24. The Silver Comb (Part 1)

Memories of her childhood wafted along on the crisp breeze as Hataru and the crew tromped through the crowded streets of Habar, Marcelia ─ their most recent stop ─ in search of supplies and prophecy items. The scent of the surrounding forests reminded her of the times she and her mother had picked wild berries, often eating more than they brought home, and a hint of baking bread brought her back to the days they would transform their small, homely kitchen into that of master pâtissiers. The rhythmic dings of a hammer clanging against an anvil in the distance brought tears to her eyes as thoughts of her father's mighty arms clouded her mind's vision.

Abruptly, a pair of small arms wove their way around her waist, bringing Hataru back to the present. Sniffling and blinking the moisture of her mourning away, the young woman smiled down to the boy. “Why, hello there, Zephyr! Ready for a day in town?”

“Not hello! Goodbye!”

Stepping back from him, she queried with concern, “Goodbye? Whatever do you mean?” Her glistening blue eyes probed his face for answers.

“Well... Mister Captain Levi said that I could go off on my own at the next port, so… so I’ve decided to go.” Zephyr readjusted the small pack on his shoulder and puffed out his chest with a dauntless gleam in his eyes as they marched along.

            “I suppose he did…” the princess glanced over toward the captain and clutched the sapphire ring that now hung upon a silver chain around her neck, where it had rested ever since she’d yanked it off her finger eight days ago. She and Captain Spry hadn't seen much of each other over the past week of traveling, for every time he had tried to approach her, she would find some way to excuse herself. It wasn’t that she blamed him for anything in particular, but after the Kresreb incident and the nightmare-inflicting ring, she unconsciously wanted to distance herself from him. “... but, Zephyr,” she placed a hand on the lad’s shoulder and studied his face, “you do know that you can stay, right? You don’t have to leave; you have nothing to prove.”

The End

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