I was glad I’d let Rachael come. I found out that the pack on her back was magical and could carry a much larger amount of things than what it looked like it could. She pulled a large pot, followed by a knife, a cutting board and a bunch of different vegetables and seasonings. She told me it was just another one of the Dwarves’ spells. While Faiza muttered something about some people not being able to rough it, none of us complained when she made us stew for dinner.
We sat around the fire eating with wooden spoons and bowls that Rachael also pulled from her pack. We didn’t say much—each of our mouths was filled with tasty stew. The only sounds were the crickets singing their night song among the trees.
“What was that?” asked Faiza.
“What?” I asked.
“I keep hearing noises behind me.”
“It was probably just a raccoon,” I told her.
A second later, I heard some rustling in the darkness to my left, where Ethan sat. The others must have heard it too because they were all looking in that direction. Ethan turned his head to look behind him, Faiza was scowling into the darkness, and Rachael’s wide blue eyes were even wider.
I put my hand on the hilt of my sword. If a grimulin attacked, it would be up to me to fight it. It would take a lot of Faiza’s and Ethan’s arrows to kill a grimulin, but one well-placed stab from the dwarves’ magic-enhanced sword and the grimulin would die.
There weren’t any other sounds, and I eased my hand off the sword, feeling a little silly for being spooked by some raccoon running around in the woods.
“Aahh!” Ethan jumped up and spun around, sloshing stew over his hand. “Something poked me.” His head jerked from side to side.
I didn’t see anything around him. The fire’s light should have been enough to see whatever it was if it had gotten close enough to Ethan to touch him. He was probably just jumpy.
Or at least that’s what I thought until Ethan took a few steps toward the woods, probably hoping to see whatever it was he thought had touched him.
There was a sudden burst of rustling sounds right in front of him that sounded as if something was running.
Something jabbed the middle of my back, like a finger poking me. I stood and spun, dropped my stew, and pulled my sword from its sheath.
Nothing but darkness was behind me.
Something skittered through the camp. I could hear it, but I couldn’t see it. I would have thought it was too small to see in the shadows of the firelight, but from the sounds it was making, it had to be the size of a large dog.
Was it an invisible grimulin?
“What the blazes!?” Faiza exclaimed. Her spoon was suspended in mid-air, floating on its own, stew dripping off the end and into the bowl in her lap.
What kind of magic was this? I stiffened my fingers around my sword, expecting an attack at any moment. Had the sorcerer who conjured the grimulin found us already?
Faiza reached to take her spoon, but it floated away.
“That’s enough Samel,” Rachael said, arms on her hips.
Samel? We’d left him behind. Was there some kind of spell on Rachael making her see things that wasn’t there?
The spoon went flying into Faiza’s bowl. Then…. It laughed?
A small figure materialized in front of Faiza.
I recognized that mop of curly hair—Samel. There was nothing there one moment, then suddenly he was standing there, wearing his pack and holding his sides with laughter.
“My stomach hurts from holding that in,” he said between chuckles. “If only I could be invisible and soundless. Then I could laugh as the good stuff was happening instead of waiting until after.”
“You little…” Faiza took his ear and Samel’s laughter was cut short. She was unfazed by the fact that he’d just appeared out of thin air. She started in on him like he was one of the boys in her camp. “You think that was funny do you? I’ll show you funny.” She twisted his ear.
“Stop it!” Rachael ran and wrapped her arms around him protectively. Faiza let go but glared viciously at them both.
Rachael frowned down at Samel. “What are you doing here?”
“I told you. If you’re going, I’m going.” He gave her that impertinent grin of his.
Rachael shook her head affectionately. “What am I going to do with you?”
“I’ll tell you what to do with him,” said Faiza. “Make him go back.”
“Sure thing,” Samel said, “After I have some stew.” He reached his hand into Rachael’s pack sitting on the ground and came out with a bowl. “I wasn’t going to let you know I was here for a few more days, but this smelled too good to pass up. All I have is dry, salted meat.” He wrinkled his nose.
“You could have picked a better way ‘let us know you were here,’” Ethan told him as he shook his stew covered hand. I found myself agreeing with Ethan as I looked down at the upside-down bowl at my feet with soup splattering out of it. Rachael pulled a washrag out of her pack and handed it to Ethan.
“And miss out on that?” asked Samel as he helped himself to the stew. “I haven’t had that much fun since I first discovered I could turn invisible. It’s not much fun doing stuff like that at home. Everyone knows exactly who it is.”
I remembered the way Gilmmold watched Samel when he told him to leave the council. Now it made sense why he watched Samel until he was actually out of the room with the door shut behind him. Gilmmold was making sure he would turn invisible when no one was looking and stay in the room to listen.
“You may think your little stunt was cute,” Faiza told him, “but it doesn’t mean you can come with us.”
The curly headed dwarf put another spoonful into his bowl, completely unconcerned.
“I mean it,” Faiza said. “I don’t want to see you tomorrow morning.”
“You won’t,” Samel smirked.
I laughed and earned myself a sharp look from Faiza and a confused look from the other two. He was a bit of a pest, but if he could turn invisible, we wouldn’t have to worry about him getting attacked by a grimulin.
“Welcome to the team,” I told Samel. He gave me a salute, then stuffed a spoonful of stew in his mouth.
“He can’t come with us!” Faiza looked shocked that I’d contradicted her.
“Actually, he can,” I said. “He’ll just follow us around scaring us at night if we don’t let him come.”
“He’ll probably do that anyway.” Faiza eyed the dwarf distrustfully. He winked at her and slurped from his spoon.
I shrugged. Maybe traveling with him wouldn’t be so bad. I liked his energy and mischievous streak. Besides, as much as Rachael protested his coming, she looked really glad to see him.
It looked like there would be five of us going to the castle.
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