In the morning, the girls awoke to a near-dead campfire, and a crisp, cool early autumn morning.
Lara was the first up, as usual. She sat up skillfully in her hammock, running a switchblade-style comb through her short hair before wiping off her face with a damp washcloth, taking out a compact, and applying new makeup in her usual scene style.
After that was done, she stood up and stretched, her joints popping loudly in the thick morning silence. In her boy shorts and sports bra, she sauntered over to 'the bush' and relieved herself, before journeying back to her hammock to get dressed.
Bosephus, like a good pit bull, had sensed when his owner woke up, and stretched and yawned before trotting over and flopping down next to her hammock, waiting for the food that he soon received.
By that time, Iris had woken up as well and was in the process of dry-brushing her teeth, a bottle of water open at her side before she took a swig and rinsed, spitting the toothpaste-water out into the woods. Jezebel was busy eating the breakfast her owner had fixed her, having woken up when Lara and Bosephus had.
"Morning boss," yawned Lara, earning a nod and a yawn from her blue-haired leader.
"You the only one up?" she asked, before getting up, her oversized college shirt currently her only covering from the elements.
"Yeah, I'm about to wake up the others though." answered Lara, before biting into an apple and walking over to Aly's hammock.
"Aly," she said mutedly, kicking the bottom of the hammock, and therefore her friend's side.
"What? Is the house on fire?" muttered the half-asleep second-in-command, looking blearily out of the top of her blanket.
"No, but Iris is up, so we had better get everyone ready." the green-haired girl answered, before unfolding the sides of the hammock from their egg roll-like position around the second-in-command of the group.
The pink-highlighted girl carefully stood to avoid falling out of her sleep covering, and her flannel pants contrasted starkly with her dark pink mini spaghetti strap shirt.
"I'll get dressed and stuff, you wake up the others. And don't forget to feed Pogo and Jenga." she said, causing said Dobermans to wake up and shake themselves out, before sauntering over to their owner. Lara nodded, unzipping the sleeping bags of April and Mari and slapping wet washcloths onto their faces.
"Hey!" they cried in indignant unison.
"Get up you two. Iris and Aly are already awake." this was followed by a crash, and a mixed French and Japanese curse of "merde vou, baka!" in a voice undeniably Aly's.
"Let me rephrase that. They are mostly awake. Now get up, both of you." she said, kicking them lightly.
They emerged from their sleeping bags in their shirts from the day before, yawning and wiping off their faces on the washcloths before hanging them to dry over the near-dead fire.
Once Lara had woken Erin, she turned to the edge of camp where Loki's hammock had been, only to find that it was missing, although her pack was sitting neatly against the tree.
"Where's Loki?!" she called, only to be answered by cries of "I dunno!" and one call from Iris, "Where do you think she is? She's probably off doing something important to Loki! That's how she is!"
She had spoken at just the right time, because Loki chose that moment to walk into the clearing with eight fish filets on a makeshift grill of sticks.
"Where did you get those, Lo?" asked Lara, highly confused.
Loki only shrugged when she answered. "Sea turtles mate." with a Cheshire grin.
Iris rolled her eyes at the shadow-queen's antics. Yes, she acknowledged the fact that although she was the leader and Aly was second-in-command, the ever-immature Loki was the most efficient, not to mention the genius of the group.
From her back pocket, Loki pulled out a flat, rectangular bottle, which Lara gawked at, scandalized.
"LOKI!" she shouted, causing the black-haired genius to freeze and glance up from her activity.
"what is in that bottle?!"
"moonshine…" she trailed off at the seething look that the warrior-like girl sent her.
"WHY is there a bottle of moonshine in your back pocket?"
"Well greenie I'll have you know…" she stood to her full height, the grill of fish safely secured over the embers and the bottle of illegal spirits in her left hand, "that alcohol of all sorts is wonderful for on-the-spot surgeries, inspiration, revival in the freezing weather, and for starting up fires. Exhibit A." she said, and emptied out some of the bottle's contents in a sweeping motion behind her, causing the small flame below the fish to jolt to life, leaping up at least a foot before returning to a reasonable, noticeably larger size than before.
"Besides, it inspires my military genius in dire situations, as well as quelling the endless sea of sleep insomnia from which I suffer." she said pointedly, taking a small swig from the bottle before swirling the cap back on and stowing it in one of the many inside pockets of her knee-length black trench coat.
Lara face palmed, giving a heaving sigh before Iris walked up behind her and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder.
"Just leave it, Lara; she knows what she's doing."
"But she's-" Lara stopped herself from finishing the sentence and heaved another sigh at the Italian-Puerto Rican girl before her.
"You better not get drunk Loki, cause I'm not hauling you around if you pass out." she leveled a threatening look at her friend's challenging one, before it softened into a calm, albeit a bit grim expression of acceptance.
"I wont lovely, don't you worry." she grinned widely at the green-haired girl, who heaved another sigh before going to finish packing up.
"Hey Mari, where's the thyme?" called Loki, and was quickly tossed a small canister of dried leaves. "and the adobo, and a lemon?" soon a large cylinder of mostly yellow spice was thrown at her followed by an oval-esque fruit, both of which she caught expertly before seasoning the fish and flipping them over while expertly fending away the dogs, who had been enticed by the heavenly smell of Loki's cooking.
Before long, the fish were done and everyone was packed up.
"Breakfast everyone!" called Loki, and everyone rushed up, to be handed a fish filet on a whittled stick, and a cup of hot water with a tea or coffee packet in it.
"Now hurry up and eat while I put my spices away, so we can go ahead and go." she said as they all ate, and dutifully stored away her spices within the depths of her bag.
"Alright everyone, let's…" Iris trailed off as she saw a large snake slithering through the camp site.
"LOKIIII!" the scream rang throughout the clearing from several mouths, and the black-haired girl poked her head around a tree.
"WHY IS YOUR SNAKE HERE?" questioned a furious Aly, who had a mortal fear of snakes.
"Aww my poor baby! Were you following us? I thought I told you to guard the truck." Loki cooed to the snake, which flicked out a blue-black tongue in response. She held out her arm, and the four-foot long snake slithered gracefully up it, before settling around her shoulders, beneath her hair.
"I repeat, Loki; why is your snake here?" asked Iris, pinching the bridge of her nose in exasperation.
"I told him to guard the truck; he is an excellent guard snake when he stays where he's told." she defended, stroking the snake's smooth black scales.
"Lo, he's a water moccasin. He needs to stay wherever the hell you found him." said Aly, her hands on her hips.
"Hey, I didn't find him, I bought his egg off of that guy in The Saint's Pub last year." she defended, crossing her arms.
"Wherever you got him, it doesn't matter; just make sure he doesn't bite any of us, the dogs, or shed on our stuff and we'll all be okay." compromised Iris, to the acceptance of the group.
"Don't worry, he won't be shedding again for a few months; he just finished up last week, didn't you Hades?" she cooed to the snake again.
"Hades? You named the snake Hades?" asked Mari incredulously, and Loki shrugged. "Would you rather have me name him Lucifer?" she asked, causing Iris and Lara to chuckle, while April face palmed, and Erin rolled her eyes, finishing up her breakfast.
"Now if everyone's packed up, let's head out shall we? We're going north this time, Erin, put out the fire and Lara, you put an 'X' on that tree right there, with an arrow pointing east." Iris instructed, and the girls followed her directions swiftly so that they could all head out.
Once they did, they were all glad that they had worn the proper clothing for the weather, as though it was still late summer, the chill of autumn was seeping in through their clothes, causing Loki to even take the care of wearing a scarf so that Hades wouldn't strangle her in his bid for warmth.