The moon refused to set. It hung there in the sky like some bulbous seed, full of life and waiting for just the right weather to sprout. Tam watched it doubtfully, warily, waiting for some other sign to come along and wipe away the heavy meaning of a day moon. But everything was quiet. Still. Poised. Even the river, some hundred leagues away, seemed to rush quietly in its banks. It avoided the rocks and normal pitfalls of its course, thrumming instead of crashing against the shore.
They saw hardly any game and so had to wait until late for lunch, finally settling down to eat when the sun was already halfway to setting. Tam’s stomach rumbled uncomfortably, a protest of nerves and a long day walking with only hard Satyr rolls from last night’s leftovers. When Vardos finally speared a rabbit, it was only a scrawny, half-lame juvenile with a patch of gray fur missing over its eye. Sibelius shuddered away and rolled his eyes in distaste, refusing to even sample the stringy meat that mostly dripped off into the fire. Vardos sucked on a bone and offered the meatiest portion to Tamyrn, but she had a hard time eating it after Sibelius’ refusal.
By the time night began to drop its dusky cloak over the trees, the moon shone luminous and bright as any winter sun. Sibelius eyed it nervously and decided to take first watch after camp was set. Tamyrn lay next to the fire, fitful and unable to sleep despite a heavy weariness that seemed to radiate through her bones. Every rock seemed to push its way through her thin bedroll.
After a while, she sat up to watch Vardos whittle while he sat near the blue flames of the fire. The moon hung over his shoulder, only slivers of bright silver threading through the trees.
“How much farther to the pass?” Tamyrn asked, more to break the uneasy silence than in hopes of any real answer.
Vardos shrugged and let his gaze drift lazily around the perimeter of the camp before answering.
“Maybe two days, three, if all goes right. The day moon has us spooked and we moved slowly today. We should make up some time tomorrow.”
“My father used to say that a day moon bodes ill news,” she said, poking at the coals with a long, slim twig.
“A common saying. I’m not sure I’ve ever had any proof to back it up.” Vardos smiled at her through the shadows and tossed his whittled stick into the flames.
“What were you making?”
“Nothing, just passing time until Sib comes back.”
“Do you suppose…” She let her words trail away into the dark.
“Nothing, it’s not – “
But the crashing sound of someone or something running through the undergrowth, very fast, cut her off short. Vardos stood, drawing his sword and stepping over in front of Tam.
Then three things happened all at once: Sib burst free of the undergrowth, the cloud moved in front of the moon, and Tamyrn’s amulet began to burn the skin at her neck.