Lemminkäinen held my life in his hands. And he let me go.
Scrambling through the woods, I channeled the rest of my magic into healing my wounds. I had no notion of where I was going or what I would do now. Why had he left me alive?
I fell to my knees, passing a trembling hand over my face, pressing against painful bruises and cuts. The pain brought me harshly back to reality. In seconds, a new plan was formed.
“What did he do to you?”
Looking up, I saw her pale face, framed by her Titian hair, filled with concern. She’d followed me in spite of everything.
“You look awful,” she said. Kneeling in front of me, she passed a hand over my skin, doing in a gesture what my weak powers had been unable to do, brushing away the pain like dust from a tabletop.
“Go back, Alice,” I said, pulling away from her and staggering to my feet.
She looked up at me, still kneeling in the muddy leaves. “No.”
I looked down into her dark eyes, then started to walk away. She didn’t fit into my new plan. I hadn’t expected her to want to.
She followed me. “Where are we going?”
“You’re going home.”
“You’re going home.”
Catching up to me, she twined her arm in mine. “You’re so funny.”
“I’m not joking. You know what happened today.”
“If you mean I have to choose between you and Lemmin, it’s ok. It’s not a hard choice.”
“He’s your family.”
“Why are you being this way? I know what you did today, and I want to help you.”
“There’s nothing to help with.” I fixed my eyes straight ahead, ignoring her warmth and the smell of honeysuckles emanating from her.
“Of course there is. You have another plan.”
“Why are you lying to me?”
“I’m tired, Liss.” At last I was telling the truth. “All I want now is a warm fire and a pot of tea.”
“You don’t mean that.”
I smiled wanly. “I told you I was too old for you.”
“Sure, you want a break, I get that. But, after awhile, you’ll be ready to strike again. And I’ll be there with you.”
“I don’t want you to come,” I said curtly. I stopped, wrenching my arm from hers. “Can’t you understand that, you silly little girl? I was only with you because it helped my plan. But that plan failed, and I’m sick of the sight of you.”
She took a step backwards. “You don’t mean this.”
“Of course I do. Now go away.” I started off again, feeling a proper crotchety old man.
“Emeric!” she called after me.
I didn’t look back, and she didn’t follow.