Devon didn’t have anything to pack, well – not much.  Melody had given him a sack, and he was presumably going to fill it with food, if he could manage to scrounge up any.  He absolutely refused to take any of hers.  From the looks of things she was struggling plenty without the burden of feeding him.  He still had the sword he had taken from the guard, which he hoped to replace with a longer one before he left the continent, though that didn’t seem likely at this point – Thoda was a very small village.  But he was fairly certain that where ever he ended up in the western continent would have a smith’s shop, or perhaps even a decent weapons customization shop.  He wished he could leave the clothes here - not that they did Melody much good – or at least pay the people of the village, and especially the girl, in some way, but he still had no funds and likely would not for quite some time.  He gave the single-room-hut one last sweeping glance before he picked up his sword.  It was time to leave; he had already delayed too long for his liking, but no ship had arrived in Thoda until today.  He would have liked to say goodbye to his hostess, but he had not seen her all day, and the ship would not wait.  He strode out the door and into the small village.  He could easily see the tall ship at the dock.

          “Devon – wait!” Melody’s voice stopped him nearly on the gangplank and he turned to face her.  It looked as though he would get to say farewell after all.

          He turned to see her approaching at a rapid pace, slightly out of breath.  He smiled briefly before his brow furrowed.  She was dressed differently, her simple long dress replaced by a shorter dress and a pair of shorts.  Her once bare feet were now clad in woman’s boots, and her long blonde hair was now cropped at her chin.  He frowned.

          “Melody.” He wasn’t rude enough to comment, but the question was clear in his eyes.  Melody laughed and twirled.

          “Like it?” she asked teasingly, knowing full well from the look on his face that he was confused and displeased by her appearance.

          “Not really.” He drawled, circling her.  He gave a playful tug to her drastically shortened locks. “Missing something, Mel?”  In the past week he had come to view her as the sister he’d never had and it never occurred to him not to be completely honest with her.  It was unlikely she would take offense.

          He was correct in that assumption as she quickly proved by laughing off his comment.  She brushed his hand away, suddenly rather serious.  “I couldn’t very well go with you like that!” she said with conviction, “Long hair is always such a bother anyway.”

          She shifted uncomfortably when he didn’t respond immediately, but kept her expectant gaze on him.  His good mood faded as he stepped back to observe her.  Slowly he shook his head.

          “I don’t think so, Melody.” He said gently.

          Melody’s small fist clenched briefly and she let out a tiny sigh.  She should have expected this.  “Devon-” she began, only to be cut off by his firm statement.

          “No, Melody.   I’m a wanted man and I won’t let you put yourself in danger like that. Besides – the open country is filled with monsters and beasts.” He reached for her, taking her gently by the upper arms and holding her gaze steadily, “What if I couldn’t protect you?”

          She fought rising tears, knowing they would do no good.  But somehow she had to convince him to let her go.  He had become the closest thing to family she had, and she didn’t want to lose that.  She gave a somewhat forced smile, “You won’t have to!” she said with false brightness.  “I’ll protect myself.”

          He gave a short, unpleasant, laugh, “How, Mel?”

          She frowned, shrugging away from him, “with this.”  She bent to pick up an object he had not noticed before.  It looked very much like a quarter staff and he raised an eyebrow.  “I will.” She maintained stubbornly.

          Now it was his turn to sigh.  “No, Melody.  You aren’t coming.” And before he could change his mind at her sad look he brushed past her heading toward the ship.

          Behind him Melody resisted the urge to stomp her foot and hurried after him, placing herself between him and the ship.  “You need me.” She tried a new tact, her voice soft with persuasion, “You don’t know the way – you didn’t even know who Dirk was or where he lived.  I can help you.”

          He gave a bittersweet smile, “Melody, you told me yourself that you don’t even know where he lives.  Only that he lives on the opposite side of a forest from Iselia.  And I know you don’t know where Iselia is.”

          She bit her lower lip and he brushed past her again, and then her head lifted with determination.  “Devon Rite’n.” she said stubbornly, “I am not a child, and you cannot tell me what to do.  I do as I wish, and I wish to board that boat and go to Iselia.  So unless you plan to pick me up, carry me home, and tie me to a chair, you’re just going to have to deal with it.” She drew in a quick breath, feeling her face flushed from lack of air as she had not breathed once during her outburst.  He had frozen mid-step, back still to her. She lowered her head, “I’m going with you... whether you like it or not.” She said quietly, not daring to look back up at him, fearing that she would crumble under his disapproving gaze. 

          She heard the sound of slowly approaching footfall, and soon she saw the tips of Devon’s boots come into view.  She mentally, and physically, braced herself, but her effort was wasted as he merely slipped a knuckle under her chin, urging her face up so that their gazes met.  She was surprised to see him smiling softly, his eyes warm and peaceful.  “Alright, Mel.  You can come.”


          Devon shook his head, watching Melody as she stood at the stern overlooking the ocean.  He still didn’t know what had possessed him to agree to let her come.  Perhaps it was the fact that he knew even if he had tied her up – which he would never have done – she would probably have followed him on the next ship out, and then she would have been wandering alone in the wilds with no one to protect her. 

          Or perhaps he was just crazy.

          He shook his head again before approaching her. Casually he leaned against the railing beside her.  “They say we’ll be there by morning.” He remarked.

          Melody gave him her typical smile, though it lacked some of its typical brilliance - it seemed the sea did not agree with Melody, though he was fairly certain she had been able to hold down all her meals on this passage, unlike some of the other passengers.    

          “That’s good.”  She sighed, looking back at the ocean.  They stood in companionable silence for a moment and then her head dropped a bit causing her bangs to fall and shadow her eyes.  When she spoke again it was quieter, but not so much that he had to struggle to hear her.  “Are you upset with me, Devon?”

          He blinked in surprise, “No.  Should I be?”

          She shook her head, “It’s just... I came with you against your counsel, and already I’m a problem.  Maybe I was wrong-”

          “Mel,” he cut her off gently, placing a hand over hers, “I was wrong,” he confessed, much to her surprise.  But that worked to his advantage as it caused her to look at him once more, “I didn’t realize how used to your presence I had become.  I’m glad you’re here.”  Smiling he squeezed her hand before releasing it and turning back toward the cabins.  “We’d better get some rest.  We arrive in a few hours.”