“Well, since you’re not an enemy,” Zon said, grinning, “let’s show you the camp.” He led her by one arm while the taurlin Claritas took the other, and the throng of them swept her off into the forest.
“What’s left of it, anyways,” Claritas interjected. “We cleared out in a hurry when we heard you—thought you might have been a Sprite scout or something.”
“Are you hungry?” said Zon’s sister. It was the first time she had spoken. Ameryn had seen little of her as a child, but the resemblance between her and her two brothers was unmistakable. Blue eyes, a warm smile, and open expression—a personification of kindness.
“I haven’t eaten in—” Ameryn tried to count the days in her head, but found her mental faculties lacking. “I don’t know how many days. Many.”
“You look it,” Enilor said, skipping alongside and poking a finger in Ameryn’s hollow-looking middle. “You’re practically see-through. Gents, some grub is in order for this one!”
“Right then,” said Loui, pulling a massive pack from his back and rummaging through the contents. “Thank goodness those folks at the last village were so nice—lots of Resistance people.”
“People who don’t like what Lord Nayr is doing,” said the faun, still unnamed, in a quiet voice from somewhere behind her.
“For lack of a better word, they refer to themselves as The Resistance,” Zon explained. “Every time we hit a town with a lot of Berasians in the Resistance, we come away with enough supplies to last for weeks. We’ve got a reputation, apparently.”
Ameryn stood at the edge of another small clearing, watching her rediscovered friends set up camp. It was a magical thing to behold. They produced from their small packs tents that expanded into sizes that rivaled houses. In a matter of moments, someone had a fire going in the center of camp. Enilor emerged from her smaller tent holding a pile of pots and pans, which she rigged over the flames like a metal house of cards, looking like is should topple if you so much as breathed in its direction. But the little kitchen held its own, and soon Ameryn smelled delicious aromas that made her stomach groan.
“Chicken, bread, and these funny little spinach pie things that a woman in town told us would go bad after a few days,” Enilor said, pointing to each item in its position over the fire. “Why she gave us perishables, I’ll never know.”
“Perhaps she knew we’d have a cause for celebrating,” Zon said. The others cheered, grinning at Ameryn. Ameryn grinned back.
She sat down with them around the fire, each musician stretched out on a battered rug or sitting on a rock, digging in to one of the finest meals Ameryn felt she had ever tasted. Ameryn watched them talk together, laugh together, and occasionally burst into song. She was overwhelmed by their love for each other—and their love for her. Not once did one of them look at her damaged face askance, or stare too long at the scars etched into her neck, arms and legs.
For a few glorious hours, she forgot her disfigurements and the horrid past that lay behind them. soon, her laugh was heard resounding through the trees, mingling with the happy laughter of the others. Her friends.
She sat between Enilor and Zon, both of them dominating most of the evening’s conversation. Enilor had lapsed into a story about one of her battles with a merchant over just who caught sight of a gigantic fish they had both wanted to catch, when Zon leaned over to Ameryn, and spoke quietly in her ear:
“I told you I would,” he said.
Ameryn gave him a puzzled look. His face was glowing in the firelight—he almost seemed to be emitting a light of his own. “You would do what?”
“Find you,” he said, simply. “I told you I would find you. And look—I did.”
She remembered. The one thing about that day she had wanted to hold on to for these last long years. The hope that may, one day, he’d find her. And by some miracle, he had.