She wasn't like the others. It was hard to say what exactly, but there was something different about her. Avera watched through the raindrops on the window pane as she dismounted, Benjamin assisting her down from the dapple horse she rode. Water poured off of the cloak and her feet sank down as she planted them firmly on the muddied ground. The woman's dark, mud spattered cloak and boots were a stark contrast to Benjamin's elaborate rainy day ensemble of a clean, bright royal blue. The entirety of the afternoon had been masked by heavy rains which now blew upon Dorothy and Benjamin as he grabbed at the reigns, seeking to stable the horse.
Avera only caught a portion of the ongoing conversation as the two came walking in through the door by which Benjamin had previously exited. Mr.. Waverley had been held back at a meeting and sent his apologies. It was unlikely that he would return before night had fallen, and Dorothy thought it more likely that he would make his journey the following day.
"You know how he doesn't much like to travel by night," Dorothy said, still addressing Benjamin. "However, he did send his apologies to you for his prolonged absence."
Benjamin shook his head. "No apologies necessary. I understand entirely," he pleasantly assured her.
Avera watched them as they continued on their way back towards her, chatting as they went. Dorothy was a distinguished woman with a certain intrinsic beauty to her form. Her appearance was neat and elegant, even with the mud which spotted the lower part of her dress, and Benjamin treated her with honor.
When they had come only a few feet from her, Dorothy's focus shifted from Benjamin to the young woman who stood silently before her.
"Dorothy," Benjamin said, hastening the introductions as he noticed her attentions shift, "this is our guest, Miss Avera Ibori."
"Hello, dear," Dorothy said sweetly, and she bowed herself slightly, lessening the difference in height, as she stretched forth a hand of hello.
Avera took her hand with a small smile, still somewhat nervous.
"Avera, this is Dorothy Trimble," he said, finishing filling her in as part of an attempt to help her feel more comfortable.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, ma'am," Avera said, happy to meet such a lady.
"She and Mr.. Waverley have been very kind to me over the years," Benjamin informed her, and his face showed his appreciation. "I only regret he isn't back yet, perhaps if you would stay another day?" he suggested with hopeful apology.
Avera smiled, "Well, I don't have a reason to leave. So, as long as I'm welcome..."
"You will stay, then?" he asked, trying to mask his thinly veiled excitement.
'He's funny... always pretending to be so emotionless and proper.'
"Yes," she laughed.
Dorothy smiled. "Good," she said. "Then, I believe tea is in order?"
Benjamin laughed, "Of course."
"To my office, then, for some privacy, a bit of comfort, and a spot of tea, as well!" Dorothy remarked cheerily.
Avera smiled, the inviting nature of her kindhearted hosts beginning to make the strange surroundings of the ruins feel much like home, and she followed after Dorothy and Benjamin as they traveled through the halls to the room which Dorothy called her office.
Dorothy unlocked the door for them and opened it, revealing a very different sight than that which Avera had expected. There was a bookshelf still in use, but the books, seemingly neatly arranged at one time, were partially fallen over because of the huge holes in the lines where the books might have been were they not scattered about the room. There were short stacks of books piled here or there on the desk and around the floor area, which was not especially large. There were three chairs arranged around the desk, one behind and the others, slightly smaller but nicely upholstered in a dark burgundy. In addition to the books, there were papers scattered around the desk and immediate area. Avera glanced around the room, astonished by its shambolic appearance. After all that she had learned of Dorothy Trimble from the brief time she had known her and the anecdotal discussions over breakfast, Avera had imagined her to be much more neat and organized than to allow her office to fall to such chaotic disorder.
Dorothy sighed, and Avera glanced in her direction, thinking that her initial assessment of the woman may, indeed, have been correct.
"Oh, what a mess," Dorothy frowned. "Mr.. Waverley and I share this space, you see. And, well, he doesn't care for tidiness as much as I do," she apologetically explained.
"So I see," Avera replied with a faint grin. 'So, I was right, then.'
"How cluttered is the mind of a genius," Benjamin said with a grin.
Dorothy shook her head at him. "Perhaps if it could be a bit less cluttered for ours?"
Benjamin laughed, unable to control his merriness. "Oh, come! Let's go inside."
The office itself was about the size of a small living room and cozy like one. There was a little space between the chair behind the desk and the wall and a little more space between the guest chairs at the front of the desk and the weighty shelves behind them. Avera began to pick up some of the books from the ground as the others made their way to their chairs, Dorothy to the spot behind the desk and Benjamin to the far side of the room, across from the door.
"Have a seat, dear," Dorothy said softly, as she took her place in her seat. "Take no mind of the books... Waverley may have need of them. Although, it is possible that all this is a result of that invitation from Carder," she mused. "If that were the case, he'd be done with them. Perhaps I'll clean them up later, but no matter now."
