Chapter 11
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Nyle mulled over whatever or not he should wear his robes tomorrow. Would he be his usual clumsy self and have some broth spilled on them? But, ah, he had no apron. How was he going to cook without an apron?

With a sigh, Nyle went to Annie and shook her awake gently.

“Granny, could you lend me one of your aprons? I don’t have one,” Annie nodded. She had seven, for each day of the week, but, she could do an early washing session if she needed to.

“Nyle, you can cook, right?” Asked Annie. Nyle chuckled.

“I’ll have you know, granny, that men are the best chefs,” Annie sighed.

“You should have told my Alfred that. He couldn’t tell a pot apart from a pan,” Nyle cracked a grin, but shook his head.

“I can indeed cook, granny. Or, I wouldn’t have said I can. Maybe I don’t have a power like you, but I can help by chopping and dicing and whatnot,” assured her, Nyle and Annie nodded. Yes, it would be nice if someone prepared the tomatoes while she prepared the cheese. Either Holly or Nyle would need to prepare the broth. But she was sure that things would turn out well.

“So, you and Holly,” Annie nudged Nyle, who blushed.

“Holly has many admirable qualities. The villagers chopped down her forest and yet, she found it in herself to forgive them,” Annie sighed. Ah, well, not young love, per se, but love all the same.

“And, do you intend to pursue pretty Holly?” Nyle’s blush deepened.

“Well, I mean, do you think she would like me?” Nyle sounded indecisive, and Annie placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“You are a good man, Nyle. Maybe she would want for you to move from Ulssin here. But, I am certain that she wouldn’t even have anything against you remaining a healer adventurer,” Nyle nodded. He pulled out an envelope and handed it to Annie.

“I made her this. Do you think she would like it?” Inside the envelope was a small snowdrop bulb. Annie petted it gently and placed it back in the envelope.

“You are quite the charmer, Nyle. Where did you get the bulb from?” Nyle pointed at the village that could be seen from their campsite.

“I went there once we got back. With Zachary, on a shopping trip. One of the women gave it to me. Told me that everyone should have something to give to Holly,” Annie nodded. The villagers had gone a long way from their former disregard for the nymph.

“I think Holly will be ecstatic,” said Annie, and then went back to her bedding. “Now, go to sleep. We will have a soup to cook, tomorrow.”

The soup was surprisingly easy to make and Annie enjoyed every second of the cooking process. Then, Alklair, Holly and Annie and the adventurers sat down to eat. Nyle choose that time to hand Holly the envelope with the snowdrop bulb.

“I was given this to give to you,” said Nyle, as the nymph looked at the bulb in wonder.

“That is very nice of you,” she said, looking dazed. “These are not current — now. But we can still plant it. Come on.”

Holly stood, and she offered her hand to Nyle, who took it. They went back to the house, where there were empty flower beds. Annie watched them go, and she turned to Alklair, who was smiling knowingly.

“Granny, I know what you are doing,” said the mage and Annie chuckled.

“Surely, you wouldn’t stand in the way of a good thing? Don’t you want your mother to be happy?” Alklair nodded and then took a spoonful of his soup.

“I just never thought that she would meet someone after father died,” with this, Annie’s suspicions that Alklair was half a being, being confirmed. How hard must have been for him, to have to go to the villagers to ask for their help, knowing full well that they were the reason for the decline of his mother’s health.

And yet, Annie had said that the good deed washed away the bad. And she believed in this philosophy, truly. She had to stop thinking about the cutting of the forest. Such deeds had to be forgotten. Yes, what should be remembered was the spreading of the moss, for it had been done without threats and the people had worked with goodness in their hearts.

“We will need to leave tomorrow,” said Krisina, sounding sad. “And we will have to take Nyle with us. We can’t go on without a healer. It is too dangerous.”

“I am certain that if he really likes my mother, he will come back after your quest is done,” said Alklair, watching as Holly was guiding Nyle through the planting of the snowdrop bulb. “And something tells me that he does like her enough.”

They finished their meal in silence, and they played go fish for some time. Holly and Nyle had both rejoined them after they had washed their hands, and they kept sending each other looks.

When the six went to their camp for the night, they were happy. Even the horses were in a good mood as they had plenty of time to rest. Annie had brushed them down again and braided their manes again.   

The next morning, they left. Alklair and Holly being the only people who woke so early just to send them off. Before they boarded the wagon, Holly pulled Nyle aside, and they hid behind the wagon. The kissing sound on a cheek followed, and Holly skipped back to her son, looking merry.

Nyle went from behind the wagon some time after, a hand on his cheek.

“Don’t forget to write,” said Holly as he went to sit by Annie.

“I won’t,” said Nyle, as if in a trance. Lucita’s eyes betrayed to the rest that she was smiling. She pulled her brother in a hug and patted his back.

“Little Nyle finally grows up,” she said, and Nyle’s co-adventurers all snickered as Nyle huffed and swatted the arm of his sister away.