Sanctuary – Snippet 18

Thirdly, because the Mrem accompanying them, a warrior named Chefer Kolkin, seemed to have no trouble at all getting started at daybreak.

Fourthly, because it was obvious the miserable furball managed that annoying feat by eating twice as much as anyone else in the party!

Being fair about it, the Mrem was carrying his own food.

Being petty and ill-humored about it, his food smelled bad.

Being really petty and ill-humored about it, the food didn’t taste very good either — which Nabliz knew because the miserable furball had offered him some, thereby upsetting his well-constructed view of the inherent selfishness of furballs.

(They ate too much. It followed that they had to squabble over food, didn’t it? And didn’t it thereby also follow that they were by nature a squabbling and quarrelsome breed?)

(Apparently not — which just gave Nabliz yet another source of vexation. He disliked it when reality did not match his preconceptions. Especially in the morning.)

On a more positive side, Nabliz knew from experience that his foul temper would fade away within two hours after sunrise. A wiser and more charitable soul than himself — Meshwe, and probably Sebetwe as well — would have accepted all along that the disagreeable nature of the Mrem at dawn was really a function of the Liskash’s own metabolism, and that the furball was quite innocent in the matter.

The knowledge did him no good at all at the moment, though. It just gave him a sixth reason to be grouchy. Early in the morning, Nabliz disliked wise and charitable souls.

Being fair about it, early in the morning, Nabliz disliked pretty much anything and everyone. At home, back in the comfort of the Krek, he’d still be asleep at this wretched time of day, as would any sensible Liskash.

So, he spent the next hour or so detesting Zilikazi, who was, after all, ultimately responsible for Nabliz’s foul state of mind that morning.

And every morning, for that matter.

And every afternoon and evening too, now that he thought about it. The vile noble had a lot to answer for.

Chefer Kolkin

Now that he’d had a bit of experience dealing with the Liskash at close quarters, Chefer Kolkin had learned to keep his distance from them in the morning. The reptiles tended to be surly in the first hour or two, especially if they arose as early as they had been since they began this expedition. Even though he was the grouchiest of the small group at that time of day, the one named Nabliz who was in charge insisted that they all be ready to resume the expedition by dawn.

Chefer Kolkin understood the reason for their peculiar behavior — or thought he did, at any rate. The Liskash were not exactly reptiles, although Chefer Kolkin routinely used the word to refer to them, as did all Mrem. They seemed to be somewhere between mammals and reptiles, in terms of their energy and activity levels. Unlike true reptiles, they had a certain — fairly large, in fact — reserve of energy which they could draw upon even when they were cold. They benefited from basking in the sun, especially at daybreak, before they tried to engage in any activity that was more energetic than eating. But they weren’t as dependent on using sunlight to raise their energy levels as true reptiles were.

Perhaps oddly, what Chefer Kolkin found most unsettling about them was how little they ate. More precisely, how little they ate most of the time — and how much they gorged when they did finally sit down for what they considered a real meal.

There hadn’t been any of that on this expedition, though. The similarity between Liskash and true reptiles was most evident after they’d gorged themselves. The next day, they were almost as torpid as a snake who’d swallowed whole prey. They weren’t very active the following day, either.

In the safety and comfort of the Krek’s eyrie, that hadn’t been a problem. But it was clear to Chefer Kolkin that Nabliz had ordered his warriors to refrain from any heavy eating on this expedition. They couldn’t afford to waste a day or two just digesting a big meal. So, they made do on what the Liskash seemed to consider light rations — which, from Chefer Kolkin’s point of view, barely qualified as snacks.

For the first time in his life, the Mrem warrior was contemplating the idea that perhaps there were some advantages to being a Liskash instead of an Mrem. The notion was unsettling, of course. But he was an experienced warrior and a proficient scout, and it was a simple fact that for all their grumpiness in the morning, the Liskash were covering at least as much ground as a party of Mrem were — in part, because they weren’t laden down with the heavy packs that an Mrem needed to carry his food in these barren highlands.