"Can I sit here?" Leopold asked.
Raven looked up from her lunch and stared at him for a few long moments. To him they felt like eternity. Finally she swallowed the food that she was chewing and made a sweeping gesture with her hand to the rock that she was sitting on.
"Be my guest." The tone was less than sincere. "I thought that I was so small as to escape your notice." She clearly didn't want him to sit, but he did anyway.
"I don't get it," Leopold said.
"Oh, it's very simple," Raven explained. "I've been insulting and avoiding you over the past three days."
"No, I get that part," Leopold said. "I know what I said as well before you get started on that rabbit trail. What I can't figure out is why you're so upset."
"If you don't know then I'm not going to tell you," Raven responded, going back to eating her lunch.
"That's not going to help anyone out, now is it," Leopold said in what he thought was a reasonable voice. "If you tell me, I can make sure not to do it again."
"Fine, if you're going to be so pushy," Raven said as she chewed. "How would you like it if I called you small? How do you like it since I've been doing it for the past three days? That's how I felt when you said it to me."
"I still don't get it," Leopold said. "Of course I'm small. That's why I'm good at what I do."
"You're hopeless!" Raven exclaimed and threw her hands up in frustration. "I swear, you don't feel anything, do you? You're too bleeding logical all of the time."
"That's because logic provides me with the best course of action," Leopold answered. "If logic guides what you do, you will rarely go wrong."
"This is exactly what I mean," Raven countered. "You said that with logic you will rarely go wrong? Well right now is one of those rare times."
"I still don't get it," Leopold said.
"Which is why you're hopeless," Raven answered. She stood with an exasperated huff and stalked away, as well as she could stalk through the mud.
"Raven, don't go too far," Daniel called after her. Midas gave him a look and made a gesture indicating that he should stop.
"Well, it's not safe to separate from the group," Daniel mumbled to himself. "Apparently nobody cares about safety when emotions are involved."
"It's a stupid marsh, what could she possibly get into?" Midas asked. "We haven't seen anything out here except for mosquitoes and gnats for six days. I seriously doubt a crocodile is going to mysteriously rise out of the mud and attack her."
"Leopold!" Daniel called out suddenly. Midas just looked at the wizard and shook his head. The man clearly had no concept of teenagers.
"This isn't a good idea, to split up like this," Daniel said. He was clearly worried, though of what Midas could hardly guess.
"It'll be fine," Midas countered. "There's nothing dangerous out here except for those two getting into a full-fledged fight."
"First of all, they'll have to fight before they'll work anything out," Daniel said.
"That may be true," Midas said. "I hope that it isn't, but if they're going to fight, we don't need it to be out here. We have about two days of this stupid contract left, and then we can go home. They can fight there."
"Not if they get killed out here," Daniel said. "It'll take forever to collect the rest of the stedillion, plus we'll have lost half of our group. We'll never get any more contracts."
"And we'll have lost two of our friends," Midas added. He was disgusted by Daniel's priorities.
"Yeah, yeah, that too," Daniel amended. "The point is that we don't want that to happen which means that we need to go and collect those two as quickly as possible." He started to head after Raven, but Midas put a hand on his chest to stop him.
"You seem awfully worried about the swamp," Midas commented. "As long as we've been out here, we haven't seen anything that could actually hurt us, and now you're talking about it not being safe to split up. You made the comment 'not if they get killed out here.' What do you know that I don't?"
"Nothing, this swamp just isn't safe," Daniel said and tried to push past Midas. The larger man stood his ground. "People have disappeared out here, okay," Daniel added. "Strange things happen out here. I don't want to fall prey to that."
"That's not the whole truth," Midas said. "You know more than you're saying, and I want to know what it is. Why exactly won't people go into this swamp? Why did you think that this was the contract for us?"
The wizard looked about ready to answer the string of questions when a terrific roar tore across the marsh followed immediately by a shrill scream. It was Raven. Midas didn't waste a second, axe in hand, he tore across the marsh as quickly as possible. What the heck had that stupid wizard gotten them into?