Kaelis distractedly turned the folded paper over in her fingers, a faraway look clouding her eyes. The parchment was worn and dog-eared, soft with many readings, and although the script was still clear and dark, she did not need to look at the letter to know what was written within. She knew it by heart, and heard his low, smooth voice speaking the words to her even in her sleep.
My dearest Kaelis,
How my heart leaps within me even at the sight of your sweet name! It is ever in my mind and on my lips, though I must admit that my lips crave more than the sound of my own voice. I carry your letter against my heart, which aches at our parting, but sings in the hope that soon this campaign will be at an end, and I can return to your side and to your arms. The battle goes well, though the days are long, and the campfires not nearly enough to drive the bitter cold from one’s bones. But the men remain cheerful, and….
Kaelis looked up as Imoen slid gracefully into the seat across from her own, saying nothing in greeting. The movement of Kaelis’ fingers slowed, then stopped as she watched her sister sit motionless in her chair for several minutes. Imoen’s eyes were focused intently on her fingers, which began to drum quietly on the large wooden table. It was a nervous habit that Kaelis had seen before, and it made her suddenly uneasy. She said nothing, however, and waited quietly for what seemed an eternity before Imoen looked up, an unspoken apology shining from her soft brown eyes.
"Aran hasn’t heard anything."
Kaelis simply nodded, then looked down at the letter that again began to turn in her fingers. She could feel the burning starting in her eyes, and she found herself taking a deep breath to calm her thoughts before she spoke. Her voice betrayed the lack of sleep that was mirrored in the dark circles under her eyes. "And Renal?" She didn’t look up.
Imoen shook her head in silence.
Kaelis let the letter slip from her fingers, watching as it fell to rest on the table without a sound. The crimson seal stood out starkly on the faded yellow of the parchment, though it was broken in half, and only the head of the Delryn eagle could be seen, the imprint of Anomen’s signet ring. She sighed wearily and leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table and covering her face with her hands.
Imoen bit her lip and looked down at her hands, wishing she had been able to say something, anything that could have brought a smile to her sister’s face. But there was nothing to say. The Shadow Thieves had heard nothing, but Duruth’Usk was far to the north, they said, and out of their sphere of influence. Certainly, they would let Imoen know as soon as they heard anything, but the Order of the Radiant Heart was well-known for championing lost causes, and….
"Has Jaheira come back yet?" Imoen asked gently, hesitant to break the heavy silence.
Kaelis nodded faintly, passing her hands quickly over her shining eyes before lowering them to the table. "A few hours ago."
Imoen said nothing, waiting for Kaelis to continue. Kaelis finally looked up at her and smiled thinly. "It would appear that our… incident with the Harpers has had an unfortunate cooling effect on any relationship we might wish to have with their organization." Imoen arched a delicate eyebrow, tilting her head to the side. Kaelis looked back down at her hands. "They wouldn’t tell her anything."
Imoen groaned quietly and straightened her head. "I never did like them much, anyway. They’re arrogant, pretentious, totally unreasonable, they have a complete lack of any kind of sense of humor, and…."
"Gorion was a Harper."
Imoen smiled wickedly, trying desperately to hide the pain that suddenly leapt into her eyes. "I know."
They both laughed quietly, though it seemed a bit forced, and for an instant, the flickering light from the lamp over the table seemed just a little bit brighter. Soon, however, they both sighed softly and returned into an uncomfortable silence.
Imoen finally took a deep breath and looked at her sister. "Kael, have you ever considered that maybe Anomen is…."
Imoen nodded slowly, looking down. She bit her lip and looked up again, hesitantly. "Kaelis, no one has heard anything for weeks. There haven’t been any messengers, any letters. You know that." She looked involuntarily at the faded letter on the table, then back at Kaelis, her voice soft. "I want to believe that Anomen is alive as much as you do. But Kaelis, even Anomen…."
"I heard him." Kaelis looked down at her hands, laced the long, delicate fingers, unlaced them, touched the tips together, let them go. "Last night. I… I may have been dreaming, but I heard his voice. His voice." She paused for a moment, her voice lowering to a whisper. "Calling to me. Over… and over." She shook her head, falling silent.
Imoen said nothing.
"He’s alive, Imoen." Kaelis looked up from her hands, and Imoen saw for the first time the tears falling in shining trails down her cheeks. She took an unsteady breath, feeling the moisture in her own eyes. She had only ever seen Kaelis’ beautiful face marred with tears on two other occasions. The first was as Kaelis pulled Imoen away from Gorion’s lifeless body in the forest east of Candlekeep, the day that their journey had begun. The second was in Spellhold, when they held each other in their arms and cried together for sisters lost and found.
Imoen nodded, her voice shaking only slightly. "Okay, Kael. Okay." She let out a deep sigh and reached over to take one of Kaelis’ hands in her own. "So what do we do now?" She shook her head. "No one knows where they are. Not even Sir Ryan. You talked to him, remember?"
Kaelis nodded, narrowing her eyes slightly in thought. When she spoke again, her voice was still tired, but her eyes were clear, and shone with a grim determination. "Maybe not. But he knows where they were."
Imoen felt a smile creeping to the corners of her mouth. She knew this voice, and she knew instinctively what it meant. Kaelis only picked fights when she had to, but when she did….
All the same, the little mage was glad to see the fire begin to shine again Kaelis’ deep green eyes, and she knew that it was time to pack.
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