The next morning, Kiaran sat in her bedroom. Her hair was a mess of curls, her gown itching at her neck. She inhaled deeply before forcing herself to stand. The less she did her stretches, the stiffer she became. Thusly, she stretched her muscles as she used to every morning.
Ryker continued to sleep in the bed, the blanket pulled far over his head as she stood. Her gown scratched at her arms and neck, irritating her further. She finally yanked it off and tossed it to her bed. She, then, dressed into her tights and undershirt to finish out her exercises.
Once done, she breathed heavily, her cheeks red and her hair even messier than when she first woke. She walked to her dresser where a mirror waited for her to tend to herself.
She stared at her dark brown eyes and her light brown hair...She had no scars and no markings to remind her of anything. She felt nearly hollow, as if she had no personality because she had no past. She actually...she began to miss herself.
The night before, Nila had asked her and Ryker to perform a song or two for their little going away party. In all honesty, she was nervous, hoping the physical workout would rid her of her anxieties.
She found a narrow dress of dark green, the black lace stretching up the A form skirt and corset. Running her fingers through her hair, she was able to tame it. Sitting atop the dresser was the cloth that Estiahn had put in her hair. She felt the silks, admiring the work.
Sighing, she walked over to wake Ryker. He grunted as she yanked the blankets aside and said, “Up, son.”
“Alright,” he grumbled as he pushed himself up, rubbing his eyes with the back of a hand.
“Go and get dressed.”
Ryker left for his room, and dressed into a nice suit of black and white. He smiled at her, his goofy little grin and wild hair to match. Kiaran lightly laughed. “Your hair is still a mess, Ryker,” she said.
“I can’t help it,” he shrugged, “It is always like this.”
“Come here,” she held a hand toward him. He walked to her and she ran her hands over his head. The hair just sprung back up. She laughed again, saying, “We should use some water...and maybe some glue.”
“Hey,” he grunted, “That isn’t going to work!”
“I was kidding, Ry,” she smiled as she walked down the hall.
He bounded after her, asking, “So, when is the party anyhow?”
“Not for a few hours,” she answered, “It starts at sundown, but we should practice our performance before hand.”
“Of course,” he nodded.
They walked to the kitchen where Inari had left them some honey buns for breakfast. Ryker darted out the door to the side where firewood was stacked near the house. As he got the stove going, Kiaran readied the buns to be warmed.
The boy worked hard and silently, focusing on the wood. He was a good child, and would be a great worker as a man. Kiaran moved the buns onto a pan, and then she paused. She listened to Ryker as he walked back and forth. He grunted as he bumped a log into the corner of the wall. The little boy, cursed with magic, would surely die if Sterjia found him...
“Ryker...” she said softly.
“What?” he replied, tossing the log into the stove. He faced her, his expression dropping.
Kiaran stood still, her back still to him as she stood over the table, staring at the buns. “Do you know what happens to mages in VinCar?”
“...Nnnoo,” he lowered a brow. He took a step toward her, forcing his words to continue, “What happens to them?”
“Something bad,” she breathed. “Make sure you never do anything here.” Her eyes shot to him, staring at him from the corners. “Do not do any magic, no healing...Nothing.”
“A-Alright,” he stammered nervously. “I promise.”
A few hours passed, and Ryker and Kiaran stood in the ballroom about to practice for the evening. He held the lute Nila gave him and Kiaran watched him stiffly. His playing was great, but still choppy. Finally, he got into a more flowing pattern. It was pleasing to the soul. Kiaran stood motionless, silent as she listened.
“Are you going to sing?” Marco asked as he walked by.
“I don’t know,” she admitted with a short laugh. “I’ve never sung for anyone before.”
“Why don’t you dance, then?” Ryker asked.
“Oh, no, no,” she laughed again. “That is even worse.”
“Well...” Marco pondered. “You will figure something out. In the mean time, I will be getting things ready.”
Once he left the large room, Kiaran faced Ryker again. “What should I do?” she asked.
“Well I don’t know,” he laughed. “Sing, I suppose.”
“I don’t know any songs,” she said with a hushed tone.
“Make it up as you go,” he shrugged.
"The only songs I know are of the Zeil...and they were different almost each time they were sung," she said uneasily.
They practiced for quite a while longer before Ryker finally stopped playing. “My fingers,” he looked at them, “hurt...”
“We will stop for a while, then,” Kiaran said. “You play well.”
“Thanks,” he smiled proudly.
A boy rushed into the room, his dark hair and bright eyes as excited as he acted. Once he saw Ryker, he waved a hand at him, saying, “You are Ryker!” He shot his hand back down, “Right?”
“I am,” he nodded.
“My mother’s the cook,” he said. “I am Tarn.”
“Tarn?” he lowered a brow quizzically.
“It’s short for Tarnovious,” he said lowly. “I don’t like the name.”
