The quarter moon provided great cover but horrid navigation in its weak light. That didn't hinder Avali in the slightest, her Keeper eyes providing better night vision than either of her siblings could dream of. Where they had both shuffled their feet to avoid tripping, she simply skipped along.
Naturally, this made her the best choice to go rouse the fourth conspirator for this escapade.
"Psst, G'raha," she hissed, poking her head inside the archon's tent. A snore answered her from somewhere beneath a blanket pulled high enough only the tips of his ears showed.
"G'raha wake up." A little louder this time. He rolled over in response; at first she hoped to rise from his cot. But no.
Finally, she ducked inside, tiptoeing over to his cot to speak directly into his ear. " Wake up, G'raha Tia. " An interrupted snore escaped as his head jerked upwards from his pillow.
Mis-matched eyes were wide in surprise and a vain attempt to see in the dark. "Avali?" he said, and hastily she put a finger to his lips to emphasize the need for discretion.
"What're you doing?" he whispered.
"Put on some pants and you'll find out," she joked, snickering as he got out of bed red-faced and curious. "We need to hurry, the others are waiting at the dig site."
Not long after, G’raha shuffled after her under the cover of night, hand clasped in hers so he wouldn’t trip. That was the reason he told himself anyway. If she thought otherwise she didn’t say, just picked him a safe, quiet trail through the darkness. His ears picked up the whispers once they neared the dig site.
“It’s good to see you awake, G’raha Tia,” Aidan whispered, “We could use another hand with this.” He grinned, rolling his shoulders to relieve some of the strain temporarily. Honoura, the eldest of the three, simply nodded her head in greeting. Like her brother, her hands were full.
“‘Tis good to be awake if only to see what you three are up to.” G’raha joked, tail curling curiously as he squinted in the dark. There was a loud snore that suddenly emanated from a very long, covered bundle the two Hawkes had hoisted between them.
“About that…” Honoura said, softly.
“Give us a hand gettin’ him down the stairs, would ya?”
‘Him’ as it turned out, was Nero tol Scaeva, who they’d somehow managed to drag out of his cot and onto a wooden plank wrapped up in his blanket. The second most open secret at NOAH’s campsite was him and Honoura’s antagonistic relationship; something Nero glibly called a bad first impression and she looked ready to spit in his coffee any time he said that. Naturally, Nero felt only encouraged to recount the story again. Perhaps he was conducting research as to how deeply he could make an Eorzean scowl. Or in this case, three of them; G’raha had caught Aidan glaring at the back of the taller man’s head more than once.
Clearly, for all they refused to speak to Nero, they spoke plenty of him elsewhere.
“For such a bloody beanpole he’s heavy.” Aidan commented, looking over his shoulder as he lightly, carefully, walked backwards down the stairs. He’d stolen Nero’s sunglasses out of the man’s tent when they had stolen the man. They slid off his nose but rested perfectly on his head.
“He’d never have floated in the lake.” Honoura huffed, readjusting her grip to ease the strain on her fingers, shoulder to shoulder with G’raha as they ferried Nero down to the bottom of the pit,”Not unless we tied him to a boat.”
“Nonsense. He’d have floated like a rock.” All four of them snickered at that, and then hastily shushed one another when Nero stirred and rolled over.
The scaffolding proved sturdier than it looked, but the deeper they stepped the darker it got. So while he grasped one corner of the plank, Avali held onto the other and directed him. It was slow work, occasionally halted when one of them kicked a tool or the wood creaked in case Nero woke up. One step cracked ominously under G’raha’s foot, prompting several nervous stares and a weak “we should tell Cid about that” for reassurance.
Roughly three quarters of a bell, the quartet gingerly set their cargo down in his new quarters. Stars were fading, the sky lightening from its dark sapphire hue. Their delicate work accomplished, all four stretched tired muscles and tiptoed back up the scaffolding, to their tents back to cold cots and blankets.
Slowly, the rest of the expedition rose to life; faces got washed, morning fires stoked for meals. Tools and gear checked to see if they needed repair. Chocoboes received their morning feeding, some trilling impatiently. Outside a trio of tents, Rammbroes and Cid sat at their own fire. A freshly brewed pot of coffee sat between them, steam curling up from the spout, while breakfast slowly cooked in a large cast iron pan.
“Surprisingly quiet this morning,” commented Cid, squinting at notes and calculations from the day before in the hope they still made sense. Seated across a cheery morning campfire, Rammbroes chuckled in agreement. “That’s because our young miscreants went back to bed instead of waking up.”
“Did they now?” Cid took a sip of coffee, ears open.
“I heard them shuffling through the dark, giggling. They sounded very pleased with themselves.” The old roegadyn cleaned his glasses against his shirt, setting them back on his face,”I vote to let them sleep, they can brew a second pot for themselves for once.”
“Ha, I can’t argue with that idea, three of them eat any meal like it’s their last.” Both men tucked in to breakfast before a loud, angry shout caught the attention of the entire camp.
Cid paused mid-forkful of breakfast,”Was that Nero?”
Rammbroes looked doubtful, then stood up,”I’ll check his tent.”
He needn’t have bothered; a series of thundering, angry stomps of feet on wood provided an answer. Nero stormed up from the dig site, barefoot and in his smallclothes. Only his smallclothes. For Cid it was a chance too good to pass up.
“Forget a few things before setting out this morning, Nero?”
“Shut it, Garlond,” he snapped, disappearing into his tent,”Where are they?!”
“Those little bastards.” A brief silence. “And my sunglasses.”
“Where they’ve been all night, I expect.” Cid went back to his breakfast unphased. Rammbroes attempted to do the same but failed to contain a damning smile. One he quickly tried to quell when Nero stepped back out, clothed.
“Not all night they haven’t. When I get my hands-”
“Isn’t it a bit beneath a man of your standing to be upstaged by children?”
“Don’t start with me today, Garlond,” Nero spat, and both the other men laughed uproariously.