Kat wearily trudges over to her father.
All of her hurts, and she wants to lie down and sleep for days and days.
She gives Dorian a tired nod and a mumbled “Thanks, Dad.”
“Well, I am your father, Kat. It’s what I’m here for,” Dorian answers. “But, uh, what exactly is going on here?”
“Long story. Could I sit down first, maybe?” Kat says.
“Enough of this,” Captain Valdus mutters. “Arrest them,” he says.
“What?” Plaid Jack, exclaims. “Why? We didn’t even do anything this time!”
“Not you,” Captain Valdus answers. He points to the ruins of the cake. “Them.”
“Oh, right. Of course,” Plaid Jack mutters contritely. “Sorry about that. Force of habit, and all.”
As the cake-covered Bandits of Goldharbour are clapped in irons and led away from the groghouse, Amara moves beside Kat and stares at her for a long, contemplative moment.
“You look terrible, my dear,” she declares bluntly. As she studies Kat, she wrinkles her nose. “And you stink.”
Even so, she wraps Kat in a tight hug.
“So do you,” Kat answers as she returns the hug.
“Yes, well, it’s been a trying day,” Amara mutters sheepishly.
“Well, we did just capture the Bandits of Goldharbour,” Kat answers.
“That we did. If you’d like, I can have Uncle put in a good word with the magistrates. You’ll probably get a medal.”
“Cool,” Kat says. Mostly, though, she’d just like to sit down. “Is your necklace safe?”
“It is, Katherine,” Amara answers, touching her necklace. “And I owe that to you. And I’m sure Mother is grateful that you kept it safe.”
She smiles widely and warmly at Kat.
“Thank you, Katherine. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.”
“Of course not,” Kat answers. “You’re my best friend. I have to help you.” She winces as she discovers that moving any part of herself hurts. “Even when it gets me beat up by bandits.”
That earns her another hug, which makes her feel a little better.
“Hey, Amara?” Kat asks as she rests her head on her friend’s shoulder. “Is it just me, or is the groghouse spinning?”
“It’s you, Katherine, I’m afraid,” Amara answers.
“Oh. I’m, uh, gonna go find somewhere to sit down,” Kat declares as she pulls away from Amara. She winces. “My, uh, everything hurts.”
Kat limps towards a chair tucked into a quiet corner of the groghouse, being applauded, congratulated and back-clapped every step of the way. She is too exhausted to do much more than smile and nod at all the plaudits, the occasional proposal of marriage, and several compliments directed at her eyebrows.
The moment when she finally sits down may just be the best and happiest moment of her life. It’s been a long, painful, tiring, long day and it feels so good to finally just sit down and do nothing. She sighs heavily as she lowers herself into the chair.
Following the conclusion of the skirmish in the groghouse, Dunstana weaves her way through the crowd, working her way towards the chair in the corner where she sees her sister sitting. When she finally gets there, Dunstana finds Kat seated on the chair with her head bowed and her arms crossed over her chest.
“Kat!” Dunstana exclaims exuberantly. “That was so cool! They were going all fwing, fwing.” She pantomimes swinging a sword through the air. “And then you were like ka-fwoosh, and you grabbed her, and you tossed her into a cake! And look, Kat, look! I won an award! But that was so cool that you should win an award, too. And, uh, I told Plaid Jack that you should be his girlfriend. And he wanted to know if you were cute.”
Kat doesn’t answer.
“Kat?” Dunstana asks, poking her sister’s leg.
It’s only now that the little pirate realises that Kat has fallen asleep. “Oh,” she says quietly. “Sorry. I’ll just wait over there.”
As Dunstana heads off to give her some quiet, and maybe find an uncrushed piece of the cake, Kat sleeps.
She sleeps well and she sleeps blissfully. She sleeps well for the first time since arriving in Goldharbour.
She does not dream of Bandits. She does not dream of pirates.
She does not dream of eyebrows. She does not dream of best friends, or little sisters, or vacations gone crazy.
She simply sleeps the deep and dreamless sleep of heroes.