Callindra waved her brothers back with a gesture of impatience. “I am the best at being quiet.” She insisted, “I’m the obvious choice to go and investigate this town.”
They were a couple of miles from a small walled settlement that appeared to be mostly intact. “If approaching unseen is your goal I am uniquely equipped to handle such an endeavor.” Holt said, speaking for the first time since they had begun their argument.
They all turned and looked at him in surprise. “I am trained in the arts of stealth and hunting. If I can stalk and kill a deer with a dagger, I should be easily able to investigate a town of people without any trouble at all. I’m also more expendable than our leader.” He said, looking at Callindra significantly.
She flushed, looking down. She didn’t feel like her skin was worth any more than any of the rest of them, but she remembered the books she’d read what seemed like a century ago. Having been bed bound while recovering from a shattered leg she’d taken refuge in books. Some of those books had followed famed generals and war leaders. Holt was right, if they were to be trusted anyway.
“Fine.” Callindra grumbled, biting back a caustic comment. “We’ll send Holt, but if he doesn’t report back before sundown we’re all going in together.”
Holt grinned and gave her a wink, “I’ll be back before you know it.”
“Take care grandfather.” She said, finally unable to keep a sharp retort from her lips.
The older man adopted an expression of mock injury, “Grandfather? Why I’m barely a handful of years older than you are Callindra.”
“Father? Uncle?” She suggested sweetly, “Go on now, you’re running out of daylight.”
Holt bowed and slipped into the dead undergrowth, not making so much as a leaf rustle as he headed toward the town. Callindra watched him go with a frown on her face for a few moments until she lost sight of his lean and weathered form in the underbrush.
“Set up a camp, no fire. We should eat and sleep in shifts just in case there’s trouble.” She said, looking at her companions. Cronos stared at her with folded arms and a disgruntled expression on his face. Vilhylm was looking between her and the retreating form of Holt with a raised eyebrow.
Kain merely set his pack down, settled his weapon harness so he could sit easily and began unpacking a package of rations. His expression was mild and satisfied as he performed the simple task, from what Callindra had learned from their brief conversations he had been a slave from youth. The hulking half orc took joy from the simple acts of everyday life that didn’t revolve around fighting for survival.
His calm was almost a palpable thing, spreading to the others and allowing them to relax. Callindra finally realized how tightly wound her nerves had been and accepted a flask of cold tea and a hardtack biscuit from Kain with a nod of thanks.
“He will be fine mistress.” He said, seeing the look on her face. “I have a feeling he has survived worse.”
“I wasn’t worrying about that old fossil.” She grumbled around a mouthful of rock hard biscuit. She had to be careful not to break a tooth. “I’m worried about what he’s going to find in that town, or what he’s not going to find. We need to find a safe haven, if it hadn’t been for most of the people we’ve come across being dead the shortage of wildlife to scavenge would have starved us out a long time ago.”
“That last farmstead gave us a good supply of rations.” Kain said calmly, “I believe we’ve gotten through the worst of it Callindra. It can only get better from here on out.”
“I wish I believed that.” She said, taking a drink of tea to wash down the crumbs. “We still haven’t found anyone who can tell us anything about the rest of the world. Kain, we watched the goddess of nature die and now the wilderness is following her.”
“All things move in circles.” He said in that infuriatingly calm voice.
Instead of replying, Callindra unlaced her armor enough that it didn’t chafe anymore and pulled Shadowsliver from where he lay next to her skin. She winced slightly at the small cuts his razor-sharp edge had left on her back, but lay him across her knees and leaned back against her pack.