“HERB GATHERING EXPEDITION”
They set off through the well-known maze of passages, tunnels and stairways. It was still too early for many, and the only other Elfins they passed were guards and kitchen staff going about their early morning business. Nomis shuddered as they passed the firebrand station where he had hidden the night before. He wondered what had happened afterwards. Had they caught the intruder or was he still lurking somewhere nearby, waiting to pounce? He hurried on at his master’s side and gained some comfort from his reassuring, if a little cantankerous, silent presence.
When they reached a large, galleried hall marking the intersection between the eastern entrance tunnel and the Great Ringway passage, Hiral suddenly stopped and settled down on one of the stone seats in the alcoves lining the hall. He motioned Nomis to sit by him.
Nomis sensed that he was about to learn the real reason for his master’s rather tetchy mood today. Whilst he was politely waiting for Hiral to begin, he remembered the endless, complicated games of tag he had played as a youngster in this passage with his friends. They had raced round the complete Ringway circuit trying to catch the next Elfin in front for hours. They used to make so much noise that they had had to hide frequently from the guards on duty. This had lent their games even more excitement and danger. Life had suddenly become quite lonely and serious when he left the confines of the Orphanage to begin his apprenticeship with Master Hiral.
Nomis thought back to the beginning of that period in his life. Hiral was quite elderly and clearly had initially viewed the prospects of an apprentice with great reluctance.
At that moment, Hiral too was musing on exactly the same subject. Unexpectedly, he had found Nomis to be a very bright and able pupil; almost having the ‘Ancient Healing Hands’ documented in the