The dark-haired one grinned and clapped Vidir on the shoulder. “Yeah, man. It did. She’s been in tears for almost an hour and threatened everything about us if we don’t come back with you in one piece, so we’d better get going.”
Vidir turned back to Jiloryn and took her hand in his. He kissed that back of it and gave her a rakish grin. “Thank you for saving me.”
Jiloryn smiled, though her heart ached at the thought of him being in love with someone. “You’re welcome.”
Without another word Vidir and his friends headed off.
Jiloryn stood at the edge of the water with it lapping at her toes and watched them walk away. She wanted to ask Vidir to come to her father’s cage for dinner, and she was considering asking him when their voices drifted back to her on the breeze.
“What was that thing?”
“A rusalka, or something like that,” Vidir answered.
“Wow. And you let it touch you.”
Vidir turned to the dark headed one. “Shut it, Yundit. She saved my life.”
“Yeah, but man was she ugly.”
Tears formed in Jiloryn’s eyes, but she brushed them away and dove into the lake to collect the Thunderfish for her father.
Jiloryn sat alone in her room. The light had long since ceased to shine, and she should’ve been asleep. Her father had yelled at her for nearly an hour for taking the time to save Vidir rather than focusing on gathering the Thunderfish, and she was sentenced to yet another day at the bottom of the lake.
Jiloryn sighed as a single tear leaked from her crimson eye to trail down a lilac cheek. Her ears fluttered back and forth as she fought back the sobs that threatened to choke her.
A soft knock on her door caused Jiloryn to wipe her eyes. She rose from her bed and took the few steps necessary to open it.
“Hey,” she greeted.
“Hey, yourself,” Cahriss replied. Cahriss bounded into the room and plopped onto the bed. “So. Are you totally in love yet?”
Jiloryn sighed, then she grinned. “Totally.” She twirled around in circles then plopped down onto her knees beside the bed. “Wasn’t he just scrumptious?”
Cahriss giggled. “Oh, yeah. But his friends were total jerks.”
Jiloryn’s smile faded. “Yeah. They were.”
“So, what are you gonna do about it? Are you just gonna go away meekly?”
Jiloryn bit her bottom lip and brushed her hair behind her ears. “I don’t know. I don’t know where he’s staying or anything.”
Cahriss leaned over until she was looking Jiloryn in the eye. “Well, I do.”
Cahriss nodded and grinned. She sat upright and brushed her navy hair behind her ears. Her eyes, yellow pupils on black irises, flashed with mischief. “He’s staying here in town while his father works out some kind of deal with the city administration.”
Jiloryn simply sat there with her mouth open.
“Are you gonna go and try to catch his eye or not?”
Jiloryn continued to bite her lip, her pointed teeth slightly piercing the skin. “Do you think I should?”
Cahriss nodded. “Oh, yeah. You definitely should.”
Jiloryn thought about it for another moment, then she laughed. “Okay. Let’s go.”
The town of Dustspire was quiet once the sun ceased to shine. Most people headed to their homes for the evening, but there were still some who enjoyed a late dinner at the local cafes, and there were always those who gathered around the fountain in the center of town to flirt and talk. Jiloryn generally stayed in, for she had no real desire to flirt, and she and Cahriss spent most of their days talking. But tonight she was looking for Vidir Frostfall.
Jiloryn had brushed out her long, wavy hair and put on her favorite red dress before she left her house. Cahriss had also changed her clothes, though her dress was a soft peach.
The rusalki walked arm-in-arm the short distance from Jiloryn’s house to the town square. The stepped up close to the fountain where several others were playing a dice game on the cobbles and stood back to watch. Jokes flew among those playing, and several other girls, one a demon with short horns sticking from the top of her head, watched with laughter in their eyes.
“Do you really think they’ll come?” Jiloryn whispered.
Cahriss nodded and inclined her head toward the south end of the square. Four dwarfs, the three boys and one girl, entered the square and looked around. They spotted the game going on by the fountain and stepped up to play.
“Oh, look,” said Freya, the girl with Vidir and the others. “The little demon who saved you is all dressed up and ready to play.” She pushed Vidir toward Jiloryn. “Why don’t you tell little demon girl that you’re already taken.” Freya laughed, and Jiloryn’s lilac skin darkened with shame.
Vidir stumbled and kicked the dice. The other boys, mostly demons, rose with balled fists and moved toward Vidir. The other dwarfs spread out and readied themselves for a fight, but Jiloryn and Cahriss stepped between them. Cahriss spoke quickly to the demons, while Jiloryn motioned for Vidir and the dwarfs to back away.
“Back off, demon girl,” Freya said. “It’s a matter of dwarven honor.”
“Hush, Freya,” Vidir replied. “Jiloryn, right?”
Jiloryn smiled and nodded. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
Vidir smiled and turned to the others. “Let’s go. There’s plenty to do elsewhere, and we can always go back to the yacht. Father has plenty to do there.”
“Yeah,” Njall replied. He was the same height as Vidir, but his skin was a dark cocoa. His hair was a deep blonde and brushed back from his forehead, and he wore a leather breastplate and carried a short sword at his side. “Let’s get away from the demon stench around here.”
Yundit agreed, and the four of them turned to leave. Jiloryn watched and did her best not to cry, but her heart lifted when Vidir looked back and smiled at her.
Cahriss joined her a moment later. “Seems like it was a waste of time to get all dressed up, doesn’t it?”
Jiloryn turned to her friend with a sigh. “I guess,” she replied.
Cahriss followed Jiloryn’s gaze and placed her hand on her friend’s shoulder. “You really like him, don’t you?”
Jiloryn bit her bottom lip and nodded. “He hates demons, though. They all do.”
“I’m sorry, Jil. But that’s something you can’t change.”