Elra crouched low as she sneaked through the first hallway. A long one. Frequently she looked back to see if they were being watched as she made her way. Several times she could feel a chill on the back of her neck, only to see that he was watching her.
                The first time she stopped, stomping on the ground with a foot. “You are making me nervous. Why do you keep looking at me like that?” She demanded.
                “Well you are showing me where to go.” He uttered, then faltered under her stare. “You remind me of somebody. A sister, that’s all.” From the look of him, he looked rather pitiful. Her face softened.
                Elra shrugged and continued.
                They reached the stairways, one going upwards, one going down.
                Elra quickly looked around, and found what she needed.
                “Hide in this alcove; I will come back for you.”
                He nodded nervously.
                Elra skittered down the steps, the area steadily getting darker and less grand until she reached a simple oaken door. She knocked sic times, and waited for sixteen seconds when the door swung open, and a bright lantern light shone in her face.
                She had to shield her eyes for a time before she could make out Mena.
                “What is it this time, Elly child?”
                “For the hundredth time, I am not a child!” She hissed.
                “You will always be a Elly child no matter what you say.” Mena was a pretty woman despite the strands of grey in her hair and the deep wrinkles around her flinty eyes. Elra liked her; she understood children well and always let Elra do some of the crazy things she wanted to do. So it did not bother her so much  that she called her that. Well it did a little.
                “I need your help, okay?”
                Mena settled the lantern on a table, just to fold her arms.
                “Will it involve me getting into trouble?” She clicked her tongue. “I know what happened to Atty last week.”
                “That was not my fault, she was a terrible lookout, but what I need is simple. I need a bath and I need a razor.”
                Mena’s eyebrows rose so that they almost fell off the top of her head. “You didn’t pick up another stray wolf cub did you?” She seemed to pick up a ladel almost without realising, jabbing it at Elra. “You remember how badly that went last time, I trust?”
                “That wolf was injured, and in any event, no I wouldn’t.” She pondered lying for a moment, but that wouldn’t help. “A boy, I need it for a boy.”
                Mena smacked her on the head with the ladel. She felt the tears come as quickly as the sharp pain. “You’re a little young for—“
                Elra felt her face boil. “Not like that!” She jumped from foot to foot. It was taking too long. “Please can you help?”
                “Well I doubt your father would approve but... If we make it quick, no harm could come of it.”
                “Goody! Is there somewhere he can go where nobody will see him?”
                Mena looked around the room, contemplating. “Perhaps.” Was all she said on that. “In any case, bring him here.”
                Elra jumped to it, rushing up the stairs, all but pulling him with her, back down.
                “Hurry, hurry, hurry.” She sang as she dragged him through the door to the servants’ quarters.
                Once inside she rushed over to where she could hear the sound of pouring water, through a side door. Inside, surrounded by large stones, worktops and stacks of trays, was a metal basin, hot water swilling inside with steam gushing out.
                Mena moved towards them. “I was about to wash some of the equipment but you can use it quickly. This is where we make bread,” she explained, “but we don’t start for a yet, you have a little time. I will go and get some fresh clothes and a knife and mirror.” She looked him over, an unreadable look on her face before dashing out.
                “Hurry.” Elra repeated, “Sir Wenton.” She teased.
                Elra rushed to close the doors, gently moving it shut, then resting her head against it. I’ll be leaving home, it dawned on her, should I be nervous or excited? Finally she let out a breath and rested her back against the door.
                As she turned, he was sinking his now nude body into the water. He winced a little at the heat, but lowered himself regardless.
                Elra could not believe the amount of dirt and horribly vivid scars on his body. Some looked fresh and amongst them was that burn that seemed to continue from his arm and over his chest.
                He caught her staring and she span back around.
                “Sorry, I’ve just never seen someone look as—“ she fought for the word but only one really came to her, “—damaged as that.”
                “Hah, damaged. That about covers it.” He spat. “There’s still time to reject my offer.” He sounded defeated. It made her sad.
                “Why do you want me to come with you?” It had been nagging at her all this time. If the answer was right, she was certain she would go.
                He was silent for a long time, aside from the sound of scrubbing, to the point where Elra thought he wasn’t going to answer her question.
                “Before you, it had been a long time since I laughed.” His voice sounded somewhat hoarse. “I... just want you to. Is that selfish?”
                Well I can afford to be a little selfless I suppose. “I guess, but I guess you need somebody more than you want to admit. It’s settled, I am coming with you.” Now just to tell father.

The End

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