Chapter 45Accepted

Deirdre looked at me with surprise and admiration. She knew that she fought the woman and the man, basically having all rights to the gold. But that wasn't it. What she was surprised about was that I valued her for what she was. It was a look in her eyes that made her look happier than I'd seen her so far. A look that someone saw her, valued her nearby and appreciated her.

And in turn I felt she appreciated me.

She gave me a kiss on my cheek and giggled. "Thanks."

Deirdre was still looking at the gem in her hand. She moved it in the evening light, trying to figure out the shape of the darkness inside. I could see her curiousity, her temptation to fill it with Dark and see what would happen. I tried to remember if there had been any research done on those crystals But I presumed, with the instability of the other crystals, that results would be unpredictable at best.

Perhaps I would look it up in the library later.

"Deirdre, is the Dark castle the mirror image of the Light castle?"

She thought for a moment. "Mostly, as far as I could tell. The windows are mostly in the same place. And I think they were build around the same time too."

That surprised me. "That's strange?"

She giggled. "Not as much as you'd think. They weren't originally Castles of Magic. In fact, if I remember correctly, the castle of Dark used to be the only one, but a second one got built when the Lord had twins. They had to rule the city together, but each wanted it's own castle." She smiled. "It's an odd story, and I don't know if it's true. But I've always noticed how much they looked alike."

I grinned. "Nice story though. Is there any reason why everything is so neatly laid out?"

She shrugged. "It's always been like this. Imagine growing up here and seeing Dawnbridge for the first time... Like me last week."

My eyes grew wide in surprise. I'd never even thought of that. To her, Dawnbridge must look like a cesspit of chaos. Where everything, including the castle, was much more unstructured. There market stalls were based on who came first. The spots around the central square were taken first, then slowly spreading out. Of course they left enough room for people to pass through. They had to, else they'd get no customers. But the stalls were a lot closer together there. As we walked back to the market, I looked around with different eyes.

This was much calmer for the mind. You could much more easily obtain what you wanted, or compared it. No one was screaming and even the 'interesting odours' of cattle were mostly confined to a corner. Very practical.

We roamed the market for a while, looking at this and that but buying nothing. We didn't really need anything. We just moved silently through the crowds until we finally ended up in front of the castle of Dark.

No real guards here either. I wondered if I could just walk in unnoticed. It wasn't a good idea now, though. It was late and I would be asked more questions about my presense at this time. I did have a question though.

"Are they open to the public?"

Deirdre looked at me. "Not really, but people don't try and enter the castles normally. So everyone who does is assumed to belong here. That's why I had no trouble talking to the students of Light."

I smiled. "So everything is well organized here then."

She nodded. "Yes. And though it may not look safe, it is. If you do anything wrong, justice does come swiftly. People like rules here." She thought for a moment. "It works, too. People go about their business without bothering others."

I wasn't sure what to think of it. "Sounds fair, if a bit boring."

She shrugged. "It's just how it is."

We looked back at the Castle one more time and finished our rounds of the market-stalls. There wasn't anything we really needed but Deirdre bought a slightly more convenient pouch for the gold and the bi-coloured crystal. We headed back for the Inn and were glad to see dinner being served. A nod was as good as a wink. We'd only just seated, two steaming plates of good food heading our way immediately.

Good food indeed.

The meat here was a little different. Goat, is what Deirdre told me it was. The vegetables were mostly the same as I was used to, just less spiced for some reason. The beer here was quite a bit stronger though, it had quite the punch for such a clear drink. Anyway, the evening passed mostly uneventfully. We headed up to our room almost directly after dinner and prepared the beds.

We chose not to sleep in the same bed, mostly because we were very tired. And of course we would have some interesting days ahead of us. We both undressed, feeling no shame amongst ourselves anymore, and got into bed. The room was already dark.

"Taran?"

I smiled. "Yes?"

"Why do you let me stay?"

"I don't know, it just feels right." The answer came before I could really think about it.

She giggled in the dark. "That's nice. Thank you."

I turned to my side and drifted slowly away. Deirdre said something but it passed me by. My thoughts were playing everything back from the last few days, all the moments that centered around her. I wasn't sure why I chose to take her with me. But I would do it again, and again... And again.

I slept.