Part 12: Interlude 3Interlude
Urist's snores settle down to a low rumble, the Dwarf idly scratching at his beard braids from time to time as he sleeps. From his own bed, Athtar watches his peaceful slumber for a few moments before turning toward the open window, where moonlight pours in.
The healed mark on his chest still itches, so Athtar tries shifting over to a new position, but it offers little relief. Giving up, he closes his eyes and slows his breathing, clearing his mind as his old instructors once taught him to.
The hyrinnix slips noiselessly from the shadows. "You're getting better at that."
"Practice makes perfect." Athtar opens his eyes and looks his companion up and down. "You've been gone for days. We'd have gone looking for you, but Aria assured us you were... around."
Deepmind pauses for a few moments before opening her hand to reveal a scrap of red tunic. "Kyric dropped this, before he ran away. Looked like he was using it to polish his crossbow."
Athtar simply looks at the scrap, puzzled. Deepmind continues. "It's from the hyrrinx we met in the woods. I can tell from the smell."
This catches the elf's attention. "Do you think Kyric or one of his bandits..." he trails off, considering. "Her leg. When Aria tackled her, she started favoring one leg."
Deepmind says nothing, slipping the piece of cloth back into her pocket. "I don't know. It'd be a weird thing to carry around if he shot her. Maybe it got tore off on a branch. Maybe it's from some other red tunic. Could be anything."
For a few moments more, the only sound is Urist's snores. Athtar finally speaks up. "I'm sorry. I was too focused on the mission, I should have listened to you."
Deepmind gives a wan smile. "I also told you to stop throwing yourself at every chance to get killed." She gestures at his new scar. "You not listening is nothing new."
Athtar manages a mild chuckle, then winces as something twinges.
The hyrrinx takes a cautious step forward into the moonlight, searching Athtar's face with luminous eyes, coming to a decision. "I wanted to explain. When we met that other hyrinnx, I...." she pauses, before pushing forward. "Did I ever tell you how I ended up in Nerekhall?"
"You had a debt to the thieves' guild."
"No, that's how I ended up doing the bosses' dirty work. How I ended up there in the first place..." she takes a deep breath and lets it out. "Hyrrinx have a tradition. When times are lean in the village, and there's not enough food, every grown hyrrinx that isn't married gets turned loose. Never allowed to come back."
Athtar holds his tongue, letting Deepmind continue. "Well, one winter that happened to my village. And I wasn't old enough, but over my parents' objections, I volunteered to leave. I thought it was going to be great, finally on my own, free to do what I wanted. And then, a few weeks later when I realized I really couldn't make it on my own and tried to go back..." she trails off, looking over to Urist. "You're an exile. So's Urist. You guys know what it's like. So I went to Nerekhall. And the rest you know."
She steps backward, out of the moonlight, leaving Athtar to peer after her. "I... think I understand," he offers carefully. "What will you do now?"
"Don't worry, now that everyone's done picking beans I'll be at breakfast tomorrow." Even in the dark, her thin smile is still visible. "Urk keeps eating all the good leftovers anyway."
Then she's gone.
Athtar turns back to the window. Urist rolls over in bed and mumbles something in Dunwarr. Below, the muffled sound of Aria practicing her violin drifts up from the common room. Soon, he falls asleep.