Deirdre giggled a little as I blushed. I realized what I had said and the inevitable pink of shame tainted my cheeks. She really was looking very nice, she... My mind cast back to the many days and months, studying the Light in the Castle. There weren't many girls there and the other guys were usually much more popular. It's not that I was ugly, far from it in fact, most have commented that I am at least reasonably decent looking. But of course my often too honest way of thinking and, well, there was that other thing, made it sometimes difficult to connect with them. There had been times when I had more friends, when I was much younger, even holding hands with a girl one night. Most of that changed when the Castle called me, since then I'd mostly been a lone wanderer amongst the crowd, with maybe two friends. This girl, for some strange reason, intrigued me more than anyone I'd met before. She felt important. I got a grip on myself and took a small breath to avoid stumbling over what I was going to say next.
"Sorry, eh, I mean you look very pretty."
She smiled. "Yes, I thought that's what you meant." She curtsied a little. "Thank you, milord."
That wasn't fair, she made me blush a little more. "Stop that, I'd like to get us some food and something to drink, would you care to join me?"
She almost looked down at her stomach but restrained herself and just smiled. "Gladly."
We headed downstairs and sat down at a table, the innkeeper almost immediately came to us as if we were his most important customers. They really didn't get many ambassadors here then. He headed over to our table, nodding to some people on other tables. Most of them looked like they lived here and all knew each other. In a way we stood out as travellers, but no one really stared at us. We were young enough not to be a threat and my clothing suggested I was a messenger for the House.
Fortunately, he didn't bow or anything and his face was open and kind. "Food or drinks perhaps?"
I looked up at him. "Dinner and cider?"
He nodded. "Of course."
The innkeeper was about to turn around when a thought struck me. "Where could I get some minor provisions tomorrow morning?"
He turned back and smiled. "The master is a friend of mine, I'll get some ready. Don't worry about a thing."
He walked back to the bar again, talking for a short while with the patrons at another table. He must have instructed the barmaid, because she swiftly brought us two pints of cider, of course the food would take a little while. I took a moment to look around and noticed that there were maybe three other people eating as well. The food looked quite decent for a place like this. Very wholesome and tasty looking. Deirdre been looking around as well, but her gaze was now resting on me with a thoughtful spark behind it. I wondered what was going on in her mind.
"Taran, why are you doing all of this?"
I blinked. "All of what?"
"Giving me food, clothes, helping me."
I wasn't sure how to answer. "It felt like the right thing to do, you didn't seem dangerous, and it looked like you escaped from somewhere. The least I could do is get you to town." I thought for just a moment. "Besides, I like the company."
She blushed a little. "It doesn't bother you that..."
I shook my head. "It really doesn't bother me."
"Thanks.. Eh... Would you mind if I stayed with you for a while? I mean, you're going back to Dawnbridge, right?"
I nodded. "Alright, but on one condition." I tried to sound grave, as if I was going to ask something terrible.
She looked a little worried. "Which is?"
It was hard not to smile. "You'll have to tell your story."
She looked at my serious face, then into my eyes and smiled. "You would have taken me even if I didn't tell you now, wouldn't you?"
"Alright, then I will tell you."
As I smiled thankfully, the barmaid came with two plates and a bowl of food. She put the plates in front of us and the bowl in the middle of the round table, then curtsied slightly as she went off. She didn't really smile at us or anything, but she looked very busy in a good way. I almost felt guilty for looking at her, why? I shook my head a little and looked at the food. The wooden plate was filled with some stalks, chicken and bread. The bowl between us held some gravy-like substance that smelled a little saltier than the rest, to dip the bread in. It made my stomach growl with hunger, causing a smile to appear on Deirdre's face. She, however, looked possibly even hungrier. I wondered when she had eaten last.
I smiled. "Let's dig in."