Other than brewing more of their bitter tea and maintaining the fire, his new companions didn’t do much as the wind howled and rattled the ancient window shutters. The woman had a small pelt she seemed to be working with, but he had no idea what exactly she was doing with it, other than staring at it and occasional adding a mark to the leather side with a pen. The man made occasional notes in a leather-bound journal, but mostly he seemed to just be thinking rather than writing.
Jack thought he had learned patience while in the Army, but the restlessness of his generation began creeping back, and he felt a need to make conversation with the two.
“So, how did you guys figure out the guy was coming through here? More of your magic tricks?”
Rogan grimaced as a lightning flash lit the cracks of the shutters, then tucked his pen into a pocket and closed the journal.
“Nothing so fancy, actually. We had a wee bit of luck. One of the slaver’s victims is a brave lass and she was willing to take a risk for the sake of her fellow victims. She helped us identify Benjamin, and she agreed to come back to Chald to help me track his route. It was hard road for her, too. I hope her courage does not go to waste.”
“She remembered the whole route? Backwards?” Jack found that idea difficult to believe.
The hunter’s lip twisted, then he nodded. “Not consciously, of course. Althem drew it out of her a bit at a time through hypnotic sessions as we went.”
A twinge in his stomach prompted him to wonder about lunch. He nodded toward the backpack. “So, do you have enough supplies for the three of us in there?”
“Oh, aye. I’m packed for three.”
Rogan busied himself for a bit, carefully adding more fuel to the fire, then continued. “I’d planned to have a prisoner along, and I knew Nam would likely be making the return trip with me. We can hunt if necessary, as well.”
They returned to silence when the storm became especially violent. Some of the thunder was so close, Jack suspected that the fortress’s towers were drawing the lightning.
After the storm returned to heavy rain, without the thunder, Nam commented, “Mord never met up with it, you know.”
By ‘it’, she meant their mystery visitor of the previous night. She added, “Which means it must have a stealth capability of some sort. She is as nervous as a cat.”
Since she referred to the mysterious creature in the present tense, Jack assumed she had it patrolling outside. He hoped it had some sort of immunity to the weather. He’d had dogs in his life who would have become terrified by this storm. Would it be different for the gigantic spook dog that served Nam?
Mord wasn’t the only nervous one, Jack thought. He wondered again about a threat that could make these two worry, but they both had some unspoken concern bothering them.
In his eyes they continued to represent a supernatural force themselves, even though they slept and ate breakfast and chattered about children and work. At odds with their human manners, his mind kept returning to his three bullets hanging in the air in front of Rogan, stuck in a surface that shimmered like a vertical pond, to Rogan hurtling their group to another world and back again, apparently merely by willing it, and to Nam sprinting so fast an Olympic gold medalist would have despaired.
Even now, the animal spirits that she formed out of thin air, which she called ‘specters’ and ‘une’, were doing her bidding like intelligent servants, scouting and exploring the woods around them, and it only served to widen the gulf between them.
Despite all, though, his instincts were beginning to accept them as human. Was it safe to let himself think that way? He had trouble thinking of supernatural spooks being haunted by some concern. As humans, though, they would be acting normally for the situation.
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