Athgar stared into the flames, his mind deep in thought.
"A copper for your thoughts?" said Natalia.
He gazed across at her, taking in her black hair and pale features. He had met her less than a year ago, and yet somehow, he felt as though they had known each other their entire lives. He smiled, feeling a warmth at the thought of her embrace.
"Well?" she asked. "Are you going to keep staring, or are you going to come over here and tell me your deepest thoughts?"
"I was thinking of Kargen and Shaluhk," he confessed, "though I will take you up on the offer." He rose, moving closer while she took the blanket from her shoulders, spreading it to encompass them both as he sat beside her on the log.
"They must be well on their way by now," she mused.
"I'm not so sure about that. It's not easy, convincing an entire tribe to leave their home."
"They have little choice. You know the Duke of Krieghoff won't take his defeat very well, he'll retaliate. I only hope the Orcs escape in time."
"They will," said Athgar. "The Ancestors watch over them."
"Would that be the same Ancestors who sent us here?" She looked around the forest.
"They work in mysterious ways. We're on our way to Ebenstadt, remember?"
"We spent weeks crossing the mountains. Of course I didn't forget, but why? What do they have in mind for us?"
He shrugged. "I have no idea. Maybe it's better that way? What we don't know can't worry us."
"Do you believe they control us?"
"No, the Orcs are quite clear in their beliefs. The Ancestors guide them, not control them."
"With some exceptions," Natalia added.
"True. I doubt either of us will never forget the treachery of Khurlig. Her spirit was almost the end of us all."
Natalia nodded her head thoughtfully. It wasn't so long ago that she had, with Shaluhk's help, tried to contact one of the Orc Ancestors with somewhat disastrous results. If it hadn't been for the timely intervention of the Sister of Saint Agnes, they both might have ended up dead, or worse, trapped in the spirit realm forever.
Athgar saw her shudder and put his arm around her shoulder. "It's all right," he soothed. "It's all over now."