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"What if it's spread by other ways?"

"I'll take my chances," she said.

"You'll take mine as well, looks like."

"I could've thrown the extra weight off my horse to buy some time," Amina said, narrowing her eyes.

"Point taken."

She shoved my gem back into the bag. "You had more than enough money to pay my dowry. I don't understand..." She pushed the bag away, and stood up, looking down at me from above, "Why did you go to fight the bear?"

I pulled the rag from my head, and pushed myself up from the paving stones, taking care not to put any weight on my injured shoulder. I rose to face Amina, and said, "Didn't have anything to do with you. A friend of mine lost his son."

Amina furrowed her brow, "But... but, what would you have done?"


"When you returned, with the bear's head. What would you have done? Would you have married me anyway?"

"I don't know. I figured I'd cross that bridge when I came to it."

She stared at me, nonplussed, for a long moment. Finally, she said, "Where did you come by such money? Are you some sort of bandit?"

I laughed genuinely, crouching to gather my scattered belongings back together. I carefully closed up the open loot sack, and tucked it into my knapsack.

"Well?" Amina asked, utterly failing to share my mirth.

I arched my eyebrows, as I straightened, pulling my sack up onto my healthy shoulder, "I am something far worse than that, my dear." I took the reins of the horse into my hand, and said, "Now where can we get our horse, here, a drink?"

"Don't change the subject."

"You didn't peek at my shield at all?" I said, noticing that she had fastened it to the saddle while I was unconscious.

"Yes, but I don't know that symbol."

"I'll explain when we're settled in for the night. We need some water, though."

"There's a lake nearby. It's good for bathing in, but the best drinking water comes from a feeder stream."

"Mm, that should do. We should set up camp there. I don't like sleeping in ghost towns."

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