INTERLUDES

The Odd Couple

The 8th of Tarsakh, 1373 DR 

“Delightful,” Edrik remarked sarcastically after taking in a deep breath. His face twisted with disgust as he glanced down at his companion. “What is that stink?”

“Something dead, I would imagine.” Anhagan's tone was plain. He spoke without pausing in his establishment of their camp.

Edrik sighed, shoulders slumping. “I will be forever amazed by your uncanny, druidical insights,” he muttered as he scornfully eyed the bogs that surrounded them. The Laird’s Mire, he observed, was a dreary place of washed-out colors, even when the sun was setting. It depressed him. He turned back to Anhagan then.“I thought you might be able to identify with greater precision the nature of the thing which is, judging by its stench, so obviously dead, oh druid, man of nature, He Who Is One With the Wild.

It was Anhagan’s turn to sigh. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t do this.” The druid straightened himself and his topaz eyes focused on the cause of his concern. That cause was currently swatting at the air in a futile attempt to ward off the insects.

“Do what?” Edrik’s face was twisting up again.

“You always do this, Edrik.” Anhagan explained, not unkindly, as he walked over to the Moonshavian. “That which is in you is beginning to itch... to thirst for the hunt. It agitates you, and you become insufferable. You complain, you mope; you nitpick--” 

“I nitpick?”

“Yes, yes, you nitpick,” Anhagan snapped, annoyed at being interrupted. After taking a moment to reclaim his composure, he continued, “You attempt to conceal the real cause of your frustration. There is no need to do that with me.” He placed a hand on Edrik’s shoulder. “You know this, my friend. And if you persist... I may have to quiet you.”

A long moment passed in silence, as Edrik stared, blank-faced, at the druid. “That was a threat, I think.”

Anhagan simply smiled, his eyes darkly hooded by his brow.

The Moonshavian took on a slightly unhinged look -- a practiced appearance meant to intimidate -- and jabbed a finger into his companion’s chest. “Do not think, simply because you were successful once, that you can poison me whenever you like--”

“Twice, actually.”

Edrik paused, his brow furrowing. “Pardon?”

“It was twice. That time in Daggerford, with the jeweler’s daughter, who was much too young... it was not the drink that was abnormally strong, as you have, until this moment, believed.”

“You despicable bastard!” Edrik exclaimed, looking aghast.

Anhagan shrugged off the insult. “I save you from yourself. Such is my lot.”

The Moonshavian turned away, stumbling as if he had been mortally wounded. “But her skin,” he cried to the heavens. “It was like the purest cream... and her hair, so soft... so soft, like a fine calashite silk!”

“And her father... connected to the Shadowed Ones of Amn... like a very dangerous man.”

Edrik went still and then collapsed unceremoniously into a sitting position on the ground. He sighed. “I could just refuse to eat your food.” He pointed straight up into the air. “Take that, poisoner!”

Anhagan snorted and returned to his work. “You would not have the will. You enjoy it too much.”

“True,” Edrik admitted, falling onto his back. He stared at the darkening, overcast sky for many moments and tried to calm the "itch", as Anhagan called it, that was growing within him. The environment, however -- particularly the odor -- was proving to be too much of a distraction. “Perhaps, if you were to cook now, it would mask the stench.”

“While it is true that the draka sent us along a route that it claimed is not patrolled, I would not wish to press our luck by signaling our presence in that way.”

Edrik made faces, quietly mocking the druid as he spoke, which Anhagan didn’t notice. “He,” the Moonshavian stated when the druid was finished.

Anhagan unfurled a bedroll and then paused, glancing over at Edrik. “Eh?”

“He. The it you refer to... is a he. His name... is Aloszek.”

This earned a sneer and a shrug from Anhagan. “Forgive me if I do not extend such courtesy.” 

“Oh, and who is it now with the attitude unduly influenced by his blood?” Edrik asked incredulously. 

Silence was the answer. Edrik smiled to himself. I win. Then he frowned. “Goddess, that stench is maddening. It’s just our luck that the only dry patch big enough to camp on in this gods-forsaken muckland is haunted by the stink of the dead.”

“Take heart, my friend,” Anhagan offered as he settled down on the bedroll. “No matter how uncomfortable you are, Saura and the Jannathi are more so. Does that not lighten your spirit? Now... we should rest. The hunt is soon to begin. Summon your watch dog.”

“He is not a dog,” Edrik mumbled as he first sat up and then stood. “Quite plainly man-shaped...” The Moonshavian spun in place, bowed deep, and beckoned at the growing shadows with curling fingers. “Come hither, my old friend.”

And in answer, the shadows moved...