49 | Of Sons and Daughters

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December arrived before November had a chance to make itself known. The world continued to change beyond the manor's boundaries, autumn's untimely death giving way to a surly winter. The landscape held an eerie, surreal starkness under its film of ice and frost. The manor's outer walls were coated with the stuff, and what bare illumination could penetrate the enduring mist glimmered in the ice crystals.

November was gone, and so was the Sin of Gluttony. Berour—or Eduardo as Peroth had begun to posthumously address him—had lived for over a thousand years, half of that time spent in madness, the other half spent quietly ruminating on the best ways to torture his hosts. He hadn't been a good person at all according to Sloth. Now he was gone, and the world kept spinning. Time resumed its inexorable march.

Death was swift and exacting, but time was cruel even to a beast like Berour because it continued. Good or evil, old or young, when you died time didn't take a breath to mark your passage, didn't hesitate in reverence of a life spent in struggle or strife. It went on and stole bits of your memory until you were utterly gone. The world hadn't stopped for Tara, nor for Berour. Soon, it wouldn't stop for me, either.

I hoped Darius was fast enough to outrace time's march. He didn't deserve to die with the world not stopping to take note.

My thoughts may have been unhappy and maudlin, but the manor was in better spirits than I'd ever seen if before. A vein of excitement worked itself through the long halls as whispers and laughter rested on the lips of all the Aos Sí. Preparations for the winter solstice and Sloth's party were well underway. I thought it inappropriate to plan a party in light of our current situation, but Peroth, Anzel, the wolves, and even Amoroth and Cage assured me it was needed.

The winter solstice was a time to celebrate the rebirth of the sun. If ever there was a time to have a party to honor a holiday, it was now—or so I was told.

I walked the halls as I usually did, paying little attention to where I was going or to who I passed by. A small, slender smart phone was clenched in one of my hands, an early Christmas present from Peroth. He bought one for Darius too, and it was now waiting on the table in his parlor. I told Sloth it was probably a waste of time, seeing as even if Darius decided to take the phone, he was probably one of those people who ignored all his calls.

It had been a long time since I'd had viable contact with the outside world, though if I was being honest with myself, I hadn't tried to reach out. I could have asked Anzel or Peroth to borrow their phone or computer. Outside of Crow's End, I only had two people to contact and I was not looking forward to that conversation. 

I'm such a coward. It's not like she can rip my throat out from nearly six thousand miles away.

Gritting my teeth, I turned on the phone, ignored the kitty portrait Lionel had somehow managed to take and set as the background when I wasn't paying attention, and dialed a number I knew by heart.

The line rang three times before the machine picked up and a familiar, masculine voice filled my ear. "Hello, you've reached the Gaspard family. We are unable to take your call at this time. Please leave us a message after the beep."

The beep sounded and obliterated my well-rehearsed speech. "Err—," I managed to say, halting midway down a crooked corridor. "Hi Papa, El—mom. It's Sara, your daughter. I just wanted to call and, uh, say hello and whatever—."

The phone on the end of the line clattered as it was picked up and I choked. "Sara!"

I almost hung up. Oh god, it was my mother.

"Ah...hey, mom," I said, wincing at the disappointment in my voice. I'd hoped my dad would be the one to answer. "How are you doing?"

"Well, thank you," Eleanor Gaspard clipped in her primmest tone. Christ, she'd only said three words and I already felt the lecture coming. "Why haven't you called? Have you any idea how worried you've made your father and me?"

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