My brain forgets that the day doesn't end when I sleep, but when the clock strikes midnight. I'll set alarms for the future.
Rens stared at the campfire. His head hurt, he was tired, and he was confused. They had tried, and tried, to track Robert. For a time they had been, Rens thought, on the prince’s trail. And then it just…petered out. Vanished at that small town after the fight with the bandits.
Natasi had insisted that they keep on, choosing directions seemingly at random, but even she seemed to be more and more at a loss, more discouraged every day.
And then there was the fact that he didn’t even know if he should be trusting her at all.
Or why all his soldiers seemed to like her so much.
Why they were willing to go against his orders and had seemed to lose all faith in him as a commander.
And, worse yet, there were rumours about the Duke’s beginning to maneuver for a Succession. The last thing Destria needed was another Succession.
If nothing else, he should at least be by the King and Queen’s side during this time. He’d be able to advise them on courses to take, and what to do, should they want his advice.
At the least he could lend them his blade and skill as a commander should it come to warfare.
He shifted on the log, uncomfortable in his armour, with the heat from the fire making him sweat too much, turning the armour from only mildly uncomfortable, to a nightmarish sauna.
They were running low on funds, and supplies as well. While they could always request more from the guardposts that they passed, there was only so much they could ask for. The soldiers were ranging farther and farther from the main column each day, just to find food and hunt animals for the meals that night.
Hence the fire; Krendor had taken down a young buck with a lucky shot. So, it was time to cook it.
He’d been sharing his concerns with Krendor over the past few days. That nagging memory, that hole in his thoughts kept tugging at him, trying to pull him towards some realization.
But it just wouldn’t fit together. The puzzle pieces refused to fit, no matter how he turned them or tried.
It was almost infuriating. But he didn’t have the energy to be infuriated anymore. The amulet was taking a lot out of him, and in his paranoia he didn’t even take off his armour anymore.
He always needed to be ready. Always. For anything.
“Captain, are you feeling okay?”
Rens pulled himself from his thoughts and stared across at Krendor.
The flames were flickering, casting his second’s face in shadow, casting the whole camp in shadows. The stark contrast of dark night, and bright flames was startling and made his eyes hurt.
The shadows were easier to look at.
He’d gotten lost again. He shook his head to clear it, and raised his hand to ward off any further questions. After a moment he nodded, and turned again to look at Krendor.
“Yes, I’m fine. Just…tired”
“Understandable sir. Maybe you should take a break? Have a quick sleep, let me cook your food for you. Or, why don’t you go talk to Natasi? I know that the amulet is a drain on you. She’s a Sketcher, she might be able to help figure out why, or if it can somehow be mitigated”
Rens began to nod, then froze.
The thought had been there again, stronger this time. He was missing something, something key.
Something that had to do with Natasi, or the amulet, or Sketching. Or maybe all three.
Krendor seemed to be waiting for a response; dimly he heard himself ask another question.
“I’m not sure if she could help really. What was her Sigil again?”
“I…I can’t remember actually. I’m not sure she ever said”
“Hmm. Too bad. Maybe I’ll go ask her about it”
As Rens stood and began to look around to locate the noblewoman, Krendor came around the fire to take over the spit.
“I think she said something about setting up her tent…”
The words came to the guard captain as if through water, from a long way away. The orange light of the fire started to fade to match the shadows, and then suddenly he felt his knees give way bonelessly, as the thoughts in his head swelled to a roar, then destroyed themselves in bursts of distortion.
Rens’ eyes snapped open. He was lying on his side, and his head felt better than it had in a while. His stomach felt slightly queasy though, and as he moved to sit up, the clearing swam.
“Get the surgeon, the captain is down. No, don’t stand there gawking soldier, run!”
Krendor’s bellowing was clearer than before he fainted, but still off slightly. Not quite through water, but maybe from far away.
His voice was, oddly enough, a croak.
His second was at his side instantly.
“Are you ok? You just fell over, you were muttering something, and then you dropped”
“How long have I been out?”
“About ten seconds. It took me that long to get a runner here”
“Ten seconds…discipline is getting sloppy”
Krendor laughed as he helped the captain onto a log.
“One track mind eh? Next you’ll be telling me that instead of going to nap like you’d said, we’re going to break camp and go find the prince”
There was something wrong there too, but it was unimportant.
