” he asks.

Miko gives him a grin and replies, “They have nice girls here in Trademeet.”

“That they do,” he agrees.

Back in their room, they get undressed and are soon asleep in bed.

The morning dawns a little grey, and with the summer now over, there’s a bit of a chill in the air. James is the first to awaken and gets dressed quickly. “Wake up!” he hollers over to Miko who groans as he opens his eyes. “No sleeping in today, we have a long way to go.”

Sitting up, Miko tries to come awake as another large yawn escapes him. “Do we have to leave so early?” he asks, swinging his legs over to the floor.

“Yes,” replies James. “I would like to make it home before tomorrow night.”

“Couldn’t we leave later and get there the next day?”

“No. Now get up,” insists James.

With another pitiful groan, he gets up and commences to put his clothes on. “It’s cold!” he complains when his bare feet hit the stone floor.

James just gives him an annoyed look. Strapping on his slug belt, he then puts his shirt on, effectively covering it. Never again will he be caught ill prepared should something go wrong.

Waiting impatiently for Miko to finish getting ready, he moves over to the window and looks out over the city. From their room, you can see across Trademeet to the Silver Mountains. Clouds blanket the sky and he hopes rain will not be in their immediate future.

Turning around, he finds Miko slipping his boots on. “Ready?” he asks.

He slips on the last boot and stands up, “I suppose so.”

“Good,” he says. “Let’s go.”

Leaving their room, they head down the hallway to the stairs and take them down to ground level. The smell of the morning’s breakfast greets them before they even arrive at the dining hall.

Rylin and Sheila haven’t come down yet and he hates to leave without saying goodbye. Shawna is there and waves them over to sit with her. “They probably won’t be down until later,” she tells them. “Newlyweds.”

“I understand,” he assures her. One of the servants brings over a plate of food for both he and Miko.

“Just tell them we wish them all the best and sorry to have missed them,” he says.

“I will,” she replies.

The breakfast is a hearty one of eggs, ham and bread. James gets a large glass of milk, freshly milked this morning and tasting quite a bit different than the pasteurized milk he’s used to getting back home. When they found out he liked milk, they made sure to always have some on hand. Fresh of course, he doesn’t care for chunks in his.

Once they’re done eating, he makes his goodbyes to Shawna, leaving her with a slight kiss on the cheek.

“Come back when you can,” she tells them.

“We will,” he replies. “And if your travels bring you near Trendle, be sure to stop by.”

“I promise,” she says.

Miko is finishing his second plate of food when James stands up. “Let’s go,” he says to him. Grabbing two slices of the bread he makes a ham and egg sandwich to eat as they go. “Bye ma’am,” he says to Shawna as they leave the kitchen.

Вы читаете The star of Morcyth
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