Without a chance to hunt, Rogan reluctantly cooked the dried cod he’d brought in case he was still in the field on Friday. Nam was giving out non-verbal signals of her displeasure as they ate. For her, fish had to be fresh to be fit for human consumption, but fishing was as unlikely that day as hunting.
When she objected, he had offered a dinner of oats porridge or marching tack, the sandwich of grain and pemmican intended as food while on the move. He had planned to rely on the small game they would encounter on the way to Aum, after all. She hadn’t taken him up on the offer.
They had a break in the weather around dinner, so they were dining out on the raised flagstones in front of the keep entrance in order to enjoy smokeless air. Rogan didn’t care to use flux arts to keep away the local wildlife though, so he’d built a watchfire out at his previous campsite. The wind was in the right direction for that smoke to blow away from them.
Jack, at least, ate without complaint. He filled in most of the conversation as well, plying them for more information on Benjamin and his crimes. It was a pity, with this colleague as plainly committed against their enemy as themselves, that Rogan had so little he could tell him. Far too much was either unknown, or too alien in the detail to explain to an Earther. But it was good that his mind remained on his hunt. It was the sign of a good hunter. He would not let a setback throw him off the scent. He had found a new source of information and clearly intended to get any use he could out of it.
Mid-meal, though, Mord’s deep baritone bay broke the silence mid-meal from deep out in the woods. Nam’s specter had departed the keep without Rogan’s notice, making the sudden call that much more startling. His partner sprang up, sending her dish flying, and made one of her flux control gestures toward the sound.
“Go! Find!” she ordered. Both her dove and a fox specter materialized and went dashing ahead as Nam sped off in the same direction that she had sent her scouts.
After she had sprinted out of the firelight, he heard her calling back to them, “This time, I will know what it is!”
He and Jack again stood on either side of the fire and each other, holding their weapons at ready, while his hidden companion Althem, awoken from her daydreams, scanned for enemies with her flux senses.
After a quiet minute broken by an occasional howl from Mord, Jack observed, “She thinks it’s the same thing as last night.”
“Aye. She discussed it but little, but I’m certain her dog was picking up on it all day. Although there now seems to be another in the area. We know naught of it, just that it has been circling the fortress.”
Mord continued her baying in the darkness, until a sudden gust of wind, announcing the next wave of weather, swept the dog’s voice away with it.
Jack spoke again, not knowing this time that he was tromping on a delicate subject. “You’re okay with your partner just chasing out there on her own?”
Suppressing a grimace, Rogan shook his head and replied, “Leave specialties to specialists, Jack. This is hers. She runs, scouts, harries from the trees. I stand and fight. It’s what we’re each good at.”
It was a true enough reply, but he decided to admit the greater truth to the man. “It’s not as if I might stop her, mind you.”
Mord’s voice became audible again. Jack’s voice followed, laden with concern bordering on alarm.
“They’re really closing fast. Something’s chasing them.”
He wondered how an Osrin, lacking any flux-sense, could say so with such confidence, then concluded he was deducing it from the sound. Mord’s bay had an agitated quality now. It had to be something extraordinary to cause the gigantic beast such alarm.
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