better go back before we’re missed,” Del said. “Crel will complain at
length to Uncle Jamek if she thinks I haven’t done my share of the
Rani grinned. “You’d better go do some, then. Me, too.” Bil Gorben had
been out back, curing hides in the fenced-in area behind the shop. If
Rani was lucky, he might get back before the tanner noticed his absence.
He left Del at the stable, and returned to the tannery. Bil was waiting for him at the door. “Rani.”
Rani awaited his scolding, but the tanner said, “You want to be out chasing it too, don’t you, lad?”
“I... I don’t know,” Rani said, truthfully. He knew only that he was intensely interested.
“It’s just foolishness,” Bil said. “That tengrem has done no harm that I can see. We shouldn’t be provoking it.”
Rani frowned. “Provoking it? I thought... aren’t they going to kill it?”
Bil shook his head. “There was some talk of that, but Lady Shela talked
Mayor Barst out of it. I agree with her. Killing a creature that can
talk is almost like killing a person.”
“But it just... I just saw it breathing fire at the hunters,” Rani said.
“Did it hurt anyone?”
“I don’t think so. It may have singed one of the horses a little.”
“That’s not much,” the tanner said. “I’d do the same, if I were a tengrem and armed villagers were chasing me.”
“But it shouldn’t be here, this far north. And Farni Danak says his father saw it near my house yesterday.”
“I heard the same story from Jordi,” Bil said. “That’s why I agreed to
join the hunt this afternoon, to help drive it away. We don’t want a
tengrem hanging around the village, courting your mother or eating her
Rani had a momentary vision of a tengrem visiting his mother, a bouquet
of flowers clutched in its claws. “You’re going to join the hunt? When?”
“As soon as Jordi drags himself away from his precious forge,” Bil said.
“May I come?”
Bil frowned at him, but his eyes twinkled. “Sorry, Rani. I’ll be closing
for the day, and I promised your mother I’d see you safely home.”
Rani sighed. “I thought you... I was afraid you’d say that.”