Continuing the story from Friday:
Anna remembered supper first. She could see the campfire blazing below them, and a sort of twilight hung over the sky, but the rocks were rapidly sinking into shadows and gloom. She called the other two back. Munin came at once, while Liegenor followed reluctantly, stopping several times to examine some of the rocks.
They worked their way down toward the fire, pausing often to make sure of their footing. When they were near enough to recognize the shadows moving around it, Anna caught a scent of herbs baking. “Mitka must have brought sage with her,” she said.
Munin sniffed. “Smells good,” he said.
They slithered across the last pile of rocks and hurried down toward the fire.
Tungral was still tending the meat, turning it slowly over the fire, while Mitka had set a small skillet under the partridge. She crouched beside Tungral, gingerly spooning juice from the skillet over the birds. The firelight shone bright on their faces. Around them, half-hidden in a dim circle of light, the others sat on the ground or leaned against boulders and watched.
On the very edge of the firelight, Anna could still look back at the cold shimmer of rocks and the dark starlight. When she and Munin stepped through the circle, the hillside faded and the shadows closed around them like walls.
A few minutes later, Anna heard the crunch of gravel and Liegenor came through the shadows to join the company. He sat down on a stone opposite her, next to Meygar and Rooz. They sat silent together until the meat had cooked and Tungral lifted it off the fire. They ate slowly, savoring the warm meat and the stillness of the evening.
After the meal, they sat a while longer, not doing anything, but watching the dancing flames and talking now and again in low voices. Munin found a piece of wood and began whittling, while Anna and Lug watched.
“Want me to start your workbox?” Zan asked, looking across at them.
“Won’t need it for a while, what?” Anna answered.
“You still hadn’t decided what you want, had you?”
“You could carve a wolf for her,” Munin suggested, and Zan grinned.
Liegenor was reaching for his pack, when Anna stood up abruptly. She turned toward the dark path, listening.
“What was that?” she asked.
The others scrambled up and listened to. For a moment, there was only the wind rustling in the pines and a thin crackle of flames.
“Someone’s shouting,” Anna said.
“I heard something,” Munin said, slipping his knife into his belt. “Who’d it be, though?”
Zan moved restlessly. “I don’t hear anything.”
They all listened, but they heard nothing more and the others slowly sat down again. Anna kept listening, sure she heard an echo in the hills, but she heard nothing more than the creak of pine boughs in the wind. After another minute, she sat down too.
Rooz stirred restlessly. “Nothing but an owl, what?” he said. “Anna doesn’t want a wolf on her workbox; she wants a rosebush, like the one on the what’s-it.”
Liegenor turned suddenly, and Anna stared at Rooz. “On what?” she demanded.
“On the—,” Rooz started to say, but he stopped. “Nothing.”
Anna was already on her feet. Rooz slid backwards a few inches, away from the fire. “I didn’t mean anything, really,” he protested. “I didn’t think it would matter.”
“What were you doing with my pack?”
Rooz shrugged and his voice rose, wobbling between bluster and whine. “They wanted something for the partridge, and I didn’t think anyone else had herbs. I wasn’t going to mess with anything, but I just looked in your pack, and it was in there with the other things.”
Anna stepped back. “I thought Mitka had herbs,” she said, trying to speak quietly.
“I didn’t think it would matter,” Rooz repeated. “I wasn’t even going to pick it up, but Meygar wanted to see it too.”
Anna’s hands clenched, but she forced herself not to move, not to speak until she had collected herself. Liegenor started to rise, and then dropped back. After a pause, he leaned forward, glowering at Rooz. “If you touch that chest again, you’re going back, understand? If this is the sort of order you keep—I don’t care how far we’ve gone, I don’t care if we’re out on the plains by Nairne, but you’ll go back. And you—”
Anna winced as he turned on Meygar. “You and Tungral—”
“Tungral didn’t want me to,” Rooz interrupted. “Yugly neither. Zan didn’t even know we looked.”
Liegenor ignored him. “You, both of you, will leave Anna, and the chest, and anything related to the chest absolutely alone, understand?”
“Yes, sir,” they answered.
Liegenor stopped, and no one dared move. After a time, though, Mitka shivered and got up to fetch her bedroll from her pack. The others slowly got out theirs as well, while Liegenor—still angry—assigned Meygar and Tungral to the first watches for the night.