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Chapter Four, Scene Three“Avúlia!” Though as calm and low as ever, anyone who knew Marnin could easily discern the alarm now polluting the stoic man’s voice. Instantly recognizing something was amiss, Avúlia shot to her feet; Eolan and Mirra soon to follow.Marnin appeared under the archway of the sitting room, a tall Asténter man with short cinnamon brown hair at his flank. In Marnin’s arms lay a slighter man, whose sweat-soaked bangs fell in a tangle over his tightly shut eyes.“Faernion?” Mirra gasped. “Caenith!”A look of horror crossed Avúlia’s face. At once, she kicked aside the coffee table and motioned to the couch. “Set him here.” Marnin complied, the other man closely shadowing him.“They shot him,” said Faernion, breathless. “We caught on before they could fire any more. I tried to… I tried to staunch the blood.”
Chapter Four, Scene TwoMarnin made his way down the back hallway to the door at the rear of the house. He peeled his fine blue cloak from the coat tree, sagging under the weight of too many visitors’ garments, and threw it over his shoulders. Though crafted of beautiful material, his Asténter-made cloak offered little protection from the cold. His people were used to a more mild climate far to the south. Taking a breath, he steeled himself for the winter chill, and pulled open the door.Making an immediate loop around the left of the house, Marnin approached the attached woodshed, several tall rows of logs nestled inside. It was now almost completely full, in payment for Avúlia’s hospitality. He began stacking them onto the crook of his left elbow, balancing them against his chest. The fire was at a roar now, and would need several large pieces to burn throughout the night. Marnin judiciously scrutinized the piles. A chilly breez
Chapter Four, Scene OneVivaereth sat on a stool beside his sister, stroking a stray hair off her pale face with a light touch of his hand. “Oh Aewaean,” he exhaled. His heart grew heavy as he closed his eyes, blocking out the final rays of the evening sun.He had needed an escape from the pleasantries being exchanged by the hearth. His search for solitude had led him here, a faint hope that his sister would be conscious.His jaw clenched. How he had let it come to such extremes baffled him. He could see the scene again in his mind – Aewaean bending at the side of the path to examine a daffodil in the snow… Then as she stood, the unseen arrow pierced her leg. The memory of her scream jarred him back to the dark room.Heart fluttering and breath quick, Vivaereth found his hands sweaty as he ran one through his hair. He had failed her; worse, he had failed him. Xaeleph… Avúlia’s slip earlier that day still s
Chapter Three, Scene TwoAs they neared the house, Avúlia called back, “I suppose you two have earned a break before unloading the wood.” The casual mirth in her voice had been drained completely over the course of the short ride. Eolan guided the horses along the already-cut rut in the snow from their previous outings. He was just about to direct them sidelong to the house, closer to the attached woodshed when Marnin crept up behind them.“The door,” he indicated.Curiously, the front door of Avúlia’s cottage was swung open, lazily rocked by the wind.“What…?” Eolan murmured.Avúlia thrust out her hand. “Stop.”Even before her order was carried out, Vivaereth sprung from the back of the wagon and bolted for the door. “Aewaean!”“No, Vivaereth, wait!” More spry than she let on, Avúlia managed to beat Vivaereth to the door, and slowed his entrance. “We