As they finished dinner in their camp on the third night, Mijinji couldn't help but sigh. By tomorrow night, they'd be back on the main roads and he hoped that the increased traffic they were likely to come across would keep their employer entertained. He'd spent all day tag-teaming with Clessa, both doing their best to keep Paxun talking and not thinking about Vergon. He had to admit that the conversation Vergon had managed to have with the priest the night before about the different types of leather had been fine, and a safe topic. He wondered if that had helped ease Paxun's obvious suspicions about his partner.
Knowing there was nothing he could do at the moment, Mijinji shook his head. While Clessa sat beside the fire, chanting her alarm spells, he and Vergon played a quick round of Sword, Rock, Shield to decide who had first watch. Vergon's win had Mijinji nodding. His partner had looked pale and tense all day. And instead of going still and twitchy like a normal person, Vergon had reacted with double his normal energy. He couldn't count how many times he'd found Vergon behind them, having circled around in his ever-spiralling scouting movement.
Mijinji sighed again, feeling his shoulders and neck begin to knot. He'd never been so anxious for a job to be over. And it wasn't even that Paxun was a bad employer. It was only how nervous he made Vergon that was the problem. Even his interest in Mijinji's partner could have been dealt with. He'd have another talk with Vergon before they set out in the morning, Mijinji decided, poking their fire with a stick. Relaxing now that he had a plan, Mijinji stretched then settled himself in for his watch.
The sliver of moon was overhead, adding its silver-blue light to what the stars were throwing down when sudden movement in front of him had Mijinji teaching for his sword. By the time Clessa had fought her way out of her blankets, Mijinji was standing and frowning. He was joined a moment later by Vergon, the latter folding his hands over his partner's shoulder and propping his chin on them. Mijinji ignored him and how he'd stolen up on him without a sound. Clessa was there in front of them in a few blips, hair dishevelled, eyes wide. "Something's tripped my alarms," she whispered, glancing around.
"Can you tell what it is?" Mijinji asked, hand again dropping to his hilt.
"She shook her head. "It's bigger than anything harmless, and there are more than one of them. I'm worried it might be bandits or something similar."
He nodded. "Alright, then we prepare as if that's what we're dealing with. I want you to lie back down and pretend to be asleep. Start whatever spell you think's best. You should be able to get the chanting bit over quick enough. I'm going to pretend to have fallen asleep while on watch. Vergon, you," Mijinji said, before freezing mid-turn. His partner was gone. He hadn't even noticed the weight lift away from him. Hissing curses, he jerked back to face Clessa. "We do what I just said. Hopefully that idiot doesn't blunder in at the wrong time."
The mage nodded, glancing back out into the darkness that lay beyond their circle of fire light, then slipping back over to her bedroll. Only when she was settled back down, did Mijinji arrange himself in front of the fire. Dropping his chin to his chest, Mijinji watched the trees through slitted eyes, poised to jump as soon as an opponent presented itself.
Despite straining his ears, all Mijinji could hear were the calls of insects, the restless stamping of one of the horses, and the distant call of an owl. Several turns passed, and he was about to tell Vergon and Clessa to go back to sleep, when he heard the rustling of nearby leaves. He flicked his eyes towards the sound, forcing himself not to move any other part of himself. As he watched, a large shadow detached itself from the forest, entering the edge of their camp.
Studying the stranger, an idle part of Mijinji's brain wondered if he'd ever have a normal sense of size. He thought that most people might describe this man as massive. But he was half a hand shorter than Vergon and not much taller than himself. His muscles and the width of him were quite impressive. But it was the size of his sword, something that looked capable of slicing down trees with one swing, that really had him staring.
A shouted word from Clessa brought his mind back to the situation at hand. He glanced at her, noticing a second stranger, one who appeared the same width as the other one's sword, dancing in place rapidly, his face shiny with sweat. Only when the trees to either side of him shook like they'd been struck by hurricane strength winds did Mijinji realize that this man was a mage.
He left Clessa to her craft, leaping up and drawing his blade. He faced the large stranger, his sword in a guard position, eyes steady. "If you're bandits, there are far easier and richer targets. If you're not, then state your business. We don't make it a habit of getting into pointless fights."
"We're here for him," the stranger replied, nodding at Paxun.
Only now waking up, the priest's face glowed palely in the faint moonlight, his eyes egg-round as he looked around. "Stay where you are," Mijinji said, taking his eyes off the man in front of him for only a moment. "We'll handle this."
Then he turned his full attention back to the stranger. "He's hired us to see him safely to Riverport. I'm afraid that that means if you have other intentions, we'll have no choice but to stop you. By force if necessary."
Clessa's voice rose in a chant behind them while the big man shifted. "Then we fight?"
Mijinji frowned. "Unless you leave, yes."
He nodded, unsheathing his own sword. "We're going to take the priest."
"We're not going to let that happen."
A soft twang went almost unheard amidst the chanting, stamping sounds coming from the mages. Mijinji only noticed because the sound was accompanied by the feeling of someone brushing past him, then the feeling of someone's back pressing against his. "Vergon?"he said, unable to imagine a second person who could be that fast.
"Yes," his partner replied, eyes on one of the trees at the edge of their camp. In one hand he held the arrow he'd kept from Mijinji's back. Vergon's expression was a rare grave look, his gaze halfway to a glare as he continued to stare at the middle branches of the tree. He snapped the arrow he held, dropping the pieces to the ground while he drew one of his short, thin knives with his free hand.