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Dark Waters: Chapter 2
Jarvis stirred in his sleep. His mind was muddled by the distant sounds of the present as they slowly brought him back to consciousness. He moaned softly, his face contorting into a scowl at the thought of being roused from this blessed escape.
A rough scraping noise earned an angry growl, and then, finally, his eyes snapped open.
Either he had dozed off during his watch and was about to be mauled by an angry animal, or Asher had done the mauling and was hauling his prey off to bury. Jarvis shook his head clear; his thoughts were still muffled by fatigue.
Looking around, he could see no sign of the boy. The fire had died down to a low flicker, he noticed. He could hardly see five feet in front of him. His heart pounded a little louder than he cared for. The scuffling resumed, and Jarvis whipped his head and gaped, still with terror, in the direction of the noise. He reached instinctively for his knife, then remembered with a sinking heart that it was stowed in a pack some feet away.
A figure began to appear, distorted by the flickering light of the flames. Jarvis’ face hardened in preparation for conflict, “I suggest you leave.” He hoped his voice hadn’t betrayed him.
“What did I do?” The figure replied in confusion. Jarvis thought he’d detected a hint of mockery in the voice. Then, he was sure of it.
“Asher,” Jarvis scolded.
By now, the boy had come into plain view. He stood a small distance from the waning flames, and Jarvis saw this as a suggestion of defiance.
A smirk came over his face now, “Did I startle you?”
Jarvis stood, a bit flushed by his arrogance, “You know very well the dangers of wandering off on your own, away from the protection of the fire.
Asher raised a brow as he glanced down at the fire pit, clearly doubting its significance.
Annoyed at the boy’s lack of concern, he clenched his fists, “Well? What do you have to say for yourself?”
“What a nice welcome I receive after doing us both such a huge favor…” Asher said in a disinterested tone, glancing around.
“What favor?” Jarvis growled, growing more livid by the second. He paused, “What did you do, Asher?”
Asher allowed a smile to touch his features, “I got us food.”
Jarvis stuttered, then replied, “How? You know better than to—“
“Relax,” Asher interrupted with a manner that made Jarvis want to smack him upside the head, “I got a good deal. Sales had been slow, and the man I got it from was eager to give it away. Nothing’s wrong with it, but it was more than his family could eat. It would have spoiled. So he gave it to me.”
Jarvis stiffened at the mention of a ‘good deal’ and hoped desperately that the rest of his story was more than just a cover-up, “The guy was a butcher?”
Asher hesitated a moment, “Yeah. I mean, I’m assuming so.”
Nice cover, Jarvis thought with a sneer, “And he gave it to you for free?”
“Yeah,” Asher nodded, a little to eagerly, “I guess I make a good impression.”
Jarvis looked at him skeptically after that statement, “Do you?”
“Good enough. After all, you insisted I travel with you. I must have made some lasting impression,” There was a hint of humor is his cocky voice.
“Sometimes I wonder if that was the best choice…” he grinned beside himself and added, “So what make all the noise?”
Jarvis smirked openly now, “The loud, irritating noise. You know, besides your voice. The one that woke me up.”
Asher snapped his mouth, which seemed to be open in shock, shut. He looked like a deer caught in the headlights, but recovered quickly with sly ease, “Oh, you mean the sack?”
“The sack,” Jarvis repeated in a somber tone, “You brought a sack?”
“Yeah. A little too heavy for my liking, but we may as well try selling it in the next town.”
“Sell the sack?”
“Lots of grain in it,” Asher shrugged.
Jarvis was silent a moment, “You failed to mention that before. I was beginning to think you’d gone completely nuts.”
“No, that’s you, old man,” taunted Asher in response.
“Where did you get the sack, Asher?” Jarvis’ suspicious tone returned.
“Where do you think?”
Jarvis decided he’d heard too much of Asher’s mockery for one night, and in an effort to refrain from punching him in the mouth, took a deep breath, “Go to sleep.”
The morning was dreary. Grey clouds hung low in the sky and the thickness of the air threatened rain. The farmers would rejoice at this; Jale sat in the center of one of the driest expanses in the land. This thought led Jarvis back to the sack of grain, and he couldn’t help but wonder where and how it could have been grown. Certainly not around here, he thought. Grain came at a hefty price. He knew this from years of trading. If grain was so hard to come by, why would someone give it away so easily? Dwelling too much on this topic threatened to imprison Jarvis in a dark mood, so he glanced around for a distraction.
Asher, as always, was sauntering ahead. Jarvis guessed it was a way for him to feel superior. In his opinion, it was a way to be stupid. The kid knew nothing about this life, that much he’d gathered. But of course, he didn’t own him.
As if on cue, Asher looked back and smirked, “What’s taking so long?”
“Don’t you ever stop?” Jarvis rolled his eyes.
“Stop what?” Asher asked, his look of innocence not exactly convincing.
“Moving. Talking. Breathing.” Jarvis snapped, then smiled, “Remind me never to give you caffeine?”
“Is that a drug?” Asher blinked.
“For you, it would be…”
Asher opened his mouth to speak, then stopped. It was common for every thought churning in his mind’s cogs to stop at the slightest distraction. He stopped a moment and squinted into the glaring sun, holding his hand over his brow to shield his eyes.