"There is the Miw." Elpinoino nodded toward the blue river that snaked through the valley below.
"Then, Marketland's not far," said Rick. He replaced his canteen and wiped his sweaty forehead with the back of his hand. "Listen, Elp, I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but..." He paused, and looked down at his leather boots scuffing at the dry grey dirt.
Elpinoino tipped his head. "What troubles you, Richard?"
Rick avoided his friend's dark eyes. "Ya know, I've got this reputation, see." He swallowed uncomfortably. "If folks were to see me coming into the city with you... That is... They might get the wrong idea about me."
"Are you saying, Richard Manderly, that you don't want to enter Marketland by the side of the friend who roamed the vast wastes with you? Who fought the minotaur by your side? Who braved Diablo Canyon to find you when anyone else would have given you up for lost? Are you saying that you are afraid if others see you with me, they will think you less of a man?"
Rick grimaced at the bluntness of his friend's words, then ventured to glance at his face. He quickly looked down and shrugged. "Well, yeah. That's the gist of it. Don't take it personally. It's just 'cause of me and my reputation, which I gotta uphold, and you being, you know, what you are."
Elpinoino sighed. "Richard," he began slowly, looking at Rick as one looks at a slow child who needs more patience than the rest, "I have my own business in Marketland. Whether I enter before you, behind you, or by your side, it makes no difference to me."
Rick turned to Elpinoino, and man and pink unicorn regarded each other.
Amanda Borenstadt lives and writes in California with her husband and the two youngest of their five daughters. You can visit her here: