"You can call me Panna. Mercenary and vanilla mortal at your service" She swept her arms in a flourishing bow.
I quirked an eyebrow at her.
"Oh, don't give me that look. I'm not like Ody. I see what's in front of me and make up my own mind. He needed my eyes and had the money to pay for them." She put her hands on her hips. "That's what us mercs do. If you have a need and you're willing to pay for it, I'm in; and if you're nice about it or let me have some fun, I might cut you a discount. --Ody is a jerk. He only gets what he asks for and not a second more, and pays a premium for it too."
I shrugged and kept walking.
"Wait, where are you going? Camp is back that way." She twitched her head down a fork that I'd passed, but kept walking with me.
When we finally came out of the trees, it was quiet and dark. Panna looked around for a minute, catching her bearings when she spotted the firelight from the campground, and it was a decent walk away.
"Woah, you camp over here? That's... kinda hardcore. I confess, I'm jealous I didn't think of that. Is this even allowed?"
I shrugged again.
"Do you mind if I brought my gear over here? It's so nice and peaceful."
I stopped and turned to her with a scowl. Panna took a few steps backward and found herself against a tree, unable to retreat from my growl any further.
"Sorry, sorry. I guess you just want to be left alone."
"You don't want to be left alone? Look, I'm sorry for whatever I said that offended you. I understand you don't like to talk much, but can you talk to me?"
I glanced furtively around and grabbed the front of her tunic, dragging us back into the shadows of the trees. Before she could do more than open her mouth to object, I covered it with my other hand, put my lips to one of her ears, and in my softest voice whispered "Listen."
Panna stopped struggling against me and I removed my hands.
I closed my eyes and put all my effort into listening. There was a snapping of branches behind us, deeper into the trees, and a light swayed down the path toward us. She jerked in surprise, but I pinned her chest with my shoulder. Whoever it was... they were more likely to see us if we tried to move further off the path than if we stayed put, stayed still.
"Are you sure they came down this way?"
"Nowhere else they could have gone. Brush is too dense around here to leave the trail. And his tent is out there. I checked on that this morning. He always camps away from everyone else."
"If you're wrong--"
"Well, let's just hope Panna did her job."
"If she didn't, it's going to cost her more than money."
They walked right past us, almost near enough to touch.
"Where are they?"
"Probably in the tent."
"Why not? Panna's a creative gal. She's good at taking incentive to get a job done right."
"Whatever. Look, you did your part, now scram."
"Where's my payment?"
"You get the other half when it's done. It's not done yet. Better hope your little merc has as much sense as incentive. Time to see if Igni can stand some real fire."
"What? Man, I think you're taking this a little far..."
"Then it's a good thing I don't pay you to think. Get out of here. Hurry up!"
The tracker bolted for the main campsite while Ody looked up at the clear sky and flicked off his flashlight.
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