Loysa set her pack just inside the tent, then secured the hide flap. What now? She thought, surveying the camp. She had received a look from the sentry when she requested to join, but he hadn't denied the request.
He said, “Take it up with our leader.”
She wasn't anxious to see Endoric again. It had been a long time, and it had taken her even longer to figure out he wasn't dead. Not that it had been a bad thing for the survivors to adopt nicknames. Loysa knew from her own experience just how effective images were. Titles and names could create symbols. She hadn't seen through his, not until Tati and Ahgi left to settle in the town. Then she had had a reason to look again.
“What are you doing here?” Endoric demanded.
Loysa forced a smile as she turned around to face him. “Heard what you were up against, and thought you could use some help.”
Endoric stepped around her, opened the tent and grabbed her pack. “Not needed,” he said in a gruff tone.
He tossed the pack at her. She caught it against her chest. “Glad to see you too.”
“Loysa. I have a little sister to raise. I--”
“Here is no place for a child.” Loysa slung her pack over her shoulder. She didn't plan to actually leave, but it didn't hurt him to think she would do as asked. For now. “And I should know.”
“That is no excuse.”
“Excuse for what?” she asked.
“You—are not...who you were then.” Endoric stepped around her, with all the intent of leaving her right there. Outside the tent.
His men had started to take notice. The men sharpening swords moved their hands just a little slower. Men whittling arrow shafts from branches set their knives aside.
“So, it's going to be like that then?” Loysa didn't care who heard. She raised her voice. Even the whetting stones were set aside. None of the men looked up.
Endoric didn't take another step. His back was rigid. He didn't turn around. “Four years, Loysa. A lot has happened.”
“Tell me about it. I was in the middle, right from the start.”
“Not since Dermiy fell,” he said quietly. Still, his deep voice managed to cross the distance between them, and carried a biting edge, too.
“Don't be so sure, Endoric.”
“Right. You helped the Mieseon army.” He stalked toward her. His brow creased, just a bit. Enough for her to know he was angry. “The same ones who wouldn't help when the enemy crossed the border.”
“I wasn't headed there, not originally.” She dropped her pack at her feet. It landed with a dull thud, followed by a cloud of dust. “I was headed for Dermiy. But the town wasn't there by the time I got to the border.”
His shoulders relaxed. But his brow was still creased. He stood close now. She lifted her chin and refused to shy from his anger. He had every reason to be, as she saw it. She just had to wait for it to spend itself out.
“And you wound up--”
“With the Miesons, yes. But we gave the mutual enemy a good go.”
“And now you're here.”
“You're not dead. You left Dermiy. And what ties I had with the Mieseons just settled down for a less bloody life in a little town on the border.”
“Shouldn't be less bloody on the border,” he returned.
“Shouldn't be,” Loysa agreed, planting hands on her hips. “But you and I know that what we're fighting now is the same as back then. And they are anything but conventional.”
Even the brow began to relax. He still wasn't comfortable with her presence, but at least he wasn't angry. “Their strategy has changed.”
“It's easier to prevent your people and the Mieseons from uniting than it was to separate the groups in the north.”
“You still have insight?”
“And once you're stuck with...what you're stuck with...”
“You're stuck with it.” He meant the Silver, the magic of her people, which allowed her to alter perceptions around her. She didn't use it often, it was quite taxing, but the enemy used it on the battlefield. She could counter it, and they were none the wiser. In her homeland across the oceans, even her family thought she was dead. Here, they couldn't determine how or who fought them at every turn. But Endoric's people, with their legendary ability to control metal and kinetic energy, were generally blamed. Loysa always liked that she could make her allies appear even more powerful than they actually were. Symbols, after all, were everything.
So there was one more lie she held. One more illusion she had to break. Would he trust her again? If she told him?
“Your sister is alive,” Loysa blurted.
He took a step back. He looked so pained for a moment, and then hope followed. Once, he'd had five sisters. Now, she didn't have to tell him which one she meant.
“Tati,” he said.
“She's in the town you spoke of?”
“And her friend?”
He stared a moment. Then he knelt, gathered her pack and returned it to the place in the tent. Loysa remained where she was. He'd have to sort through what all this meant. His sister had been with the Miesons. She had gone to Larnen to seek help, and in doing so had run off before the attack.
A horn sounded from the edge of the encampment, interrupting him. Endoric cursed.
Loysa grinned. That was what she remembered.
“Tell me everything,” he finished. “Later.”
“Later,” she agreed.