[Story] The Hermit 9

His camp was cold, and wet. The rain had started the previous night, and showed few signs of letting up. Now and then it might thin, the clouds parting and the sunlight peeking through, but it was only a trick. Nimrathis and his camp were thoroughly soaked through. He tried not to think of how warm and dry his cave was right now, how he could have built a little fire and bundled himself among the boughs and listened to the patter of raindrops outside. Instead, he was contemplating whether he could wring the water out of his boots.

He’d spoken to the old man a few nights ago. While he didn’t discourage the plan, neither did he seem keen to come with he and Bear. Why did he want to stay behind? He was wanted by the sentinels. He’d replied that he was tired of running. Why didn’t he just turn himself in then? The old man had no answer for that. They talked about the women a bit, too. Nimrathis had the sense that the old man had a bit more experience than he and Bear in that regard. He said that he was even fond of one of the sentinels, the dour one from the Spire. Nimrathis asked how he could be sure. He said that he liked how she looked, and wanted to eat with her. Then he explained to Nimrathis that he ought to eat with the sentinels if he was fond of them. Nimrathis was fond of the food, but not particularly of any of the sentinels. They laughed too much, and asked too many questions. Did he like how they looked? He didn’t know. The old man said he ought to look next time, but Nimrathis knew very well the result: they’d just laugh more. No, he didn’t think that was a very good idea at all. He couldn’t afford to be distracted from his new project, a sort of projection that allowed one’s body to rise a short distance above the ground. It would be rather painful if his concentration — and his tailbone — were broken.

Earlier tonight he had made his way to Bear’s camp, but Zhyra was already there so he couldn’t explain what the old man had told him. He asked if they could go to Darnassus, and finally Zhyra admitted that they could. She seemed angry about it though, as if the very idea was an insult. She said there were more women in Darnassus, as if he was worried about that. She fetched some more blankets for them, and some more dumplings too. And she said she didn’t like either of them, which was completely the opposite of what she’d said before. Nimrathis was used to this now, it was a matter of figuring out which times they meant what they said and which times they didn’t. That was the key, but it wasn’t as simple as he made it sound.

After she had left, he explained to Bear that they weren’t really going to  Darnassus. Just that the old man said they would be allowed to. From there they could leave in secret for their true destination, where hopefully no sentinels would follow. But now he felt a pang of guilt over Zhyra’s reaction. Why was she so angry, if she didn’t want them to stay? The old man said she wouldn’t say because she was scared. Of course, she denied that too. It’s true she and the other young sentinel had been good to them — as good as captors can be. They had brought good food and kept them safe, though not as safe as their old camps. They hadn’t laughed as much as the others. They smiled sometimes, but mostly at Bear. Nimrathis figured this must be because they liked bears. Maybe he should think about having one around.

But everything was in place now. He even had extra dumplings wrapped in a paper to see how long they could last. The old man said the sentinels would just bring them back anyway. In that case, they’d probably keep them in a cage or something. At least maybe that would be dry.

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