Chapter 8: Disappearances in the night

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Recap: Camlin and Edana's rivalry comes to a head during the first night's watch on the fringe of the jungle. Camlin not only makes it clear that he doesn't see Edana as a worthy opponent, but suggests a very different type of partnership. Edana, less than impressed with his proposal, is nonetheless distracted by the encounter, and neglects to follow up on or report her men's observations of a mysterious presence outside the encampment. What's causing the rustling just outside the reach of the nightwatch's flames?


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Edana clawed her way up out of a restless sleep haunted by directionless skittering and distorted echoes of Camlin's voice, Aislynn kneeling over her.

"I'm awake. What?"

"From a log to a wildcat in ten seconds flat. Crazy."

"Well?" Edana scrambled to roll up her blankets, get dressed and armed, and knot her hair back out of the way all at the same time.

"As you may have noticed, it's morning."

"'Lynnie. The point."

"Father wants to get everyone moving. If you intend to do that nutty practice thing of yours, you'd better get moving. Oh, and Camlin's just about to take his men off perimeter duty. Thought you might want to touch base there."

Edana groaned.

"Great. Awkward. Just what I need first thing in the morning."

"You're a big, tough captain now. Comes with the territory. Have fun." Aislynn handed her a piece of bread and waved her on her way, grinning all the while.

Edana debated taking some time out for a workout, or meeting up with Camlin right away. It couldn't hurt to let him cool his heels a little longer. Besides, ugh. He'd had hours to come up with more obnoxious ideas. She decided she needed a little boost before confronting whatever challenges Camlin had dreamed up for her today. She'd run an abbreviated practice, and only then seek out Camlin to hear his report and arrange the day's patrols as they moved out.

Edana headed off northwest through the Connarii encampment, edging deeper into the jungle. She didn't pass any sentries; Camlin must've just pulled them off duty, since a few watchfires were still smoldering. A little premature, actually. She'd have to speak to him about that.

The terrain proved tricky. Although she'd managed to find a slight clearing, the jungle growth was dense and layered. It tricked the eye and made it hard to swing a weapon; her whips would be next to useless here, and the sword and staff strapped to her back caught on vines and hanging branches as Edana shouldered through. Throwing knives, though she hated to risk losing any, and the longer daggers would have to do.

Edana flicked mold and leaves from her shoulders, wiping her hands in disgust. Her palms were already clammy, and she hadn't even started yet. She wound rags around the palms of both hands for grip and took a two blade stance to start with. Her scalp felt hot and itchy, sweat dripping from her hairline and making her vest and waistband chafe, though she'd long since abandoned her boots. She rolled her shoulders, casting around for a suitable target. The jungle felt like it was smothering her, a soaked blanket muffling her in suffocating heat. As she stood, shifting her weight slightly for balance, just breathing and feeling her muscles loosen to start with, she heard... it was barely a rustle, at first.

Edana tensed, dropping lower into an attack stance. The sound built slowly as she turned, measuring the jungle, sifting past each leaf and vine as she tried to peer past the rust-dark shadows and deceitful sway of vegetation. The rustling became a roar, like riding towards a waterfall, though it seemed to come from every direction at once. Edana gritted her teeth in frustration; the jungle swaddled her, dulling her senses. She sought for patterns, but every flicker of movement was a lie, the shadows empty, the scent on the air a thick, hot reek of rot that revealed nothing in its cloying consistency. As she shifted, her foot caught on something, an upthrust root or rock, and as she spun to catch her balance, a sharp pain at her calf drew her gaze down even as the rushing sound peaked. And passed.

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