When Dalaena reached the door to her mother’s chamber, she was surprised to see Edaran staring at it. He seemed so lost in thought, he had not noticed her approach.
                She placed a hand lightly on his shoulder.
                He didn’t react, but his voice came out, slow and quiet.
                “Mother is sick, isn’t she?” and how should she answer that? Should she lie to her brother or should she tell the truth and risk upsetting him?
                She resolved herself. She had to tell him the truth, hard truths were better, in the end. “She is, but father has hopes that she will overcome it. She did give birth to us after all.” She squeezed his shoulder. His hand met hers and for a moment she wondered if the same doubt as was in her father’s eyes were now showing in hers. He didn’t look at her though.
                Edaran’s shoulders slumped. It didn’t seem fair that he should bear such a weight, not in his youth. He had a whole life of toil, why must it start so early for him?
                “Delly, I don’t want to go in again, I’m scared.”
                “That is why I am here, Ed.” She moved her hand around him and held him close, bending down to speak softly in his ear. “If you are frightened, then let us enter and tackle this fear together.”
                She held out her hand and after a little hesitation, he took it.
                She was glad her hand didn’t tremble; she could not reveal her own fear now. It crossed her thoughts however that this might be the last time she saw her Lady Mother.
                Dalaena pushed open the door and stepped inside.
                It reeked of illnesss, a foul miasma that hung about the air as a dark cloud with the looming threat of death. Yet it still retained the first scent that Dalaena remembered of her mother, roses, just as she now bore herself.
                She had to take a deep breath before she approached the bed. Her mother lay under silks, her face red and slick with a sheen of sweat.
                She was a graceful woman, even now. Many told Dalaena she looked just like her mother but she knew she could never compare.
                Placing a hand on her mother’s forehead, she felt a red heat almost burn her own hand.
                “Why is nobody attending to her?” she wondered out loud. Surely the Lady ought to have a nurse cooling her down?
                 Laurel stirred at their presence.
            “What’s wrong?” Dalaena bent low, the better to hear her.
            “I... dreams...” There was a long pause between her words. Somehow she seemed very far away. “A rose in bloom... and the sun... setting... Eagles shrieking... the gardener—“ words came out with a sudden fervour, faster and faster “Such a small rose... head plucked... Stop it, stop it, stop it!” Laurel’s hand gripped Dalaena’s arm tightly as her eyes shot open
            There was nothing Dalaena could say, but just listen.
            Finally Laurel’s panting slowed, then she saw Dalaena and rester her head back down, one hand on her head. “You are going away today?” She asked, though it was no real question, she knew.
            “Yes, mother.” She muttered. Even now, Dalaena could hardly forgive her. Just fifteen, her mother had given her no advice, no sympathy, as Dalaena was sold to the highest bidder, to become a wife of some Lord she didn’t know. The day before she had left, she had come to her mother’s chambers, for she had not been invited, and instead of some heartfelt goodbye, had been permitted to kiss her mother’s cheek and then told to leave, like she were some irritating child.
            “It’s just as well.” She lay back down and shut her eyes.
            And there it was again. Only now Dalaena saw differently. There had been times of recent, in her blackest moments when Eldin was in a particularly foul mood, when she wondered if it would be easier if she just wasn’t there. She saw that in her mother now. Suddenly she did not hate this creature so much, but pitied her. Yet this might very well be their last meeting.
            Dalaena forced herself to say her next words. “Farewell mother, much love to you.”
            There was another long pause.
            “Safe travels.”
            And that was that.

The End

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