161 ~ Lares

He’d not seen Caelum in the library since before the fifth.

He’d continued to go, for some reason – mainly so he wouldn’t have to think anymore. He couldn’t bear to think about anything anymore.

Lares didn’t know why Caelum had been researching Umbra and the Twisted Sisters, but he had a small suspicion. So he continued to do the research, hoping he’d find something of use for the Consort. It was, strangely enough, the one thing left in the Vocan’s life to give him meaning.

He was puzzling out a particular passage in a very old book when Anala found him.

“What are ye doing, Lares?” her tone was one of exasperated affection.

“Admiral,” he said, only mildly surprised to see her. “I was just reading about Twisted Sisters – the servants of Umbra.”

“Aye?” she said tolerantly. “What about ’em?”

“Well, this passage says they can only be killed by a Great Power – but it doesn’t say what that is, and I can find no other reference to it in any of these books.” He threw his arm up in helplessness. “I’m baffled.”

Anala leaned over his shoulder then, looking at the book he held open on his lap. “Le’me see?”

He held the book up to her and watched her eyes chase the words on the page.

“Huh,” she said at length. “I’d not ken what it’s about, Lares. Fascinatin’, though.” Her tone told him she was bored. He smiled and put the book down before standing to face her. She looked as a completely different person with her hair cropped short and the new medal on her breast – a Red Arrow, for bravery in the face of extreme danger.

“What can I help you with, Admiral?”

She smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “We’d not talked fer a while, which ye must admit’d be passing strange fer a woman and her paxwoman.”

He flushed and looked down at his feet. “My apologies, Ma’am. I’ve been –”

“Betraying yerself ta the Empress, it seems.” He looked up sharply. “Dinnae try an deny it, Lares – I’d just come from seeing her. She asked me why I’d lied ta her upon yer appearance here in town. Now, I’m a mite mad at ye, fer I dinnae appreciate being put on tha spot as such, so I’ll ask ye once: do ye ken where me sister’d be?”

She meant Miranda, he knew – she could mean no one else. “I believe she is still in the dungeons, Admiral,” he said. “For spying.”

Anala smiled, but looked no less angry. “That wasnae sa hard, was it. Back ta yer reading,” she added, and left.

Lares sighed and sat back down, feeling more alone than ever.

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