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Shayla paused mid-swipe with her dust cloth. The first of the autumn rain tapped the window, distracting her from her task. She folded the cloth as she moved toward the rocking chair. Ah, she thoughts as she sat, here is why Omae-Hehriya loves this spot so. Looking down on the town, she could see almost every corner, every street. But in Gellayna's empty room all was safe. There were no entanglements with the guards winding their way into the merchant's square with their hoods were lifted against the rain, and shoulders hunched against the wind. Or the smugglers doing their best to avoid the guards, dragging a heavy box through the mud of a street running parallel. So much life, and from the room of Omae's absent daughter.
There's something sad about that, Shayla thought. The message was made even more poignant in the rain. Death and life seemed so close together, and the world...felt silent. She could sit and watch the children race through the streets and dodge about the guards stomping through the mud, but the steady streams of water made the world feel muted. It was distant. Like looking at everything through a gauze curtain.
Does Omae feel this way all the time? Both her children gone to who knows where? And Ehjin...
Shayla stood as soon as her thoughts strayed back to her husband. He had work to do, she shouldn't be worried. But fear of potential dangers nagged her, no matter how she wished it away. So she dusted. She cared for Gellayna's parents, because Gellayna was no longer there to do so.
Now, as she glided into the hall, to get away from the rain, one image haunted her thoughts. Ehjin, on a farmer's mount, traveling from village to village, spreading word. Planning an evacuation no one wanted. Plotting resistance in the rain and mud. While Gellayna remained in the cold Ednin castle to the north, and Teshen did whatever he did...
Who's life? Who's death? And would the rain prolong it, or just grant the illusion of distance?
“Ah!” Omae Hehriya called as Shayla made her way down the stair. “I made soup! Perfect for today, yes?” The old woman beamed at her, but Shayla was beginning to develop an idea of what pains she hid. She hid them well. I must learn to hide my fears so skillfully.
“Soup!” Khirisse called, trailing her toddling sister as she rushed in from the outdoors.
“Children!” Shayla and Omae said at once.
“Mud,” Shayla reminded in a softer tone. Khirisse looked down at her self and winced. “Ays' fault.”
“I'm sure,” Shayla said, “But get out of those clothes first.”
“All right.” Khirisse heaved a sigh. When her daughter was on the stair, Shayla rolled her eyes.
Omae laughed. “I'm sure you were every bit as over dramatic as they.”
“It's entirely possible.”
“Now, how about that soup?”
“Perfect, Omae.” But in the kitchen, spoon in hand, she heard the rain again and thought of her absent loved ones. All over again, she worried how they fared.