Until Someone Loses an Eye

Clatan 23, 1015

“Now that’s better,” said Mark as he put the last log into the stove and shut the door.

It was unbelievable. They weren’t even four months into fall yet. As far as Mark was concerned, that meant this was still time for apple picking, and cider drinking, and raking leaf piles for the kids to jump in — all activities practiced when the temperature was reasonable. But today they had woken up to a bone-chilling cold that froze the water in the horses’ troughs and made going out and about impossible if you weren’t bundled up to the point where you could barely move. It just wasn’t fair.

But … Mark stepped back and let the warmth from the stove wash over him. That was the weather for you. Just when you thought you had a handle on it, it went and changed on you. In a few weeks, they’d probably be fanning themselves and searching for cold drinks as summer decided it wanted to make a comeback.

And in the meantime, he had work to do.

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Gonna Try with a Little Help from My Friends

Clatan 4, 1015

Of course Freddy would be here first.

Rob managed a small smile as he crossed the worn flagstones that made up the floor of the Dragon’s Teeth. He wished he could be in a more cheerful mood tonight. He was having a guys’ night out, wasn’t he? Far from being annoyed or put out by that, Dannie had practically chase him out the door with a broom, hadn’t she? Business was going well, the children were happy and healthy, Elena was blessedly between teeth at the moment.

But he could never manage to be as happy as he ought to have been at their impromptu fraternity reunions. Not because of the men who came without fail. But because of the one man who couldn’t come any more.

Lamorak.

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A Thing on Mother’s Milk and Kisses Fed

Darid 20, 1015

Wei Li crept closer to the crib where Takara slept. She looked so serene, so peaceful, just lying there. Her tiny cupid’s-bow lips were closed, as were her eyes. There was nothing here to suggest that the child would turn into a wailing banshee the moment she had a need and it was not met. Anyone looking at Takara would have easily mistaken her for an angel.

And were they so far wrong? Takara, after all, was helpless. She could not feed herself; if she soiled herself, she could do nothing to clean herself up. If she had an ache or a pain or a pin sticking her, she could not move herself to a new position or remove the pin. What option did she have but to scream and scream until the adults in her life determined what was bothering her and fixed it?

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Free Advice, Worth Exactly What You Paid for It

Darid 16, 1015

Joshua took a deep breath, slow and even. This was the time of day he liked. It was early enough that the bank was technically open, but few customers had bothered to show up. Best of all, the ones that were present were the — to put it bluntly — less-important clients, the ones Humphrey Kennedy and the rest of the clerks could see to without Joshua’s interference. The whole day stretched out before him, and Joshua could delude himself that this would be the day that he finally got everything done he’d planned.

And he was in such a better mood than he’d been in this time yesterday! When he’d married Cressida, he’d seen nothing but advantages to the fact that her birthday, their anniversary, and St. Romeo and St. Juliet’s day were combined. He just needed to find one (very special) present, and he was set for the whole year until Robertmas. Well, unless you counted the weekly bouquet of flowers, but they were routine for Joshua by now, so he didn’t count them.

Unfortunately what he hadn’t realized is that while Darid 14th of every year from now until death they did part would be very, very good, the morning of Darid 15th would be very, very bad. He’d discovered he needed at least five cups of coffee to be passably human, and this year he’d fallen asleep on the couch as soon as dinner was over. Cressida thought it hilarious and had given the kids some of mixture she used to darken her eyelashes and had encouraged them to draw cat-whiskers on his face while he slept.

He was still trying to think of a suitable revenge for that.

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A Minor Form of Despair, Disguised as a Virtue

Imsdyn 6, 1015

Patience is a virtue. It was a hackneyed line, a perfect cliche. It was something that Tamsin had heard from her mother’s mouth a thousand times — usually growled at one of her siblings, showing just how close Lady Lilias was to running out of her own virtue, that is to say, patience. Relatively speaking, Tamsin was not often at the receiving end of that sentence. But she could still hear that growl as clearly as if her mother was sitting by her side.

She wondered if her mother would have been growling it now.

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Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again

Endskel 30, 1014

Eilwen hesitated, her hand on the door leading from the music room to the library. The metal leached the heat from her fingertips, leaving only a cold ache behind.

This year had left only a cold ache behind.

Eilwen sighed, her head coming to rest against the door with a thunk. Why had she invited all the children here? At the time it had seemed a good, almost joyous thing. Maybe Pellinore and Lamorak would come to visit if they were all together. Maybe it would do them good to see the family managing to pick themselves up and cope in their absence. Maybe …

“Mama? Is that you?” came Dilys’s voice from inside.

Maybe Eilwen had best stop woolgathering, pull herself together, and be strong for her family, as she had been for the past year.

She pulled the door open and passed through to the lighted library. “Yes, dear, it’s me.”

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The Best is Yet To Be

Radenth 19, 1014

Geoff had read a great deal since starting at the cathedral school in the beginning of the year. He’d delved into poetry, not just religious, mystical poetry, but epic and lyric and every other type of -ic poetry there was. Including romantic poetry.

They had much to say about weddings. About love. About the fidelity between two people that could last a lifetime, or beyond.

None of them ever said much about second weddings.

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