The troupe stared at Ameryn, then looked at each other. It was clear they were as in the dark as she was.
“I don’t know what he’s up to,” Ameryn continued. “But I am her Guardian. I will always be her Guardian. I’ve got to find her.” Her fists clenched. “I’ve run this far, and I won’t stop until I can bring her home.”
She stopped. There was no more she could say. She looked down at her calloused hands, overcome.
Silence reigned for several moments. Ameryn felt angry and embarrassed all at once. She shouldn’t have said so much. She must seem a strange sight, this monster chasing after a princess who may or may not have left her kingdom for her own free will. How could they understand?
Ameryn saw a small, furry hand rest on her knee. Enilor was looking up into her eyes, her expression softer than Ameryn had seen it so far. The circle stirred as one by one, the musicians rose to their feet. She felt a hand on her shoulder, and heard the most familiar voice of all.
“We’re going with you, Ameryn.”
“No,” Ameryn protested. “No, it’s too dangerous. They’re Sprites, and—well, look at you all,” she exclaimed gesturing around at the circle of elves and fauns and taurlins. “They’ll kill you.”
“They’ll kill you, if you go alone,” Claritas said gently.
“This is my task. I wouldn’t ask you to—”
“You don’t have to ask,” Narina said, almost smiling.
“No—please. You don’t understand. I have to do this—”
“Alone?” Zon finished.
Ameryn turned to face him. “If you follow, it may be the last thing we ever do together.”
“Then let’s make it the finest thing we do.” The circle murmured assent. “We don’t want to lose you, either. Not after we just found you.” He gripped her shoulder more firmly, giving her a gentle shake. “You can’t do this alone.”
Ameryn looked around at her motley band of friends, amazed. There they stood, a ragtag bunch of musicians—outcasts. A giant, a faun, taurlins, the elves, a Sprite, an otterling—the unlikeliest group of friends imaginable. But Ameryn knew then that these were much more than friends to her. They were family.
(RIZZY NOTES: I apologize for how lame that was. It’ll get better on the cutting room floor, I promise.)