They never realized the danger of a plodder. The slack jawed things didn’t elicit the same raw terror as the forest’s hungry shades. They did not whisper lies like the pale-fingered demons lurking beneath the tree’s roots. Plodders, rotting shuffling creatures, could be outpaced by swift walk and killed with little effort. However, like most slow patient things, they were quiet.
And ravenous. But everything here was.
Colby woke, fingers twitching to her knife. It was her watch and she’d been sleeping. She squeezed her eyes, trying to wring the bleariness from them. At least the Captain hadn’t caught her and kicked her awake. Colby shifted to look back at their little camp.
Three bedrolls, a smoldering fire, and two grey creatures crouching over her charges. Their mottled skin mostly faded into the dark, but she could see the plodders’ corded arms working over the still lumps that’d been her employers.One of the creatures lowered its head to gorge itself. Colby almost retched at the soft wet sounds.
Her stomach twisted. The Captain would have been right to kick her awake, plodders were only dangerous if you failed to keep watch. Cobly decided to deal with the sick feeling coiling in her gut later. Her pack lay untouched next to the fire with the others. The monsters only cared for flesh and blood.
She’d need her things if she was to get through the forest.
Colby crept softly towards the fire, crouched and moving hand and foot closer into the grisly scene. The plodders were distracted by their meal and paid her no attention. Close now, she could wrap her fingers around the strap of her pack. But not before she gagged seeing the two stained bed rolls.
One of the plodders looked up at her and she froze. Its food was still warm though, and it went back to eating. Colby breathed out and began to tug her pack away. That is when she noticed the gentle rise and fall of the Captain’s bed roll. He slept, not yet a meal.
She abandoned her pack and leaned forward to rouse and warn him, but Colby stopped. Her fingers hovered an inch from his shoulder, the buoyant swell in her chest deflated. The little band had been thick, she’d silently listened to them talk of old times and jests for weeks now. Now the Captain’s companions were dead. He’d want to know how the slow monsters devoured his friends on her watch.
Colby closed her fingers and withdrew her hand. The Captain wouldn’t let their deaths lie. He wouldn’t let her live. She leaned back, pulling her pack with her, and began to creep away. The plodders let her go.
They’d paid her in silver, half before, half when the four of them emerged safe from the forest. The first payment was in her pack. Colby left the last half with the sleeping Captain and disappeared into the trees.