But then the signs started - first with Elwon, draining his wineskin before noon day after day, at the barrel again before supper. He'd always been a greedy shit, but even after the captain had a stiff word with him, he wouldn't stop drinking.
Come that third morning, he was in bad shape. Skin drawn, cracking, raving about water.. always water. Then Nedlo spotted it, clear as day.
A water shade.
Head cocked, bold as brass it stood, looking at us one minute, licking at the sand the next. Nedlo said he could feel it in his guts, stealing his water right outta him, but the chaplain told him to shut it. That sorta talk was for drunks and bannets, not proper Kingsmen.
But I felt it too.
The captain started after it, waving his arms to scare it off, but I reckon it was as thirsty as us, and not likely put off the trail by a bit of noise. Without horses, what chance of catching it? It moved off, came back, moved off, came back.
* * *
For days it followed. After a while, we didn't have the strength to shoo it, and maybe it didn't matter.
Nedlo said every where you go you leave a bit of yourself behind, in your footprints like. Everyone's is different, and the shade can smell it. We always knew in these parts not to say our names to folk, chaplain was always saying, less we knew we could trust 'em. It gives a power over you, to the wrong hands anyways, But how's a man to keep his footprints to himself?
Chaplain didn't have an answer for that one. Fact is, I don't think he ever spoke again.
You are? That case, I'll tell it, for your insistence - but you'll need a drink for this one. Be a righty and buy me one too.