Tristan inched towards the door leading out of the kitchen.

He had enough food and ointment for his leg to last about a week, and was aware that sooner or later he would have to figure that out.

Tristan knew his sneaking around was absurd, everyone was asleep. But he couldn’t shake the sense of caution that followed him ever since his last escape some, oh, ten hours ago.

He eased open the door, shouldering its weight to keep it quiet.

Ellasmer’s garden was silver in the moonlight. The leaves looked like living creatures, swaying in the gentle midnight breeze flying off the cresting waves. Suddenly, Tristan was struck by an odd sense of sorrow.

He slowly backed away from the house, taking in the slanted roof, the way the windows glistened with moonlight, the sound of crashing waves, the smell of sharp mint and thyme, the way everything was still in its beauty. He was struck by the sudden sorrow that this might be the last time he ever saw Mewslade Cottage.

His leg suddenly gave out and he collapsed with a sharp cry of pain. Tristan lost his bearings as he fell, his pack slipping off his shoulder and its contents spilling around him on the dewy grass. Pain shot up his thigh and through his stomach in quick stabs, his breathe short and gasping at the night sky for air.

He blinked twice, suddenly aware that he wasn’t alone and his fall hadn’t been his own doing. Tristan realized that someone else was there because they were gently pressed their blade to the base of his throat.

It was the silhouette that gave her away.

“ELLAMSER!” he seethed, backing away from the knife at his throat. “What in the hell are you trying to do? Kill me?” Tristan attempted to find his footing, only to collapse again in sharp pain.

“Tristan, please, we’ve been through this, I’m not trying to kill you.” She watched with narrowed eyes as he cradled his thigh before making a second attempt.

This time he succeeded, though how he would gather his things without bending down escaped him. So instead, he flung his attention to the hideously absurd girl before him. “You do realize that you almost sliced my neck open,” he pointed out hotly.

Even in the dim light, he could see her roll her eyes, which only infuriated him further. “I know how to control a blade, Tristan. Believe me, I if I had wanted your neck sliced hither it would already be done.” She stopped and offered a grin, allowing the words to sink in one by one.

He backed away from her, gingerly scooping up his things as he went. “You are a spy! And a filthy girl with a horrid sense of humor besides.”

“I am not a spy!” Her anger is what reassured him she was more than anything did.

“Leave me alone,” he muttered, his bag repacked to its original state. He shot her a dirty look as he turned around, determined not to talk to her again. His leg twanged and almost gave out, but he refused to let it.

Suddenly, the knife was again against his throat.

He twirled around, almost severing his own neck, and shoved her away. For a panicked moment, her face changed to one of horror, but then her knife made a wide arch and avoided his being altogether.

“Are you trying to make me kill you?” she screamed.

“You’re the one that keeps putting the damned thing against my neck!” Tristan roared back, suddenly aware of how loud they were being.

Ellasmer seemed to notice too. “I only wanted you to stop so I could ask you a very straight forward question: What are you doing out here in the middle of the night, hmmm? Why do you have a pack and why are you sneaking around like a thief?” she seethed, her voice barely above a whisper.

“That is none of your business,” he shot back with quiet venom.

Her eyes narrowed to slits, as they were known to do, and she took a threatening step forward. “Tristan, I warn you now, I will feel guiltless leaving you without feet if you don’t tell me this moment.” She stopped, her eyes widening. “What did you just say?”

“I said ‘ha!’”

Her temper immediately flared and she thrust the blade into the ground in one swift movement as her fist went to connect with the side of his head. But he was ready. An afternoon of taking her punches and watching her lithe movements had prepared him for any sort of attack from her.

He ducked out under her swinging arm, turning with both speed and pain to knock her to the side.

She swayed, off balance, and then, before she could hit the ground, Tristan locked her arm behind her back.

She seethed and muttered quiet curses as she struggled to gain her freedom.