Avera took her seat next to Benjamin and smiled, feeling her body starting to relax again. 'It's funny, because everything is so foreign, but I really do like these people.'
"Now, dear, what of yourself?" Dorothy asked her, pouring three small cups of tea from the pot of boiling leaf juice. "We are very glad to have you with us, no matter the time or its extent."
"Well," she began, noticing again how strangely comfortable she was around these two people who were very near strangers, "I grew up in Kindellend. My mother's family lived there. It's a small town off the coast of-"
"Lake Byer," Dorothy keenly inserted.
"You've heard of it?" Avera asked, surprised.
"Yes," Dorothy said thoughtfully, smiling over her cup of steaming green liquid. "I grew up in Rivdul. My family was from there. My brothers still live there. Well... two of them. The other is in Pyre. It's a spice town not far from there, a bit farther east, nearer the north, in the direction of the Sa'ar River."
"Yes, I know it!" Avera excitedly exclaimed.
Benjamin smiled. "What of your family, Avera?" he asked curiously. "This is quite a ways from the north country."
"My mother fell sick when I was still a child. I remember how my father cared for her during her illness, but... she died, anyway, and... it wasn't too long after that we moved to Pyre," she shared with them the tale, maintaining a cold precision to her words, though she felt her heart breaking and she feared her voice may follow.
"Do you have family in Pyre?" Benjamin asked her, becoming concerned.
"No," she shook her head. "My father is a foreigner, an emigrant from Obed. He loved the culture here, and he decided to embrace it. He always called Altruon home, but he left his family and Obed behind him." She paused, contemplating the decisions of the past. "My father was a carpenter in Kindellend by trade, but he was always a soldier at heart. Shortly after my mother died, he was offered a prestigious military post at High Palace. That's why we moved here to the capital. That, and..." she felt the tears beginning to break through and fought to hold them back, "I think we wanted something different for our lives. Pyre was a fresh start for us."
Benjamin looked to Dorothy, who gave him a discreet nod, and they both turned their attention back to Avera.
"Do you have any friends here?" Dorothy asked with empathy and great concern.
"One," she said, smiling fondly as she considered him, "his name is Kelvin. He was a forever friend from Kindellend. Even then, he was quite a marksman, and he hunted with my father. They always brought back a swagorn. He's always keeping up with me through letters, or he had until lately. Recently, he received an invitation from the Royal Academy for studies and came to Pyre for schooling."
"You speak of him in very glowing terms," Dorothy observed, softly considering, and she smiled. "Yes, I believe I understand you well. Mr.. Waverley and I are much the same. You would like him, I think... if you were to meet him. He is a very gentle man, kindhearted. I am sorry he couldn't be here to greet you. He was so looking forward to it, and he would have been here, but..." her eyes grew distant with intense consideration, "Mr.. Carder, well... he's an old friend of ours, of eh... Horace's, especially, and he got himself into a bit of a fix with a scheduling error. It would have been very embarrassing for him had Mr.. Waverley been unable to assist him."
"I look forward to meeting him," Avera said, smiling. "Really, I do."
'The man interests me. They all speak of him so fondly, and yet... he isn't here to hear it.'
"That's good, then," Dorothy smiled softly, giving some thought to her words.
"And what of yourselves?" Avera asked curiously. "Miss Trimble, how is it you came here from Rivdul?"
The lady laughed politely, waving her hand as if to ask her to stop. "Dorothy, please," she requested pleasantly. "Mr.. Waverley calls me that at times, but..." she shook her head, "Trimble was a better man."
"Waverley would contest that rather eloquently," Benjamin quipped.
"Yes, but he isn't here, now is he?" she answered, giving him a glance of warning.
Benjamin shrugged, leaning back in his chair with a self-satisfied grin.
Avera watched him with faint laughter and a broad grin, amused by his clever antics.
"Well," Dorothy said, pulling the conversation back to its point again, "my father kept the king's garden, and there were acres of flower fields around the house where I grew up. He would take a cart filled with flowers to Pyre every week, and we children would often go with him. Though, there were times I would stay with my three brothers in Rivdul. My brothers kept the fields and helped with the crops of neighboring farms when needed, but often times the eldest would assist my father. I was the second to youngest, but my mother died relatively young, very much as yours did, and so I would attend to much of the responsibilities and household chores, especially in my father's absence." She paused, her contemplative eyes searching back through far gone memories. "Though... my brothers were fairly self-sufficient, and I wasn't much cut out to be a housewife in many ways. It took some time, but... late in my adolescence, I finally found myself at home."
She stopped for a long moment, as if considering whether she should continue speaking, and Avera continued to watch her intently until at last her eyes turned to Benjamin.
"And what of you, Ben?" Dorothy asked him. "Shall we tell her?"