Sharon’s note: No one is perfect. Some people are down right horrible. Sometimes, just sometimes, even seemingly horrible people can surprise you with decent acts. I try not to assume that people are horrible, even if they seem that way at first. I don’t know the whole story. Chances are, even they don’t. Warning: Author is trying to remind people to be nice to each other.
“It’s fine.” Panther grabbed my wrist and tried to pull me with him as he backed away from the Cairn. “Keep the gifts. We’ll go now.”
I pulled my arm away. “Wait. I paid the price like I was supposed to. If he’s not going to give you justice, I want to know why.”
“Molly, we can’t!”
“No, it’s a reasonable request.” Alon shook his head. “I can’t grant your request because it would mean betraying my lord. I am incapable of doing that. “Ci-”
“That’s not my name anymore!” Panther snarled.
Lips pressed tightly together, Alon stared at Panther. His eyes narrowed as he studied my friend for a long moment. Things were verging on uncomfortable when the short man nodded. “Fine. Even if I disagreed with what was done to his parent’s, I couldn’t say that. Even if I wished I could help him, I was ordered not to. Your friend is exiled. If he becomes involved with our affairs, my lord will have him killed. There’s even a chance I’d be sent to do it. So do both of yourselves a favor and stay away from the Woods.”
“Right. We’re going.” Panther snatched at my hand again but I stepped out of reach.
“I paid for justice.” I balled up my fists and stared Alon in the eyes. “You can’t give me what I asked for, so you still owe me, right?”
“Right?” I demanded, ignoring Panther, even though he was getting kind of panicky.
Both Alon’s eyebrows shot up. “Or I could just deny the offerings and owe you nothing. But go ahead and ask. I’m not saying I’ll grant your request, but I’ll hear it.”
“Promise you won’t try to kill Panther.”
He was surprised into laughter. “What did you call him?”
“Panther. He’s my friend, and since you can’t get him justice, I want you to promise that you won’t kill him.” I stomped up and tilted my head up to glare at him. He tilted his head to one side, really looking at me this time.
“Please, Alon, just deny her request and we’ll go.” Panther was begging. He rarely even said please. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
“No. I can make that promise.”
“What? Really?” All the fear was chased out of Panther by surprise.
“Really. Your brother hasn’t ordered me to kill you yet, and if I’ve given my word to a parishioner not to, he can’t ask it of me. I’ve known you since you were born. I’d rather not be the one to cause your death, so I’ll gladly make that promise.”
“That works for me. It’s a deal. A jar of peanut butter and Grandma’s teeth in exchange for not hurting Panther.” I beamed as I put one hand on my hip and held out the other for him to shake.
“That’s not how this works.” Panther dragged a hand down his face and I laughed.
“It’s fine.” Alon took my hand and shook it. “And it’s a deal. Now you should leave before you draw attention to yourselves. Some of the citizens of the Woods might be a little more eager to gain the favor of their king than I am.”
“Yes, thank you.” Panther grabbed my arm again, and this time I let him pull me away.
I waved at Alon. “Yeah, thanks. It was really nice to meet you.”
He laughed as he waved back and I nearly had my arm yanked out of its socket.