116 ~ Yarrow

Yarrow couldn’t think as she flew down the hallway to her room. When she reached the stone and wood chamber the slam of the door was the only thing that penetrated what felt like a thick wad of cotton around her head. Hastily she unbuckled her sword-belt and stripped out of her peplos, getting changed into the much more sensible leather breeches, linen undershirt, and lambskin jerkin. She laid her cloak on her bed and, grabbing her two bags from the closet, began to throw clothing into them, clean into one and not-so-clean into the other.

When the not-so-clean bag was half-full she grabbed the stash of Pyra’s Breath — the full bottle and the quarter-full one — from the hidden compartment in her floor and tossed the bottles in, securing them with the remaining clothing so they wouldn’t clack together and smash. There was still room so she grabbed her pillows — they were two fairly expensive nice ones and she wanted whatever luxury she could squeeze out of her life of exile — and shoved them in top, then tied up the full bag. She was dumping her bathroom things into the other bag when she realised her favourite shirt — and other pieces of clothing — had been tossed down the laundry chute earlier that day.

“Fecking son of a motherfecker!” she shouted, and headed to the door, intent on claiming her clothing, clean or not, wet or dry, from the laundry.

She swung the door open and almost walked into Lyla, her maid. The woman bobbed a curtsy and extended her arms, which had bundles of fabric. “Begging your pardon, Ma’am, but I was just bringing you your clean civvies and linens.”

Yarrow took the bundle from Lyla and wrapped the woman in a quick hug. “Lyla, you’re a lifesaver. I hope whoever they assign you to next isn’t a total beast.”

The woman looked up at Yarrow perplexedly. “Assign me next…where are you going Ma’am?”

Yarrow shrugged as she flung her clothing into her bag. “Away. I’ve been exiled, Lyla. I won’t ever be back.” It took a few moments for Yarrow to realise that Lyla hadn’t left the door yet. When she turned to look, she saw tears in the woman’s eyes.

“It’s been an honour serving you, Ma’am,” she said thickly. “I hope you stay safe on your journeys.”

Yarrow felt the thick layer of apathy that she’d coated herself in, the wad of protective emotional cotton, become thinner at the woman’s words, and she looked away so Lyla wouldn’t see the answering emotion in her own eyes. “Thank you, Lyla. I will miss you, and not just because you’ve been such an excellent chambermaid.”

She looked up and smiled, and Lyla curtsied and left.

Dabbing at the wetness in her eyes, she tossed her two extra pairs of boots and her two other non-military pairs of shoes into her bag and looked around for anything she’d missed before she tied up this bag and attached her bedroll and blanket to it.

“No, I think that’s — shite,” she broke off, her eyes falling on her desk. My efemira. Of course. Disastrous to leave that behind.

Falling to her knees beside the desk, she reached under and felt for the clasp. Releasing it, she tried to catch the book but it fell to the floor. Cursing, she grabbed it and was about to leave when something caught her eye. A piece of paper she did not remember being with her efemira before. Falling back on her ankles, she grabbed the piece of paper and unfolded it.

There, in Caelum’s barely legible writing and terrible spelling, were scrawled the words:


I am sorree. Plees forgiv mee. I kood not tel yu beecuz I am week. I wil allwaiz luv yu.


The sense of urgency that had propelled her and kept her going beyond sadness, the cotton wad of apathy she’d grabbed and pulled around herself like a cloak, both dropped from her then, and she let the tears spill forth. Sitting back, she curled up into a little ball, her hand closed around the note and crumpled it, and she wrapped her arms around her knees and shuddered with the force of her sobs.

“Caelum,” she moaned, a pitiful sound, barely human. “You stupid feckless bastard!” In a sudden fit of anger she flung the note across the room. It hit the wall beside the door and landed unceremoniously to the floor.

She sobbed, long and deep. “Why do I have to love you?”


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