“So, Aunt Lyneth,” Zain said. “Did Terius tell you about the rabbit we found while we were gone?”
Terius paused, his hand on the deck in the middle of the little table to draw a card. Zain was calmly arranging the cards his hand, expression smooth, but Terius could see the small promise of a smile in it. Terius blinked at him.
Lyneth only lowered the cards in her hand and glanced between the two of them, curious at first, then suspicious at Terius’ silence.
“I don’t believe so,” she said.
“Really?” Zain seemed to drop his hands without a thought, but Terius noticed that his cards stayed hidden, close to his chest. He looked at Terius incredulously, then across the table at his uncle, Ryden. Ryden stared back at him warningly, and laid down a card. Immediately, Zain looked back to Lyneth.
“I can’t believe he didn’t tell you about that,” Zain said.
Raising an eyebrow, Lyneth met Terius’ eye as she picked up a card of her own.
“It…” Terius said.
Zain picked a card up from the table and put another down in its place. He waved to Terius expectantly, maybe telling him it was his turn, maybe telling him to continue.
“Was really red,” Terius said. He smiled helplessly across at his mother. “Bright red. Sunset red. I’ve never seen a rabbit like it.”
Zain snorted, and Terius stopped in the middle of reaching for another card.
“You keep getting hung up on that,” Zain said.
“What?” Terius asked.
Lyneth glanced between them.
“I’ve seen plenty of red hares,” Zain said.
“Sure,” Terius agreed. He picked up his card before Zain could say anything more. “But this was a rabbit and they’re usually about the color of dry tree bark.”
“It had eight legs,” Zain said while Ryden reached across for a card of his own.
Terius blinked, quickly, and then shrugged. “Oh, well, if I’d known you wanted me to mention that…”
Lyneth broke into a smile so wide and sudden it looked like a laugh. She laid down two cards.
“How could you not mention that?” Zain asked. He shuffled through his cards, then snapped one onto the table. “How many eight-legged rabbits have you seen before?”
“One…” Terius said and pretended to think. “Thirty? One-forty?” With a look, he dared Zain to contradict him. Then he laid down another card.
Zain hesitated. Terius thought he might have wanted to nod in approval. “Well,” he said finally. “This one was running on water. And wearing shoes.”
Ryden snorted. Lyneth looked at him and broke into another smile.
“And where did you find it?” Lyneth asked. Leaning her elbow on the table, she looked Zain in the eye. Behind her, Ryden took a breath, played through his turn, and Lyneth only watched Zain expectantly.
“On an island north and west of Pirria,” Zain told her.
“I don’t remember there being an island there,” Lyneth said.
“It’s small,” Zain said. “Just big enough for three people. If they’re standing.”
Lyneth smiled, slowly now, but she couldn’t seem to hold it back, and it faded into a quiet laugh. She shook her head. “It’s always so comforting to find what a terrible liar you are, Zain.”
He looked down at his cards, disappointed or pretending to be. “Well, Terius was supposed to have come up with the lie.”
“I did,” Terius told him. “You didn’t like it.”
Lyneth and Ryden looked at each other, then immediately back at their cards.
“Red?” Zain asked. He squinted at his cousin. “That wasn’t nearly big enough.”
“You were the one that decided to target my mother with your distraction racket,” Terius told him.
“That was a problem?” Zain asked. He seemed legitimately surprised.
Lyneth bit her lip to tame her smile. Ryden coughed, then settled his hand thoughtfully over his mouth.
Terius shook his head at him. “We’re playing for candied nuts, for stars’ sakes.” He pointed to the little pile in the middle of the table.
Zain looked at the candies for a long moment. “So?” he asked.