“We cannot go back now, Betty!” Ina said, her voice not quite a whine but close to it. She had locked arms with her sister and they stood before me. It took me by surprise because I hadn’t voiced my concerns about them being with us and my feeling that they needed to go back.
“Girls, you can’t stay with us,” I scolded them, “remember what I said back at the Passage? Remember that I said it would be too dangerous? Well, that has not changed, you need to go back and stay with the Cryst.”
I looked around the group for confirmation but no one seemed to be nodding to support my side of things.
“Right, Isobeau?” I said, encouraging her to support me. She said nothing. Ursel and Artio made themselves busy cleaning up the dishes from our meal. Toci just looked confused and Aurie was staring at me - I could see an argument developing behind her brown eyes.
“Wait a minute,” I said, looking around at the adults in the group, “you don’t think we should take them with us, do you? Seriously. This could be a life-threatening journey for these two. We know we’re up against some pretty hardcore adversaries.”
“Betty, you do not know the Twins like we have gotten to know them,” Ruis said. She hadn’t said much since they’d ridden up to us that day.
“Ruis, I don’t know what you and Passlande faced out there, but I’m sure it wasn’t all flowers and sunshine,” I said, “you, maybe more than any of us, might know the dangers.”
“There are now six adults, no, seven adults, to take care of them,” Isobeau cut in, “and I remind you that the Cryst told you that these girls can speak nearly every language. They kept saying on our ride here that you would need them. I believe them and I think that we can keep them safe.”
“I think Isobeau is right,” Aurie chimed in, “these two walked in the woods by themselves and were given care and protection of the Woodlanders. They came to no harm. The Cryst stood by your decision, but they originally thought those two would come with us. Now they are here, now we can protect them.”
“But just how are we going to put all our energy into facing the Malefici when we have to worry about them?” I asked.
“I will take care of them,” Toci spoke up, her voice small but unwavering, “I have taken care of many of the Daughters’ daughters.”
The Twins ran to Toci and she sheltered one under each arm.
“Ah! I can’t believe you! All of you!” I shouted, “what has gotten into everyone? Don’t you remember the reason we had to leave the village? The battle we had at the Passage? I am sure those were small potatoes when it comes to a full fight with the Malefici. We will all be in danger!”
“Exactly.” Ruis said, “we will all be in danger. But we will fight so that no one comes to harm.”
“Plus, did not Nana send you forth with the hope of obtaining a peaceful settlement?” Isobeau asked.
She had me there. I was thinking of a fight but Nana and Pua had both suggested we try to come to some agreement, some sort of peace, to avoid a fight.
“That was before,” I sulked.
“Before what?” Aurie asked.
“Before the Shadows came to kill the Aurochs.”