Emerging from a cloud of mist, Feira meandered down the flowering street lined with vendors. It was spring… or possibly summer? That hardly mattered, though. The warm day was accompanied by a cool sea breeze and soft tufts of clouds floated by overhead. Her freshly washed locks glowed in the sunlight, and her light, prancing steps encouraged the thin, flowy layers of her new pale, seafoam green dress to swim about her. Come to think of it, she couldn’t recall exactly how she had gotten the dress that had adorned a mannequin in a shop window for months, but that was just another detail that flittered away as quickly as it came.
Shop owners waved to her as she passed through the crowd. Small talk was made with other maids who had the day off, and all commented on how fetching she looked without her grey apron and what a lovely day it was to see the war finally end. A brand new book with gilded lettering on the cover gave an accomplished weight to the basket hanging from her arm. Cheeses for Lalaith made their way into her basket, followed by the Lady Mredothyn’s favorite fruits and the best flowers in the city for Lady Ciri’s room. Torrin could tease her for spending so frivolously all he wanted, but some days were happy enough that there was nothing wrong with sparing no expense.
Lalaith had written that she’d be back on the morrow. It was all Feira could do to keep from asking for another day off so she could rent a horse to go and meet the young woman on the way. The war was over, and everyone was coming home. Everything was going to be right again. The Lord would be home soon, and the young woman was sure that it would not be long before the estate was overflowing with babies and dinner parties.
Weaving a path through the happy throngs, Feira made her way towards the docks. It surprised her how quickly she got there, for she turned the first corner and the buildings opened up to present a breathtaking, awe inspiring view of the massive harbor. Blue and white sails filled the air. The shouts of sailors and soldiers mingled with hundred of gulls gliding overhead, and the laughter of the citizens who filled every nook and cranny of the walkways.
“’bout time ya got here!” called a familiar voice from behind. Her heart leaping in her chest, Feira spun around.
Her heart stopped.
Taller and fitter than ever from months at sea, Lhainan stood just out of arm’s reach, his captivating gaze fixed over her shoulder.
“A little waiting never hurt you,” responded a young woman’s voice, and Lalaith, dressed in one of her old silk gowns brushed past Feira to take the sailor’s offered arm. No habit in sight, her friend’s glistening blue-black hair tumbled down her back.”You get me anything?” she purred.
“Course I did,” Lhain replied, a coy smile curling his lips as he bend down to whisper into Lalaith’s ear.
What was this? Shocked, words caught in Feira’s throat when a second woman approached. “And what about me?” asked the lithe, olive skinned beauty that stole up to coil around the sailor’s other side.
Eyes gleaming, Lhainan laughed. “I’d never forget about you, beautiful.” Unable to move, Feira watched in horror as he reached out and, with little effort, ripped the gold locket from where it hung around her neck. Draping the arm around the young southern woman he let the delicate heart and chain tumble over the woman’s shoulder to disappear beneath her low neckline. The trio laughed and turned to vanish down the docks, suggestions about a long boat ride getting lost in the haze that filled Feira’s head.
The brilliant sun above her dimmed, though no one seemed to notice. A grey form rose up from where the southern woman, Lhain and Lalaith had disappeared, and as the world closed in around her Aunt Raewiel glared down at Feira with a wicked, triumphant sneer.
This wasn’t real. It wasn’t! Valar… Emeleth… But no, no one could hear her. Nobody would. Trapped and with nowhere to run, the flowers in her basket withered, the fruits shrunk and turned sour, and the pages of her book crumpled into ash. She couldn’t breathe, she couldn’t speak, and the only movement Feira could manage was the trembling that slowly took over her limbs.