I almost forgot! It’s Wednesday, and that means another snippet! Usually I don’t bother to introduce them, but I think I should say this time: I like this bit, and I think it’s adorable; however, it made the chapter too long and threw off the tone, so I cut it. (Also it has lots of adverbs.) Kill your darlings, darlings.
Over the days that followed the land flattened out and the ancient road all but disappeared. One pale afternoon Evion spotted a stone marker, worn almost to a nub, bearing a blurred and illegible inscription, poking like a sore tooth out of a tangle of grass. He made a little noise, surprise or satisfaction.
“Who lived here,” Aine asked, “before the Three Kingdoms?”
He turned to look at her, lifting one eyebrow. “That may be the first time you’ve asked me to lecture on one of the many topics covered by my broad expertise,” he said, and saved himself from total pomposity by following it up with an enormous grin.
She laughed, the pall over her heart lightening for the first time since they saw the giant war machine–no, before that, since they quit the inn. Since the nightmares began. “Well?” she said. “You can tell me all about it while we walk.”
He did, and the discourse seemed to lift his own spirits as well, dispelling for a while the weariness and helpless rage that had overcome him at the sight of the Imperial machine. She listened not so much to his words as to the rise and fall of his voice, and watched the swooping patterns his hands made against the silvery sky. Ancient barbarous tribes, mighty civilizations, stone-builders, unknowable cataclsyms … the words washed over her without sparking any corresponding images in her mind. He might have been speaking gibberish, or at least some long-dead foreign tongue.
“Aine,” he said finally, in the middle of a paragraph about something else, “are you even listening to me?”
“Hmm?” she said, thus answering his question without a hope of avoiding self-incrimination.
Evion harrumphed. “You’re the one who asked in the first place!” he cried.
She smiled–disarmingly, she hoped–a trick she’d learned from him. “I just like listening to you talk,” she said. “I don’t understand half the words you use anyway.”
He did not appear mollified. “Well, you would,” he said, “if you’d pay attention when I talked.”
“You talk all the time,” Aine said. “No one can pay that much attention.”
“Just because you enjoy playing the taciturn sword-swinger…” he grumped.
“See,” Aine said calmly, “I have no idea what you just said.”
“Hmph,” Evion replied, and sulked for the next two miles.