Chapter 18: Considering

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Tuvos, Day 8 of Melia, Eclipse of Thyxia, Year 602

"The best storytellers have lived through terrible things, and the best singers know well the songs of others." —The Facerum

* * *

Repht clutched at her heavy basket and squinted up into the midday sun.

One half of the sky was heavy and dark with rain clouds, and there seemed to be a peculiar charge to the air. She needed to make it to the temple and back before the storm broke.

Her little home stood on the outskirts of Daitak City. It was just close enough to the markets to be convenient but far enough to be out of heavy traffic and the chaos and shouting so characteristic of city life.

It was in disrepair, she noticed for the hundredth time. Part of the roof needed to be patched, and cobbles showed through the cob on the outer walls. The path hadn't been swept in weeks.

But the inside was clean and comfortable, if small.

The lady's grace next to her front door had grown into a monstrous, bushy thing and the heavy breeze tugged at it, releasing its sweet, calming fragrance. Her bloodbloom, likewise, had grown exponentially and needed to be cut back. Repht could see where the new branches had sprouted, fresh and bright green juxtaposed against the dark woodiness of the older growth.

Impulsively, she picked a few blooms and added them to the bounty in her woven basket. She'd loaded it high with valley posy and roadweed, and the piles of stems and leaves bounced precariously until she pressed them down more firmly.

She'd seen Hodric the night before. He'd invited her to dinner at one of his friends' estates.

Repht had been self-conscious about what to wear, but Hodric had bought her a gown or two since they'd met, and he'd told her one of those would do very well. She'd worn the light green, though privately she'd wondered if that was an appropriate choice for the weather they were having as it was long-sleeved.

But Hodric had told her she looked like spring itself.

The divider she'd carefully and slowly woven out of green branches wasn't strong, but it was enough to keep deer and other pests from her garden.

She examined her heart as she left the fenced yard.

Her father had told her when she was young that she would meet someone that made her heart beat fast, someone who would understand her without her even needing to speak. Young Repht had professed trepidation about courtship in general, but Mina had told his daughter gently that she would simply know. She'd know.

Repht sighed. She didn't know.

It was a smart match, and Hodric seemed to like her. She was older now. It wasn't about feelings—it was about survival.

She wondered what her father might have to say about the man.

"Seems a little old," Mina would say.

She smiled.

"He's kind, though," she found herself explaining to him. "He takes me to wonderful places, and I always feel safe with him."

"But any man can feed you," Mina would protest. "Do you love him?"

Repht laughed at the ridiculousness of the question. "It doesn't matter, Father," she said. "I'm sick. I'm damaged."

She'd turned out into the lane and was on the dusty path into Daitak. She carefully stepped around a few stray stones and a twig or two. She glanced up at the sky—the road would be a much worse mess after this storm if she was correct.

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