Throwaways (Dread pt.7)
Nox sat silently across from the boys fiddling with her bow's string. The fire's reflection danced across the bright ivory bones of the weapon's limbs. For the first time, the boys were able to take a more focused look at Nox's face. Her half-orc heritage was easily recognizable by her tall, muscular body and strong hands, but her human side showed more in her face structure with the exception of stout canines peaking out from her lower lip and pointed ears that had been run through with multiple piercings. The slight grey tint to her skin barely stood out against the bow due to the fire's light and her yellow eyes blended in with the wisps of flames that danced in the air. Her thick black hair had been braided to keep it out of her face, but the day's events had caused numerous fly-away strands to hang messily around her face.
“The three of us will leave in the morning and head for the mine,” Nox said in a monotone manner.
“What about Marine?,” Arlo asked looking Nox in the eye. “We have to find her.”
“Or we at least have to find her body,” Xander mumbled. Arlo directed a furious gaze at his brother. “What? You really think she's going to be alive after getting dragged off by...by that thing?!”
“We won't know until we find her,” Arlo growled at Xander, “and I am not going to think about the worst case scenario.”
“Worst case scenario?” Xander laughed. “I hate to break it to you, but we are already in the middle of the worst case scenario. Our friend is missing and most likely dead. And we are stuck in a forest with two women who will probably kill us as soon as we fall asleep.”
Iliana laughed from outside the tent and quickly clasped a hand over her mouth to keep quiet. Nox turned her head and shot Iliana a displeased glance.
“See, Arlo,” Xander yelled gesturing out to Iliana who was leaning against the tree tending the fire. “She doesn't care what happens to us and neither does Nox. If she did, she wouldn't have left us alone here in the first place.”
“That's an unfair assumption,” Arlo said quietly, “Mom wouldn't be happy to hear how...”
“Do not bring Mother into this,” Xander growled. “She isn't here. Ya know, I'm done. I'm tired, so I am going to get some sleep before I die in the next 2-6 hours. And I strongly suggest you do the same. We will need all of our energy to get to the after life, and I'll see you two ladies in the Nine Hells.”
Arlo watched his brother struggle to unpack his sleeping roll and quietly unrolled his own.
Nox waited until she thought they were both asleep and slipped outside taking her bow along. She made sure to seal up the entrance and took a seat next to Iliana who was re-braiding her own long silver hair. The two sat in silence until crickets could be heard chirping among the grass.
“This isn't like you,” Iliana said while she poked at the fire with her foot. “Helping travelers has never been on your to-do list, let alone giving them shelter.”
“I didn't think letting them be mauled to death on the road into Autumn Hill would be wise,” Nox said while she started unbraiding her own hair. “Once I saw where they were headed from the summons they had, I figured using them as bait for the rest of the pack, that happens to make their den in the mine, would help me finish them off easily. There are only two or three females left based on the Warden's knowledge so it would have been easy to pick them off before one in the group got killed.”
“Which summons do they have?” Iliana asked with a concerned look on her face.
“The one regarding your aunt Adlana.”
Iliana groaned and rubbed her temples.
“Eight of those summons were sent out,” Iliana began, “they were meant to attract throwaway mercenaries to be a distraction so the actual hired hands could come collect Adlana without the obvious danger coming after them. Please tell me they at least weren't seen by anyone in town.”
“No, we were still an hours walk away from the nearest inn and night fell as soon as we got off the road. The only ones who have seen them are you, myself, and the wendigo. If they leave this forest alive no one important will know.”
“What about the Construct Sentries? They are supposed to be patrolling every square inch of this forest during Del'Inora and Del'Althor's absences.”
Nox looked at Iliana confused.
“The wolves have been destroying the Constructs, that male hanging from the tree tore up the last of them today. The wendigo had been telling them to, according to Warden Del'Althor. Lady Ambermane wanted the wolves gone before she had more Constructs made and let loose. Did no one tell you why I was here?”
“Do you honestly think Ambermane is worried about keeping me informed? She's more concerned with her niece and nephew successfully returning to Autumn Hill married with kids on the way. Then she'll worry about this Construct issue and then maybe me. You think she'll use the throwaway mercs for parts?” Iliana said to change the subject.
“It would make the most sense,” Nox sighed trying to finger comb her hair out. “If parties who took the summons were in groups of 3-5 then the necros would have anywhere between 24 and 40 bodies to work with. Two birds, one stone.”
“So what are you gonna do with the grumpy human and the half-elf who can't decide if he has a spine or not?” Iliana asked.
“I don't get paid enough to be lumped in with the necromancers' job,” Nox said raising her hands up by her face. “If those two get themselves killed it'll be from their own doing. I'll just be close by to take advantage of it if the opportunity arises.”
“Fair enough. Do you want me to do something with your hair while I'm here?” Iliana offered.
“Is it safe for you to focus on something other than the fire?” Nox questioned. “It is the only thing keeping the wendigo away.”
“It won't come back,” Iliana replied taking up sections of Nox's hair. “It knows I am here. It has failed to find a meal at this camp site and probably will fail to find what it's looking for at the other camps in the area, so it has most likely returned to its cavern for a scheduled feeding curtesy of our lovely employer.”
“Is that what you're going to tell Lady Ambermane when you go back in the morning?”
“Yeah,” Iliana sighed, “except I'll leave out the part where you decided to help a group of potential organ and limb donators for your own personal gain. But I'll tell her you're almost done with your job, the last of the Construct Sentries is out of commission and you will be return to the estate in a few weeks.”
“I'd appreciate that,” Nox replied, handing Iliana something to tie her braids back with.
Nox and Iliana fell asleep against the tree to the sound of a crackling fire and the echo of crickets just like the pair were accustomed to on any night. The boys were snoring inside of the yurt which was the perfect cover for someone to slip out from inside a large basket near the rear of the yurt without being detected.