Chapter 4 - The Brooch of Storisvaria

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Sayest ran faster and harder than he ever had before. His uncles were the only family he had left. Uncle Trinn was his uncle by blood, the man who had taken him in when his parents died. He could vaguely remember Uncle Trinn coming to get him as a toddler from a house... somewhere, and bringing him back to Knight's Dame. Obo was Trinn's husband, but he was Sayest's uncle too all the same. The pair had decided to settle in Knight's Dame because Trinn, who had originally been from somewhere else - he'd never specified - had fallen in love with the village atmosphere and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Sayest didn't really know any more about his family history than that, but one thing had been perfectly clear. His uncles had taken him into their home, loved him deeply, and raised him well. While he was sure his real father had loved him just as much, Trinn and Obo had taken up the role without question, something Sayest would forever be grateful for. And now they could be dead.

The thought sent Sayest into complete panic. While his rational mind told him it was the stupidest thing he could possibly do, he lunged for the burning house all the same, desperate to get inside.

"You can't go in there," Aleyl cried, grabbing Sayest and holding him back.

"Remember the Nielson's barn fire a few years ago?" Calin said, trying to jolt some sense into his friend. Sayest did. The barn had burned to the ground before wind carried the fire to the rooftop of the farmhouse where the family slept. Other villagers had come to help, but the brave man who had gone in to try and save Mrs. Nielson ended up dying as well from breathing in the smoke. Only the father and daughter had made it out alive. Fires were incredibly dangerous, especially on a farm.

But Sayest didn't have much of a choice. They were his uncles, his family. He needed to get them out of there. If he didn't even try, and they died, he would regret it for the rest of his life.

But in between heroics and love stepped reality, and both Calin and Aleyl were too strong for Sayest to shake off. They held him firmly as he was forced to watch the only home he'd ever known burn to the ground.

There was no time to run for help, even if anyone could have gotten there in time - the house burned down in a matter of minutes. It was frightening how fast sturdy wood could be reduced to ashes. Tears Sayest didn't remember crying suddenly streamed down his cheeks. It felt like his entire world was being crushed within his chest. Unbeknownst to him, Wight stood behind them, an unclear expression etched across his face. He stood guard, his sword at the ready. But there was nothing. No movement in the shadows, no one emerging to attack as they stood there, defenseless. Whoever had started the fire seemed to have left, at least for the time being.

"Uncle Trinn. Uncle Obo," Sayest whispered, finally giving up and falling to his knees once Aleyl and Calin released him. He didn't think he could stand on his own anymore, then or ever again.

"I am so sorry, Sayest," Aleyl said, her voice shaking, tears in her eyes as well. "I couldn't let you go in there."

"It's going to be okay," Calin said, though his words of reassurance were empty and they both knew it. This was far from over and no longer just a mysterious homicide demanding answers. People had died, and they'd been attacked. Someone wanted that brooch, Sayest reasoned, and he or she seemed willing to do just about anything to get it.

"If you had gone in there, you'd be dead too," Wight finally said. "And whatever did this is probably still nearby. We need to leave as soon as possible."

A heavy silence hung in the air for a long time alongside the smell of wood smoke, reminding them all of what had just happened.

Sayest took in a deep breath, knowing he needed to move, even though that was the last thing in the world he wanted to do. It took him a minute to convince his legs of this necessity, but finally he made it to his feet again. Trinn and Obo wouldn't want him to sit there feeling sorry for himself until he was killed too. They would want him to get to safety and then solve the mystery, coming back for them only as an afterthought. Once, they'd even told him that when they died the farm was his, and they just wanted to be planted in the fields alongside the maize. The memories only served to make the pain worse.

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