Dry wind gusts fitfully
Dead breath, dead lands.

They sleep together, huddled
Thief and tinker, princess and pet.

Have I brought them here?

Garr growls in the night. Danger.
I stand at his shoulder, my hand on my sword.

We strain to see in the dark.
Something large and heavy-footed passes us by.

I cannot rest.

Garr's questions
Nina's curiosity
Momo's thirst for knowledge

They carried me here.

I don't want to know!
Do I?
I will find out once and for all
How different I am from my friends.

I belong to them
Not just my past.

Every step towards truth
Is one step away from them
And in the end, I fear
It will take me away.

_________

"Ryu, what's wrong?" Nina was always first up in the morning. She loved watching the sunrise, even in this desolate place, although now her pale face bore the pinched remnants of bad dreams.

It was just as well she had those wings; Ryu could never forget himself and slip an arm around her shoulders. Instead he just drew his arms around his knees, mimicking her posture unconsciously.

She smiled. "We'll be safe. How can you still worry, after all the things we've already faced?"

That wasn't what he was thinking, but it was another nagging worry that drew a frown from him too. "This is bigger, Nina. You've all done so much for me, come so far from home--"

She beamed. "Of course!" Irrepressible, even here, where the very air clawed at one's throat with grains of sand. "Even if you hadn't helped us all ten times over --saved the life of a Princess no less--" she winked-- "we're your friends, Ryu. We'll be there for you. No matter what happens, or what you discover about yourself."

Are you sure? But he did not ask it aloud, only hunched down resting his chin on his arms.

Her expression faltered slightly. "Aren't you excited?" she rallied, trying again. "You're going to find out the truth about the war, about God, about the Brood... secrets the whole world wonders about!"

He shook his head. "Yes, but--" he blushed. I'm afraid. "After this is all over," he asked quietly, "what will you-- what will we do? Go back to Wyndia?"

"That's up to you," Nina replied. Then she grimaced. "I've got to go back eventually. Mother and Father must be so worried."

His face fell. "I suppose so."

"No wonder they call you the Brood," she teased. "You're always brooding. Now stop that! If I've got to go home and be a proper Princess, I want to enjoy this last adventure as much as possible."

He ducked his head. "Sorry."

She leaned sideways and planted a light kiss on his cheek. "After this is over," she declared confidently, "You'll be my bodyguard. It's Princess Nina and her dragon, or no Nina at all. That's what I'll tell them."

He blushed furiously. "Good," he mumbled.



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Author's note:
Thanks for those nice reviews! It's harder for me to write in this universe-- I do best filling in the gaps between events shown in a story or game. To see my good writing, check out the Myst game's forum. ;)