“I am so sick of you trying to boss me around with your stupid threats! I don’t have to tell you everything, nor do I have to stand your presence! Just leave me alone!” he hissed in her ear.

To his surprise, her fight slackened and her head hung forward, as though in defeat. He relaxed his grip just slightly and she severed it with one snap. To Tristan’s surprise, she stalked past him, taking up her knife and sheathing it against her waist belt. “Fine,” she said simply, shrugging.

Tristan eyed her for a long moment, not trusting her surrender for a second. He backed a step away and then turned around and began walking steadily away from both Ellasmer and Mewslade Cottage. He hadn’t gone far when her voice reached his ears.

“You’ll never be able to find them, nor will you know what to do if you did.”

Tristan stared hard out in front of him, memorizing the line of trees that he could be passing now, noting the sway of the grasses, and the distant outline of silhouetted houses.

With his eyes closed in frustration and exhaustion, Tristan turned to face her. “You don’t know where I am going, Ellasmer,” he stated simply.

“Oh? Do you always give orders to people you love in short letters with next to nothing as way of an explanation?”

Anger flared like fire in his gut, clambering for attention. “You read my letter,” he said slowly, accentuating each word with pained fury.

“It was sitting so nicely on the kitchen table. Hard for a spy to resist, don’t you think?”

Tristan closed his eyes again in an attempt to keep his voice low and his mind sane. “That was personal,” he seethed.

“Not anymore.”

“So, you know why I am here, how about you? Or is it just a way to pass the time, stalking me and ensuring that I get away with nothing?”

Her eyes flashed in anger. “Of course not. I’m coming with you.”

Tristan felt his mouth pop open, but if his tongue begged for words, his mind had none to give. It was only now that Tristan saw she was wearing traveling clothes, only now that he noted her pack and the cape slung up over it.


She scoffed. “You have no power to pass that judgment. Either I am coming with you or you aren’t going.”

“Like you could—” but Tristan stopped himself, saving himself against acute embarrassment because Ellasmer had stopped him. Twice. Once with her knife, and now here again with her words. He looked up to a smug expression that only further infuriated him. “You’re not coming with me,” he opted for, putting his full anger behind the simple words.

“Then my sister will die, as will Niressa. Come, Tristan, you must see that facing an entire village of murders and thieves is better won with two blades than one.” She glanced down the length of his body, her eyes coming to rest on his dagger, his lack of a sword, and his now slightly gory trousers. “How about for healings sake? Or the very apparent fact that you won’t get far in a fight without more practice, add in the point that you have no sword to fight with and only one foot to dance away from the edge of a blade. I would, based on these simply things you lack, take up my hand and be thankful.”

Tristan felt his face blanch. “Thankful,” he cried, incredulous.

She blinked. “Yes, thankful. You were simply on your way to be slaughtered. I saved you from a rather painful death and now I am offering my help. Besides, now that there are three to rescue instead of my presumed two, well, I feel you will need more than hope and raw energy to do both the rescuing and the fighting. Or did you have a brigade that was meeting up with you shortly?”

He ignored her jab, suddenly very aware of his faults. He sighed, avoiding her prideful face. She knew her battle was as good as won. “I won’t wait up for you,” he muttered without grace.

Her eyes crinkled in humor as she again trained her gaze on his wounded thigh. “Hmm, yes, well we’ll see.”

“And I need a sword,” he said without heart as she stalked by him.

“Yes, I know. We shall get you one.”

“And this doesn’t mean I trust you,” he called out as she took to the front.

“Use your energy for walking instead of talking, Tristan. We have a boat to catch if we plan on rescuing anyone at all.”

Tristan shoved his annoyance deep into his gut, concentrating on the clear and starry night before him. So much for being quiet, he thought murderously, now jogging to keep up. I should have jumped the window and tried my luck swimming.

“Hurry up,” she called and he just barely suppressed a curse and a groan in his efforts to close the distance between them.