She had closed her eyes for only a few moments but when she awoke to a gentle touch on her right shoulder that told her an attack wasn’t imminent the sun had moved halfway to the horizon. Cronos gave her a moment to awaken before rolling over into his cloak and falling asleep almost immediately.
Callindra stood up slowly, working the kinks out of her shoulders and back before working through a pair of Korumn that served to awaken her body and mind. They weren’t a substitute for strong tea, but they would have to do. After half a candlemark on watch, she began to let her worries get the better of her and was working through it by studying the map briefly to calculate how far they still had to travel when something caught her eye.
A slight motion at the edge of their small camp got her attention but she didn’t turn to look. Instead, she kept looking at the map and allowed her awareness of the intruder to grow. It wasn’t Holt, of that she was certain.
For one thing the old man had this annoying habit of sneaking up on her just to show her he could; she was certain she never would have seen him coming. This figure was also much smaller; probably half his height. Although Holt could have just been crawling she doubted it. He’d never had to do so before.
Another barely perceptible motion sent her spinning into action. Shadowsliver swept into a wide arc as she leaped forward twirling her entire body in a circle as she let his chain slip through her fingers to give her fifteen feet of extra range. A startled squeak came from the dead bush as her blade cut cleanly through it only a hand and a half above the ground.
She whipped Shadowsliver back and snatched him out of the air, still running toward the intruder and a boy of perhaps ten summers rolled out showing empty hands. He had a panicked expression on his face that seemed a little too earnest to be totally believable. The jet-black blade whistled down toward him and stopped a finger from the tip of his nose; his twin tips humming menacingly.
“Wait, don’t chop me up or blast me lady!” He said, “I’m coming to warn you, your friend got caught and they’re holding him in the tower of pain, but he managed to slip me a message for you.”
The words came out in a tumbled rush, but it almost seemed rehearsed. Callindra’s eyes narrowed as she considered him. “What is my name?” She demanded, not moving the sword.
“He told me it was Callindra, but that flowery of a name don’t seem like it fits a warrior.” The boy said, his voice not nearly as fearful as it had been a few moments earlier.
She had a sneaking suspicion that his change in tone was deliberate. Very slowly lowered Shadowsliver and reversed the blade so that it lay up her forearm in was would look like a much less threatening gesture. Not that it would impede her ability to strike all that much.
“Come over and sit. I have water if you’re thirsty, and we have plenty of hardtack if you’re hungry.” He nodded and followed her over to where the others rested. She saw all of them move slightly as though settling back to sleep and knew they’d seen what she was facing and decided she could handle it.
Callindra rummaged through her pack, deliberately turning her back on him and kept her senses alert. Removing a water skin and half a flat biscuit she turned to see him standing in the same spot he had been. She handed them over without comment.
“I ain’t starving, but only a fool turns down food.” He said, “My name’s Reed. Yours is really Callindra?”
“It is. Tell me what happened to Holt.”
“You gonna sheath that blade Callindra? Naked steel makes me nervous and I swear I ain’t no threat.” He took a drink of water and nibbled at the bread.
“He doesn’t have a sheath.” She said shortly, “Answer the question.”
“Oh, uh the townsfolk found him skulking around and didn’t believe him that he wasn’t sick. There’s rumors of greeneyes what don’t actually have green eyes and look like people.” Reed said, his eyes focusing on Shadowsliver’s forked blade. “They said if he wasn’t no greeneyes why would he be sneaking around and he tried to tell them there wasn’t no way to know if THEY was … Taken was what he called them and then the guards they’d had sneaking up behind him all tackled him.
“He put up a good scrap, but there ain’t a lot any one single person’s gonna do against ten.” Reed’s mouth tightened into a hard line and he glared at the hardtack in his hand for a moment. “I thought maybe I’d be able to help him out, so I snuck up when they wasn’t looking and whispered through his cell window. He told me to come and see you, but only after he made me say I wasn’t just trying to find you so I could rat you out.”