He arrived a little breathless, just as the night guards were replacing the evening guards at the watch stations. He made his way to Master Hiral’s study, feeling exhausted but relieved to be back safely in his own tower. The Hunters’ Tower had been rather exciting, even though he had felt very intimidated by the hotheaded Coblyns all around him. They were an unpredictable lot and therefore, to his way of thinking, dangerous.
He knocked on his tutor’s door. … “Come in!” a muffled voice said.
Nomis walked in gingerly, wondering whether his Master was still angry about being soaked that morning. It surprised him to see Hiral sitting in the large chair by the side of his fire. Usually he was at his desk scribing away or perhaps at his workbench, conducting experiments. He looked extremely pensive. Nomis was immediately concerned, thinking he had caught a chill or something from the filthy water. When Hiral appeared to acknowledge his presence, his face contorted into a smile. It was a similar smile to that morning, but mingled with the unusual expression, was a look of ‘wonder’? No … that couldn’t have been right, Nomis thought. Why should his Master look at him in such a way?
“Hello, my lad, and how did you fare today? Did you manage to find the herb I wished for?” then, Hiral said in his more usual tone of veiled criticism: “I do hope you didn’t lose my ‘flora map’. Where is it? You’d better not have damaged it!”
Nomis relaxed; this was more like his Master. He did not understand him at the best of times, but when he exhibited alien emotions as before, it left Nomis completely perplexed.
“Yes, sir. I did gather the Purple Viper’s Bugloss and no, … I have not damaged the map. … Here it is.” Nomis was already fishing in his pack for the document. Once he had found it, Hiral snatched it to examine it critically.
“Hrmph … seems to be intact,” he mumbled. Then all at once he turned on his acolyte and accused: “You’re late! … Where have you been all this time? I expected you back a matter of three hours ago, for the evening meal. I felt worried that something had befallen you, especially since I realised, after I had returned this morning, that I still