Rens nodded, a rueful smile making its way onto his face, before he turned to his second and pulled the man closer so that they could speak quietly.
His second’s voice was full of concern, his eyes filled with the same.
“Can I ask you a question?”
“Where is my amulet?”
Krendor began to pull away, his face settling into disbelief, before he felt the dagger pressed into his side.
“Answer me Krendor. My amulet. Where is it, and why did you lie to me about how long I was unconscious for?”
“I…I didn’t! You fell over, and then I called a runner, and then the runner was there, and I was telling him what to do!”
His mind becoming clearer by the minute without the strain of the amulet, Rens swept the clearing with his eyes.
“Fire has burned lower, much lower than it would in ten seconds. Visibly lower. The meat is off the spit, and to the side. The camp is quieter, and the night birds have stopped. What is going on?”
Krendor began to look truly desperate, sweat breaking out on his brow as he struggled to answer.
“I swear, captain, I swear to you, I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Rens growled in frustration, and withdrew his dagger. Sheathing it, he stood up and began to look around.
“I’ll go find it then, it can’t have gotten far. Krendor stay here, don’t move. If you’re forgetting things again-”
He turned to his second, eyes suddenly wide with horror.
“You’re forgetting things again! The Sketcher, same as last time, the reason I was wearing my amulet! This is their plan! Where is Natasi, she’ll know these things, she is a Sketcher; she’ll know how these things work, and can maybe explain…oh no”
Krendor stared back at him, his eyes slowly glazing over.
“I’ve been a fool haven’t I Krendor? I’ve let a wolf in amongst us”
Turning, he grabbed his sheathed sword from where it lay, and started off into the camp.
“Well, I’ll put an end to it now, before it is too-”
His sentence remained unfinished as Krendor tackled him from behind. With his armour still on, it must have been painful for his second, but he overbalanced, and fell forwards, Krendor landing on him, knee in his back, arms scrabbling to pin his.
“Krendor! This is treason! High treason, betraying the royal family! This goes against your oath of duty not to strike a commanding officer! You have to stop this, do what is right!”
“No, actually, he doesn’t”
Natasi strode out of the forest, fingers trailing light as she began Sketching a complicated, looping Sigil.
“You see, his loyalty is now to something greater than Destria. His loyalty is now to my Sigilian, to me, and nothing can break that when someone threatens me with harm”
The guard captain glared at the traitorous woman as Krendor finally got him pinned.
“Why? What do you even stand to gain by a Succession? If that is even what you’re after”
“Ah, Rens, you silly man” Her laughter was a cruel tinkling noise, fake, and practiced to best mock its target “Even were I the kind to divulge my plans, it won’t matter to you soon enough anyways. After all, you’ll be helping me to complete them just as soon as I finish Sketching this. I thank you for fainting by the way. Otherwise I would never have been able to make my move and get that amulet off you. Stubborn man, tried too hard to protect yourself. Tsk tsk”
There was silence for a time, broken only by Rens’ attempts to break Krendor’s hold. The clearing began to glow more and more as Natasi’s Sigil grew closer to completion, the eerie half-light of a Sigil mixing with that of the fire.
“You know, it almost doesn’t matter anymore”
Natasi’s voice broke the silence suddenly, startling both combatants. Rens went still as he craned his neck to look at her.
“I’ve lost track of Robert. He must have taken a different path than the one that that map maker showed me. Either that, or one of us got lost. I’m none too thrilled with that. But, you’ll at least be under my control, and we can do things my way from here on out”
The silence descended again, everyone contemplating the recent turn of events.
And as Krendor relaxed his grip slightly, as his attention just slightly shifted away from the captain, Rens threw the other man off, and lunged for Natasi, his dagger scraping free of its sheath.
He raised it up as Krendor scrambled to get him pinned again, but Natasi’s face split into a triumphant smile in the Sigil’s ghostlight.
With a flourish she finished Sketching, Rens dropped his dagger with horror and threw himself to the side to miss her, and Krendor stopped trying to pin him.
“My lady, I am so very sorry”
How could he have attacked her? She was too perfect for that.
“It is okay Guard Captain. I forgive you. Now then. Why don’t we all get some sleep, and get an early start tomorrow morning? I’ll let the men know that you’ve ceased your foolishness and that they should follow you again, and over breakfast we can discuss new marching orders”
Rens bowed again, and smiled at the thought of better serving his Lady.