This is a brief scene, whose primary purpose is to set the stage for Calunoth's cynicism. To a lesser degree, it shows the philosophical side of Eldamir, who usually keeps his deeper thoughts to himself.
* * *
That evening, after getting the camp ready and eating supper, they sat and relaxed as the sun descended westward. It had grown hot in the afternoon, and while the air had cooled somewhat, none of them were in the mood to spar or do any kind of hard work. Instead, they sipped cool water from a nearby stream and talked about the road ahead.
Roidh said, “The road runs parallel to the Hale river for about three quarters of the journey to Westmere. After that, the river winds north, up into the foothills and finally to its source in the Silverspire mountains. Just before it separates from the road, we will come to a bridge that crosses the river. That highway goes northwest, all the way to the city of Danannsidhe on the Topaz river.”
“I’ve never been to Danannsidhe,” said Balfrith. “Then again, I’d never even left my own island country until a couple of weeks ago.”
Calunoth said, “You haven’t missed much. I’ve traveled through most of the kingdoms of the West, and in my experience, one nation is much like any other. Sure, they may wear furs in the north and silks in the south, and the women may be more beautiful here or there, but in the end, Men are not so dissimilar. Almost all of us are selfish bastards, and those who aren’t, are victims of the rest. Either that, or they just keep their sins hidden better than most.”
There was silence for a while, after that. Finally, Eldamir said, “I imagine that is true in some ways, Calunoth. One cannot deny the existence of evil in this world, much of it promulgated by men seeking only their own selfish desires. But then again, how could we have built these great civilizations, without some sense of honor and justice? It seems to me that perhaps the struggle that we all face, is against our darker natures. Certainly that would include our natural selfishness. But we are not slaves to our baser instincts. We have a will, and we are free to choose our actions. If some men, be they Elefdar or Man, choose to obey their selfish natures, that does not necessarily make all men evil.”
Calunoth snorted. “Clearly you haven’t met the same Men that I have.”
“Perhaps. But does not a man choose the company he keeps?”
Calunoth glared at Eldamir, but said nothing, and there was silence again for a while. The sun touched the tops of the trees in the distance, slim beams of orange and pink shooting forth between them and coloring the sky.
Eventually Roidh said, “Well, this conversation has got way too philosophical for a simple man like me. I’m for bed - you all might do likewise, for we rise with the sun, and I expect to be on the road within an hour.” He stood up, dusted off his breeches, and walked over to where his tent stood next to the wagon. “Good night to you,” he said, before crawling into the tent and closing its flaps.
The others sat for a while, silent, one by one standing and going to their own tents. Calunoth was last, and he lay back on the ground and stared at the stars for a long time. Balfrith saw him through the flaps of his tent, and thought he heard the man muttering under his breath, but could not discern what he said.
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