(For those of you with poor memory - the bit where he tells them to douse the fire is where we left off last time.)
The light from the campfire drove back the night as it played against the sheltering wall. The shadows of the men loomed large as they sat next to each other lost in earnest conversation.
"But what of your wife, Habeeb? Does she await your return? Does she not object to this journey you have undertaken?"
"The woman grieves, Gwalchmei. She has returned to her village and her people, lost in grief. But not, perhaps, for the reason you think."
"Why then, does you wife grieve, Habeeb?"
"Death has touched our family, my friend. During the time you stayed in the castle of the Crusaders, two of our sons were killed in the service of Saladin. Her grief is profound and there seems nothing I can do to soothe her."
"Should you not be with her? Does she not need you, now, in this time?"
"No, Gwalchmei. She wails in her sleep and calls for her ancient Mother. She rises and speaks of nothing but the evil crones that are her sisters, although to her they seem the soul of succor. So I sent her to them and my brother, Hussein, takes my place at the inn."
"Would you like some kahve, M'Lord? And you, Habeeb? There seems quite a chill in the air tonight, even though the day was very warm. Perhaps some kahve would serve to stave off the cold of the night."
"Yes, Squire, I would enjoy some kahve, I think."
"As would I, Squire. You must show me the art of preparation that Gwalchmei has taught to you."
While Squire and Habeeb went about the business of brewing a pot of kahve, in the manner of the Turks, Gwalchmei stood and walked away from the fire, letting his eyes adjust to the weak light of the crescent moon, which softened the contours of the rolling hills through which they were traveling. A soft grey mantle lay over everything, stealing away what little color there was to the landscape.
He turned and walked quickly back to the fire.
"Attend! Attend! There are villains about, I fear."
Habeeb pulled his scimitar from beneath his robes. It rang as he brandished it - as if keen for a fight.
"What is it, Gwalchmei? Have you seen something?"
"Yes, Habeeb. Lest my eyes deceive me, there are five, maybe six, dark shapes which approach from the slope of the second hill yonder. I'm afraid your lesson in the preparation of kahve will have to wait. We must quench the fire. Hurry. We need time for our eyes to adjust to the darkness."
Squire reached down for a water skin.
"Use dirt, Squire. There is no fresh water for many miles. We will need what water we have."
"Thank you, Habeeb. I would have drowned the fire and dried us!"
They had sheltered behind an ancient and broken wall, to keep the westing wind out of their camp. Now this wall was a problem, for it limited their view in the direction of the intruders' approach. Gwalchmei only saw their approach because he had wandered to the low, broken corner which marked the end of their shelter. Looking out from this corner, he could see the path they would be taking on the morrow.
"Where away, Gwalchmei?"
"I saw them as they came down the face of that second hill, yonder, on the North side of the path. I do not like this position, Habeeb. We cannot go out to meet our attackers. This wall defends them as well as it defends us."
"But there are three of us, Gwalchmei. And I have seen you fight. We could best a dozen of them, if that were their number."
"It's true I saw but a few - but we do not know if what I saw was the whole of their company. I would rather not make this a game of chance."
"What would you do, then?"
"Squire!! Stay here, in this corner, where you are visible - as though you were standing guard. Habeeb, you wait at the south end of this wall. I will hide myself amid those shrubs that lie hard against the first hillside. When they come, they will come at you, Squire. Habeeb will come at them from one side, I will come down on them from the other. Squire. My arms."
"They are here, M'Lord."
He held out the two long swords, one in each hand, hilt first.
"No, Squire. You will need a long sword more than I. Give me the Falcala and one of the long swords. Attend. Don't let them get too close. When you see them, shout a challenge and go over the wall. That should draw them to you. Keep the wall at your back. Habeeb and I should be on them before they have any chance to do damage."
"From your mouth, M'Lord, to God's ear."
"Methinks our young thieves have returned. Use deadly force only to save your own lives. They will be poorly armed and will have to get in close to do any harm - so hold them at bay to the extent you can. I will try to find their leader and disarm him. Now - to your stations."