"What are you so afraid of?" Crista said.
"Who said I was afraid?" I answered, acting tough and puffing out my measly chest, which deflated a moment later.
"Bob did," Crista said, pointing at the horse.
Bob shrugged his shoulders and suddenly became interested in an interesting patch of green grass.
"Well, the old woman I met said there were things in the woods that would eat us," I said. "Possibly slowly."
"That sounds unpleasant," Crista said. "But you have your sword."
"Yes," I said. "But that's what got me in trouble on the road."
"That's because you weren't paying attention," Cu said to me as he came into our vague camp with an armload of fire wood. He set about clearing brush and making a teepee out of the wood. "Fire'll keep the critters away."
"Ew, I hate critters," Crista said, shivering.
"You can sleep next to me," Cu offered, licking his lips in a less than sensual manner, which made Crista shiver even more.
"That's okay," she said. "I'll take my chances."
"Hey, Fractious!" Cu called out to me. "Make yourself useful and help me get this fire going. I got me a brace of pigeons to roast up."
"Won't that attract the critters?" I knelt beside him and banged two rocks together to make sparks. "And what's a brace?"
"Eh," Cu said with a typical shrug, unwilling as always to answer what he considered to be my stupid questions.
"Well, I don't want to be eaten," I said, drawing the sword from behind my back. "I'm sleeping with this under my pillow tonight."
"You don't have a pillow," Cu reminded me.
"Oh... Yeah. Right."
We got the fire going and spitted Cu's two pigeons, which apparently made a brace, even though I wasn't sure if that was only true of pigeons or if you could have a brace of other things. They made a measly meal but at least we all ate a little. Cu even let me have some, stating we were out of bread and he hadn't thought to buy any in Tara. I knew he was lying when he pulled out a half loaf of bread and began munching on it.
"That's bread," I said. "You said we didn't have any more bread."
Cu looked down at the obvious loaf of bread. "This isn't bread," he told me. "It's... salami."
I smiled, somewhat delighted. "Whatever."
Cu only continued to eat his bread, breaking off a piece to pass off to Crista when she asked for some salami. Later that night, as the fire continued to roar, we sat around in companionable silence, listening to the rustling in the woods around us. Crista moved closer to me, and so did Bob the horse. The ponies shuffled closer to Cu, probably finding comfort in someone more their size. The rustling grew more and more intense then suddenly the fire went out in a whoosh!
I heard noises as I got to my feet, swinging my sword carefully lest I lop off the wrong heads but my valiant efforts didn't last long. I heard Cu cussing up a storm then a loud thump then a thump like something landing hard on the ground. I heard Crista give a tight scream then another thump. Then I heard a thump and felt a thump on the top of my head.