Daimh

Daimh

Returning to the circle around the fire, Iain found Archie’s gaze settled
upon him, his lieutenant’s brow lifted with a vague question, which Iain
ignored. It was another ten minutes before Daimh and the lass returned.
They all but bounded into the cave, as if Daimh had tripped in his last few
steps. Maggie Bryce had her hands locked around the twin’s neck, much as
she’d held onto Iain earlier, and the two of them were laughing again,
seeming even cozier than they had when they’d left the cave. Even when
Daimh set her down, they remained there at the entrance, standing face to
face, sharing a quiet conversation.
“Daimh,” Iain called out, “since you’re already wet and cold, might
well hie down to check the horses, bring back more kindling as well.”
Iain would have termed the look Daimh threw to him as disgruntled,
but the lad did as he was bade and left the cave again. Thus, Maggie Bryce
took her place once more between Iain and Duncan, laying the hood of her cloak down around her slim shoulders.
“It’s not even true nightfall,” she commented, “and I’m exhausted.”
“Aye, the less you do, the less you can do,” Duncan said sagely.
“Just sitting here, getting weaker,” added Archie. “Too little food and
no’ enough motion, and it’ll only get worse, you ken.”
“But then we probably cannot do too much,” she supposed, “and sap
what little energy we do have?”
“Aye, that’s the right of it, lass,” Duncan agreed.
She turned to Iain and said in a near whisper, “Is there any chance that
we might go to sleep and not wake up, just freeze to death while we
slumber?”
The abnormal gloom of her query rather surprised him. But he
answered truthfully, “The longer we are stuck, the greater becomes that
possibility. But aye, we’ll force our way out and down well before it comes
to that. You’ll no’ freeze to death, Maggie Bryce.”
This seemed to mollify her. “Very good.”
Sometime later, whatever wind blew outside the cave must have
shifted direction, that the smoke from the fire did not escape but clouded
the whole of the interior, that they had no choice but to extinguish the small blaze.
It was dusk now, not truly late enough to find their beds if these had
been normal circumstances, but they were rather forced to do so to maintain warmth.
“Tighten up, lads,” Duncan instructed, and each man shifted his pallet,
shrinking the circle so that it resembled more of a horseshoe, as all their
bodies were closer together.
“We’ll rest now,” Iain said to Maggie.
Duncan had already laid down, on his side with his back to Maggie.
Iain waited, watched her assess their closer circumstance and choose to lie
on her side facing him. He did likewise, arranging his fur over the both of
them. Only their very close proximity allowed him to see her. Indeed, they
were close enough, all of them, that he felt Archie’s rump at his back and
the lass’s drawn up knees at the front of his thighs.
“It’s close quarters, to be sure,” he said, by way of apology for this
situation, “but we’ll be warmer for it.” He felt rather than saw her nod.
Some did sleep immediately. He could hear Craig snoring, hear
Donal’s normal nasal whine of slumber, and not much else. The lass slept,
too, her hands held tightly at her chest between them.

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