Rudolph looked out at the night sky. The boy who had rescued Alisen and him had been kind enough to offer a room for them to stay, although from the looks of it, the small house was already overflowing with people. He'd been greeted at the door by a young woman, Lilia, and her brother Arin. In the kitchen a man named Darin had been finishing off a drink before retiring for the evening. Quin and Lilia had talked for several minutes in hushed and worried tones about some missing people, but Rudolph hadn't paid much attention other than to take in that Quin had gone looking for someone called Ros, and had come back to find someone else gone. He felt safe with these people, and with Alisen, and had focused more on dinner than whatever they were worrying about.
Quin had shown them upstairs, and blushing, explained that they only had one extra bed. Alisen had volunteered to sleep on the floor, so Quin had given her some blankets and led her to Lilia's room. It was clean and cheerful, with ruffles on the bedspread and a nightgown draped over a chair back, but Alisen had protested a little, saying she didn't want to bother anyone and would be just as happy downstairs. Quin insisted, and then proceeded down the hall with Rudolph.
When Rudolph woke, the sky was still dark, so he slipped out of the room without waking Quin. He crept down the stairs, and seeing exactly what he had expected, let a smile creep onto his face. Alisen was sitting on the couch, looking beautiful in her borrowed nightgown and with her hair falling across her face. He approached her and put an arm around her shoulders. He looked into her dark brown eyes, and was shocked to see them filled with unshed tears.
"Alisen, what's wrong?" His voice seemed too loud in the stillness of the night, but he felt he had to say something.
Alisen just shook her head. After a moment, she seemed to come to a decision and looked up at him, whispering, "Rudolph, what are we doing? Why are we wandering around like this?"
Rudolph couldn't voice the words running through his head: I need to find Isadora. Nonetheless, Alisen could read his face as well as if he'd spoken aloud.
"And when you find your princess, what will happen to me, Rudolph? To us? Will you just shove me aside like a broken toy? I understand you can't love me Rudolph - I can't love you either, not now and not as long as Willem is fresh in my heart. But I do think of you as more than just a traveling companion. I think of you as.... not as a love, but perhaps something more than a friend."
She rose, taking Rudolph with her. He felt an odd sensation in his gut, one that he didn't know what to do about. She placed a hand on his shoulder, and for an instant he had the mad urge to take her around the waist and start dancing about the room.
"Rudolph, whether or not we find your Isadora, I hope I can stay with you." She leaned in and kissed his cheek, feather-light, before turning and climbing the stairs to Lilia's room, leaving Rudolph standing stunned in the moonlight, one hand pressed to his cheek.