By mid-afternoon Arrab towered above them, and they could see the movement of people on the stone quay of the village of Portron. They slipped in among the fishing boats, and willing hands caught their ropes and secured them to the quayside.

Portron boasted a small inn, and when the travellers had taken their baggage to their chamber, washed, and eaten, they joined the customers in the common-room and enjoyed an evening of songs and stories much like the reylings of Sewil.

Ilo nudged Perian after a while.


“That old man over there. He looks really miserable.”

“Yes. Perhaps he’s not well. Everyone else seems cheerful enough.”

Perian turned to his neighbour.

“Is anything amiss with that old man in the corner? Does he need any help?”

The man edged away from Perian.

“You don’t want to go looking for trouble, stranger,” he muttered. Then he began whispering to the other men near him, and they all looked curiously at Perian. Soon they got up and left, and the inn was empty within a few minutes. Perian and Ilo looked for the old man, but he had gone with the rest, so they went up to bed; the landlord did not trouble to show them the way.



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