The rest of the day passed quickly, the road was not difficult, and the laughing and singing made the miles pass quickly. We made camp that night by a stream that ran out of the forest, across the road, and into the desert. After dinner, we all sat around the fire, talking and watching the stars over the desert. Finally, as the fire was dying, Polo got up.
"OK, time for bed, we have still have a long ways to go to Brimo."
"Goodnight, daddy" Tas said, then turning to me "Don't forget Any, you owe me a lesson for sleeping in trees."
"Sure thing, Tas, there is a lovely old oak right there to sleep in."
Tas was a pretty good climber, I only had to help her once, and we were soon sitting side by side on a wide branch growing out from the massive trunk.
"See? That wasn't so hard." I joked, giving her a playful punch on the shoulder.
"Well, yeah, climbing isn't hard, but I don't think I can sleep up here." She punched me back.
"Oh, hold on, I forgot the most important part. I'll be right back." I said as I dropped out of the tree.
Running over to the stream, I found a willow that was putting out slender new branches. I cut off as many as I could carry and quickly wove them into a makeshift mat, which I took up and gave to Tas. Then, going back into the forest a little further, I gathered an armful of dried fern, that gave off a sweet, clean smell, and brought that up to our perch.
"What are these for?" Tas asked, looking doubtfully at my materials
"This is my matress, the most comfortable anywhere" I said, and proceeded to arrange everything so that Tas would not fall out of the tree, no matter how much she rolled around in her sleep. After I finished her bed, I put mine together on a branch on the other side of the trunk, a little higher than hers.
"There's yours, and that's mine." I said, pointing.
"Wow, this is really comfy, I think I'll do this more often." She said, trying it out.
"Before we go to bed, there's something I want you to see," I said, and taking her hand I led her up the tree until the branched bent under our weight and we could go no further. There were no more leaves above our heads, and the stars shone bright above us. The soft sounds of the forest surrounded us, and we sat there, hand in hand, looking into the sky.
"It's beautiful" she whispered, "Thank you."
After Tas settled down in her bed, I went back up to the top of the tree, and fell asleep staring at the stars.
The stars turned overhead, and when I woke up, they looked very different. Something did not feel right. There was a heavy smoke in the air, I could hardly breathe, then I heard Tas scream. I dropped out of the tree as quickly as I could, grabbing and drawing my sword as I went, but when I found Tas, there was no one to fight, only the smouldering wreck of the family's wagon. Tas sank to her knees, tears rolling down her cheeks, and I stood next to her, dumbfounded. Recovering some of my senses, I checked around the camp for footprints, but it was too dark to see much. Eventually, I convinced Tas to climb back up the tree, but I do not think she went back to sleep, I could hear her sobbing softly all night as I sat in the bottom branch, watching for foes, but none came.