Chapter 2: A Helping Hand

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"Do you have a name?" I asked, ignoring the slight twinges in both of my legs the farther we walked through the forest.

The Elven glanced over her right shoulder at me. "Do you?"

A frustrated sigh burst from my lips. "Why do people answer a question with another question?" I said to no one in particular.

She chuckled and shook her head. "'Tis the easiest thing to do," she said. "My name is Myrah. And you are?"

"Eveliana."

"From Vespa Vale."

Full of suspicion, I narrowed my eyes at her. "I thought you said you had no clue as to where Vespa Vale is."

"I don't, but I've a good memory. Everything I see or hear, I remember it. This is the farthest I've ever been from Gwendolyn, so you must forgive the fact that I know nothing about the world outside of my own."

Embarrassment painted my cheeks red. "Oh, I . . ."

Myrah held a hand up to silence me. "My mam prevents me for traveling too far. She's old, you see. My brothers and sisters have all gone their own ways, leaving me behind to care for her."

"I'm so sorry."

She glanced at the faded path in front of her. "For what? You've done nothing wrong. These things happen. We Elves are not the kind to stick together once we're grown. Not until we have our own families."

"Kind of like my own family," I mumbled.

"Is that so?" she asked, swatting several large overhanging leaves aside.

"A bit. You've lived in this—in Gwendolyn your whole life?"

Myrah nodded. "Since I was born. Mam hails from Broadbelly. She met me da there, God bless his soul."

"He's dead?" I inquired, ducking down to avoid the leaves.

"Unfortunately. He was headed for the market one day when a group of bandits set down on him. He fought to his last breath. Alas, they defeated him and took everything he had with him."

The thought of her father dying filled me with sadness. My own father had died in battle.

He'd set off one night for Helstia, taking his entire battalion with him. They were supposed to infiltrate Bonner Palace, but King Godfrey's own battalion intercepted my father and his group at the Krisley Crossroads. There, most fought to their death—my father included—taking the king's Hand with them. The little that remained of Father's battalion continued on to secure the palace for the queen, however.

"You've lost your own father," Myrah said, falling into step beside me.

"Yes."

"How?"

"He died in battle."

She bestowed me with a sad smile. "A fitting death for a knight, I'm sure."

"I never said he was a knight."

"What else would he be?" she asked. "Besides, we've lost a good many to a battle or two here in Gwendolyn."

An awkward silence descended upon us. I fiddled with the edge of my tunic, unsure of what to say.

Myrah saved the day.

"My mam will be happy to see you. I don't bring that many people home."

"No friends?"

Her cheeks turned a light red. "I have some, but not many. I'm . . ."

"Yes?"

"Not that many people like me. They think I'm weird, you see."

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