“I’m sorry,” Twila said.
“It’s okay,” Lilly said. “I know you did your best.”
Axra handed Twila a glass of water. “Drink up.”
“Thank you,” Twila said. She leaned back. The group had made their way out of the tunnels and made camp near the entrance. Twila had spent over an hour trying to undo the enchantment on Lilly’s ring but her efforts had been to no avail.
“Lilly,” Axra said. “Let’s go look for some more firewood.”
Lilly nodded and fell into step behind Axra. The two ignored a few pieces of wood and moved a good distance from the campsite.
“You know why I called you out here, I trust?” Axra asked.
“Yes, Princess,” Lilly said. “Wh… how do we stay with you? You know, without Twila becoming suspicious?”
“I think I have the solution,” Axra said. “Thanks to that creepy giantess. After you and Velvet drop the treasure off with my dads, you’ll return, claiming that you want to get the ring off as soon as possible. Velvet will tag along under the pretense that he’s worried about you.”
“Oh, right,” Lilly said. “I guess that does make the most sense bu… but how will you keep Twila in Nervius long enough for us to catch up to you?”
“We’ll buy supplies,” Axra answered. “No big deal.” The two stared at each other in silence for a moment. “Are you okay?”
“M… me?” Lilly asked. “I… I’m fine, really.”
“That’s good,” Axra said. “I was worried about you after the whole thing with Gail.”
“It… It was… startling,” Lilly said. “But I don’t think she meant any harm.”
“I see,” Axra said. “Don’t worry. If she returns I’ll protect you.”
“P… princess,” Lilly said. “You… You would do that… for me?”
“Sure,” Axra said. “I won’t let anyone mess with my friends!”
“F… fr… friends?”
“Sure,” Axra said. She pat Lilly on the back. “Now, let’s head back.” The two hurried towards camp, scooping up wood as they went.
“We’re back!” Axra called. “We got a lot.”
“I can see that,” Twila said. “I’m almost done cooking. Throw some wood on the fire and then relax for a bit.”
“Aren’t you still tired from casting so many spells?” Axra inquired. “You should have let me do the cooking.”
“It’s no big deal,” Twila said. “It’s not hard to cook a quick meal.” She smiled and Axra felt her heart skip.
Velvet’s dogs gathered around Lilly, nuzzling her legs and making slight whimpering sounds. Vicki even started licking her hand. She knelt down and began patting each of their heads in turn.
“There there,” Lilly said, soothingly. “Were you all worried about me? Such good puppies!”
“Supper is ready,” Twila said. “Be sure to wash up with the basin before eating.”
“Just scoop the food into my mouth,” Velvet muttered.
“No one is going to hand feed you!” Axra yelled. “Get off your ass and eat or you can just go hungry.”
Velvet reluctantly got up. The four sat around the fire. Velvet’s dogs gathered around Lilly.
“I think if we travel without too many distractions we can reach Choltin in two days,” Twila said. “From there it will just be another day’s travel to Nervius and we can part ways.” Twila looked directly at Lilly. “Don’t worry. I promise I’ll look for a stronger disenchantment spell when we reach the Library and return to help you as soon as I can.”
“We… well,” Lilly said. “M… maybe we could come with you. I’m sure the kings will allow me time off if I tell them about, you know, the situation.”
“Sounds good to me,” Axra piped in, pleased that Lilly had taken the opening.
“Indeed,” Twila said. “It would be helpful to be able to try any new disenchantment spells right away and it is fun travelling with you.”
“Th… thank you,” Lilly said.
“Choltin, huh?” Velvet muttered. “I’m gonna get yelled at.”
“Did you say something?” Axra asked.
“Not in particular,” Velvet answered.