“We’ll stop here for tonight.”
Three very exhausted wolves collapsed behind Coal. The dark blue Fire-Wolf sent them an unimpressed look and said, “A little dramatic.”
Sparrow cracked open a silvery eye to glare at the rebel leader. “Oh please forgive us mere mortals for our weak bodies.”
Coal rolled his eyes. “Enough. Settle down and get some sleep. We move out at first light.”
Groans met his words. Coal ignored them as he silently padded away from the small clearing. He may have circled the area several times before actually stopping, but he had to make sure it would be safe for the night. The last thing he wanted was to have demons ambushing them in the middle of the night. Just because they hadn’t encountered any demons for over a day did not mean they couldn’t be attacked by an entire horde at any moment.
Soft steps made him tense, before Meadow’s scent reached his nose.
“Just me,” the Earth-Wolf said a moment later, padding up to join him.
“You should be resting with the other two,” Coal muttered under his breath.
“So should you.”
“I don’t need it.”
“Sure you don’t.” Meadow’s tone said she would drag Coal back by his tail if he continued arguing. He sighed.
“Fine. We will sleep in shifts.” Coal stalked rather irritably after Meadow as she led the way back through the dark forest. Sparrow and Eagle were waiting for them, much to Coal’s displeasure.
Sparrow nudged Eagle, a triumphant look on her face. “Told you she’d drag him back. You owe me a rabbit.”
Eagle scowled. “It’s only because she’s bigger and actually can drag him that he listened.”
An innocent shrug was all Coal got from Meadow in response to his suspicious look. He sighed and shook his head. “I believe I told you three to rest,” he said, settling down in front of the two younger wolves. “We are getting a very early start tomorrow.”
With a dramatic groan, Sparrow slumped against Eagle. The male Wind-Wolf rolled his eyes and said, “If we had fallen asleep before you got back, you would have pounced on us and lectured us for letting our guards down.”
“Resting does not equate—”
“Which is why I brought you back,” Meadow cut in. “The sooner we can all sleep, the happier everyone will be.” She gave Coal a meaningful look, one he ignored. She always bugged him about taking care of himself and not pushing himself so hard. But he couldn’t afford to relax his guard even a little, especially after his recent escape from Ignimor Fortress. Every demon on the island was looking for him, and he couldn’t make the same mistakes that led to his capture in the first place.
“Hey, remember when we were in Gaoibeanna and Eagle rolled right off the edge of camp in his sleep and onto a Hell-Cat?” Sparrow said suddenly, her eyes glittering with amusement.
Eagle snorted. “You pushed me.”
“Did not, I was on the other side of the ledge.”
“Be quiet and go to sleep,” Coal interrupted. “I don’t want to hear you complaining tomorrow morning about not getting enough sleep.”
Meadow chuckled. “I don’t remember who screamed louder; the demon or Eagle.”
“Eagle, definitely Eagle,” Sparrow said over the other Wind-Wolf’s protests.
“Coal nearly flew over the top of the mountain, it startled him so much,” Meadow added, sending Coal a mischievous look.
With a sigh, Coal realized he was never going to get the others to settle down unless he played a little “story time” with them. “I had thought we were under attack, from the way Eagle screamed. I simply tried to get off the ledge as fast as I could so I could meet the threat.”
“But backwards?” Sparrow wagged her tail with amusement, prompting a glare from the rebel leader.
“What about the time you got stuck in a snow drift with a forest moose, Sparrow?” Eagle asked, obviously trying to direct the conversation away from him.
Sparrow glared at Eagle. “I was half-asleep and hungry. We hadn’t eaten anything in days. Besides, some wolf had decided to scare me awake that morning.” She turned the glare to Meadow.
“How terrible, although I do remember another certain wolf scaring the rest of us awake for several days in a row,” the Earth-Wolf said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“At the very least, it was unexpected to see you go racing off into the forest, chasing a blue squirrel,” Coal said with a slight chuckle. Sparrow sent him a mock look of horror.
“I am betrayed! I told you not to say anything about that!”
Eagle rolled his eyes. “Sparrow, we all heard you shout ‘I have to find the blue squirrel’ before you ran.”
Both Eagle and Meadow laughed at Sparrow’s indignant look. Sparrow turned her muzzle up and said in a haughty tone, “Fine, I see how it is. All the times I have saved both your tails, and I am reduced to an object of amusement.”
Coal rolled his eyes and shook his head. He stayed silent as the other three continued to tease each other with tales of past adventures, content to watch them. Despite his best efforts, he slowly started to relax. It was a rare moment of peace for the small band of rebels, and an even rarer one for Coal. They would soon be up and moving again, sneaking through Taladair in search of a place to hide while the excitement over Coal’s escape died down. The morning would bring the threat of recapture and death by demon claws, but for now, they were safe.
Maybe Coal could afford to rest a little.