CHAPTER TWELVE: Gnomes

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CHAPTER TWELVE: Gnomes

 Story woke with a groan. She’d slept fitfully, constantly afraid that Morrigann would come to her in her dreams again and put her under another spell.

He hadn’t come, and she could only assume that it was because he was no longer welcome in her dreams. That, or he was busy planning some other means to kill her.

Sitting up, she winced as pain shot through her right hip.

That’s what I get for trying to sleep on my side on the ground. What I wouldn’t give for a real bed!

She put her right hand down to steady herself and her fingertips brushed against something soft and yielding. Looking down she saw that Eirnin had thoughtfully left her some fresh fruit for breakfast.

Eirnin!

Her eyes darted around their campsite, but apart from the cold remains of the fire, there was no sign of him. He’d left her, and she didn’t blame him after the way she’d behaved. Her cheeks heated as she recalled everything she’d said and done the night before, and moaning loudly, she buried her face in her hands.

She was worn out, grimier than ever, and desperately craving a soak in a hot bath. But more than anything, she wanted Eirnin back so she could apologize to him.

“Amazing! You can even manage to sleep while sitting up.”

She peeked through her fingers. Eirnin was standing a few feet away, a sardonic grin on his face. “And you haven’t even touched your breakfast yet. Who are you and what have you done with Story?”

Lowering her hands, she smiled sheepishly up at him, relieved he was there.

His eyes softened toward her, comforting green flickers of color dancing in them. “Well, are you going to sit there all day? Let’s get going; I’d like to reach Stoneybrook at some point today.” With another teasing grin in her direction, he turned around and started walking down the trail, leaving Story to scramble after him.

* * * * *

The walk was a riot of emotions for Story. For starters, she was still completely embarrassed about being so easily manipulated and taken in by Morrigann. Eirnin was, surprisingly, kind enough not to mention it and, apparently sensing she needed quiet and time to think about things, didn’t try to force a conversation.

Of course there was also the figurative “elephant in the room.” The whole Ailesitbusiness. She hated to admit it, but it all seemed to make an odd sort of sense now. Why she’d felt drawn to the caves in the first place, and why, even now, she felt inextricably drawn forward, as if following Eirnin to the city of Ailes was the right choice. The very thought of going back to Aisras made her stomach churn. That said, she wasn’t keen on going off in search of some stupid tree, just so she could go bleed on it for a bunch of self-absorbed elves.

It’s not fair!

She felt like she had no choice in any of this. At least she knew that the blood had to be willingly given, so that mollified her somewhat. She was just going to go to the city of Ailes, get the Queen to help her out, and go back to her own world.

Story gazed at the gradually flattening land around her. The forest had thinned out and she could see fields filled with new growths of crops dotting the surrounding landscape. She sighed; it frustrated her that Eirnin had been able to see something about herself after just a few days of traveling together that she hadn’t noticed. Even now she couldn’t bring herself to say she wanted to go “home.” Though going home was what she wanted most, she just didn’t know where home was anymore.

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