Flight of Fiction (17)

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As weary from the day’s travels as she was, Ameryn could not convince her body to sleep. She was on her back, staring at the ceiling of the tent she had been sharing with Claritas and Mesmeralda, the taurlin sisters. Those two were sleeping peacefully, their deer bodies curled gracefully underneath them, leaning their torsos against each other’s for support. The chill had seeped through Ameryn’s blankets, the numbness in her extremities prodding her awake every time she neared sleep.

On her first night with the troupe, she had slept just fine. Better than fine—it was the first night in years that she experienced a deep, untroubled sleep. She felt for the first time on her journey that everything would turn out for the better. With the Troupe’s cunning and Zon’s leadership, Aileen was as good as saved. But another day of travel had dimmed the dream. What if they didn’t make it to Nanduvar in time? She couldn’t bear the thought of what might happen to the princess if there was any further delay.

After a few more fruitless moments of tossing and turning, she gave up with a huff, pulled her blanket around her and crawled out of the tent, heading for the fire.

Zon was there, seated on the ground with his back to the flames. Watching the darkness. His sword was unsheathed and resting on his knees.

Ameryn said nothing, but sat down on the opposite side of the fire from him, the side closest to her. She held her hands out from underneath her protective covering of woolen blanket, trying to warm them. The flames made an eerie shadowplay with the scars on her hands. She thought she saw faces for a moment, grinning back at her, winking. She looked into the flames instead.

Zon said nothing. Surely he knew she was there.

“It’s your watch, then?” she asked tentatively.

Zon turned halfway, smiling at her from over his shoulder. “Afraid so. Loui couldn’t keep his eyes open much longer. Listen.” He pointed over to the longest, lowest tent. Ameryn heard the low rumble of the giant’s snore.

“That snore has got to be our biggest security risk,” he added, shaking his head and chuckling. He shifted so he, too, was facing the flames. “Couldn’t sleep?”

“No,” Ameryn replied, rubbing her hands together. “It’s too cold to sleep.”

“They don’t think so,” Zon said, gesturing around to the tents filled with sleeping musicians.

“They’re probably used to it. I haven’t slept outdoors since…well, you know.” She was smiling, but sheepishly. Why was she sheepish? Zon was no one to fear. “I’m used to sleeping indoors, and at the foot of Aileen’s bed. Until she’s safely home, sleep won’t come easily.”

Zon made no reply except for a nod, which Ameryn caught in her peripheral. Ameryn glanced up to make sure he wasn’t looking at her so she could study his face freely. He was looking at the fire, his mind turned inward. His face was smooth. Scarless. He seemed free of worry. Odd for a man always on the run, she thought. Odd for a man who, too, knows the meaning of slavery. At least he escaped with no scars. She touched her own face out of habit. Yes. Hers were still there.

The boy raised his eyes. Blue met brown, and she quickly turned hers downward. Why would he even want to look at her? She pulled her hands beneath the blanket and wrapped her arms around her knees protectively as she pulled them to her chest. She had never felt more hideous than she did at that moment, under his threatless gaze.

“Ameryn,” Zon said, quietly. His voice was so gentle, unlike any other voice—any male voice—she’d ever heard. She couldn’t look at him.

“Ameryn,” he repeated, just as gently, “what happened?”

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