Argent turned his attention to study the ground at his feet. The water had eroded away enough of the trail that it wasn’t obvious unless you were looking for it. However, yes, there was evidence of horse prints leading north down the mountainside. That would certainly explain why they hadn’t been able to overtake the sledge. In fact …
“Actually Bildad, I think it might be two or more horses. These two hooves are not the same size. It looks to me like he met up with someone and they continued on together.”
“Well that’s just great. Now there are even more people to split it with.”
Martha snorted and started back down the trail again.
“What do you care? The finders fee is coming out of my half remember?”
“You’ve been delaying us on purpose. Don’t think I’m not noticing and don’t think it won’t have consequences.”
Martha spun with a look of incredulity on her face.
“How does that make any sense at all? Your just throwing baseless accusations out of habit now.”
Argent could see another head coming to the constant tension between Bildad and Martha. He was searching his mind for an idea to diffuse it when he caught a sound coming from downhill.
“Bildad, isn’t that the sound of tack? Could that be horses around the far bend?”
All three of them stopped to listen and then Bildad took off at a run.
“Don’t let the girl out of your sight, and don’t let your guard down.”
After Bildad disappeared around the corner, Martha brushed off a large rock at the side of the trail and shook her head free of her hood as she sat down.
“Does he really think he’ll be able to outrun a horse?”
Argent smiled, her voice was definitely less hostile when Bildad was absent.
“Well he might actually, especially if it’s pulling a sledge and plodding. He might even be able to if it were trotting. I remember once watching him out sprint a fleeing weir.”
Martha’s face clouded over and Argent knew he had given the wrong example. But why? Why was that example wrong? Yes, Bildad was probably wrong about Martha’s current condition but that didn’t mean he was wrong to protect people from weirs.
“He’s not a bad man Martha.”
“Could have fooled me.”
“He just hasn’t ever heard of anyone coming back from being turned. No one has.”
“I’m not turned.”
“Right, I know but that doesn’t mean –”
Martha had shut him out again and clearly wasn’t interested in the conversation. Argent didn’t know what else to say so he let it drop. After a few heartbeats her eyes came back up to his.
“Look, I don’t want to be enemies –”
“Enemies? Martha, haven’t I proved that I’m your friend?”
“– and I can’t afford to be your friend. At least not now, not until I’ve proved to everyone that I’m not a weir.”
“I know you’re not a weir.”
“No you don’t. I’ve seen the way you look at me. You don’t know that, and I don’t either. Not for sure, not until I quest. So I can’t be your friend. But as your acquaintance, an acquaintance that might one day be your friend. Can I ask you a favour?”
“Would you play your flute again?”
The request caught Argent off guard. He didn’t know why as she clearly liked his playing. He also didn’t know why he hadn’t played at all since meeting up with Bildad. It had just slipped his mind in the hurry to get down the hill. He fished out the Argentum whistle and brought it to his lips. Martha’s eyes lit up as he began to play.
Three notes in he was interrupted by Simon’s sentry horn.