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In the Forest of the Night

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It was dark.

They’d been scouring the forest all day, following a lead on a Grand Relic that Magnus suspected was going to turn out to be nothing. Evening had snuck up on them before they’d stopped to make camp, and by the time they’d gotten the bedrolls set up and a fire going it had been well and truly dark. The moon wasn’t up yet, and the trees here were close enough together than even when it rose Magnus suspected it wouldn’t give much light.

Taako sat poking the embers of the fire with a stick, ostensibly banking them for the next morning; Merle had done a half-assed job of washing up after the stew they’d had for dinner, and was already bundled in his bedroll snoring away. Magnus couldn’t have explained why the noise felt almost comforting.

Something had been bothering him all day. Nothing he could pinpoint, just a vague sense of unease, like he was being watched. Or, well, no, that didn’t really describe it. Like he’d set something important down somewhere and then left it behind. Or like he’d been meaning to do something and had forgotten what it was. It was getting on his nerves, making him more tense than he usually was.

“I’ve never liked forests.” Taako announced abruptly, not looking up from the embers.

Magnus . . . didn’t quite have an answer for that, although for the very barest second he almost said I know which was an absolutely ridiculous thing to say. He shrugged it off, examined his hands thoughtfully for a moment, running his thumb over his knuckles in the old nervous tic he’d always had. “I dunno. Usually I don’t mind them much one way or another.”

“Mmmhmm.” Taako sounded skeptical, and he drew the stick he’d been using to poke at the fire out of the coals, examining the glowing end. “So what’s got you so jumpy today, my dude?”

Magnus shrugged, flopped back on his bedroll and stared up into the dark tree canopy above him. “Dunno,” He said, which was the truth. “Just a weird day, I guess.”

Taako made a noncommittal noise, went back to banking the fire and then said airily. “Well, whatever it is, don’t let it disturb my beauty sleep, capisce? The dwarf’s bad enough.”

Magnus snorted in amusement and toed his boots off, pulling his blanket over himself and shifting around until he got comfortable. “Sure, whatever you say. G’night, Taako.”

Taako flicked an ear in acknowledgment, and Magnus took a deep breath and closed his eyes, listening to the sounds of the forest at night — leaves rustling, the stream running nearby, a night bird calling somewhere far off, Merle snoring like a godsdamned sawmill.

This isn’t there, he thought dozily, yet another stray thought with no sense to it whatsoever, there and gone like the flash of a firefly.

If he dreamed, the dreams didn’t wake him.

- The End -