Darek slipped his thumbs in between the straps of his pack, trying to relieve the pressure on his tired shoulders. If nothing else, at least when goblins were trying to kill him he forgot about the ache. He only listened with half an ear as Selena struck up a conversation with Leaf. She was always so good at that, diving past a person's defenses and disarming them with casual conversation. He reckoned that in the area of societal graces, she was at least as intelligent as he was in his own domain. He kept his eyes on the ground ahead, following the obvious trail that had been left by Kyoght as the man had stamped through the soft ground.
It was then that he'd realised Selena had dragged him into the conversation. He glanced upwards briefly, a long suffering expression flickering across as his face before he smoothed his features. With an energy to his voice he did not feel, he replied.
"Actually, the principle underlying all magic is the same. It just takes training and dedication to draw out the spells. Since there are so many combinations, and people generally tend to have preferences which are almost indistinguishable from natural affinity, the two end up being confused. It is a hard topic to study. I imagine, Leaf, that if you were to ask Lord Tempest on the theories of magic he would be able to tell you a great deal more."
He shifted the pack again on his shoulders. Why was the cursed thing so heavy?! The straps felt like they were doing their best to garrote his shoulder blades. He could almost have wished for a couple more goblins right now, to have an excuse to drop the pack.
The footsteps that they followed led into another clump of trees, and after a pause, Darek pushed through the foliage to follow them. He stumbled across Kyoght after a few steps, and nearly let out a yelp of surprise. The man was sat so quietly within the brush, his unnerving eyes peering towards the second camp that lay in the clearing beyond.
"Wait a minute," said Darek, kneeling and carefully brushing aside the thick leaves to afford himself a better view. "Is that-"
It was like a scene from a bad play. There was Yolanda running hard for the trees, panting with exertion. But that wasn't what made his face blanche; behind her, a group of goblins and an orc gave rampant chase, their weapons raised to strike and their guttural cries sounding. Darek palmed his face. Why had that fool dancer and that idiot sailor run off? This was the sort of trouble people got into when they didn't follow his plans! And why...why was she running directly at him? They were hidden in the trees, weren't they? So why was she leading her pursuers directly to them...
Was there time to run? No...no time to run. Why was he even thinking of running? Lords did not run! He had to...he had to inspire his troops, make a speech, or a gallant charge or something.
He leapt out of the bushes with a cry, the pots that were hung from his pack banging together, and then stopped. The orc slowed in its run and stared straight at him, sniffed with contempt, and roared. Darek bit his lip to stop it from quivering.
Oh god. He would have taken aching shoulders any day of the week. Any day!