The hall was wide enough for two fat carriages with drunken drivers to dance past each other comfortably, but the crowd had still slowed to a sluggish crawl as they turned down it. A melding tapestry of bright clothes and dark bodies eddying and swirling through the channel and from archway to doorway and back. Rania took two steps into the swirl and watched them send ripples through the natural curling patterns. Spreading circles of silence, then rustling whispers and second glances. She continued forward and a perfectly straight line opened up before her. She wished it was due to the guards hovering behind her shoulders, their footsteps echoing her own, but they weren’t given as much space as she was. It could have been attributed to her foreign dress, the faint squaring of her shoulders in challenge and power, or any number of small signals that marked her as an invader, a stranger. But they weren’t.
Raven’s wing black hair, grey eyes, and skin the rich brown of ripe dates, not too unusual among the similarly dark complexions surrounding her, but the combination marked her as of the family who owned this hall, this isle, and the ships that harbored there. They saw a lost heir. She saw strangers who were not strange enough.
Rania’s smooth strides had carried her from the hall. She smiled, thinking of the people in it as birds in an elaborate cage, still silent though the danger or darkness had passed. She entered the garden and breathed deep. Jasmine, citrus, and salt burned deep into her lungs and stuck near her heart with the burn of memory. She walked slowly down the path, breathing it in, feeling a sense of home seep through her skin. Let it wash over her with the rush of waves that formed a gentle background to every hour of the day. Walking past lush hedges and bold blooms, under the spreading branches of old twisting orange trees, she felt safe.
She let her breath out and sat on the wide tiled rim of a squat fountain. It was only the eye of the storm. She needed to deal with her feelings. Terre was right, her normal coping mechanisms weren’t going to work here. She closed her eyes and felt her anger batter against the base of her throat. It was familiar and she twisted it and twined it into a tapestry, contained, but purposeful and wrapped it around her fear, worry, and loss. But… it wasn’t just her own pain she was carrying. No. She knew all too well what her brother would be carrying and knowing it, she carried his pain as well.
She couldn’t afford for it to weigh her down, so she faced it. Edan’s face formed in her mind, so similar to … -She imagined him finding out the events of the last weeks and the shock and rage that made his face a battlefield. But she knew that pain was in three parts. The deepest hurt would settle deep in his heart. The aching of absence and loss that woke one up in the middle of the night with a tear streaked face and little explanation. Everyone excused that pain, pretended to ignore it when it showed. But with Edan, only those who shared his blood would see it.
The second pain straightened his spine, lurked in his eyes and the set of his shoulders. The ghost of the boy in a dark hold shielding his younger siblings would be crying out that he had failed them, that he had failed to protect his family, and demand he save them. Now. Anyway, anyhow.
But the ache and the cry were never be seen behind the tempest of her brother’s rage. Fear and failure turned to kindling for the hot lick of his wrath and he would not rest, think, or breathe until his family was safe and the heads of those that harmed them were sitting on pikes. He would descend upon this isle in a rain of angry swords and everything would drown in the grief and rage and pain.
This was truth.
Rania breathed deep, matching the rhythm of the distant waves until the borrowed anger had ebbed and she set it aside. The music of the fountain brought her back to herself and she rose with a sweep of her skirts. Now that she was thinking more clearly, her priorities were rather simple: stay near her sister, and learn everything she could. Thamina didn’t need to be coddled, but they each drew strength from the continued presence of the other. As to learning, well, nothing was out of the question, the isle, its politic, its people, the past, the rigging of its ships, the way it smelled during and after a storm. She would absorb it all, one question at a time. And when her brother’s did arrive, she would put it to use. Till then, she would take a page from her sister’s book and be slightly less combative. There was no purpose to wasting her energy.
I stole the first line of this piece from Gwen over at ApprenticeNeverMaster. So did a few others. Check here for the whole ring of thieves. I also borrowed a character [Edan] from Kid over at TheGateintheWood.