The Name in Stone

   
Jasper nodded thoughtfully. "Not a bad idea," he said, rubbing his fingers together lightly. "Prudent, yeah? It'll also give us a chance tonight to poke around the dreams. I might take a walk around the perimeter, see if any of these ghosts are about. Don't believe in em, myself. Still, might drag Ravan along with me just to make sure I don't die."

"It's easier to believe in something after it tries to kill you." Sam smiled and then turned to Shelton, "should I take your silence to mean you're okay going in there?"

Shelton smirked. "We lived through the Demon War. It seems silly to let a few haunts and shades keep us out of somewhere we need going. Besides, someone needs to come along to make sure you don't get lost."

"My thoughts exactly. Kaiden has a map of the ruins and can point out where we need to go. I told him to expect you." Sam stood, "I'm going to talk with Derek; if anyone wants to come you're welcome. I should be back by dinner time."

With a wave Samantha started off toward the edge of the camp. Ruvria followed, and with a rather large smile Sam slipped her arm into her friend's and pulled her close as they walked. She tried to make small talk, asking how Jameo was and whether Ruvria prefered the snow, which still clung to the ground in Shallon, or the warmer beaches of the island they'd just left. She specifically avoided the topics of Jasper or Tobias, and before long they were at the edge of the forest. Sam frowned a little, looking at the trees with dismay. "Oh, hells." She wasn't going to go searching randomly for their companions, so she called toward the trees, "Derek! Toby!" They really needed a better system, but then again, they were probably being watched by a crow or something and were expected.

Ruve was going, so Jasper hauled himself up to go as well. No sense in missing out on anything interesting. Not that he really wanted to leave Aurelia alone and unsupervised, but there wasn't a good way to demand she come along without really acting Jamean. Besides, what kind of mischief could she really get into while surrounded by Helminites?

Far too much.

Nothing to be done, though, so he followed Ruve and Sam out of the camp. On the way, he spotted a particularly large crow duck down in a tree, staring at them with beady red eyes. They were getting better at that, he thought with approval. Before, they'd completely lacked any sense of how to behave like a proper Murder. Now, they were smarter than a real one, but good at blending in. Good on them.

They heard the group not too long after, the faint sounds of squabbling children mixed with the occasional calls of crows. They'd set up camp in a small grove of trees, and Derek lounged against a tree, Aislin nearby. The red-headed woman smirked when they came in, glancing over at Toby. "Well?"

Toby frowned. "Well what? We spotted em long before you did. If we'd wanted, we coulda done lots."

Aislin bobbed her head, leaving it at that, though Jasper thought the silence was particular. It suddenly occurred to him that he didn't know anything about this woman, and he made a mental note to rectify that fact.

"Stop fighting," Amanda said, then yawned and stretched.

Derek smiled at the group and got to his feet. "How are you? We were just debating whether or not to build a fire. Seems most of us don't actually need one, but the flames can be quite nice."

It had been nice, talking to Sam like old times. Not everything had changed in six months, after all. Just...many of them. And she still felt so removed - so out of place. Lost, perhaps. But then, that feeling had been her companion since she left her people a year ago. It wasn't about to change now.

She was aware of Jasper's presence beside her, a warmth she found comforting. He was a constant, at least. Whatever that meant for the two of them.

She nodded to Derek. She supposed she was cold, but it wasn't much of a problem. "If a fire is much trouble, don't worry about it. At least, I am fine."

Sam pounced on Toby for a hug before he could squirm away and then hugged Derek. She looked at Aislin then, trying to decide how she felt about the discussion they were about to have taking place in front of the Lady's spy. Her eyes didn't remain there long. "I'm alright without a fire, and we'll be heading back to the camp soon enough. We have a lead on Adye, but there are complications. Something is disturbing the dreams of anyone in the general area - out here you'll still be within the range of it - and small groups tend not to come back out of the ruins once they go in. Adye's last known location was within. Shelton is having a look at the map so that he can guide us, and I believe everyone is willing to go, but I think we should wait until morning. That is, if you still wanted to try to meet her."

Toby grunted and hugged Sam, then squirmed away, out of her arms. Derek looked vaguely surprised, but stood to keep her from having to bend and shove herself against him, and stayed standing afterward.

Amanda scowled. "I want a fire," she said, and went about building one, muttering something about males underneath her breath.

Toby smirked at her, then shrugged when Derek looked at him questioningly. "I can get some of my better dreamwalkers on the problem tonight when everyone is sleeping. It could be the Nightmare bitch."

"Nightmare bitch?"
Aislin asked, perking up a little.

He nodded and glanced at the others. "For a few months shy of a year, the crows and I have been fighting a nightmare bitch. We found her first in a nightmare, killing her parents. They died, really badly, and we stumbled in. She was curious, and has both tried to fight us, and convince us to... I don't know, join her, or become her disciples. We've obviously fought her, as she's not worth our time. I've set traps for her across the dreamscape, but thus far, she hasn't gotten caught enough for me to kill her.

"The last little bit, she's gone really quiet. If she's been here, that could be an answer."

"So, you know for sure it's her?"
Aislin asked, a blade suddenly in her hand, her fingers tracing over its edge lightly.

Toby shrugged. "No, duh. Of course not."

"It could be anyone or anything,'
Amanda said, a little more sharply than she needed. "Only a fool would assume it's the obvious. I mean, there are plenty of dream creatures that try and eat the crows, right Toby?"

"Yup,"
Toby said, a little more confidently than the situation really called for.

Derek sighed. "So, we'll know more in the morning. I'd be happy to go with you then. The Crows seem like they're willing to wait to get to Cold Harbor. Aislin, are you alright with this?"

"Sure,"
she said, grinning. "I'm happy to get in the way."

Flames flickered, and Amanda sighed happily as she got the fire going, pleased that she hadn't used magic at all.

"It would be better if you didn't," Sam looked at Aislin pointedly, "and that weapon won't do you any good in your dreams." She turned back to Derek. "There have been some reports of ghosts as well. I would bet that they aren't the real thing and the phenomena is connected to the dream issue, but like you say, we'll know more in the morning. We'll meet you here sometime after sunrise to discuss and prepare if that's alright."




 

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