Steam laced with the bright sweet scents of lemonbalm and bushplum danced across Ean’s face as he turned the too-hot hahx cup with his fingers and stared at the light shining along the gold rim. The yellow gold reminded him of another gleam, and the pain and anger in Ember’s eyes weighed heavy around his heart.
“I’m worried about her, Tan-tan,” he said, looking up at Bethania.
Bethania tilted her head slightly and a smile twitched at her lips, but she kept her gaze fixed on her own cup instead of him.
“Yes, it’s obvious,” Ean said. “But she’s not doing well. How is she going to live here if she hates every moment of it? If she can’t stand being loved?”
Bethania lifted her cup, took a long sip, then lowered it and and looked over at her plants, keeping one ear focused on her grandson.
Ean lifted his own cup and sipped.
Ow. Still too hot.
“She looked like she was going to bite my head off,” He said, remembering Ember’s teeth in his face. “She doesn’t know what to do here. I think next time she’ll actually leave.”
Bethania looked back and met his gaze.
“And if she does, illijik? Why is it so important that she stay here?”
Ean stopped, wrestled with the question.
“I don’t know. I can’t…”
Tan-tan always found the hard questions.
“I don’t want her to go. It won’t be safe for her out there and… she’s family now.”
Bethania raised one silver eyebrow, then flicked one ear to the side, as if chasing his response away like a gnat.
“That is not the real issue,” she said.
So she saw it too. Of course she saw it.
Ean looked away from her and reached for a cookie. Bethania took the box away before his hand got there and put it under the table.
“It is late and you’ll need rest, too.”
Ean watched the box leave then looked at her.
Did he have to answer?
He didn’t have an answer.
“I just want peace. I want things to settle down so everyone can get back to work.”
“Truly? If Ember leaves, you will have that. As long as she stays…” Bethania smiled.
“What if she changes?”
“Even if she does, life will not go back to what it was as long as she is here in your life. Which do you want, Ean?”
Ean stared at her for a few tikkits, then realized he had his mouth open. He closed it and studied his tisane again. Took another sip.
Ahttah, please give me good sense.
Ember. How could he reach someone who despised kindness? How could any of them?
It wasn’t possible.
But what if they did?
And what if she wanted to stay?
“Find the voice that calms the storm, illijik. Kai brings change to all of us, and it is always painful when he does. You must choose how you will set your heart to it.”
He looked up.
“I know that. I…”
Bethania held up her hand and bowed her head. He recognized that stillness.
Ean stopped and watched.
“Something…” she whispered.
Bethania snapped her head up, eyes wide. “Tanirin!”
“Fallen ones? Here? Many? Should we…”
“They’re here for Ember!”
The lights went out.
Ean blinked in the darkness for a few brief tikkits until his eyes adjusted enough to see. Bethania was already across the room before that. Ean pushed up and followed while his brain tried to catch up.
Why would Tanirin attack like this?
Here for Ember? Why now?
His heart accelerated and he aimed for the door. Bethania, carrying a double headed staff-mace, grabbed him before he reached it and wrapped his hand around a flanged mace and an electric lantern.
Then they were out into the hall and running.