“I think it’s interesting,” Ryker glowed as he sat the lute in his chair, darting to the new boy. “Let’s go have some fun, Tarn.” He looked over his shoulder, asking, “Can we go outside, Mom?”
“Sure,” she nodded with a pang of worry in her chest. What if something was out there? What if someone was waiting to stalk Ryker down? Before she could take back her answer, they were gone.
The boys darted out the door, nearly running into Inari as she walked in. She held her arms up as they past and she grinned awkwardly. “Tarn is a handful...” she admitted. “I am sure he’ll keep your son busy.”
Kiaran smiled, still not sure how to behave...normally. It was so casual and she had no reason to feel threatened or stressed--pose for Davin’s imprisonment. This was very unordinary. Usually, she had to keep alert, but here, if she did so, she would stand out. She certainly didn’t need that.
That evening, Marco and Nila had several friends come for his going away. About twenty people in all. A few men sat in the corner of the ballroom, playing soft music in the background. Kiaran helped Inari in the kitchen while Ryker and Tarn played in the yard just outside of the ballroom, the windows facing them. Nila watched them with a sweet smile. Marco spoke with his friends, his distinctive, deep laugh carrying down the halls.
Kiaran carried a silver plate, Inari with her. They headed to the ballroom, each holding a platter full of finger foods. Inari walked in first, curtsying to the men. Kiaran was hesitant, but did so as well. They pulled the lids off the platters and the scent of fish and bred filled the air. Little bits of fish rolled in bread with herbs and butter sat beautifully, ready to eat.
Amongst the visitors, Kiaran noticed the blacksmith, Brohn, and his knew apprentice, Brinden. She quickly averted her eyes before Brinden saw her, though she noticed it may have been too late.
“Ah, Inari, you outdid yourself,” Marco admired as he took one, popping it into his mouth. “Please, sit them on the table. Anika, I’d love to see what you and your son have ready for us now.”
“Oh,” Kiaran nodded. “Right.”
She sat the platter down and walked to the door, stepping outside. Ryker stopped and faced her. He was dirty again, his hair and shirt wild. Kiaran sighed heavily, saying, “Come on, Ry, it’s time for our show.”
“Yes,” he smiled, “Finally. I’d like to get it over with.”
“Come, Tarn,” Inari called out over Kiaran’s shoulder, “It is time for you to come in as well.”
Ryker took his lute and stood in the center of the ballroom. The setting sun cast long, narrow shadows across the clean floor. He plucked slowly, a few notes here and there. Kiaran stood near him, inhaling slowly. Her insides vibrated nervously as all the pairs of eyes watched her. She was overly aware of Brinden’s attention. Sitting beside him was Britta who smiled at Ryker.
As the song picked up, as did Kiaran’s voice. She sang one of the songs of the Zeil--what she could remember, anyhow. Her voice carried softly, at first, and then she grew strong as the words touched her heart. “The sky is always endless,” she sang, “The trees are always reaching. So never shall I fade away. I will always reach. Always reach for the endless skies.”
Her singing came to an end and Ryker’s lute continued for just a few more measures. Once they were finished, everyone clapped. “Oh, how sweet and unique,” Nila admired, holding her hands to her bosom. “It was perfect. I am so grateful that Marco found the two of you.”
Kiaran’s stomach ached. There was no way they were this kind. Something had to be going on. Perhaps she was planning to eat Ryker...Kiaran nearly smiled at the strange thought. Maybe there was something evil planning in one of their minds...
Once everyone continued back to their party, Inari, Britta, and Brinden made their way to Kiaran. “That was beautiful,” Inari said. “But...Where did you learn that song?”
“It was something my mother used to sing,” she lied, “I don’t know where it originates from.”
“Nevertheless, it is surprising that you two are so talented,” Brinden said.
“Aye, it was beautiful,” Britta flashed Ryker a sweet smile.
“Thank you,” the both smiled back.
The evening proceeded and Kiaran tried her hardest to keep busy to avoid speaking much more with Brinden. She had been in the crowd for too long and was becoming rattled with anxiety.
Ryker showed Britta the courtyard, meandering about. As the party was coming to a lull, Kiaran found herself standing just outside the door, watching the two walk while Tarn rushed about as wild as a playful kitten. The cold air rushed over her skin and she folded her arms across her chest.
Brinden stood at her side, inhaling deeply with his hands on his hips. “I trust the blacksmith is treating you well?” she asked.
“Aye,” he answered with a low, grumble to his voice. “I was meaning to mention something...” She flashed her eyes up to him, but quickly looked back to the children. “When Britta was taken by those men...”
“It may be in your best interest if you do not ask that,” she answered abruptly. He eyed her with lowered brows, but said nothing further. She kept her eyes forward, her expression stern and almost angry. She hadn’t realized he had done her a favor in keeping quiet all this time.
“I apologize,” he finally said. The silence was neither comforting nor discomforting. It was simply silent.