“Greetings, travellers. It is good to welcome guests so late in the year. I trust you have had a good crossing from the mainland.”
“A little unpleasant for one unaccustomed to sea-travel. But my captain here had a firm hand on the tiller.”
The Elder bowed gravely to Ilo.
“How may we serve you?” he asked.
“We should like to stay here with you for a time, before continuing our voyage. Will you allow that?”
“Gladly. We have no inns here, but someone will find room for you.”
He looked about him, and called to an old woman on the edge of the crowd,
“Galla, you should have room. Are you willing to house these travellers?”
She stepped forward eagerly.
“With pleasure, Derran, if these good people do not mind hard beds and simple cooking.”
Galla led the travellers to a low turf-roofed cottage near-by. Inside it was warm and surprisingly large, with little light seeping through its small windows. Perian and Ilo placed their bundles by their beds and were soon eating a delicious and plentiful mutton stew. When they had finished, Galla started wrapping herself up in an enormous shawl.
“You’ll come to the reyling?”
“If we would be welcome. What is this reyling?”
The old lady laughed.
“Why, it’s nothing but a bit of singing and dancing and story-telling, and maybe a little drinking to warm our hearts now that the evenings are getting colder.” And she winked.