OF :: Conversations Overheard

Title: Conversations Overheard
Arc: The Deathwalkers
Rating: PG
Written: 2004?
Summary: A flashback to the childhood of the main character, Nandiealmae, in which she overhears one of the last conversations between her parents.

These characters, stories, and ideas are the original, copyrighted work of Nicole Sharp and are protected under a Creative Commons License.

I could just hear their voices through the door, and I curled up next to it, my ear pressed to the wood. For an instant, I could hear only the pounding of blood in my ears, and then I could make out their voices once more.

“—too long. She should be taken the House to be trained.”

“She is too young still! Why would you take her into that dark place now? She is hardly a child!”

“You would only continue to spoil her here. Her place is by my side in the River, and Aidalla knows I need help if I am to stem this tide!”

“How can she possibly be of help to you? She is not even four years of age! Why not leave her in my safety, to learn of magic here?”

“Your magic does little good along the path she must needs take.”

“But the fact remains that she is in safer hands here than she is in Death!”

I winced when Mama spoke of that nightmarish place. “Don’t make me go back. Please don’t make me go there again,” I whispered beneath my breath.

“Safe? When our borders are constantly threatened from the North by barbarians and the River is nearly overrun? When Talánya falls, Lady, you will be one of the first to die. What safety do you think you accord the child? You keep her from learning her place—that is what you do. You coddle her and spoil her, teach her useless magic—“

I heard the scrap of a chair against the floor. “The power of my line is not useless, cousin, and you would do well to remember it. She is my child as well!”

“Aye,” he answered sourly, “who could forget that?”

“I would be wary of my tone, were I you. If I wished it, you would never see her again.”

“You can’t do that! You can’t deny me my heir!”

“I can and I will protect my daughter—if needs be, from her father as well. Get out.”

“You do nothing but hasten your downfall, Illanra. Do something for her sake for once. She cannot be your heir. You know that! Stop treating her as though she could be, and let me teach her what she must know.”

“There is time enough for her to learn your craft. Let her be a child for once, Anoran.”

“Don’t you see? There are no children anymore! There’s no childhood to be had here or anywhere else for a daughter of Aidalla!” He paused a moment, and I crept closer, hoping to catch any whisper. “Nandie’s power grows too swiftly for a child, Illandra. If I don’t teach her now, she could very well get herself caught in the River or worse. I’ve had to fish her out of the water twice now when she slipped over the border while she slept. I need to keep her where I can help her, and I cannot always stay here. I’m needed elsewhere, and you’re needed here. One of us has to bid her farewell for now, and, if you wish your child to live to be a woman, it will have to be you.”

I knew from the long silence that my mother was crying. Tears streaked my face and the door as well. “Take her for now, Anoran… but bring my daughter back to me. I do not wish us parted.”

“I know, my Lady. Your love for her clear.”

“Go, cousin.”

I turned away then and sank into the shadows so that my father would not see me as he left. There I remained for some time, crying myself to sleep with childish abandon. I’d left my mother’s palace less than two days later. I refused to let go of Mother; my little arms were wrapped firmly about her neck, and our tears mingled on her dress. I begged her not to send me away, but she could not find the strength to answer me, and, finally, my father broke my hold on her, lifting me onto his horse before climbing up himself. I’d cried out for my mother, trying to reach for her, and only my father’s swift reflexes kept me from falling off the horse. Holding me with one arm, he turned the horse away from where my mother stood, watching with silent tears. He held me fast and I could not turn to bid her farewell. With a snap of the reins, the horse shot off, and I was left to cry to myself, unable to even see my mother as she faded behind us.

“You didn’t even let me say goodbye!” I cried, striking his arm with what strength I could muster.

“You are grown so soft, Nandiealmae, that I would nearly doubt that you are my daughter,” he answered. He urged the horse faster, and we galloped over the miles to the southwest, where his House stood. Though tears stung my eyes, I remained silent. Some part of me hurt when he called me weak, and I would not give him reason to think he was right about me.

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