Lesson 18

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Benedikt woke at dawn, having only caught a few hours of sleep, and decided to relieve whoever was on the heightened guard duty

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Benedikt woke at dawn, having only caught a few hours of sleep, and decided to relieve whoever was on the heightened guard duty. Grielle had wisely instituted a new policy that forbade anyone from going off alone.

The encounter with the Sirens had put his situation with Grielle in a new light. He had felt guilty for feeling for her, for pushing her. It now didn't seem worth beating himself up over. He watched her stride through camp, shoulders back and head held high. There was a strength about her that was easy to see despite her small stature, and he couldn't feel anything but admiration for her. It was as though she were born to lead — a gift Benedikt often feared he lacked. She could rule a kingdom if she wanted to. He on the other hand...

"Grielle," he called out in as conciliatory a voice as he could manage. "May I speak with you?"

Grielle stopped. A look of confusion, and possibly anxiety, flickered across her face. Then she smiled. "You may." She mimicked his formality.

Benedikt followed Grielle out of earshot of the tents, whose occupants now started to stir. She stopped and turned to him, her arms folded stiff across her chest. One of her eyebrows shot up as if to ask, "Well?"

Benedikt cleared his throat before he began. "I've been unfair."

"You're off to a good start, Your Highness."

"I asked too much of you. We had the makings of a great friendship going before I mucked that all up with a kiss." He gave Grielle an apologetic smile. "There's a lot of pressure on me and I might have put some of it on you. For that, I'm truly sorry."

Grielle pursed her lips, but her entire body relaxed as Benedikt finished his apology. She gave him a sideways glance and the faintest whisper of a smile. "I think we can give our friendship another go."

Benedikt let out a relieved sigh and pushed a hand through his hair. "Good." He gave her a sheepish grin. A part of him still wanted more, but he wanted to respect Grielle's wishes. If some day she decided to let him in, he would be the last person to stand in their way.

After a small breakfast, they packed up their camp and continued northeast through the forest. Now that he was on better terms with Grielle, the tension dissolved between the entire party — with the exception of Yorick. He walked beside Moose and with a certain hesitation in his steps. His head snapped around at the slightest sound. Moose eventually flicked him in the ear.

"Ouch!" Yorick stopped and covered his ears. His eyes were dark with shadows beneath them, as though he hadn't been sleeping.

"Quit acting so jumpy. You're making me nervous," Moose said. He walked on without him.

Yorick's jaw clenched and unclenched. He took a deep breath, then continued on.

"You okay?" Benedikt asked when he caught up to him.

"I don't know." Yorick shook his head. "I've got this bad feeling in my gut. It won't let me sleep. It won't let me eat."

"I think we all feel something like that."

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