Caught | iv

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After a lengthy debate, Dmitri managed to convince his father that it would be better to protect the women and children from inside the house. If something did try to come in, they would be better able to defend them. No one asked whom he had been speaking with outside. They all knew. The middle-aged couple refrained from asking. Whoever wanted to be alone in the dark with all manner of beasts roaming free was free to do so.

Dmitri's father came down to the dining area when Oana had finally fallen asleep. Before he did, he had checked every room that held his family. Just to be safe, he had told himself. Not that he believed unnamed creatures were snatching people from their beds. His belief had nothing to do with him checking the windows of the room his wife slept in or him glancing anxiously over his shoulder as he walked down the hallway away from her. He shook off the awkward feeling. Their superstitious babble was simply that.

Bogdan found Dmitri sitting at a table with a glass of ale in his hand. His son was keener to stare at it than to drink it.

"A man can never truly sleep when his woman is in danger," he said, taking a seat across from his eldest. He glanced again towards the stairs before looking back at his son. Dmitri however, knew his father was not referring to his mother upstairs.

"Is that why you're awake?" Dmitri asked amused though he never looked up at his father.

Bogdan smiled welcoming the silence that followed as he tried to find the right words and the right way to approach a topic that had lingered in a void for years. It had been an untouched thought in his family since the day Nerina came to them. One he had not thought to mention until tonight.

"When Sanda was ill we all feared she would die."

Dmitri looked at up his father as the older man now looked away. "Eduard can be a hard man like his father but he loves them both—fiercely. Your mother prayed more than she ate or slept. Ilinca," he said shaking his head, "drove herself mad thinking she had done something wrong. No herb, no amount of prayer, nothing worked. Then one morning Sanda wakes up with pink in her cheeks like nothing had happened. Like she had not been on the brink of death the night before.

"Oana—your mother thanked every saint she knew and Eduard—well—he is a hard man like his father but he was relieved. We all were."

Bogdan looked up at the question creasing his son's brow then. "Sanda remembered Nerina coming into her tent."

Dmitri internally went still as he began to realize the direction his father was going. The direction the conversation was going. Though he tried to relax his insides remained coiled his outward appearance cool and expressionless. Nerina's— eccentricities had been a topic they had all silently agreed to ignore...until now.

"She told her mother. Ilinca," Bogdan shrugged "didn't believe it at first. Sanda had a fever she could have been hallucinating. She was only three summers. But Ilinca had noticed a...difference in Nerina," Bogdan said choosing his words carefully. "She told Eduard. He told me. We had all noticed that there was something...different about her. "But she had saved Sanda's life. That was all that mattered."

Dmitri nodded contemplating as his eyes drifted down to the untouched ale in front of him. "And mother?" Dmitri asked.

Bogdan laughed. "Thinks Nerina is an angel. Anything else would be an abomination. Nothing else would have saved Sanda's life. Your mother prayed for a miracle and Nerina was that miracle."

Dmitri nodded with a new appreciation for his family. Of course, anyone with eyes would have noticed Nerina was not like them. Nevertheless, to know that they had yet they had not condemned her and called her a witch gave him a new appreciation for them. If only Nerina could see that she was loved—that she was family.

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