As the sun faded beyond the horizon, Olivia made her way back to the mercenary tents. The camp was becoming a bit more relaxed and jovial as soldiers gathered around fires, bards sang inspirational songs, and full bellies generally made everyone forget their day’s woes. Torches lined the walk ways, which were less cluttered, and a slight breeze had picked up. If this evening were to be her last, it would be a good one.
When they’d first set camp, she’d been a little annoyed with Jackson’s insistence on keeping their tent as far as possible from all the camp fires. For one, it meant more walking – uphill – after long and tiring days; another thing that bothered her was that people had assumed they must have an attitude about themselves. It’s never good to set yourself apart when bloodthirst, fear, and hormones are running high. However, now that they’d settled in with their comrades, she was thankful for the quiet and isolation it provided them. The walk was worth the privacy, since the other mercenaries could get quite rowdy around the fire. So up the hill she went.
Jackson had already turned in for the night when she reached the tent. This wasn’t too much of a surprise. After working off her boots and the trimmings she could spare, Olivia laid upon her mat as if it were the most exquisite feather mattress money could buy. She continued to be amazed at how she could amble around just fine, then the minute she relax into a bed the fatigue would seep into her veins from her muscles. It was as if someone had finally given her body permission to express its exhaustion.
Sleep did not come as quickly as one might expect, but this gave her time to drink in the calm of the evening. Then, just as her mind was blending the sounds of laughter and the crackle of wood fire into a dreamland, he spoke.
‘What did the Captain have to say?’ Jackson asked.
Olivia pried open one eye to glare at him, the other was buried in her pillow. He looked just the same as he had when she’d walked in – flat on his back with his eyes closed. She said, ‘I thought you were asleep.’
Jackson remained silent. He’d asked her a question, she had yet to respond. Her statement was irrelevant. If he had said something in response, it would probably be something akin to, ‘Of course. That’s what I wanted you to think.’ At least she was spared this gem. She sighed. ‘I don’t see what business it is of yours.’
‘I don’t trust him.’
At this, Olivia raised her head a little. Was he being protective? He barely noticed people’s relationships – how had he picked up on her and Jameson? No. Certainly there was something more logical to this…
‘If you’re trying to get at the Captain’s battle strategy, he hasn’t told me anything,’ was her retort; silence followed.
Just when she’d given up on him indicating whether or not this was the information he was after, he spoke again, ‘No. I imagine you’d be the last person he’d share his tactics with.’ He paused a moment before saying, ‘Goodnight.’
Olivia turned over to put her back to Jackson. As she’d thought – he thought he could turn the strategic sides of battle himself. But something bothered her about what he’d said. It could be left open to interpretation… and would be uncharacteristically insulting, given her rank, if he had actually implied the Captain wouldn’t share any of his strategy with her. Before she could think about it too much though, sleep overcame her. Jackson was gone before she even woke the next morning.