“This is an interesting play. What does he expect?” Deglan stroked his chin.
            “Who is to know but Damyen?” Dalaena walked over to Eglan’s desk and traced a line across the grains of wood with one finger. She did not look at any of them. “It could be to ensure you do not overreach. Though if he is this man you knew, maybe it is to give our little brother a better life than you could.” She said the last part with a twist of tone that made their father look at her in a way he had never done so before, he shook with rage. Dalaena turned to him then. “What is there for Edaran here, after all.
            Eglan’s hand struck her face and she leaned over the desk. “Insolence!” He roared. “I am beginning to question your loyalty to this family, daughter. Do you advise me or do you suppress me in the name of your new father?” Dalaena stopped in her movement and turned her face towards his, now a garish red.
            “Don’t you see father, it is my loyalty to this family that is making me speak so. I want to protect you, and if that must be from yourself, so be it.” She stepped to Devlins side and rested a hand on his shoulder.
            Eglan sighed. “Well the fact remains,” he spoke. “Devlin must become a Captain. Dalaena, you will do all in your power to remain the heir to Ascocen and one day, Edaran shall inherit Dawnrose in Devlin’s place. Now I must leave. Good night.”
            He all but slammed the door shut behind him.
            Devlin turned to Dalaena and shared a long look with his sister, his fingers tenderly touching the mark. She turned her face to his touch. He embraced her then, with a fierce intensity. He held onto her so tightly he feared he might break her.
            “Dear sister, I missed you so,” he felt the sadness wash over him. It was all he could do to stop the tears coming out.
            “Dear brother, I missed you too. I am so sorry I could not get here sooner. Gods only know the pain you are in right now.” He could not let go, nor could she. He wanted to let loose the sadness he had harboured for a whole year, to confide in her. It was difficult to remember that she was only sixteen. “It will fade though.”
            “Enough of me,” he finally let go, though he kissed her forehead and held onto her hands, resting his own forehead against hers. “How is Eldin treating you?”
            “He has such black moods. He is tortured with horrific dreams and when he is not in public, he is either angry or grieving. We all miss Captain Damyen I fear.” He felt her tremble somewhat, almost in anticipation.
            “But has he hurt you?”
            She said nothing.
            “Has he hurt you little sister?” his tone rose. He would kill the bastard if he had to.
            The words seemed to come difficult to her. She never hid things from Devlin, they had always shared everything. Devlin realised he did not require a verbal answer truly, and he knew she could see this now. “Not often, but do not fear for me brother, I can tell he loves me as I love him.” She broke out of his hands then.
            Devlin’s mouth remained open.
            She turned away from him. “Brother, do you understand what our father means? What this could do?”
            “You know the politics of old men do not interest me sister.” He had to laugh then, but she didn’t. She had become so wise for her age.
            “No, it is no small matter. If you take the place of Captain, Lord Damyen could hold little Edaran and I hostage should it please him. Do not be reckless brother, you need to tread carefully now. One wrong footstep could result in your death, or mine and Edaran’s.”
            “Then I will cut his throat and kill all of them if that is what it takes to free you!” he felt his fist clench and his face redden at the mere thought. He took Dalaena’s face in his hands. “Any man that would harm my sister would repay his deeds threefold in my anger.”
            “Yes, yes,” she pushed his hands away, “anger!” She yelled, then pushed him, “anger and stupidity!” A hand raised to her forehead and she closed her eyes. “Please, my dearest brother, do not play the fool—“
            “Delly!” he heard a high shrill voice call and in a moment, the door burst open and little Edaran was hugging her waist. Dalaena’s eyes shot open and she seemed to swallow her words.
            “Ed what are you doing? Awake at this time? Father will not be pleased.” But she let herself giggle just as she used to.
            “I wanted to see you so I sneaked out of bed.” He looked up at her and she smiled and stroked his hair. “Am I really to come live with you at Ascocen?” Edaran looked almost excited then.
            “Oh you little sneak, hearing things you ought not. Yes little brother, and if you come back to bed right now I shall tell you all about it.” Edaran’s smile slanted but he muttered an agreement, taking her hand. Edaran began walking to the door.
            Dalaena let out a breath. “Just be careful.” She whispered.

The End

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