21: Past, Present, and Future

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"There" was past Mountainvale, past Blumore, past the Emarian border and into the tribal lands. A land of gray craggy mountains and mysterious caverns. Of lush green valleys and unpredictable weather. A land that Blayre had never seen - or perhaps a land that she couldn't remember.

Because her father had brought her out of that land. A souvenir from one of his trips to treat and trade with the mountain peoples. A souvenir, begot on a previous trip and carefully crafted for his return.

Throughout her life, Lord Darach had scarcely spoken to Blayre of her mother. Blayre didn't know if the woman who birthed her was alive or dead. She didn't know if her parents' relationship had been one of love, or simply one of pure lust. Blayre had not questioned her parentage until she was a child of six or seven years, and Lady Marianna had cruelly kept her out of a luncheon with Marianna's visiting family members, while Lord Darach was away.

"You will stay out of sight and you will not eat with us in the dining room. If you're hungry, you may seek out your meals in the servants' quarters."

As if the servants' quarters had been a punishment. The people in her father's employ had become some of her closest friends, and the ones who she had learned the most from. As a result, Blayre felt she had become far more useful as an adult than more than half of the ladies at court. The fate of usefulness, she feared might fall upon her younger sister, Daria who had been raised mostly while Blayre and Seaver were in the Capital. Five years her junior and seven years younger than Seaver, Darya was the child that no one had expected. It was no secret that there was not much love between Lord Darach and Lady Marianna. Especially not after Blayre's inconvenient appearance. With a small pang, Blayre suddenly missed her younger sibling, since she had been cheated out of seeing the girl on that previous trip to Blumore. Marianna barely let the girl out of her sight, even though Darya should have been brought to court by now.

And so Blayre often wondered about her mother. During the miserable times of her childhood, she wondered what life would have been like if her father had instead left her with her mother's people. She wondered if her mother was still alive, and if she was, why she had let her go. Had she thought this life would be a better one? Growing up beneath the shadow of an angry and jealous wife, instead of in the light of a mother who loved her unconditionally. Raised under a wife who perhaps had every right to be angry - but not at Blayre, who had not had any control over how she had come to be.

But she had always reasoned that were it not for her father bringing her to the life as his daughter in Blumore, she would not have had Seaver or Darya. She would not have had all her friends in the capital or such an excellent education. A job she was passionate about. Her life would have been different perhaps, but not better.

"My triad will be headed in that direction." She wasn't sure what Caval had meant by "we".

"I will continue to research this. If you are willing to explore this area of interest, I will provide you with as much information as I can. I would like to go myself, but I'm not sure if I will be granted the opportunity."

Blayre nodded, "You can trust us." She glanced toward the dance floor to the remaining members of her triad and saw Ainslee eyeing her with curiosity. "Perhaps we should move back to the dancing?" She gestured to the floor and shifted off of the stool on which she perched.

Caval placed a hand on her arm, "Don't discuss this with anyone yet." He murmured, barely audible above the din of the tavern's merriment.

Blayre nodded, and they moved back to the floor. Though she no longer felt like dancing.

****

Tired and giddy from alcohol and laughter, Blayre shut the door to her chamber and moved as steadily as she could to the small dressing table where she sat, unwinding her hair from its braid. The soft glow of the mage-lights in her room reflected in her mirror. Her hair, now released from its constraints, fell around her shoulders, smelling of sweat and woodsmoke - among other things. Blayre grimaced, massaging her temples. She needed a bath, but that would have to wait until after her morning workout session - if she made it to that. Perhaps it would be good to take a day off.

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