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Ingrid is quieter today, obviously thinking about what to say to Heinrik. She even avoids Bear, who seems lost without her company, wandering aimlessly. The whole castle simply seems sad. Ingrid hasn’t left yet, but it feels like she’s already gone. It’s almost a relief when the sun sets and I walk her to the hall to speak to Heinrik.

“I don’t know what I want to do yet,” Ingrid tells Heinrik when he asks what she’s decided. “But if you would allow me to, I would like to go home for a week. At the end of the week, I’ll make my choice to stay home or return here.”

“Why?” he whispers. If I didn’t know better, I’d say he was trying not to panic.

“I feel like I can’t think clearly here. My head and heart disagree. I need some distance to sort things out.”

“I understand. You’ll leave tomorrow, then. Karl will escort you.”

“Thank you.”

“Do you-do you think you’ll return?” Heinrik forces himself to ask.

“I don’t know,” Ingrid whispers. “I really don’t.”

“Ingrid, you know I ask you the same question every night, but I have a different one for you tonight.”

There’s a pause. “Go ahead,” Ingrid prompts.

“Are we friends?”

Another pause.

“I hope so.” Ingrid leaves after these words, so she doesn’t see the light she ignites in Heinrik’s eyes. He looks so painfully hopeful.

“She can take anything she wants from here,” Heinrik tells me. “Any of the dresses, or items around the house she’s gotten attached to. Tell her that.”

“Of course.” I return to Ingrid’s room to help her pack. She sits on her bed, eyes unfocused. I sit next to her and wait for her to notice me.

“Do you think I’ll come back?”

Her question shocks me. Why on earth would she expect me to have an answer if she doesn’t? “Heinrik never told you why he brought you here, did he?”

She shakes her head.

“I can’t tell you all the details, it’s his story to tell, but it is very important to him that you are here. There is something that needs to be done, something the rest of us cannot do. I know it’s a lot to ask of you, especially when we can’t tell you exactly what the task is, but if you are Heinrik’s friend, you would be doing him a great favor by returning.”

Ingrid nods thoughtfully, then shakes her head. The deep thinking is probably too much. Her usual happy demeanor returns and she cheers up at the news that she can take anything with her. She immediately pulls her favorite dresses out of the wardrobe. She doesn’t ask for anything else from the house, which doesn’t surprise me. We pack quickly and I leave her to sleep.

I spend the rest of the night keeping an eye on Heinrik. He wanders the halls and for the first time, I don’t bother casting a confusion spell. If he wants to seek her out tonight, I won’t stop him. Interestingly enough, when he finds himself out side her room, he turns around. It seems he will let her go without a fight. I wonder if he’s begun to actually care about the girl. To be honest it surprises me that he’s learned to think about someone other than himself so quickly. I suppose forced isolation will cause a person to reach out to anyone around him.

Gryphon feathers, I hope he doesn’t try to bond with me while she’s gone. I’ll have to tell his men to keep him company so he has someone to talk to.

Karl and Ingrid leave just after the sun rises. She bids a reluctant goodbye to Bear, who seems to sense that something is wrong. He woefully rubs her hand with his head. She throws her arms around his massive neck and buries her face in his fur.

“I’ll miss you Bear,” she says, near tears.

She pulls herself together and gives me a quick hug before walking quickly out the door.