where awkward private thoughts become public knowledge.

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The euphoria faded steadily into exhaustion and she was forced to fall to her knees. Her bare legs didn’t feel the hard garden stones, just a place to lay in rest. She tipped her head back to the sunny sky and took a deep breath; it was more luck than skill that had kept her breathing at all.

She closed her eyes. The garden was silent except for the usual buzzing of insects and gentle rustling of leaves in the breeze. “I’m safe now,” she thought, “at least for the next few minutes.” Reveling at her breath and sense of security was making her dizzy.

She allowed herself a few peaceful moments and then opened her eyes. Her right hand picked up her sword as she slowly stood up. She surveyed the damage. Most of the stone was red and slick; a head here, an arm there. There were holes like polka dots in the privet hedge, and someone had set half of them on fire. Stepping carefully around the carnage she started moving down the path toward the gate.

“I need to find a way to get home,” she muttered. Exiting the gate, she saw no choice but to start walking until she found what she needed.

Several miles up the road she saw a familiar figure leaning casually against an oak tree. He was hard not to notice, several feet taller than a normal man and wearing a bright red coat. She savored the way he looked, long black hair, glittering green eyes, and even the ridiculous coat. It felt good to see a familiar face after coming so close to death. As she approached she saw his face widen in shock. “Pari,” he stammered. “You’re?…What?…You?…So much blood!”

She smiled. “It’s not mine. At least I don’t think it is. I think I would have noticed a mortal wound by now.” Looking down at what had been her favorite dress, she noted the blood and flesh stuck to her and the tips of her hair turned blonde to red. Other than surface cuts on her bare feet, she seemed unharmed. She wasn’t entirely sure how that was possible.

“Pari you look terrifying! Covered in blood and-you’re sure you’re okay? I wasn’t sure I was in the right place, you know, and I was standing here wondering if I’d seen it wrong and come you down the road, sword in hand, looking like a hellion! We’ve got to do something about your appearance, I won’t be able to stand it much longer. Give me a minute.”

At once he snapped his fingers and disappeared. Pari was unphased; it had been his only means of transportation for a hundred years. As convenient as it was, she was sure Audrick continued to do it simply to show off.

In less than a minute he reappeared soundlessly and displayed a simple green dress, a chestnut coat and a pair of brown boots. “I’ll just give you a few minutes -if you’re sure you can stay out of trouble?”

She laughed and said, “I promise,” and he disappeared once more.