“What is a petsuchos?” Dana asked idly into the comfortable silence that had descended over the apartment. Flicking through the internet on her phone, she sat long-ways on the couch, ankles crossed in front of her, casually hogging the whole cushioned thing while her roommate occupied the floor with a vengeance.
Sadie looked up, chewing on her thumbnail. She pushed one side of her headphones off her ear, silently inviting Dana to ask again.
Tiernan would have liked to pretend that he had just heard a joke. He knew how to react to a joke. He could just give his brother a dry smile and sigh, as if he was put out to be leaving home as well. He could make a joke of his own, slide along the easy, old line about how the world just didn’t seem capable of turning without him. Then Callix would slap him on the back of the head like he always did. Unless Tiernan got his arm up in time.
But Tiernan knew what he had heard, knew how subtly his brother could lay a serious tone under a question when he was hesitant to say anything at all.
Turning slowly, Tiernan abandoned the view to give his brother his full attention. “What are you asking?”
Callix didn’t look at him, absorbed in perfecting his thoughts before he carefully spoke them out loud, head bent. “I’m asking if you’re sure that now is the time to leave again.”
“So…” Sara put her hands in her pockets and turned idly toward Chelsea. “What do you think?”
Chelsea blinked once, and glanced down the street in either direction from the corner. The sun was doing a pleasant job of warming the fall air, though it was stark in the bare sky, and both of them squinted every time they came out of the shadows. The hotels and shops towered above them on either side of the street, as fanciful and exuberant as described in the brochures, but cheesy and exaggerated under the warm light of day. There was an old soda cup crushed in the gutter, with the lid hanging on by the straw, the same as they might find at home. What people there were, strode down the street, heads canted down in their own thoughts, no differently than if they were on their way to work or the grocery store or the laundromat.
In all fairness, that was probably where they were headed.
Dardo flicked an ear back again, picking out a new echo in the little garden square. Over the last hour, she had swung her head a dozen times to investigate, and had to shift on her hooves to keep turning as she found the gentle end of her lead line. Snorting to herself, she looked back at Vardan where he sat on the stone bench, as if to ask why he wasn’t concerned by the wolves lurking in the high windowed walls around them. He only held her line loosely, and smiled. He knew they were being watched.
It was a strange place to have brought a horse. The garden was thirty feet to a side, a tangled spiral of stepping stones and the winter dark branches of low trees. The paved walkway that wrapped around it was hardly long enough to ride around without getting dizzy. He might have attracted some curiosity just for bringing Dardo here, when there were fit fields and trails closer to the stables.
But this square was also where the Clan Lord’s twins liked to run wild. And Vardan was confident that he had been watched every day of the last ten months, every day since he had left his prison cell.
Leaning over his knees, he smiled at Dardo, slowly drawing her close enough to rub her nose. He had stopped caring a while ago.
Answers served with a greater emphasis on my childhood than usual
Kate Kearney searched: Why is this chocolate cake so delicious?
That cake? Which cake? Did you take the cake out of my pantry?
Oh my, that cake was actually a triple chocolate cake, made with the secret recipe handed down through my family for exactly no generations, invented from the secret knowledge off the back of the chocolate chip bag. I’m afraid you might never recover.
Did you save a piece for me?
He knew, all things considered, she didn’t need him. Not even a little bit. She was steady as oak and rosewood, and as constant as sunrise and nightfall.
She had been sailing for years before she even met him. She had seen oceans he had only heard stories about, and pulled hard in storms that he would have paid months’ wages just to keep out of his nightmares. She had raced winds both sweet and rough, kissed suns too hot for his blood, tolerated waters too cold to touch. She held her own before he even saw her.
He had crossed her path on a whim and a wish a very long time ago – decades ago – and he supposed, after all that time pretending that he had been the one keeping her together, he could admit that she was the one keeping him breathing. Standing on the docks, watching her balanced at anchor in the wide harbor, seeing her masts as tall as they had ever been, her canvas bright as it could be, months after he had said his good byes and took his last step off his post, he could admit that.
The house was lively when Jene came up the street. Every window was lit, and all the doors were open, as if they were eager to throw out the heat for a little more elbow room. Music hummed from the back wall, and conversation rolled through the house like a summer storm, laughter striking in the patterns of thunder and lightning. Everything inside was a happy dash and scramble, and no one noticed Jene for a long moment after he stepped through the front door.
Then: “Jene!” And Fayet pushed her way across the main room to hug him tight. “You’re home!”
The storms were playing a little rough that season, which Surrell supposed was only fair.
The summer had been long and sweet, an endless string of lazy sunshine and warm breezes that gave the canvas curves in all the right places. Magnificently, the sun and the wind had conspired together to make sailors greedy for the chance to lay about and turn their faces up to the sky, and make the ship nearly sail itself so that they had no need to move. Autumn kindly delayed itself to let summer sprawl about a little longer.
Then it fled past to give as much space as possible to the snarl of winter coming up close behind it. The storms, thrashing just as wildly in their haste to get away, had thundered over the ship like herd animals, and no one was happy to feel the breath of winter threatening its bite.
Winter’s edge was holding tight to the stone halls above Oruasta. Getting out of bed every morning, Tiernan expected the floor to not feel so cold and the air to hold warmth a little closer. Instead, he pulled his socks on first, and put on full sleeves and jacket before he left his rooms. The halls were colder than his closed, sleep-heated room, and he slipped his hands into his pockets until his first walk of the day warmed him up.
He knew the plain at the base of the mountain was warmer. Spring was so close, the rest of the world could feel its warm breath, even if Oruasta liked to cling to its chill. The eastern mountains liked their cold too, but open to the sun, even they took on heat during the day. They may not have lost their snow yet, but the passes would be clear by the time he could make it that far.
He would go back over them soon.
At breakfast, Eoin told Tiernan he looked like he had woken up with a hedgehog instead of a pillow. Elbows leaned against the table on either side of his plate, he smiled falsely at the joke. It was his first smile of the morning, he realized, and it was a poor one.
The apples were so big Wen held them to her chest with one arm rather than run down the street with one massive fruit fattening each hand. She had seen jewels with less perfect color, the mottled red and yellow falling in narrow stripes like the unknowable colors of an eye. They couldn’t have held a better shine if she had slicked them with oil, and they were heavy, promising sweetness inside. Wen ran around the corner as quick as she could.